Wondering about ways to care for your mental health in the workplace? You’re not alone.
Most working professionals spend at least one-third of their lives at work. No wonder then that our jobs can have such a huge influence on our overall mental health and wellbeing.
From a never-ending to-do list to after-hour emails. Work can seep into our personal lives and impact how we think, feel, and behave.
It makes sense, then, to take steps to look after our mental health in the workplace.
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What do we mean when we refer to mental health and well-being at work?
The World Health Organization defines good mental health as a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, and can cope with the normal stresses of life. Can work productively. And is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
In the context of work, poor mental health can result from stress, rising workloads, poor management, a lack of support, and unexpected change, to name a few triggers.
14 ways to care for your mental health in the workplace
The following are 14 ideas to help you care for your mental health and well-being at work.
1. Don’t be too hard on yourself
The first thing you can do to care for your mental health in the workplace is to take it easy on yourself.
If you find yourself struggling at any time, don’t be too hard on yourself.
Acknowledge your emotions, then talk to someone, whether a friend, your boss or a professional.
You’re not alone. It helps to share experiences and worries, and receive support.
We all try to cope the best we can with the challenges life throws our way, so be open with those closest to you and share your concerns.
2. Don’t compare yourself to others
The second way to care for your mental health in the workplace is to focus on your own work and progress.
Everybody’s circumstances are different, and we all deal with challenges in different ways.
Some colleagues may appear to cope well with change at work, for instance, while others need additional support.
We’re all human. We all experience a range of emotions. Rather than comparing yourself to your colleagues, compare yourself only to yourself.
For example, think about how you are today compared to how you were last month or last year.
3. Set a routine
We are creatures of habit. Therefore, a regular schedule is important. Set one and stick to it.
This allows you to take control of your life where you can, such as the time you get up, arrive or log into work, take lunch and finish work each day.
This can give you a sense of control and help to avoid unnecessary stress.
4. Be aware of your stress levels
The fourth way to care for your mental health in the workplace is to be aware of your stress levels.
While a certain level of stress is normal, such as when you are working towards a deadline, if it becomes excessive and long-lasting it can lead to burnout.
The World Health Organization recognized burnout at work as a syndrome of extreme workplace stress, so if you think you are on a path to burnout, you need to take appropriate steps to reverse the course. This advice on managing burnout at work may help.
5. Become a better time manager
The fifth way to care for your mental health in the workplace is to become a better time manager.
Time management is a skill that, like all others, you can learn. In essence, time management is about learning how to prioritize and get the right tasks done.
If you find that your workload has become excessive, and you are being asked to deliver more than you are capable of, talk to your manager about prioritizing what needs to be done now, and what can be put on hold.
6. Maintain work-life balance
The sixth way to care for mental health in the workplace is to try to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Switch off work at the end of the day and transition to home life.
To aid this process and ensure you give yourself time to recharge at the end of each day, do not take work home with you or log into work after hours.
Turn your work phone to silent. If you are working from home, shut the door to your office or pack up your laptop.
Avoid the temptation to check emails in your downtime. Allow yourself time to spend with family, friends and to relax.
7. Spend time by yourself
Everybody needs time to themselves on occasion.
Sitting quietly and taking a few minutes for yourself may bring a moment of much-needed calm and give you the opportunity to recharge your batteries.
8. Take regular breaks at work
Like any working environment, it is important to take the occasional break to clear your head and let your brain and body relax.
Take a 10-minute walk, make some lunch or grab a coffee.
Short breaks help give you the ability to refocus on your work tasks – ultimately supporting both your productivity and mental health.
9. Maintain your physical health
The ninth way to care for your mental health in the workplace is to take care of your physical health.
Eat well, sleep well and exercise well.
These are the three cornerstones of good physical health. Get up from your desk to stretch your legs and walk about regularly.
Take a lunchtime walk or exercise class. Don’t skip lunch and don’t compromise your sleep.
10. Become more mindful
Practicing mindfulness can help you become more productive, self-aware, and focused. It helps you understand your emotional reactions and focus on your helpful thoughts.
Incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine takes practice, and you can start by listening to a podcast, watching a video, or reading a blog on mindfulness from an expert.
11. Look out for the warning signs
Even if you take the above steps, you may still find yourself experiencing periods of poor mental health and well-being. So, be alert for the common signs that you may need help and support.
12. Take Time to Talk, Unload, and Ask for Help
The twelfth way to care for your mental health is to vent and ask for help as needed.
Discussing how we feel at work can be tough.
Whether our issues relate to the workplace, home, or elsewhere in our lives, it can often feel like our job merely exacerbates these issues.
13. Stay Active
The link between exercise and improved mental health is well-established. If your job is office based and involves hours sitting at a desk, you might need to be creative about how you stay active during the day.
- Use methods such as the Pomodoro technique to manage your activity. This is predominantly used as a productivity tool, but can be great for reminding you to get out of your chair and get moving every 25 minutes. Regular walks around the office or hosting standing meetings can work wonders.
- Get up and talk. If you need to speak to someone at the other end of the office, go and speak to them rather than communicating via email or messenger. As well as keeping you moving, this is also a great social interaction opportunity.
- Ban yourself from eating at your desk. Even if you work in a big city, there’ll usually be a park close by where you can go at lunchtime. Get out of the office and take a walk!
- Walking or cycling at least part of your route home is also a great opportunity to process any negative thoughts you may be having and to put workplace stress and anxiety into perspective.
14. Detach your personal worth from how you are valued at work
Here is one I haven’t seen anywhere else, and yet carries more weight than probably half the other points combined.
A lot of us, myself included, have this horrible tendency to weigh ourselves based on how we are weighed/valued at work.
All those strokes VPs, CFOs, and CMOs get prematurely can all be lowly tied to this. Weighing your entire value as a human being to the value that you can give to the company that hired you.
This will kill you.
As your online friend, allow me to save you a trip to the E.R. that company you’re killing yourself for will replace you in a week if not sooner if you were to drop dead today.
So what? So start putting yourself first. You can do this by asking yourself what makes you happy. What brings you joy as a person, and the answer cannot be doing your job.
That is the answer you have been telling yourself to get yourself out of bed and into the office for the last however many months, but I can assure you it isn’t a truthful answer.
Caring for your mental health at work is not optional. It’s either you do it or you get seriously burned out. However, there are worse consequences for being negligent of your mental health in the workplace.
At the end of the day, the best and kindest thing I can tell you is that you are expendable. No matter how hard you work or hope much you try, you are expendable to your boss and to the company you’re killing yourself for.
Even now, I write this knowing that what I say is true, I feel myself get nervous knowing that I’m right.
And the truth is that this fact cannot change. If a company is to endure then its employees are no more different than other raw materials and I would like you to remember that.
As you stress yourself and give yourself type 2 diabetes, put on weight as a result of being overly stressed, and other stress-related happenings, please know that you are only as good as you are able to deliver to the company.
Harsh, but someone had to say it.
Did this answer your question on How to care for your mental health at work? Let me know in the comment section below.