5 Tips to Help Better Your Mental Health While Working or Going to School

Hello Live Out Louders!

Welcome to another Saturday-morning post being brough to you through the internet airwaves in Central America. Believe it or not, I only have two weeks left of my 10-week stint of interning in Guatemala. While I have interned/worked plenty of times before this summer, this internship marks my first time back to work full-time since leaving Corporate America for grad school—which is A BIG DEAL FOR ME!

While there were many reasons for leaving the comfort of my stable, well-paying Sales job, there was one major motivation behind my ultimate escape: the protection of my mental health.

In February 2016, just one month following the terrorist attack, I struggled immensely when I attempted to return to work. At that time, I had been diagnosed with PTSD and depression and was failing to develop the adequate skills that would help strengthen my mental state. After almost two months of being back at work, my mental health declined, and my therapist recommended that I take short-term disability leave. Unfortunately after six months of being on leave, I returned to a workplace that failed to encourage the continued strengthening of my mental health post-terrorist attack.

While returning to this sort of work environment was strenuous most days, it truly taught me how to make my mental health a priority, even when working for a company that refused to value that aspect of my life. As such, I’ve taken these hard-earned lessons and not only applied them to my life in graduate school, but eagerly await adding these small habit changes into my what will be my new life as a diplomat in just one short year!

As such, I want to share with you 5 things you can do to put your mental health first while working or going to school:

  • Stay Out of (Office/Classmate) Drama

chloeWhettttt??? La’Nita, are you telling me I can’t get the latest, sweet tea!? While it’s entertaining to sip on your Lipton over a good gossip session about Becky and Johnathan’s office affair or to have a complaining session about how lazy your group project partners are, harboring negative energy can truly begin to seep into your spirit.

Instead, if you are angry about a situation or feel the wrath from a negative encounter at work/school, try writing your feelings down. Bullet journaling has been on of the most effective methods for me releasing my anger/sadness/irritation! It’s a relaxing and effective way to let off some steam, while keeping your complaints short and sweet. To learn more about bullet journaling, check out this article that explains the purpose of bullet journaling and will help you get started!

  • Put Time Aside to Visit Your Therapist | Start Therapy

GASP! A therapist? “Girl, those are for crazy people, you don’t need to be doing all of that.” If this is your initial thought because you think prayer will help all problems subside, kindly refer to #3 of my article “8 Things NOT To Say To Someone with PTSD.” However, if you are honestly just nervous about the idea of seeing a mental health specialist, that’s a separate conversation, and one to which I can definitely relate.

I don’t know about y’all, but working/going to school full-time is already
stressful, without the struggles of mental health issues. therapyNow that I struggle with PTSD, depression and mild bouts of anxiety, I sometimes feel like my head is about to explode. So, CHILE, I take that time to see a beloved therapist. Don’t let anyone make you feel that therapy is for “crazy people,” or that “you don’t need to be out in the streets telling your business to strangers.” Therapists are trained professionals available to help guide you to a path of mental clarity and understanding.

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or are having a hard time getting through your day-to-day, never hesitate to reach out for help and get that brain back strong and healthy!

  • Exercise

This is definitely easier said than done. While we can’t ALL look as great as Cardi B cardidoes when we do our weekly cardio sessions, there are numerous mental health benefits that stem from exercise. From reducing stress to alleviating anxiety, hitting the streets to get your body moving can greatly impact your general mental health and state of being.

For example, during my time on short-term disability following the attack, I worked in overdrive to re-establish to a sense of normalcy back in my life. I was having a hard time reintegrating back into my social life, as I constantly managed feelings of paranoia regarding my surrounding areas. As such, I used my exercise classes as an opportunity to turn my brain off. physical-vs-mental-healthBy getting lost in the Reggaeton tunes in my Zumba class or envisioning my PTSD being punched away in my cardio kickboxing class, it gave me an hour or two to realign my brain and strengthen my body.

Although it is a bit tough to drag yourself out of bed before work or impede your
much-deserved Netflix-binge after a long day, do your brain and body and GO EXERCISE!

  • Self-Care | Mental Health Day

How many times have you woken up with your mental state out of whack, treat.gifknowing you have you to literally drag yourself out of bed to go to school/work or some sort of pre-planned function to which you inexplicably committed yourself? 🙋🏽‍♀️ I know that I have, and it’s no secret that when these occurrences come about, you feel as though you are suffering in-silence.

If you feel that you may need a “mental health day,” use that time to do something that you want to do. For me, there’s nothing better than a long walk with my dog Chino, cooking a new recipe, or watching a good-ole Snapped marathon on Oxygen.

While it’s hard to cancel those meetings, ask your professor for an extension on that paper, or tell your friends that you’re not going to be able to make that Sunday brunch, sometimes you have to be honest about your mental-health needs and be shameless in tending to them.

  • Know Your Limits

Tying-in perfectly with my above point, it’s okay to say enough is enough. If you’re at a website-landing-page-banner-blue-1point where you feel that your daily scheduled commitments/activities are causing you harm, don’t be afraid to bow out and put your mental health FIRST. Having to put a pause on your day-to-day life in order to help re-establish balance and mental sanity is the least you can do to leave your brain feeling stronger in the long run.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there was a point in my Corporate career and post-attack where it was imperative to take a mental health break and utilize the short-term disability option. As I said, I returned to a less-than-pleasant work environment and I continued to flounder. While I needed to save money for my plans to attend graduate school, at a certain point, I had to say enough-is-enough  in order to restore balance to my mental capacity. mental-health-physical-healthAs such, I quit my job and moved home, just before I was blessed with an amazing fellowship opportunity. The decision to call it quits and focus on me, ultimately led to reduced-stress and a deeper committment to healing from the attack with guilt or embarrassment.

I know all of these tips-and-tricks are easier said than done, but the committment to your mental health is above a promotion or straight A’s. It is important to recognize how your environment is impacting you and make the necessary changes to be a healthier, happier human! Hopefully, by incorporating some or all of these of these suggestions into your work/school life, you can create some balance and put yourself first.