Coping with mental health… with more work?

By Aminah Madihah

Using work as a way to deal with life problems - yes, it can happen to you too!

Everyone’s going through something. Even those who appear perfectly composed on the surface but deep down inside harbor concealed thoughts and undisclosed secrets.

And everyone has different ways of coping with life. Some distract themselves with their hobbies, meet up with friends so they don’t have to think about their problems… some drown themselves in their workload to cope. Yes, people like this exist! They opt to keep themselves engrossed in work as a means of avoiding contemplation over their difficulties.

We don’t see why not. After all, work can provide structure, purpose, and a sense of accomplishment, but when it becomes a primary coping mechanism, it might not be the right solution for your mental health in the long term.

Here’s why some people use work as a coping mechanism:

1. Structured Distraction: Engaging in work can offer a structured distraction from personal issues, helping you temporarily shift your focus away from your problems and find solace in your professional tasks.
2. Sense of Achievement: Accomplishing tasks at work can boost self-esteem and provide a sense of achievement that might be lacking in other areas of life, offering a psychological boost that serves as a coping mechanism.
3. Social Interaction: Workplaces often provide opportunities for social interaction, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie that can alleviate feelings of isolation and stress. Thank god for colleagues!
4. Identity and Purpose: For many, their career serves as a significant part of their identity and provides a sense of purpose, contributing positively to their overall mental well-being.

And here’s why using work as a coping mechanism can be a problem in the long run:

1. Burnout: Relying heavily on work as a coping mechanism can lead to burnout. The constant engagement can result in physical and emotional exhaustion, diminishing the benefits that work initially provided. Imagine working round the clock simply because you did not want to address the problem…
2. Neglected Personal Life: Overemphasis on work might cause neglect of personal relationships, hobbies, and other activities essential for a well-rounded and fulfilling life.
3. Temporary Relief: While work might offer temporary relief, it doesn't address the root causes of stress, anxiety, or other emotional challenges. This can lead to a cycle where work is repeatedly used as a Band-Aid solution - ouch!
4. Vulnerability to Changes: Depending solely on work for coping can leave you vulnerable to downturns in your career. If your professional situation changes, your primary coping mechanism could be taken away, intensifying emotional distress. Imagine how you would feel if suddenly you were made redundant!

What we think? The best way to cope with challenges is to have a healthy balance between work and personal life - like they say, moderation is key! Encouraging the adoption of various coping mechanisms, such as engaging in hobbies, exercising, seeking social support, and practising mindfulness, can create a more comprehensive approach to well-being than just concentrating on work 100%.

While work can serve as a valuable coping mechanism in moderation, leaning solely on it to navigate life's challenges can have detrimental effects. Recognising the potential risks and consciously diversifying coping mechanisms will empower you to cultivate resilience and face life's complexities with a more comprehensive toolkit for emotional management.

If you are feeling lost and in need of help, seeking professional guidance from therapists or counselors can also provide insights and strategies for managing emotions more effectively.

Tell us what you think @Graduan!

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash.

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