A Guide to Looking After Your Mental Health At Work

Mental health,
April, 2022

While most of us know the importance of looking after our mental health, this can become more difficult in working environments where there are often many distractions. In busy offices or other workspaces, prioritising our mental health can take a back seat while we focus on client deadlines, communicating with colleagues, career progression and many other elements.

Despite the distractions, there are things you can do to ensure your mental health isn’t declining while you are working. This guide explores the many ways you can do this, however first, let’s talk about why we need to consider our mental health while working and how it can actually benefit our productivity and ultimately, our long-term careers.

Why is it important to look after our mental health while working? Despite this being a topic that many still find difficult or uncomfortable to talk about, experiencing mental health issues at work is becoming increasingly common. With so much time spent at work, ensuring we are looking after our mental health is even more important.

There are many benefits to empowering good mental health in the workplace, and not just for the individual employee.

What are the benefits of ensuring employees are mentally fit and well while working?

INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY

When employees are feeling mentally and physically well, they are more likely to project this into their role and therefore, feel able to work more productively. Additionally, employees who feel supported at work are less likely to take sick days for their mental health or, need an extended period of time off due to stress and burnout.

IMPROVEMENT IN JOB PERFORMANCE

Workplaces that empower good mental health are more likely to see employees take pride in their work, which can lead to an improvement in their performance. This can be because they feel more confident in themselves when their mental health is in a good place, or they have more capacity to feel motivated and passionate about work as they aren’t distracted by feelings of overwhelm, stress and challenging emotional states.

LOWER STAFF TURNOVER

Workplaces that make an effort to support their employees in all aspects of their lives, including supporting their mental health, are more likely to retain talent. When employees feel supported and empowered by their employer, this can improve their happiness and motivation at work, and those that are happy at work are less likely to seek new opportunities elsewhere.

12 ways to make sure you are looking after your mental health at work Now we’ve discussed the benefits of good mental health in the workplace, what can we do as individuals to ensure we are looking after our wellbeing while working? Whether you are going through a stressful period at work or simply want to check in with yourself throughout the day, here are a few things to try:

TRY BREATHING EXERCISES

Breathing exercises are a great way to reduce stress and reflect on how you’re feeling.

Not only do they help you to collect your thoughts, but they also help to release any tension you are holding, as well as calm down your nervous system. Breathing exercises can easily fit into your work schedule as you can do them any time and from anywhere – your desk, the bathroom, by the coffee machine or on public transport.

Discover more about how breathing exercises can alleviate stress.

CONNECT WITH NATURE WHERE YOU CAN

Spending time outdoors and connecting with nature has been proven to improve your mental wellbeing. Firstly, getting some fresh air enables more oxygen to your brain, which helps to increase your brainpower. Secondly, the calming atmosphere you experience when in nature helps to reduce stress and improve your mood, even to the extent that spending just 40 seconds looking at nature has the capacity to ease your brain into a relaxed state and boost your sense of wellbeing.

So if you’re able to, take some time to spend outside during your working day – even if it’s just for a few minutes. And if you’re working from home and are fortunate to have some outdoor space, consider using your breaks to do some gardening – there are many positive affects gardening has on our mental wellbeing.

REACH OUT TO YOUR MANAGER OR COLLEAGUES

It takes courage to share your vulnerability and ask for help when you need it.If you feel comfortable doing so, reach out to a close colleague or your manager to share any concerns you may have – whether you are struggling with workload or deadlines, or are feeling inspired to help implement a mental health policy at work.

While it can be daunting to speak up and talk about your mental health at work, as the saying goes, a problem halved is a problem solved. So, if you feel in need of support, one of the most empowering things you can do is to speak to someone you trust.

CONSIDER CHANGING YOUR WORKING PATTERN

We all have different needs when it comes to how we create our best work.

Where possible, consider changing your work schedule or routine to better suit your mental health and wellbeing, as this can enable you to feel more productive. Ask yourself, would you feel more focused if you started work earlier in the day and finished earlier than 5 pm? Do you feel more relaxed when working in an open environment such as a café or a co-working space? Would these changes also give you more time to yourself and create a greater sense of balance in your life?

If your work allows, open up the conversation about flexible working with your manager or a colleague you trust, and see what they can do to support you.

MAKE SURE YOU ARE KEEPING ACTIVE

Staying active is one of the most recommended ways of keeping on top of your mental health and wellbeing. However, this can be difficult when performing a job that either requires you to sit at a desk or remain in the same position for a long time.

Consider the different ways you can easily bring exercise into your working day. It doesn’t have to be fitting in a spin class as lunchtime – it could be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the lift, or taking a 15-minute walk in the afternoon. If you’re working from home, try giving yourself a reason to leave the kitchen table or your home office at least once throughout the day to make sure you are moving your body.

ASK FOR HELP

If your mental health is seriously impacting your work, it might be time to ask for help - whether this is through a friend at work, your manager, or the HR department.

Remember that you are not alone in struggling with your mental health – a reported 1 in 6.8 of us experience mental health problems in the workplace. There will be ways your workplace can offer support, whether through offering a Mental Health Day, providing you with supportive resources or someone to talk to confidentially, or exploring reasonable adjustments including a flexible working schedule.

TAKE REGULAR BREAKS WHERE POSSIBLE

Whether you are currently feeling stressed, or are feeling mental fit and well, it’s so important to take regular breaks throughout the working day and week.

While it can be difficult to take small chunks of time away from your desk if you are particularly busy, even a few minutes of time out will do wonders for your mental wellbeing, as well as your productivity. It could be as short as walking to the post box, reading a book that’s uplifting, or doing a few stretches to shift your physical state – try breaking up the day with regular breaks and where you can, and engage in something you enjoy for a short period of time.

CHECK-IN WITH OTHERS

Making a connection with a friend or loved one is one of the easiest and most accessible things you can do to look after your mental health.

If you’re in the office, why not grab a coffee with a close co-worker, ring a family member on your lunch break or simply, send a message to a friend who you haven’t spoken to in a while. Evidence shows that these connections make the world of difference to our mental wellbeing by increasing feelings of happiness and improving self-worth.

ENGAGE IN AN ACTIVITY YOU ENJOY

While work cab takes up a huge proportion of your day, there is still time to fit in a hobby or activity that you love.

Engaging in your favourite activity can not only reduce stress but it can also help boost confidence and self-esteem, as we can take great pride in doing something we love and are good at. Concentrating on this activity, however briefly, can also help distract us from other work or life stresses and help improve our overall mood.

EXPLORE ACCEPTANCE

When it comes to our mental health, it’s important to remember that we are only human and everyone around the world experiences good days and difficult days.

If you are struggling with your mental health at work, try practising acceptance – your difficult days are not a reflection of your success, and they won’t last forever. Rather than going over in your mind the reasons you are stressed, overwhelmed or feeling down, try to accept the feeling without judgement and with kindness to yourself. Remind yourself that it’s ok to go through a difficult time, that it does not define who you are and there are many things you can do to help yourself.

SEPARATE YOUR WORK FROM YOUR HOME LIFE

Wherever you are working from – whether you leave the house or work from home – with emails on our phones and portable laptops, it is becoming increasingly difficult for employees to separate their work and personal lives.

Working towards an improved work-life alignment can help you to nurture good mental health. It’s important to take satisfaction from your time spent both at work and outside of work. So, if you feel like your work-life alignment is off-kilter, start by taking small steps such as keeping your work devices in the office rather than taking them home, sticking to your working hours, or removing access to work emails from your personal devices.

INTRODUCE SELF-CARE PRACTISES IN YOUR ROUTINE

Engaging in self-care practices is a powerful way to nurture good mental health and the good news is you can do this throughout your working day too.

Self-care doesn’t have to mean drawing a bubble bath or reading your favourite book – it could be taking time to acknowledge your accomplishments, creating boundaries at work, or taking yourself to your favourite café for lunch. These small acts of self-care can help to boost your mood and nurture a healthy state of mind – both of which are important for ensuring a happy and productive workforce.

Looking after the mental health of your employees While there are many things we can do to nurture good mental health at work ourselves, how can employers and business leaders ensure their staff are keeping mentally fit and healthy?

INVEST IN MENTAL HEALTH TRAINING

One of the most empowering things you can do for your staff is invested in mental health training. Whether it’s for your management or for full teams, at Calmer we provide a range of mental health and wellbeing training courses for all kinds of businesses.

Everyone’s mental health fluctuates, depending on the circumstances in our lives, which is why it’s important to ensure you check in on how you’re feeling regularly.

While the tips in this article can help you to manage your mental health at work, there isn’t a quick fix for chronic stress, ongoing overwhelm or anxiety as different modes of support work for different people.

Original source: A Guide to Looking After Your Mental Health At Work

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