Career

Emotional Wellbeing

Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

Balancing Mental Health Working in the Trades

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Working in the trades industry can be lucrative. In fact, many students are opting for trade school in lieu of traditional university to get ahead of the curve when looking for high-paying, fast-moving careers. If you’re actively working in the trades, you are likely acutely aware of the benefits and drawbacks of this career path. Learn how to navigate your mental health while excelling in your trade career.

How High-Pressure Careers Can Affect Your Well-Being

High-stress work environments are rarely positive — for the company or the people working within it. Trades careers can be extremely demanding, causing undue stress on the professionals within this nuanced industry. Various types of construction workers, for example, are placed in dangerous situations daily. Unsafe conditions and looming deadlines could be the perfect recipe for pressure that takes a toll on your mental well-being. 

Managing stress in a high-pressure job is easier said than done. A staggering 80% of construction workers report experiencing stress on and off the clock. Skilled craftspeople are unfortunately often taking the brunt of the labor, long hours, high expectations, and client relations, leading to stress-inducing situations. Long-term projects can feel like a dark cloud over your head. 

If work is causing you anxiety and stress, your physical and mental health can be negatively impacted. The longer these symptoms go unchecked, the more severe the repercussions. You may experience an increased risk of:

  • Cardiovascular issues; 
  • Immune disorders;
  • Metabolic disorders;
  • Reproductive and sexual health issues;
  • Respiratory problems;
  • Self-isolation and avoidance; 
  • Tension headaches and other chronic pain conditions.

The sooner you learn how to manage chronic stress as a skilled tradesperson, the better. You are a master of your craft, but you need to master stress management to continue to thrive in the trades industry for years to come.

Build Support Networks as Unique as You

If you work long hours doing intensive labor, you likely don’t feel like socializing at the end of the day. Your brain and body deserve to rest. However, this lends itself to self-isolation. Support systems are crucial to mental well-being, allowing you to communicate your feelings. More importantly, perhaps, you’re more likely to feel like someone is there for you and can understand your experiences. Support systems offer:

  • Check-ins, even when you may not feel your best; 
  • Social support, allowing you to feel seen and heard;
  • Distraction from stressors, giving you time to destress and shift your focus;
  • Positive influences, prompting you to live a healthier lifestyle;
  • Help in times of crisis

The way you build your support network will be unique to you. If you feel overwhelmed at the prospect of meeting new people or scheduling times to hang out, start with your coworkers. Especially if you’re always on the go, carpooling can offer social benefits that you may not be getting outside of work. 

Even if you’re busy, make it a point to periodically reach out to loved ones. You can even find a support group of like-minded individuals online — some even in the same industry as you so they can empathize more fully. Mental health professionals are also a great option if you have health coverage and can schedule sessions to check in every now and then. They can offer you resources that may not be available to you otherwise, and they can point you in the right direction if you’re faltering.

Strike a Proper Balance

The key to mental wellness is balance. Work-life balance isn’t always possible in the trades industry. Long, grueling hours often leave little time for life outside of work. However, you can take small steps that make a big difference in your mental health.

Harness Productivity to Create a Positive Mindset

Rather than mentally beating yourself up for not being productive enough, focus on the things you have achieved. Your level of productivity will naturally fluctuate. Try to reframe the trade industry’s focus on producing and harness it into a positive mindset. 

Write down what you are grateful for each day, and acknowledge how far you have come. Even if you weren’t traditionally productive at work, praise yourself for showing up or bringing a healthy meal for lunch. Gratitude for your small accomplishments can shift your perspective. Plus, productivity helps your mental health by releasing dopamine and decreasing cortisol, the stress hormone.

Recognize Burnout and Set Boundaries

It’s easy to become overwhelmed and burnt out in such a demanding field. Establishing clear boundaries for yourself helps reduce stress and prevent mental exhaustion. Keep an eye on how you’re feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally. If things are overwhelming, this could be a sign you’re feeling burnt out and need to set firmer boundaries. This might involve setting specific work hours, communicating expectations with colleagues and supervisors, and taking breaks to recharge.

Change Jobs

Ideally, your workplace will encourage mental wellness. If, after discussing mental health accommodations and resources with your superior or HR, nothing changes, it may be time to look for a job with another company. Your mental health comes first. Remember the adverse effects if it doesn’t, and let this fuel your search for a company that will protect your well-being. 

Practice Self-Care

Practicing self-care is an essential component of maintaining mental wellness while working in the trades industry. The physical demands and rigorous schedules in this field can take a toll on your mental health if not properly managed. Engaging in self-care routines, such as regular exercise, adequate sleep, and a balanced diet, can bolster your physical and mental resilience. This can even boost your work ethic in the long run.

Taking breaks during work hours, even if brief, allows for moments of relaxation that are crucial for proper functioning. Moreover, seeking social support and connecting with colleagues can foster a sense of camaraderie and reduce the isolation that can sometimes accompany trade professions. Prioritizing self-care isn’t a luxury — it’s a necessity to ensure that you can perform at your best while safeguarding your mental well-being in the face of trade industry challenges.

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