How To Overcome Mental Health in a High Pressure Job

An opus employee has written about her own experiences battling with mental health whilst working in recruitment. She explains how she felt and the things she did to manage and overcome it - including speaking with Opus who supported her along the way.

People suffering inside will often tell you they are fine, when they’re not. This is because they may have anxiety about telling you they have anxiety. If they do tell you, they already know that you don’t fully understand what is going on in their mind. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand, not knowing what to say or how to deal with it, resulting in people who are battling with their emotions feel more isolated.

Naturally with most people, emotions will surface when an event or incident triggers them. So it’s likely you will only really see this person express their true feelings when something forces them to escape, but the truth is it’s really the tears you can’t see & the thoughts they don’t say out loud that really matter.

Personal Experience

This is my personal experience of trying to perform in a demanding job whilst I was going through one of my darkest patches, about 12-18 months ago. It’s important to say that I’ve dipped in and out of these ‘states’ countless times since I was 11 years old. I still have bad days/weeks today. Depression is a black cloud that haunts me. There’s no complete cure, there is no end you just learn to control it.

Anxiety likes to play mind games with you and keeps you awake when you need sleep the most - so nighttime would be torture. My alarm would be set for 5.30am and instantly my whole body would ache, exhausted from thinking about everything & nothing all night long. I wanted to sleep so badly - it was the only time I didn’t feel the pain but my mind would not allow me to.

Every day was an uphill struggle to keep up with my surroundings in the office. It was a fight to complete daily tasks, it got so bad at one point I couldn’t even open my emails. I actually got anxiety about reading emails. Calling clients was hell on earth, not just the trainee kind of nerves you get, but where I was thinking about the conversations I’d had days later. The standard office banter would be overwhelming and although sometimes I’d laugh along with the joke, it would be the type of thing that kept me from sleeping at night. There were days where I couldn’t physically get out of bed because the thought of being questioned on my day plan or sending out CV’s was too much. Now you have to understand that I really wanted to. I didn’t want to be that tired, my mind just would not allow me to face the day.

"Depression is being colour-blind and constantly told how colourful the world is"

Anyone with depression or anxiety doesn’t want to feel that way, every single day is an argument with yourself about you should be doing versus what you’re actually doing. People around me said things like “get over it” “move on” “care more”, the worst thing was no one knew that I already told myself those things a thousand times a day. I wanted to care, I wanted to be happy - I just didn’t know how. There’s a quote that explains this well - “Depression is being colour-blind and constantly told how colourful the world is” – and I cannot tell you how true that is.

Eventually it became a secret achievement when my colleagues believed my fake smile. Like “phew another day of not having to lie about the reason you have no energy, you’re not standing up for sales calls, your hair isn’t done or why you aren’t eating at lunch” “Today you convinced people you are normal, well done”. This is except for when those “events” occurred that caused me show my emotions, this would likely be like; a deal didn’t go in, a candidate dropping out, blanking. Anything that a normal person would shrug their shoulders at and move on from triggers a whole load of stuff for someone who has no resilience left.

They say talking about your issues is the first step to feeling better, but just the thought of having to articulate your thoughts to someone who doesn’t understand was more painful than suffering in silence.

Any role in recruitment requires you to be driven and motivated majority of the time. Which don’t get me wrong is so positive!! Those two traits are amazing and even attractive in people. In fact, everything recruitment demands from you is all positive, but what happens when you’ve forgotten how to be driven? What happens when all the things that motivated you in your best mind-set you no longer care about? You no longer want that bag or the nice expensive shoes you have stuck a picture of on your computer screen? You no longer want to take your girlfriend on holiday because what’s the point now nothing matters?

When I became aware of the fact I didn’t care about anything, it made me worse. I was trying to get back to my normal self by thinking of things that used to make me happy or drive me. However, the difference between when you are at your best and worst is that you don’t necessarily want the same things. Sometimes forcing yourself to be your ‘best’ can actually make you feel more abnormal, as you feel so far away from yourself. I accepted that my focus on what makes me happy, where peace of mind is now a goal.

"Think about what might make me smile"

When I realized this, I put my career to one side and started to think about what might make me smile without faking it. For me, it was moving abroad and away from bad memories – creating my own life. Once I had figured this out, I wanted to bring my career in recruitment back into it, as I loved my job. When at my ‘best’, I loved the pressure, the questions, the KPI’s and the candidate calls – I love chasing the dream, I’m addicted! I love all the things that come with my job, thriving in stressful environments when I care about myself.

"I received nothing but support from Opus"

I did my best to express this to Opus, where I knew I had to move but that I wanted to stay with Opus too. When I mentioned I wanted to move away, and the benefits this would have personally, management gave me the opportunity I’d asked for. Not only that, I received nothing but support from Opus. Changing markets, relocating, moving teams – I was fully supported and the business helped me in any way they could to ensure it went smoothly. A lot of companies may pay lip service to putting their staff first, but Opus really do and I could not be more proud to work for them. I am lucky enough to work for a company that listen and facilitate solutions to personal development.

"Stop trying to force yourself"

The point is, when you have a black cloud over you and feel like you are not thriving in a high-pressure environment you once loved – stop trying to force yourself. Think about what will improve your present life, do the small stuff that makes you smile, listen to those who have your best interests at heart and don’t block them out. Your intuition may be screaming something valuable at you every day – listen to it.

When you can’t sleep at night, don’t force yourself. Before you reach the office doors, push the cloud away. Think to yourself, ‘this is my present and my reality’ – listen to what people say and take it in. Stop the zoning out, stop thinking about things in your past you cannot change. Put yourself first, not the anxiety. I would actually say this to myself regularly if I struggled to pick up the phone, or get out of bed and ready for work.

You know the feeling when you cry from laughter, or you look in the mirror and feel GOOD, or when you are with your best friends feeling care-free and more comfortable than ever – well that feeling there is YOU. That is who you are, not your anxiety or depression. Hold onto the person that laughs at their own joke, that does things without thinking twice – that is you. Own that person, be that person and let it take over the cloud above you. That is how I have beat the pain inside, and how you can too whilst still performing a high pressure job.


Here at Opus we offer support for employee wellbeing. Our people matter and we always seek to ensure the relevant tools are available to employees. This is why we have the option for a life-coach or counsellor should our staff need it. 

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