Mental health in workplace

6 Ways to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace 

Your mental health is everything – prioritise it. Make the time like your life depends on it, because it does.” – Mel Robbins 

It’s a new era for mental health in the workplace, and boy is it about time! What once was a very hush-hush, stigmatised topic is now starting to receive the limelight it deserves – a silver lining amid all the disruption and trauma from the Covid-19 pandemic. So, in celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, here are a few strategies to adopt to help improve your mental health in the workplace. 

1. Take a break
2. Talk about it
3. Take regular vacations
4. Lead a full life outside the office
5. Ask for help
6. Say goodbye to toxic culture

 

workplace colleagues

1. Take a break

“Sometimes the most efficient thing we can do is to take a break.”

Some days, it feels impossible to take even a 10 minute break away from our desks, but doing so will work wonders for your concentration, mood, and mental health. In fact, it’s often when you’re feeling the most stressed and overwhelmed that you need this break the most. Set an alarm to step away from your desk every now and then to stretch your legs, have a break from your screen, and get some fresh air outside with a cup of tea. Knowing you have a short break coming up also helps get you through the work increments, since you know there’s a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

Check out some of the studies based on the link between breaks and productivity – it’s pretty interesting!

2. Talk about it

“Mental health is not a fight club. We can talk about it.” 

The first step towards de-stigmatising mental health in the workplace is to talk about it.  Don’t be afraid to bring up issues related to stress, depression, anxiety or other mental illness. Everyone struggles to stay mentally healthy sometimes, and the more open we are about our struggles and challenges, the more we can encourage and support one another in the workplace.

3. Take regular vacations

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes… including you.” – Anne Lamott

Sometimes the thought of returning to 50,000 emails after taking time off from work is enough to put you off going in the first place. But take the vacation anyway. You deserve it, and if you’re a full-time employee, you’re entitled to those days.

It can be hard to let go of control and entrust another colleague to cover your work, but when you’re on leave try your best to refrain from “checking in” on your mails during your leave. This prevents you from truly disconnecting and recharging, and oftentimes, you get carried away replying to mails or doing a “quick task”, which we all know never ends up being quick!

4. Lead a rich, full life outside the office

“Self care is how you take your power back.” – Lalah Delia 

While it’s important to be dedicated and passionate about what you do, don’t make your job the be-all-and-end-all in life. Engage in a few hobbies, spend time with loved ones, and take some “me time” to care for yourself with activities that make you feel good. Not only is this good for your soul, but it’ll make you a better employee too. This can be tough to hear, but you are totally replaceable at work; you’re not replaceable at home. Home is your real life, and remember to keep that perspective always.

5. Ask for help

“Healing takes time, and asking for help is a courageous step.” 

The age-old saying, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” applies here too. If you’re struggling with something, whether it’s directly related to work or not, speak up and ask your manager for help. This could be in the form of alleviating some of your workload, giving you a bit of time off, or offering a more flexible work schedule to attend therapy appointments.

6. Say goodbye to toxic culture

“Start prioritising your mental health instead of adjusting to toxic spaces.” – Thema Bryant Davis. 

You can take all the vacations, do all the yoga, and sing Kumbaya until the cows come home, but if you’re stuck in a company with a toxic culture where it doesn’t prioritise your mental health and wellbeing, it’s time to leave. And thanks to the Great Resignation and move towards hybrid and remote working, there is more opportunity out there than ever before.

mental health in workplace

Make mental health a priority

Most people don’t hesitate to take time off to visit a doctor or dentist, but many of them are too shy to address their mental health needs. Our physical and mental health is often interlinked. Here are a few more ways to promote mental health in your personal life:

  • Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep deprivation can leave you feeling irritable and exhausted in the short-term and have serious long-term physical and mental health consequences as well.
  • Don’t scroll through your phone first thing in the morning, as doing so primes your brain for distraction. Seeing or reading something negative first thing in the morning can trigger your stress response and make you feel on edge for the rest of the day.
  • It’s no secret that your diet is directly linked to your brain and overall mood. Avoid sugars, greasy foods, salts, processed foods and saturated fats. Instead, consume more whole grains, greens, unprocessed foods, lean meats and unsaturated fats.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep you hydrated.
  • Engage in a physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Practice mindfulness or meditation on a daily basis. There are so many fantastic free resources available online.

 

At the end of the day, we still have a long road before we begin to treat mental illness in the same way that we treat physical illness so until then, start promoting yours one small step at a time. And remember, mental health is not a destination but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you’re going.