As much as we may strive to be, we aren’t perfect. There are days, weeks, and sometimes months, when our best isn’t quite enough. You may have a sick kid, be taking care of an elderly family member, or be dealing with physical or mental illness yourself. Whatever it is, the challenges of life are unavoidable, and sometimes they start to affect our performance at work.
It happens to the best of us and has only been increasing since the start of the pandemic. But even if the cause of your distress is affecting millions of people (cue COVID-19), it can easily feel like you’re the only one having a rough time.
While it may be unfortunately common for us to deal with mental or physical health issues that affect our work performance, it is critical to remember we aren’t alone in our struggles, for more reasons than one. In fact, in June of 2020, a whopping 40% of adults in the US reported struggling with mental health issues and increased substance abuse since the pandemic. However, world-wide crisis aside, mental health, physical wellness, and family issues are always fluctuating within our individual lives.
Understanding you’re not alone is essential to maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself and getting through whatever it is you’re dealing with. But it’s also necessary to recognize how it influences the way you act at work and the impact you have on your peers.
Reframing your experience
It’s incredibly easy to get wrapped up with your struggles and feel like you deserve a break at work because of it. While this may indeed be true, it’s critical to approach any change of responsibilities in a way that takes into account the people who rely on you to do that work.
Ignoring the work until someone asks about it isn’t a solution. Think about the last time someone failed to follow through on a project you were relying on them to do. How did they break it to you that they hadn’t completed the work? It can be frustrating, stressful, and create resentment between colleagues when a peer fails to hold up their end of the load.
Dropping the ball every once in a while isn’t so bad. But when dealing with extended personal problems, they are likely to drop the ball more than once, which can put intense pressure on teammates and start to damage morale.
Feeling like you’re alone in your struggles may seem real at the time, but it isn’t ever true. Every one of us faces challenges every day we have to navigate around, often with only partial success. So telling yourself it’s ok to drop the ball at work because you’re going through a difficult time isn’t just bad for your standing among your peers, it’s also misguided and damaging to the community you’re a part of.
You may need some extra space and support to help you get through a challenging period of time. But you must gain the courage and insight to recognize when this is the case and to do something about it before you fall behind.
Here’s the truth: mental health, physical health, and wellness of any kind may not be your fault, but it is your responsibility to do what you can to manage it for yourself.
Get in touch with your manager or your team members. Let them know what you need. It’s scary to ask for help. You may be afraid you’ll look weak, or your manager will retaliate. But a strong leadership team will recognize it’s much more cost-effective to help existing employees through rough times than to hire anew.
Working with employees in times of need builds loyalty and trust and will help you recover and be able to return to your best all the sooner. Your colleagues will thank you for preventing things from falling behind and making an effort to find solutions that support the team and the work.
It takes strength and insight to ask for help, but it’s well worth the effort. You’ll ensure your peers aren’t left to deal with a mess and that you don’t get lost under a pile of projects you can’t complete. Above all, it shows you have the integrity to be honest and to take the necessary steps to care for yourself and your team.
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