Let’s talk about mental health in the workplace
May is known as Mental Health Awareness Month. Let’s use this time to pause and reflect on our thoughts, feelings and our interactions with others.
Since most of us have been working from home for the past two and a half years, it’s no secret that our mental health might be taking a big blow. In Singular, we strive to create a healthy work-life balance, by creating a positive work environment. This blog tackles some of the most common mental health issues that we are all faced with: stress and burnout.
What is mental health?
Mental health is not something strange, something that should not be named, or a separate part of ourselves. Simply put, it’s our everyday way of dealing with life, people, and emotions… Mental wellness is feeling, thinking, and interacting in ways that help you enjoy life and deal effectively with difficult situations. That’s why it’s important to talk about mental health in the workplace. Improving our mental health can be helpful in many ways. It contributes to working productively, experiencing pleasure and enjoyment, handling stress in a better way, assessing challenges and problems, setting goals and following interests, developing good problem-solving and coping skills.
Mental health at work
Work takes up a huge part of our time. Having a fulfilling job can be good for your mental health and general well-being. The best workplaces are those where everyone can thrive. Each one of us is responsible for creating a thriving community and a safe environment. By creating a safe environment, when the time comes, it’s easier for someone to approach you and share something that you might not know. It all starts with asking someone how they are doing in a warm and authentic way – giving them a chance to realize that you are being sincere and friendly.
Our mental health doesn’t always stay the same – It can fluctuate as circumstances change and as we move through different life stages. Stress is a word used to describe times when a person isn’t coping with a certain circumstance – for whatever reason. If we have significant challenges in our home or work life, the chances are that it has an impact on our mental health.
Stress can be helpful
Historically, stress was our friend. It warned us of danger; a natural reaction that told us when to run. When our evolutionary ancestors saw a saber-toothed cat and ran from it, stress saved their life. Stress has remained part of the evolutionary drive because of its usefulness in survival. When used at the right time, stress increases our awareness and improves physical performance in short bursts.
Repetitive exposure to stress on our body is proven to lead to long-lasting psychological and physical health issues.
Stress VS Burnout
Stress is inevitable. Burnout isn’t.
While stress is our response, burnout is the accumulation of excessive stressors over time. This can result in extremely high-stress levels. When we get to the point of no longer being able to cope, we are “burned out,” like a candle.
Many stress management strategies and techniques are known and successfully used in the world. Which can help people avoid the unpleasant experience of burnout.
Our body reacts to stress and burnout with anxiety – an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and feeling nervousness, and uneasiness.
How to cope with stress and increase our mental health
One thing is very important – causes of stress and anxiety, as well as ways of dealing with it may differ from person to person – the secret is to try a couple of things and see what suits you best and what gives you the results you are aiming for. There is no one guide to improving mental health. Instead, several methods at once will push you, motivate you, hold your hand and pull you out of the place you are stuck in.
Some strategies are listed below. Try them out and see if they make a difference:
1. Ask for help
None of us is superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things don’t go to plan. Psychotherapy – is a way to see what coping strategies suit you best. The main goal of psychotherapy is to help us, guide us, consult us and suggest to us ways that will help. Additionally, we can talk to someone we feel comfortable with and who will be supportive. If you are open about how you feel at work, it might encourage others to do the same. If you don’t feel able to talk about feelings at work, make sure there’s someone you can discuss work pressures with – partners, friends and family can all be a sounding board.
2. Move your body
Keeping active can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and feel better. We can do short exercises before or after work to ease us into the day or create a space between work time and personal time. Exercising doesn’t just mean doing sport or going to the gym. A short walk in an outdoor setting every day can make a huge difference. Being outside in the sun and fresh air can help to elevate our mood and clear our minds.
3. Eating & sleeping habits
Regular meals, plus plenty of water, are ideal. Try to get away from the desk to eat. For busy times, or times when you are feeling low or stressed, try reducing caffeine.
Around 8 hours long sleep is essential for our mental health. Listen to your body. Without good sleep, our mental health suffers and our concentration goes downhill.
4. Keep in touch
Relationships are key to our mental health. Working in a supportive team is hugely important for our mental health at work. Try and make sure you maintain your friendships and family relationships even when work is intense – a work-life balance is important for our health.
5. Talk about your feelings
Talking about your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s part of taking charge of your well being and doing what you can to stay healthy. Share it with others (don’t keep the feelings inside) → Verbalizing how you feel is not always easy. When having trouble communicating emotions, we can try drawing or writing about them.
6. Take a break
A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. It could be a five-minute pause from what you are doing, a book or podcast, or a half-hour outdoors lunch break. A few minutes can be enough to momentarily de-stress you. Spend this time listening to music, meditating, reading, or whatever it is that soothes the soul and eases the mind.
We tend to feel that we’re “too busy” to take a time-out. But sometimes, that’s exactly what’s necessary – little pauses to help digest the day so tomorrow isn’t as clouded.
7. Do something you’re good at
What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing in the past? Enjoying yourself can help beat stress. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you’re good at it, and achieving something boosts your self-esteem.
Concentrating on a hobby (gaming, painting, dancing, photography etc.) can help you forget your worries for a while and can increase your mood.
At work, you may have a hobby you’d like to share or join in with colleagues on – cycling, playing tennis, football etc. can be a great way to share a skill with others. Go out with your colleagues, even from other teams. Get to know more people that you do not interact with daily.
Focus on the moon (it does not have to be the moon) whenever you get an uncomfortable feeling that may be stress or anxiety – choose something that you enjoy looking at – a plant, the moon, a view from your window, a garden… and just look at it, focus on it, analyze it for ~5 min.
We all experience stressful periods and that’s ok. We are all resourceful, and we may sometimes need support, but not necessarily solutions.
Please look at this text as a bridge to the resource, rather than being the resource itself.
And remember every day can be May – if you want to talk to someone, you can always do that!