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How to look after your mental health in the workplace

mental health in the workplace

It’s estimated that on average you will spend up to 90% of your time at work, seeing your colleagues more than your own family and friends. In addition to this, the workplace is a highly stressful environment, with targets to constantly meet and break, daily deadlines, and disagreements with colleagues. Considering these pressures, it’s no wonder that many people become overwhelmed with workplace stress. Although a certain level of stress is no bad thing, with many people in fact thriving in a pressurized environment, if left unchecked, it can quickly snowball into serious mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and perhaps eventually a breakdown. To help to stay balanced and happy, in this article, we will show you how to look after your mental health in the workplace. 

1. Stay active

With a lot of jobs being largely sedentary, you might find that you’re sat at your desk from 8.30 in the morning to leaving the office at 5.30 in the afternoon, with only a few quick bathroom breaks. The negative impact a sedentary lifestyle has on your physical health is well documented, but a lack of exercise can have a hugely detrimental effect on your mental health as well. Though you might not feel like sweating it out in the gym after a full day at work, there are ways that you can work some physical activity into your daily routine. For instance, there are some office exercises that you can try while sitting at your desk. Or, you could make a concerted effort to leave the office during your lunch break for a 30-minute walk. Not only will this boost your daily physical activity, but the time spent away from your desk in the fresh air will refresh you for another couple of hours’ work.

2. Eat well

If you have a heavy workload, it can be tempting not to make time for a proper lunch break, either foregoing food completely or snacking on sugary sweets and chocolate at your desk as a quick energy fix. However, poor eating choices, coupled with a sedentary desk job lifestyle, can lead to weight gain, which in turn can impact your self-esteem and mental health. Ensure that you fuel your day with balanced, energy-rich meals rather than snacking and, if possible, take at least a 30-minute lunch break to eat your meal. Not only will this provide you with a mental break away from the computer screen and your work, but it will encourage a practice of mindful eating to help you feel full and avoid snacking later in the day. Try out some brain-boosting packed lunch recipes to bring to work, such as a chicken salad sandwich.

3. Pursue career progression

Many people fall into the trap of staying in a job that has long ceased to stimulate them because they have bills to pay. Whilst it is, of course, important to ensure that you have a regular income, being bored with your job can have a serious impact on your mental health, potentially leading to burnout and depression, or addiction issues and risky behavior to alleviate the boredom. If you’re feeling bored by your job, it might be time to consider what is the next step. This might involve studying for a further qualification, which in itself will help to stimulate you mentally. For instance, if you are a registered nurse who would like to specialize in providing care to families across the generations, you could look for BSN to DNP programs online. By providing yourself with the necessary qualifications, you can ensure you stand a better chance at securing a new position that will enable you to provide you with a better career experience. Alternatively, the answer to your workplace boredom might be a change of profession entirely to a new career that will provide you with fulfillment.

4. Learn assertive communication skills 

With a large proportion of your time being spent at work, it’s estimated that you will spend more time with your work colleagues than with your own friends and family. Therefore, to make your working day more pleasurable, it’s important that you build good relationships with colleagues. Unfortunately, however, due to the pressures of constant deadlines and personality clashes, relationships between colleagues can quickly turn sour, perhaps even leading to harassment and workplace bullying. This can have a huge impact on your mental health, even leading to anxiety and depression if not dealt with. One way of maintaining positive relationships with your colleagues is to learn assertive communication skills. Assertiveness can help you to approach others from a basis of equality and respect, rather than resorting to defensive, aggressive, or passive communication tactics.

5. Try to maintain a work-life balance

There will no doubt be times when you have to put in more hours than usual at your job, such as during busy periods for your industry or when preparing and executing an important event. However, it is all too easy for long working hours to become the norm, taking away more of your leisure and relaxation time with family. This could eventually lead to burnout and other mental health difficulties if left unchecked for a long period of time. It is, therefore, important to ensure that you maintain a good work-life balance to make sure that you have time for the things you enjoy in life. Try to stick to your contracted hours, and be aware of taking on too much on top of an already heavy workload.

6. Talk about mental health

Many people find it difficult to discuss their mental health, particularly in relation to the work place, where it could be seen as a sign of ‘weakness.’ Make an effort to lessen the stigma surrounding mental health by encouraging open conversations in the workplace. For instance, you could encourage employees to state when they are feeling overwhelmed by a large workload or overly long hours and try to offer support either by sharing the workload or referring them to a professional counseling service if appropriate.