Coping with and discussing arthritis at work can be difficult. In fact, people with arthritis may face feelings of isolation, stress and guilt and they might worry about being discriminated against or losing their job. If you’re working while living with arthritis, you know that these and other challenges can have an impact on your mental health, on top of the physical symptoms you’re already dealing with.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to challenges faced at work, as there are so many different kinds of jobs. Nevertheless, here are some proven strategies to support your mental wellbeing at work:
Be a planner
You can include self-care at work without disrupting your day. Some real-life examples include setting a timer to remember to change positions or stretch, taking frequent short breaks, or alternating tougher tasks with easier ones.
Build healthy self-esteem
Self-esteem isn’t just about focusing on your good qualities. It’s about being able to recognize your strengths but also to accept that we all have weaknesses and trying your best regardless. Everyone has unique abilities and talents. You may not be able to do things exactly like another person, but you have your own set of skills and attributes. Self-esteem means thinking about what you are able to contribute and using that confidence to pursue your interests and goals. Self-esteem can’t come from comparing ourselves to other people, but only from recognizing value within ourselves.
Consider speaking up
Talking about arthritis at work can be scary — many people are understandably concerned about being seen as unable to do their jobs or being resented by co-workers. On the other hand, if you are having trouble keeping up and your employer and colleagues don’t know why, or if your health is affected by your work environment, discussing your condition might help improve the situation.
Build positive support networks
Creating and maintaining good relationships takes effort, whether it’s with family members, friends, partners, coworkers, or other important people in our lives. Trust isn’t something that happens immediately, but takes time to build. While it might take courage to reach out to another person, the reward is worth the effort. Social support plays a big role in our mental health and well-being.
Evaluate your energy
Try using an activity diary to track your energy levels throughout the day. After a week, you can see if there are better ways to organize your tasks and pinpoint areas that need attention (for example, if you put all your energy into work and have nothing left for time with family and friends, or if you really thrive in the afternoons, but have difficulty in the mornings.)
Recognize your emotions
Negative emotions are part of being human, no one is expected to be happy all the time. Emotional well-being isn’t so much about always feeling good as it is about finding healthy ways to cope with and express our emotions in a way that is respectful of everyone, including ourselves. Keeping our feelings bottled up inside doesn’t respect our own needs, while lashing out at others doesn’t respect theirs. Emotional well-being also involves developing an awareness of how our emotions can impact the way we think or act, taking responsibility when we respond inappropriately, and learning to accept the fluctuations in our feelings.
For more information about how to manage your arthritis at work, visit our Arthritis and Work online learning module, our Mental Health online learning module, or our other workplace resources.