How can you protect your mental health in the workplace?
Mental Health Awareness Week may have been last week, but we shouldn’t stop thinking about mental health just because it’s over. Did you know that in 2020, 58% of employees reported that they were suffering from workplace stress? It’s so important to make sure that you are looking after yourself and prioritising your wellbeing. Read on for our mental health top tips.
If you’re an employer, your employees’ mental health should also be a top priority. Poor mental health among your employees can lead to burnout and decreased productivity. This can cause a vicious cycle, with the decreased productivity in turn leading to low self-esteem and exacerbating mental health problems.
In this article, we outline some key tips for protecting mental health in the workplace that all of us should be practicing.
But first, what are the early warning signs that your mental health is taking a turn for the worse?
As with any areas of life, it’s easier to deal with a crisis before it happens rather than after. Recognising the warning signs isn’t easy, especially if you haven’t struggled with your mental health before, so it helps to know what to look for.
- Have you been feeling especially anxious lately, to the point that it’s interfering with your ability to do work?
- Have you been having difficulty getting to sleep at night or getting up in the morning?
- Have you been uncharacteristically irritable?
- Has your appetite changed lately? This could mean eating less or more than usual.
If you answered yes to these questions, it’s time to start taking action. If you answered no, it’s still worth taking action to make sure it stays that way. We have compiled some tips for looking after your wellbeing below. However, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to do it alone. If you need more support, the Mind website has loads of really useful resources and guidance to help you find the right help for you.
So what can you do to look after your mental health?
Talk about it
This is probably the most important thing on this list, as well as possibly the hardest. It can be scary opening up and being vulnerable with someone else, but there is so much to be gained from it. For a start, it will help you to feel less alone. Feelings of loneliness are closely linked with sliding mental health, so having those conversations is really important to help you realise that you are not alone, no matter how daunting they seem. What’s more, people can’t help you if they don’t know that you need help. By telling them how you’ve been feeling, they can work with you to figure out what your next steps should be, and what they can do to help.
Find someone you feel comfortable with and find a comfortable, private setting, and tell them how you’re feeling. It may help to write down what you want to talk about beforehand so that you don’t start a conversation and then forget what you wanted to say. This person could be a trusted person at work, or if you’re not comfortable with that, find a friend or family member who you can share your feelings with.
Look after your physical health
Okay, going for a run or eating some fruit isn’t a magic cure for serious mental health illness - if your mental health is extreme, please seek professional help. But in general, there is evidence that the amount of exercise that we do and the food we eat can have effects on our mental health. Eating well can give you energy and help you to think more clearly and doing regular exercise can reduce anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.
Try to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. You don’t have to start running marathons or training for the next Olympics - even just going for a walk will help your mental wellbeing. Extra points if you do your exercise outdoors, by the way...being in nature is associated with mental health benefits too.
As for food, 95% of your serotonin is created in your gastrointestinal tract, so it really matters what you put in there. Try to avoid processed foods and refined sugar and amp up the fruit and veg. Eating ‘clean’ for just a couple of weeks is likely to make you feel noticeably better, both physically and mentally.
Balance work with life
It can be easy to become consumed by work, but this isn’t healthy. It’s important to maintain a work-life balance so that work isn’t the only thing you think about.
Find time to engage in creative hobbies like painting, writing or drawing; there is evidence to suggest that creativity is good for wellbeing as it can reduce anxiety, depression and stress as well as boost your immune system.
Make sure you’re also spending time socialising. Social isolation is known to be a trigger for mental illness, while supportive social relationships can boost your mental health. So here’s the excuse you need to text that friend you haven’t seen in a while and organise a catch up! Whether you go for coffee, go for drinks or even just have a call, it’s important to maintain your social connections and balance work with having fun with your friends.
Ask for help
Finally, if you need help, ask for it. The tips we have put together here should help to boost your wellbeing in general, but they are no substitute for professional help if you’re struggling with mental illness. If you are struggling, please speak to your GP or go to mind.org.uk for resources and advice on where to go for help.
Whatever you’re going through, you don’t have to go it alone.