Have you experienced brain fog? It’s that mushy feeling in your mind making it hard to retrieve information, stay on task, form coherent sentences. When we are chronically stressed from taking care of our fragile kids, working through brain fog can be our best effort on the job. Add in distractions like phone calls from the school, memories of last night’s confrontation, or fretting over treatment decisions to be made, and you may be thinking even you would give you a bad performance review.
And that’s on the good days.
The bad days take you away from work altogether. They find you picking the kid up from school. They find you taking the afternoon to go to a doctor’s appointment, because the nearest pediatric psychiatrist taking new patients is two hours away. They find you taking whole days to get your kid settled at the hospital or residential treatment center and going through all the paperwork and family counseling sessions.
If you get paid by the hour, all that time eats into your take-home pay. Even if you have the luxury of a salary and some personal or sick time, your job performance and reputation can suffer. If you run your own business, you are in danger of letting too many balls drop.
No wonder so many parents whose kids have mental illness cite worry about the job as a major stressor.
What can help?
1) If you work in an environment that is supportive, take steps to communicate. Let your boss and co-workers know a little of what is going on with your family. How much you choose to divulge is up to you. If your work atmosphere is more cut-throat, you need to consider and pray for wisdom whether this step is best.
2) Recognize that worry for your kid is going to invade your thoughts. Expect it. When it comes, take a breath and acknowledge the distraction. Then practice techniques to help you minimize it and return to focus. Try a mindfulness exercise. Get up and walk around for a few minutes. Have a dedicated notebook where you write down a sudden urgent thought or to-do to get it out out of your head without the fear of forgetting to call that doctor or renew that prescription.
3) Analyze your work. Are there tasks that could be performed remotely if necessary? How can you delegate if you are called away by an unexpected crisis? Having a plan before the crisis helps immeasurably. It’s the equivalent to having a bag, stashed in the closet, packed and ready to go. Consider creating a document you can quickly email to boss and co-workers and updating it weekly.
4) Make sure you understand your rights and benefits. Develop a good relationship with people in your human relations department. If you are truly worried that your situation might jeopardize your job, find out the laws for termination. Find out what you would need to do for unemployment. Being educated gives you peace of mind.
5) Any steps you take to deal with your stress in a healthy way will also benefit your performance on the job. Enough sleep, some exercise, good nutrition and hydration will help your mind as well as your body.
6) When you pray and when you ask others to pray, don’t leave out your anxiety over your job. It’s important and deserves a place on your prayer list.