This series of blogs is developed from the leaflet provided by the Mental Health Foundation to encourage you to think more about mental health in the workplace and inform you what you can do to take steps to creating an environment where staff feel safe and supported.
Having a fulfilling job can be good for your mental health and general well-being.
For most of us, work is a huge part of our lives. It is where we spend a lot of our time, where we get our income and often where make our friends.
We all have times when life gets on top of us – sometimes that’s work-related, like deadlines or travel. Sometimes it’s something else – our health, our relationships, or our circumstances.
It’s vital that we protect that value by addressing mental health at work for those with existing issues, for those at risk, and for the workforce as a whole. A toxic work environment can be corrosive to our mental health.
After reading these blogs you should have an idea of how to manage your own mental health at work, how to reach out to a colleague in distress and have an idea how you can work with others to make your workplace more mentally healthy for everyone.
Check out the other blogs in the series, what is mental health? and supporting a colleague.
We can all take action to strengthen our resilience, or capacity to overcome hardship, as well as our own mental health. A skill that has to be developed is self-care. It is difficult, particularly if we are nervous, sad, or have poor self-esteem.
Check out these 10 proven strategies for bettering your mental health below. You’ll likely already be great at some of these:
1. Talk about your feelings
Talking about your feelings might help you deal with difficult feelings and preserve your mental health. Speaking about your emotions is not a sign of weakness; rather, it is a necessary step in accepting responsibility for your health and welfare.
It might be challenging to discuss sentiments at work. It might be really beneficial if you have co-workers you can chat to or a boss that inquires about you during supervision meetings. Choose a supporting person who you feel comfortable around. Consider who you want to reveal it to, what you want to disclose, and when and where an appropriate time and location could be.
If you are honest about your feelings at work, particularly if you are a leader, it could inspire others to follow your lead. Make sure you have a support system if you don’t feel comfortable discussing your emotions at work; partners, friends, and family are all good options.
2. Keep active
Regular exercise can improve your mood, focus, sleep, and overall appearance and well-being.
Going to the gym or playing a sport are only two examples of exercising.
Most individuals should exercise for around 30 minutes five days a week, according to experts. Make an effort to include physical exercise in your day that you love. If you work a physically demanding profession like construction or teaching, you’ll notice how rapidly the shift in activity level affects your mood while you are absent due to an illness or accident.
If you work in an office, taking a walk or attending a class during your lunch break, or fitting in exercise before or after work to help you adjust to the day or establish a boundary between work and personal time, can have a significant positive impact.
3. Eat well
Both instantly and over time, what we eat can have an impact on how we feel. A healthy diet is beneficial for both your physical and emotional well-being. It might be challenging to maintain a healthy eating routine at work. The best diet is regular meals and plenty of water.
Plan ahead for mealtimes at work by packing food from home or purchasing a nutritious lunch. Try to leave your workstation so you can eat. You may consider joining a lunch club at work, where people get together to eat together and try new things. Reduce or give up coffee and refined sugar at hectic times or when you are feeling down or stressed. Make sure there is a ready supply of fruits, veggies, and nutrient-rich snacks like nuts or trail mix.
Be mindful that some people with past or present eating disorders find social eating at work to be extremely stressful. If someone chooses not to attend company dinners or makes different food choices at the workplace, don’t make comments about it or put pressure on them to participate.
4. Drink sensibly
Alcohol is frequently consumed to elevate our mood. Some people use alcohol to cope with anxiety or loneliness, but the effects are transient. Even if most individuals don’t drink at work, most of us are aware of the tendency to drink more on the weekends or in the evenings when work is particularly demanding.
Be cautious when attending drinking-related business events. It might be tempting to drink to gain “Dutch courage,” but if you’re feeling worried, you could drink too much and behave in a way you’d prefer not, which would, in the medium to long term, make you feel even more uncomfortable.
5. Keep in touch
Our mental health depends on our social connections.
Our mental health at work is greatly impacted by working in a supportive team. Even while we don’t always get to pick our coworkers or clients, it may still be stressful if we don’t get along with them. At certain times, you might need to practise more self-care, but you could also need to deal with problems.
When we are struggling with mental health issues, work politics may be quite difficult. Finding a mentor or a small circle of trustworthy coworkers with whom you can share your thoughts on the workplace may be useful for providing a sense check and supporting you as you navigate difficulties. A work-life balance is crucial, and scientists now think that loneliness may be just as harmful to our health as smoking or obesity. Try to make sure you keep your ties with friends and family even when work is tough.
6. Ask for help
We are not all superhuman.
We all occasionally feel worn out or overburdened by our feelings or when things don’t go as planned. There may be an employee assistance programme offered by your workplace. These services are discreet, cost nothing, and may be used without anybody at work knowing.
Your line manager or an HR department could also be able to help you with occupational health issues. Your GP is the first person you should see in the medical system. More than one-third of GP visits are for mental health issues. Your GP could offer advice on how you or your loved ones can support you, or they might refer you to a specialist or another department of the medical system. You could be referred to a counsellor by your general practitioner.
7. Take a break
Your mental health benefits from a change of scenery or speed. It may be a quick five-minute break from what you’re doing, listening to a book or podcast on the way to work or school, taking a 30-minute lunch break at work, or spending the weekend travelling. You may only need a few minutes to decompress.
Take some “me time” for yourself. If your business provides mental health days, which are optional leaves of absence to care for your welfare, take advantage of them and make good use of them.
To maintain good mental health, we need to sleep. Be aware of your body. Our mental health suffers and our ability to concentrate decreases when we don’t get enough sleep.
Taking time off for holidays and other events may be challenging. It may seem more difficult to take the breaks we are entitled to when we need them the most when we are under stress. Attempt to schedule vacation time throughout the year so that you will always have a break to look forward to. Avoid the temptation to check in with work when off or at home.
If you find it difficult to take a break, you may need to re-evaluate your workload in order to reduce stress.
8. Do something you’re good at
What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing in the past?
Having fun can help you reduce stress. If you appreciate something you’re doing, you’re probably good at it, and completing something makes you feel better about yourself. Focusing on a passion, such as crossword puzzles or gardening, might help you temporarily forget your troubles and improve your mood.
It’s okay to be good at your job; yet, while under stress, it can be easy to lose sight of your skills or develop impostor syndrome, which makes you feel unworthy of your accomplishments or like a phoney. To “sandwich” activities you know will be tougher or more stressful between jobs you know you are strong at, you should, whenever feasible, organise your workload to incorporate those tasks. A work cycling club, book group, or crafting group might be a terrific opportunity to share a talent with others. You could have a pastime at work that you’d like to share or participate in with co-workers.
9. Accept who you are
We are all unique. Accepting your individuality is considerably better than wishing you were more like someone else. A positive self-image gives you more confidence to pick up new talents, explore new locations, and meet new people. Self-confidence makes it easier for you to handle challenging situations in life.
Be proud of who you are.
Recognize and accept your shortcomings while concentrating on your strengths. Are your expectations reasonable if there is anything you would like to alter about yourself? If so, make the necessary changes gradually. When you have a mental health issue, it may be very difficult to accept and care for yourself. This is a constant struggle that people must overcome. It can be tempting to invest everything in building self-esteem around work success. That often means that people with mental health problems give everything at work and are high achievers. It also creates a risk that when things go wrong, when mistakes are made, or when change is necessary, people may take it personally.
10. Care for others
Taking care of others is frequently crucial to maintaining connections with those who are close to you. Working life can offer opportunity to give care for others; helping others through professions like nursing or care work can have a big positive impact on mental health. In the majority of employment, you have the option of choosing to support your coworkers, either as a teammate or as a line manager when techniques like coaching and training are effective methods to help others.
Helping can increase our sense of need and worth, which raises our self-esteem.
Volunteering may be incredibly gratifying and opens our eyes to new perspectives. This can help us view our own issues more objectively. Many businesses offer staff members ways to become engaged in community service through corporate social responsibility initiatives and volunteer opportunities.
We might get great satisfaction from our domestic care giving obligations, but it can also be stressful. Our responsibilities as parents or family caregivers may conflict with our professional selves. It’s crucial to keep and assist caregivers in the workplace since they are more likely to have mental health issues than the general population. Working may also provide carers a break because they can pretend to be someone else. The mental health and productivity of employees can be greatly impacted by workplace policies that encourage flexible working, caregivers’ leave, childcare voucher programmes, and other measures to assist caring duties.
Access the full guide on supporting mental health at work here and see NIG Risk Assist for more information regarding health & safety at work.
Talbot Jones Ltd is a family-run chartered insurance heritage specialist in the Third Sector and Professional risks. Get in touch for free insurance advice, review or quotation.