Part one: The Impact of Work on our Mental Well-Being.
This is Part 1 of a series that I am calling why are we mentally ill? This section discusses work and its impact on our mental well-being.Tweet
Those who know me know that I am a thinker. Almost obsessively so. Not surprisingly, mental health is one of these topics that I dedicate a lot of mental energy to.
While the topic of mental health is a top priority for me, I tend to be a big-picture thinker. This of course, tends to lead me back to mental illness and its causes.
For instance, I think a lot about economics and how that plays a role on our mental well-being. To be more specific, what sort of impact does modern capitalism have on our psychological state?
In my view, a lot. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is the principal driver for the surge in mental-health disorders. While it is certainly not the only factor, we only need to look at our own work environment to get a sense of how impactful a “free” market society is.
It systematically counters what makes us human and erodes our mental well-being.
Think about this: for those who work Monday to Friday, they will get only eight days off in thirty-one days – EIGHT! The remainder of their time consists of a few hours in the evening before they go off to bed.
In this real-life scenario, we are left with little time for our brains and bodies to take a break. As if that wasn’t bad enough, getting three or four weeks out of fifty-two a year for vacation seems like a bum deal too, doesn’t it?
So little time to be free and human. And employers have the nerve to get mad at us when we are sick! Hello! Why are we sick? We are designed to be outdoor dwellers and great explorers – not hunched over a computer or swinging a hammer for so long that it kills our bodies.
Equally true, we need rest. In our current form of existence, we’re essentially living opposite to the way mother nature intended. A fish can’t live on land and a lion can’t live in the ocean; why? They were each destined to live in a specific way and do what they are designed to do.
All this sound depressing? Of course, it does. That’s because it is. Literally, we develop depression when denied our nature inclinations, like being outside, moving around and eating what we are designed to eat. When we are not allowed to rest and be free, it starts to chip away at our mental well-being
To put it another way, when we see caged and very unhappy-looking mammals, we instantly know it’s because they are being denied their freedom. Their natural instinct to run and be free is forbidden. Sadly, this is not something we recognize in ourselves. All work and little play can and often does cause mental illness.
This, my friends is not normal, and it’s killing our mental well-being.
Saddest of all, from my view is that we accept this as the norm. Living for our weekends or our days off from shift work; exhausted from it and never really getting the time we need to recuperate.
In addition to this unconditional acceptance, we give our employers our loyalty. Our commitment to them is disproportionate to what we desire most in life – connection with those we love. In fact, this is so out of sorts, that our children are raised by strangers. For many, their children are in care more than they are home.
Yet, without a thought, it’s more of a priority to have governments subsidize childcare, so we can work, then demanding they pass legislation to give us a four-day work week. This would give us the opportunity to raise our children, yet it’s somehow not even on the radar? Additionally, for those who don’t have kids, it will give them one more day to be human again.
So, what does this tell us? Well, it says to me that we are so conditioned to be yet another cog in the wheel of capitalism, that we legitimately don’t see the damage this “good life” is having on our mental well-being. Nor do we see that being a work horse is impacting our children.
What can be done?
From my perspective, many of us become mentally ill when we are working more than we are living. But it’s more than that. Countless people are working at a job they hate. I ask you this, is the stress and constant anxiety worth it?
Here’s what I see:
- Hating our job – and we spend less time with our kids and more time working, so they can play sports, have game systems etc. These distractions take away from not only your dreams, but also your family unit. You can’t have a robust veggie garden if you don’t look after it. A family can’t thrive without the attention it needs.
- We have been conditioned to believe that material things make us happy – they don’t.
- We have all these extras, meaningless items, cable, extra phones and cars, four-wheelers – what for?
- Is killing yourself for a job you hate, really working for you?
- We measure success in dollars – the higher the number, the more successful we are. Wrong.
If we are making ourselves sick doing something we hate while at the same time accumulating stuff that doesn’t make us happy, then why are we sacrificing our heath and our true passion for things that matter less than the happiness our passion could bring?
When it comes to this modern life, find balance. You are more than a cog in the wheel of this economic machine. You are human. And as a human being, you can’t go against your nature without paying a price.
- Time to recharge (self-care).
- To be free and creative.
- To spend time with family and friends.
- To find work that gives us joy and purpose.
- We were built for moving, so get moving!
Above is what I believe will help minimize the damage to our mental well-being. With that said, the ultimate key to a happy life is connection. Be kind to yourself, follow your dreams and re-establish connection with those you care most about.