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The Mental Health Benefits of Working

By Chris Brown

For many, work is a bleak place, filled with a constant seesaw between anxiety and boredom. The feeling is so common that society has coined a name for the universal psychological distress experienced from the mere thought of a new work week: the "Sunday scaries." Counterintuitively though, work may just be the key element holding your mental health together. In data from the U.K. Office of National Statistics, only 27 percent of adults with mental illnesses were employed. This suggests a deeper relationship between our employment and mental states than we may care to admit.

Work Provides a Friendship Network and Social Interaction

Making new friends as an adult can be difficult. Many of the common social interaction points of youth no longer exist once one reaches the working world of adulthood. For many, work is the primary location where one has the opportunity to interact with others and develop new friendships. This is particularly true for those who are introverted or socially anxious. For the increasing number of employees who work remote, the loss of office interaction highlights the need to actively seek new opportunities for socialization. During daytime hours, group work areas or coffee shops can provide a sense of communal working outside of the office environment.

Work Generates a Positive Identity and Self-Worth

While it is not healthy to base your entire identity and self-worth on any one aspect of your life, including work, it can be an important part of defining who you are. This is especially true in careers that allow you creative expression. Without your work, more pressure would be put onto other areas of your life for self-definition, such as your relationships or religious affiliations. And, in times of trouble, your internal support system will not have the career aspect to help support you mentally.

Work Adds a Level of Life Stability

Even if it isn't the most exciting or enjoyable experience, the stability of a consistent work shift adds comfort, especially during times when other areas of life are in disarray. For example, a healthy coping mechanism for those undergoing a breakup or divorce is to lean upon one's work for consistency. The added attention to work not only provides a structure that helps prevent a depression-worsening stagnant state, but it can also directly result in career success. Career success, in turn, can fuel more positive thought and further relieve anxieties from the separation.

Regardless of how you feel about your work, it serves an important role in defining us. Without it, a large part of ourselves is missing. Humans desire to be productive and make a difference in our environments. If you find yourself without work, for example after retiring, it is vital to refocus that energy onto a similarly productive venture like volunteer work or a hobby. Without it, you may find yourself feeling lost and mentally disheveled.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Glen Ellyn, Ill.

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