Poor mental health is one of the biggest issues in the workplace today, causing over 70 million working days to be lost each year. This includes everything from the most commonly experienced symptoms of stress and anxiety, right through to more complex mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Good mental health should be a priority for any business and implementing it needs to involve more than just the HR department. It’s vital to get buy-in from senior leadership and make sure conversations about mental health and wellbeing happened at the board level.
The impact of poor mental health has severe effects for employees – including increased staff turnover, sickness absence due to depression, burnout and exhaustion, decreased motivation and lost productivity. Work is a major part of our lives. It is where we spend much of our time, where we get our income and often where we make friends. Having a fulfilling job can be good for your mental health and general wellbeing. A toxic work environment can be corrosive to our mental health.
When we enjoy good mental health, we have a sense of purpose and direction, the energy to do things we want to do, and the ability to deal with challenges that happen in our lives. Self-care is a skill that needs to be practiced. It isn’t easy, especially if we feel anxious, depressed or low in self-esteem.
#1: Talk about Your Feelings
Talking about your feelings can help you maintain your mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. Talking about your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness. It takes charge of your well being and doing what you can to stay healthy. It can be hard to talk about feelings at work but identifying someone you feel comfortable with and who will be supportive really helps.
#2: Keep Active
Try to make a physical activity that you enjoy a part of your day. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and look and feel better.
#3: Eat Well
What we eat can affect how we feel both immediately and in the longer term. A diet is also good for your physical health and is also good for your mental health. Regular meals, plus plenty of water, are ideal.
#4: Drink Sensibly
We often drink alcohol to change our mood. Most people don’t drink at work – but most of us recognize the pattern of drinking more at the weekend or in the evening hours when work is hard going. Be careful drinking too much and ending up behaving in a way you’d rather not, which will increase feelings of anxiety in the medium to long term.
#5: Keep in Touch
Relationships are key to our mental health. Try and make sure you maintain your friendships and family relationships even when work is intense – a work-life balance is important.
#6: Ask for Help
We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things don’t go to plan. Your employer may have an employee assistance program. These services are confidential and can be accessed free and without work finding out. You may also be able to access occupational health support through your line manager or HR service.
#7: Take a Break
A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. Try and plan periods of leaves for the year so that you always have a break to look forward to. When you are on a leave, resist the temptation to check in with work. If you find that you can’t break away, it may be a sign that you should be re-examining your workload to manage stress.
#8: Do Something you’re Good at
Enjoying yourself can help beat stress. Doing an activity that you enjoy probably means you’re good at it, and achieving something boosts your self-esteem.
#9: Accept Who You Are
Be proud of who you are. Recognize and accept the things you may not be good at. But also focus on what you can do well. Self-acceptance and self-care can be very hard when you have mental health problems – an ongoing challenge people need to work on. Mindfulness is a form of medication that involves paying deliberate attention to what is happening, as it happens. Mindfulness practice can help us to be more present with ourselves, our work, and our families.
#10: Care for Others
Working life can provide opportunities to care for others – contributing to vocational jobs like nursing or care work can be hugely significant for mental health. Helping can make us feel needed and valued, and that boosts our self-esteem.