How hard am I willing to work to make my dream a reality? What am I willing to give up for an ambitious career? Is my mental health being compromised for my dreams? These questions are constantly on my mind, and there is no correct answer.
Lemonjaded guest blogger Kayla Morgan shares her acquired coping skills to deal with Depression while chasing your ambitious career.
Hello Lemonjaded readers, my name is Kayla Morgan and I am starting up a music publishing branch of a small record label outside of Philadelphia. Along with being previously employed at Dorney Park for multiple summers, Jade and I have something in common: Mental health struggles. While anxiety and depression struck Jade at a young age, my combat against Depression is a recent battle I’ve been fighting over the last year.
Music has always been my passion and obsession for as long as I can remember. In college I had lead the university’s radio station as music director, and interned at a locally based NPR radio show called “Echoes.” For months I had applied to music related jobs throughout the country without hearing back from anyone. I was starting to feel discouraged and disappointed when I received a message on LinkedIn from TribeSound Records owner Chris Cotter asking if I would be interested in learning about Music Publishing. Without even sending a resume, I was hired at TribeSound Records part-time around December of 2016. I promptly moved back to West Chester PA, where I had finished my undergrad a few months prior.
This article and most recent grads can vouch for me when I say that an overwhelming amount of desirable jobs are available, but only part-time. Do I want to work part-time? No. But when the career you want has limited means of getting your foot in the door, you take what you can get. Once I got the job I was interested in, the next step was to find supplementary income so I can pay my bills. I called up the restaurant I served at throughout college and they accepted me back with no questions asked.
In the morning I am working for TribeSound Records, by night I am serving. For the first couple months, this system worked great, but I was also coping with a breakup, and trying to distance myself from the college radio station that had previously been my life.
Fast forward to 9 months into my hectic schedule, I started to plummet. I started to become less productive at my dream job at TribeSound Records, and the work atmosphere at my previously home-like restaurant turned toxic. It all piled up until an insignificant event broke me, and landed me in a behavior hospital for a week for having suicidal thoughts. This was when I received my diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, and knew I needed to pursue some help. I learned a lot since attending psychotherapy sessions and re-evaluating my life, I will now share how I cope.
Step 1: Support System
While it may seem self-explanatory that stress levels, depression, and having a poor social support network are correlated, there have been studies like this one that prove that there is data to support this idea.
If you are not setting aside at least 2 days/ week to spend some amount of time with family or friends, you will notice that your stress levels go up, and your mood will go down. As someone that values alone time, I know how a busy schedule can make you want to collapse on your bed after a long week of working 60 hours. But hear me out: even if it feels forced at times, you need to make time for friends and family!
Your support network is essential to recovering from a depressive episode.
If you are struggling to find time to set aside for loved ones, suggest activities to do together that are productive for the both of you! As an avid meal-prepper, I set aside time every Tuesday evening to cook in large quantities so that I am fed for days. Rather than going out to eat with friends, or having a date night at a restaurant; invite friends or a significant other to meal prep with you. While my boyfriend would previously hang around and keep me company while I cooked, we have recently been choosing recipes that we both like and cook together. By incorporating the other into the cooking process, the chore now becomes a group activity with benefits for both parties.
Step 2: Scheduling and Budgeting
Before I go on about ways to save money and prioritizing, let’s take a moment to scream in our heads together. I know that family and friends love to preach about how you shouldn’t treat yourself to an occasional dunkin donuts coffee, or how you wouldn’t have to budget so hard if you just got a better paying job. Done internally screaming? Okay good. I am not here to tell you that your decisions are wrong, or that you don’t deserve some simple comforts every once in a while.
Now that that’s out of way, let’s talk about some adulting necessities. While my solution is bullet journaling, there are a multitude of ways that you can organize your life and not feel overwhelmed. I love bullet journaling because it adds an artistic twist to what would have otherwise been boring spreadsheets and to-do lists. In addition to being more aesthetically pleasing, bullet journals are personalized to include whatever you like.
Personally, I like to include pages like my “New Year’s Resolution,” and “Places I want to go in 2018.” I’ve seen others include pages on reaching your “Steps” each day, or tracking your diet. I don’t include these pages for myself because I am a server (Steps come automatically) and I meal prep every week, so I know what I am eating. My point in telling you about pages not included in my journal is to show that you use the pages that are important to your struggles and goals, and skip what you don’t need.
The first step I took in budgeting was to write out all of my necessary bills, and expected income.
This way you can physically see where your money is going, how much you need for the bare necessities, and how much you should have left over. Having a job in the restaurant industry makes income hard to predict, but if you are in the industry for a while you will come to learn trends in how much you make per shift.
Once I had everything written out, I started to make really difficult decisions, and cut some small expenses. I canceled my $30 LA fitness membership, spotify premium account, and made one final tough decision. I dyed my hair a “normal” color so I would stop spending $350 on purple or green hair. (For the record, I am still very sad about this.)
Step 3: Work/Life Balance
My Dad has told me on multiple occasions throughout my life that, “You work to live, you don’t live to work.” While this advice captures the moral well, I found that a more appropriate phrase is that, “Life is about more than just working, paying bills, and then dying.” On especially work heavy weeks, I find check myself using that phrase to make sure that I am not guilty of neglecting the rest of my life to make money. Sure, it’s way easier said than done when your deadline for rent is around the corner, but this is where the previously mentioned budgeting comes into play.
How can you tell that you’re working too much? The answer to this question is different for every person based on your stress capacity, but I know when it is too much for me. If I only have one full day to do whatever I please, and one half day to do necessary chores, I’m working too much.
One day of free time/week is not sustainable, and will hurt your mental health in the long run.
Adjust your schedule to allow for another day to pursue hobbies, have some alone time, or to unwind in meditation.
When budgeting correctly, you won’t miss the extra shift. Worst case scenario, find a job that allows you to pick up an extra shift if money is tight. This doesn’t have to mean a restaurant job: Uber driving or selling crafts on etsy are also valid options for making an extra buck when you’re struggling.
The Moral of the Story
I still have some days that seem impossible to cope with, and my bullet journal won’t magically poof these bad days away. Yet, I can say confidently that my bad days don’t feel impossible anymore, just inconvenient. Hopefully there will come a time where it doesn’t take as much effort to be productive, but until then I have a battle to fight. Depression will not win in my war to conquer my dream career.
*Disclaimer: My productivity has been increased with the help of bi-weekly psychotherapy and antidepressant drugs as well. While I encourage challenging yourself to overcome Depression, it’s okay to ask for help too. Call your health insurance to find a psychiatrist that works on your plan if you feel like you may be struggling with your mental health.