It is easy to become distracted at work because of external noise. As someone who is very sensitive to sound and is currently easily distracted and easily irritated because of my mood to begin with, I sometimes find it hard to get through the day at work. I feel like I am less productive than I should be and then I worry that I am behind on my work and end up staying at work too late or working through my lunch break. Neither scenario is healthy.
I do like my job, and I am appreciated at my workplace, I just continue to have a hard time focusing. But when I can focus, I am very efficient and productive and I love it. I put 110% into everything I do, and I know that I set the bar too high for myself when it comes to how much work equates to a productive day. I know that if I really wasn’t doing enough, my employer would tell me.
This is the problem with anxiety and depression – they trick you! They make you fret and overthink and doubt yourself. You have thoughts you don’t want to have and you question what you like, what you don’t like, what you do and don’t deserve.
I decided that since I am in an emotional state and I don’t want my emotions to get the better of me at work, I have to find some strategies to make my workplace a better environment for me.
My desk is in an isolated area, beside a window, so I do have the benefit of sunlight, and when there are no meetings nearby, I do have quiet and I don’t have to interact with too many people. There are filing cabinets and photocopiers nearby though, so those are distractions. I have a radio/iPod dock on my desk and decided that since music always helps me in some way, I am going to make use of this and play MY music and not just rely on what’s on the radio and hope I like it. I even have playlists on my iPod for certain moods which is great, so I can easily put on music that makes me calm or happy.
If I am getting really distracted and keep reading the same sentence over and over, it’s time to get up and walk around. It can be something small like going to photocopy something, going to pull or put away a file, getting something from the supply closet, I just have to find a reason to move around.
I also have been trying breathing exercises when I feel tense or irritated, because breathing calms your whole body down. My face reddens very easily when I am angry or embarrassed so if I can “keep my cool”, it’s an accomplishment. This is important because, due to the location of my desk, people ask to borrow things or end up in my personal space frequently and it takes a lot of willpower not to say, “Get out of my personal space!” I know it sounds ridiculous, but when you are emotionally fragile and not sure what state you are in, you don’t want to talk to people, explain yourself or have people in your personal space, or interrupting your work flow. Once I am able to focus and I get going, it is so upsetting to be interrupted for no reason and lose my focus again.
Another way to ease my mind is saying a mantra. In one of my blog posts from last summer, I mentioned a mantra I learned from the HBO show Ballers that one of the football players, who has an anger issue, learns from his coach: “I am bigger than my problems.” I am not saying I have an anger problem, but irritability and agitation are part of the bipolar experience. I look at this mantra as saying “I am in control”, because I would never want to minimize “my problems” (what I am feeling, what I perceive my obstacles to be, “issues”, whatever I am working through), or have anyone else do that to me. The mantra means I am the bigger person; I am taking back control.
One more way to help make your workplace a better environment is mindfulness. I have decided I am going to look into mindfulness and see how that goes. A site that seems promising is Headspace, where the idea is to make mindfulness easy, accessible and convenient. I think I could make a commitment to this site/app- which is a big step for someone who has a hard time committing to new things!
About Melanie Luxenberg
My name is Melanie Luxenberg and I am finally ready to live openly with mental illness. I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2003, which I still experience. At the same time, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety (which I also still experience), and then briefly experienced Agoraphobia. I have had depression on and off since I was 13 years old. In July 2010 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. Shortly after it was realized that I experienced rapid cycling. I can experience multiple cycles in a week. Despite my diagnosis, I completed a university degree and then a college program. I have always held stable employment, regularly taken my medication and regularly attended my doctor’s appointments. There have been times of hopelessness, but I have always found support from my family, husband and 3 dogs. I am a law clerk, social media/content writer and of course, mental health advocate. My Twitter feed is full of mental health advocacy messages. I hope one day to see the end of stigma towards mental illness, because stigma has to stop!