Things to consider when you’re off work with a mental illness

off work sick with mental illness

I have such admiration for people who can continue to work whilst being treated for mental illness. I struggled so badly that I had to quit my job and was subsequently out of work for over a year whilst I built up my confidence to return.

I know for some people going to work is the one thing they continue to excel at whilst their mental health suffers, but for me it simply wasn’t an option.

It took me a long time to come to terms with that. When I lost my career I felt like I lost my identity, but I wish I’d realised that is was OK to be off work. It was OK to need help. It was OK to take as much time as I needed. It was more than OK – it was necessary.

Whether you’re off work for a day, a week or a prolonged period of time; you should use this time to make your recovery as wholesome and speedy as possible.

Don’t beat yourself up

Once you’ve decided to take time off, it can be common to feel guilty about being at home resting whilst your family and friends go out to work. You may feel bad that your colleagues are left with more work to do, but remember they’re mentally well enough to cope with added stress whilst you are not.

With the physical symptoms of mental illness often hard to see, certain employers often doubt whether they are there at all. This can be very frustrating – but try not to let it get to you. It’s merely a reflection of how little knowledge most people have about mental illness, and not an indication of whether or not you should return to work. That’s a decision that should be made by you with the advice of your GP.

Consider your finances

If you’re unemployed or off work long term this can be very stressful for a lot of people. If you’re running out of savings you should be honest and consider making a plan for the future. If you live in the US you may want to have a read of the DRB Capital structured settlement review. I was receiving benefits and Statutory Sick Pay when I was off sick abd residing in the UK, more information on which can be found here.

Any extra cash can be pivotal when you are no longer earning full time, and this will also help take the pressure off you rushing back into work when you’re not totally ready to do so.

off work with mental illness

Implement a routine

When you’re out off work for a prolonged period of time it can be hard to find structure in your day. I know for me the days often ran into one another, with sleeping taking priority over eating, showering and staying in contact with family. You should try to avoid the days slipping away by implementing a loose routine.

Try setting your alarm every morning and try to follow a basic self-care routine. This could be something as simple as getting up before midday and making a cup of tea. Over time you can add more difficult tasks such as washing, cooking breakfast and leaving the house. This will give some purpose to your days without adding too much expectation or pressure.

Try to stay active

This doesn’t mean going a run everyday or religiously going to keep-fit classes like I did, but it will benefit you to get out of the house and move around a little most days. I know how hard it can be to get out of bed and it’s OK to spend all day sleeping when you need it. But if you do feel the urge to do something like rearrange your bedroom or pop to the supermarket then you should capitalise on that positive attitude.

Completing the smallest tasks can feel like a big win when you’re at an all time low. I remember one day following a bad spell of my depression I suddenly felt compelled to clean my windows. It felt like such an achievement and as silly as it sounds, it was such a great day for me and my recovery.

What steps are you taking to help with your mental illness whilst you’re off work?

6 thoughts on “Things to consider when you’re off work with a mental illness

  1. The thing with feeling guilty for others doing extra work is that if your organisation is well managed, the extra work should only impact other people slightly. It should be well distributed to cause the minimum work load increase. Don’t feel guilty on that front I say.

    1. Absolutely. When I was off sick I was a manager already covering for 2 other managers so I felt like my workload was a lot for others so cope with. I couldn’t see that the excessive workload was the reason I was so unwell in the first place!!

  2. Something you said elsewhere has been really helpful to me dealing with yet another period of absence recently – along the lines of not feeling guilty for being out of the house. We’re signed off as not fit to work, not unfit for stuff like the gym or a walk which could help. You said it much more eloquently! Thank you.

    1. Hi Julie, that’s it exactly – I’m not as eloquent as you suggest! You still need to keep up with as many enjoyable activities as possible so yes you shouldn’t feel guilt about those things x

  3. Extra cash is always good indeed. Especially nowadays when all we can think of is cash! oh and the thing with cleaning the windows haha no it is not silly. Not at all. I think everybody feels better when doing something, anything. Not only those with depression or so, but all of us. Even if some admit it or not. The thing with people having mental issues and being more senstive is that anything they do, seems to make them feel less useless than they feel. Because that is the truth. They are maybe, the least useles. Loved the mug btw

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