Mental exhaustion in the Workplace
So I am so excited to write my first blog. I've been waiting to do this for so long but didn't quite know what to write about. It wasn't until one day I realized how my personal and situational issues were interfering with my work productivity. With everything going on around me from the Corona virus pandemic to police brutality, I found myself having mental breakdowns, panic attacks, restless nights, feeling tired, overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, depressed, frustrated, numb, and overall fed up.
Since about mid-March, when the corona virus really got serious coupled with still having to virtually bring my full self to work each and every day, and the Black community dealing with racism, police brutality, discrimination, and injustice, life for me drastically changed. For some of my friends, they even have to battle with being a full-time parent, spouse, caregiver, and host of other titles.
Mentally, I could not seem to recharge after having adequate amount of sleep, and I suffered from anxiety attacks. Physically, I suffered from body aches, growing acne, malnutrition, and painful menstrual cycles. Emotionally, I found myself being agitated easier, drained, angry, and very emotional. Professionally, I wasn't motivated to work, I wasn't present or attentive in meetings, I overlooked simple mistakes, I responded to coworkers saying "I'm fine" but I was lying, and I dreaded getting up and logging onto the computer.
Ya'll (It's southern slang), I didn't know who I was turning into. I decided to seek out for a counselor who would help me mentally realign myself. Yes, counselors need counselors, too...we aren't perfect either. Through spiritual meditation, journaling, exercise, and self-care, I realized I was suffering from a self proclaimed mental imbalance. I don't know about you, but I had an ah-ha moment where I said to myself, "That explains my decline in work productivity." Yes, I work from home and yes I can work while wearing pajamas; however, to bring your full self to work each and every day, it's takes more than that.
The biggest pressure for me is the countless police brutalities and racism against the Black community. The death of George Floyd was yet another senseless death at the hands of law enforcement but is what ignited movements all over the world. After watching countless emotional videos, reading insensitive social media posts and tweets, seeing numerous "Karens", and other related things, there were times when I just felt blah. Believe it or not, I felt like that most days when I woke up and logged into my computer to start my day.
At work, I was handling things well at first or so I thought. It wasn't until I noticed my attention span in meetings were declining, I was struggling to recall work deliverables I had just completed, I found myself going through the motions of the work but not being present in the moment, sitting on virtual calls and tuning out the speakers, and overlooking simple mistakes in work projects. I was struggling ya'll. I could not keep up with my mental capacity. I broke down and cried one day while working because I was tired. I was tired of having to live in fear. I was tired of waking up in the middle of the night because of panic attacks. I was tired of smiling on camera but when the camera was off crying and beating on the table in frustration. I was tired of telling my coworkers "I'm fine" but really wanted to tell them what was on my mind. I was tired of appearing to have it all together. I was tired of faking it with coworkers who may not get it. I was tired of the expectations of working to my full potential when mentally it was just impossible. I WAS JUST TIRED.
Mental exhaustion is real. We have to make sure we don't turn a blind eye when we see the signs. I didn't see the signs until I noticed I kept making simple mistakes over and over again. Your sign can look very different from mine but please don't ignore it. We have to find a healthy way to express our feelings and release them.
To my coworkers who are of other races and realized I was not my best but didn't say anything, I urge you to "pull me to the side" and make me aware of it. Sometimes, it takes someone else recognizing it before the actual person does. For those coworkers who kept silent during these tough times and never asked how I was doing, why haven't you asked? You asking how I'm doing goes a long way, even if you feel uncomfortable about it. For those coworkers who did "pull me to the side" and ask how I was doing or informed me that I was "off", thank you. Thank you for showing me that you care. Thank you for showing me that you recognize the issues going on. Thank you for showing me you can feel uncomfortable but yet be comfortable inquiring about my feelings. Thank you for allowing me to be "off" and giving me the space I needed to get back on track and be mentally balanced.
"Listen to your body when it tries to tell you when you're off and not your best."
Ya'll, I decided to take a two week break from work and get myself together. This break was sooo needed. As I'm writing this blog, I'm entering my second week of vacation and boy do I feel better compared to this time last week. I am feeling recharged and ready to bring my full self back to work! It wasn't easy getting to this point because although I'm on vacation, I'm still seeing posts on social media, still hearing about senseless shootings, still watching Karen videos, etc. The difference now is that I've minimized my exposure to negativity on social media, and have really grown to be more intentional about my self-care regimens. I've also gotten a chance to really step away from work and just breathe. Thank you to the coworkers at my job for understanding and allowing me to step away to realign my focus as I navigate through these tough times.
This is how I've been spending my week working on my self-care. I've started eating healthier, making crafty baby bibs and personal tie blankets, exercising more consistently, social distancing and spending time with those who bring me joy, having some "me time" with candlelight bubble baths, attending peaceful protests and making sure my voice is heard, reading books and journaling my thoughts, and spending a lot of time with God. This is what brings me joy and happiness!
I challenge you to take a break, shut off your phone, and just breathe. For my friends who hold multiple titles like spouse, parent, caregiver, etc, yes I know it's hard to have alone time but you matter, too. You can't be the best wife, husband, mother, father, caregiver, or any other title you hold, if you are mentally exhausted. Your family wants the full you, too. If you have to get up 30-minutes before the kids wake up, or an hour after you put your loved one to bed, or spend an extra 10-minutes in the shower just reflecting and relaxing, or just locking yourself in the bathroom while the kids are taking a nap, do what you have to do to find time for yourself. It's important!
"Our Minds Matter."
Let me know your thoughts on mental exhaustion in your workplace. Please like, comment, and share with others so we can all discover when we have reached our own mental capacity.