Mental Health & Wellbeing at Work - Main Region

11 ways to take care of your mental health and wellbeing at work

Most working professionals spend one-third of their lives at work. No wonder then that our job can have such a huge influence on our overall mental health and wellbeing. From a never-ending to-do list to after-hours emails, work can seep into our personal lives and impact how we think, feel and behave. It makes sense, then, to take steps to look after our mental health in the workplace.
Yet understanding the need to look after yourself mentally at work and knowing exactly how to go about it are two very different things. The good news is that there are several simple, practical steps you can adopt to help care for your mental health and wellbeing at work.

What do we mean when we refer to mental health and wellbeing at work?

The World Health Organisation defines good mental health as “a state of wellbeing in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” 

We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. In the context of work, poor mental health can result from stress, rising workloads, poor management, a lack of support and unexpected change, to name a few triggers. 

It can impact your productivity, performance, motivation, engagement and/or rate of absenteeism. It can see you withdraw from colleagues, work longer hours and spend less time with your family. It can even impact your physical health.

Why look after your mental health at work?

In contrast, when you look after your own mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, you are more likely to be productive and feel that you are doing a good job. You are less stressed at work, meaning you are happier and healthier, and you’re also more likely to maintain a good work-life balance, so you can more effectively balance your personal as well as professional commitments and have time to relax and rejuvenate.

Regardless of the job you are in, being aware of your mental health and taking steps to care for it makes sense. While this isn’t always easy, and the level of support offered by employers can vary, there are some simple, practical steps you can implement today. 

How to care for your mental health and wellbeing at work:

Following are 11 ideas to help you care for your mental health and wellbeing at work.
  1. Don’t be too hard on yourself: Firstly, if you do find yourself struggling at any time, do not be too hard on yourself. Acknowledge your emotions, then talk to someone, whether a friend, your boss or a professional. You are not alone, and it helps to share experiences and worries, and receive support. We all try to cope the best we can with the challenges life throws our way, so be open with those closest to you and share your concerns.
  2. Don’t compare yourself to others: Everybody’s circumstances are different and we all deal with challenges in different ways. Some colleagues may appear to cope well with change at work, for instance, while others need additional support. We’re all human and we all experience a range of emotions, so rather than compare yourself to your colleagues, compare yourself only to you. For example, think about how you are today compared to how you were last month or last year.
  3. Set a routine: We are creatures of habit, so a regular schedule is important – set one and stick to it. This allows you to take control of your life where you can, such as the time you get up, arrive or log into work, take lunch and finish work each day. This can give you a sense of control and help to avoid unnecessary stress.
  4. Be aware of your stress levels: While a certain level of stress is normal, such as when you are working towards a deadline, if it becomes excessive and long-lasting it can lead to burnout. The World Health Organisation recognised burnout at work as a syndrome of extreme workplace stress, so if you think you are on a path to burnout, you need to take appropriate steps to reverse course. This advice on managing burnout at work may help.
  5. Become a better time manager: Time management is a skill that, like all others, you can learn. In essence, time management is about learning how to prioritise and get the right tasks done. If you find that your workload has become excessive and you are being asked to deliver more than you are capable of, talk to your manager about prioritising what needs to be done now, and what can be put on hold.
  6. Maintain work-life balance: Switch off work at the end of the day and transition to home life. To aid this process and ensure you give yourself time to recharge at the end of each day, do not take work home with you or log into work after hours. Turn your work phone to silent. If you are working from home, shut the door to your office or pack up your laptop. Avoid the temptation to check emails in your down time. Allow yourself time to spend with family, friends and to relax.
  7. Spend time by yourself: Everybody needs time to themselves on occasion. Sitting quietly and taking a few minutes for you may bring a moment of much needed calm and give you the opportunity to recharge your batteries.
  8. Take regular breaks at work: Like any working environment, it is important to take the occasional break to clear your head and let your brain and body relax. Take a 10-minute walk, make some lunch or grab a coffee. Short breaks help give you the ability to refocus on your work tasks – ultimately supporting both your productivity and mental health.
  9. Maintain your physical health: Eat well, sleep well and exercise well – these are the three cornerstones of good physical health. Get up from your desk to stretch your legs and walk about regularly. Take a lunchtime walk or exercise class. Don’t skip lunch and don’t compromise your sleep.
  10. Become more mindful: Practising mindfulness can help you become more productive, self-aware and focused. It helps you understand your emotional reactions and focus on your helpful thoughts. Incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine takes practice and you can start by listening to a podcast, watching a video or reading a blog on mindfulness from an expert.
  11. Look out for the warning signs: Even if you take the above steps, you may still find yourself experiencing periods of poor mental health and wellbeing. So, be alert for the common signs that you may need help and support. These include a change in your mood or behaviour, how you interact with others, feeling withdrawn from your work, feeling overwhelmed, getting upset easily, lacking motivation, an inability to concentrate or feeling tired or anxious.  

Reach out for professional help

If you feel you are struggling and need help – and have already tried or don’t feel comfortable talking to a friend or your boss – please do contact a professional support service or medical professional. Call a helpline, visit your GP or reach out to your organisation’s employee assistance program. Remember, these experts are there to help.

Are you also managing staff?

If you are a people manager and want to know how to better go about supporting mental health in the workplace, here are 13 strategies to consider to help you create a mentally healthy environment.  
You may also be interested in the latest Hays Barometer Report, which provides a snapshot of how employers are acting to protect the mental health and wellbeing of their staff and how employees’ mental health and wellbeing currently stands.

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