Sometimes, the world of professionalism can feel like it stops for no one. While we all focus on making strides toward our futures as career professionals, our struggles with mental health can get swept under the rug in order to achieve those goals. Even on days where our mental health has gotten the better of us, we find ourselves being reminded of the work we should be doing and the deadlines we should be meeting. However, no one should ever feel guilty about experiencing mental illness, even when it can feel debilitating or we think we are inconveniencing others in our professional lives. Whether you struggle with mental health while working as a student, intern, or career professional, it is extremely important to find a balance between managing your professional life, while also finding a way to prioritize your well-being.  

Being a student who struggles with ADHD myself, I have learned approaches that have allowed me to find common ground when it comes to being successful in academics and professional settings. One of the most important things that you can utilize to manage your mental health in professional settings is communication! Oftentimes, we feel that explaining our symptoms as a reason for not performing as well as we “should” will come across as an excuse. We assume that this reasoning will not be valid enough to warrant help from our peers or professional leaders.  However, it is always best to reach out to your professors or professional leaders when you feel that mental health is affecting your performance. Although it can feel extremely daunting to be vulnerable in a professional setting, keep in mind that people are almost always more understanding and empathetic than you might believe. Communicating will help others to help you. 

Alongside communication, plan to develop new approaches in collaboration with your professional leaders in areas that feel challenging due to a struggle with mental health. For example, if you find that executive dysfunction and lack of time management are particularly difficult, create a plan from the beginning with your professor or professional leader to meet and check in on your progress before an important deadline arrives. This can help you develop a sense of accountability and allow you to split up your workload so that it is less overwhelming.

In cases of managing mental health in a professional setting, it is essential to remember that we are all human. We all are actively improving ourselves, and should not feel as though our mental illness should prevent us from pursuing our academic or career goals. If you feel shame, or find that mental illness is a continuously inhibiting factor towards your performance, it is important to remember that progress isn’t linear. We almost never improve after just one, or even ten difficult experiences. Continue to exercise patience with yourself, and your professional leaders will be patient with you as well to help you to be successful!

Written by: Madison Boyd