How to Be More Positive at Work When Mental Illness Makes It Hard

Positivity at work is hard to muster when you’re having a bad mental health day. Get tips to get you through at HealthyPlace.

Positivity at work is one of the greatest challenges of having a mental illness. However much you like your job, the pressures of work can put great demands on someone with a mental illness. You will often need to complete tasks and activities that take you out of your comfort zone, such as talking on the phone or giving a presentation. When faced with these challenges, anxiety and depression will often make you think that failure is inevitable. It’s tough to overwrite the negative thoughts caused by mental illness, but by learning some basic positivity exercises and techniques, it is possible to achieve true positivity at work.

When Positivity at Work Feels Impossible

It’s hard to feel positive at work at the best of times, especially if you dislike your job. However, mental illness can make even the simplest tasks feel impossible. If you’re struggling at work due to a mental health condition, it is important to talk to your manager or human resources department. Although you may not want to disclose your illness to your employers, being open about your diagnosis means people can help and support you through these challenges.

According to the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), a mental illness counts as a “psychiatric disability,” meaning there are practical strategies your employers have to take to ensure your rights in the workplace are met, so long as the terms are reasonable to the business. You may not like thinking about your mental illness as a “disability,” however this term is often used to cover a wide range of emotional and mental health conditions, such as generalized anxiety, bipolar disorder and ADHD ("Requesting Workplace Accommodations for Disability").

You can find out more about your rights under the ADA by visiting the ADA website and ADA National Network: a website that provides information, guidance and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

How to Be More Positive at Work

Some people find that mental illness renders their work impossible. If this is the case for you, accept that you may need to take a little time out (just as you would for a “physical” ailment) in order to get better. Others find that their work gives them a welcome distraction from mental illness symptoms, but they still find it challenging to meet their responsibilities.

If you simply want to make life at work easier on yourself and your illness, you can try positivity exercises to override negative thoughts.   

  • Keep a positivity log: Keep a log of all your positive thoughts throughout the day, whilst ignoring the negative ones. At the end of the day, you can look back at your positivity log and focus on your achievements (however small) rather than dwelling on what went wrong.
  • Send yourself positive messages for work: Each morning, practice affirmations or write positive notes to yourself in a positivity journal. You can even set positivity reminders on your phone to provide pick-me-ups throughout the day.
  • Focus on how your illness makes you better at your job: Your illness is not you, but it is part of you. The fact that you have certain personality traits or genetics that make you more susceptible to mental illness means it’s sometimes hard to distinguish between yourself and the illness. Use this to your advantage. What about you is different? Are you particularly sensitive or empathic, making you a great communicator? Or are you prone to bursts of creativity? It may feel uncomfortable to look for positive aspects of your condition, but they are there.  
  • Lower your expectations: People who are prone to workplace anxiety often have high expectations of themselves. If you’re always setting the bar too high, however, you will never be satisfied with your achievements. While caring about what you do is an admirable quality, perfectionism can be stifling. Each time you set an expectation for yourself, take it down a notch. For example: “I won’t mess up at work today,” becomes, “If I make mistake, I will take a deep breath, learn from it, and move on.”

Positivity at Work Is Possible If You Have Self-Belief

Positivity in the workplace isn’t always easy when you have a mental illness. However, through exercises and thought training, you can learn to beat the negative thoughts and achieve your true potential. Don’t let negativity hold you back – instead, practice positivity at work and watch your confidence, motivation and resilience improve.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2021, December 31). How to Be More Positive at Work When Mental Illness Makes It Hard, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 25 from

Last Updated: March 25, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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