We might currently be in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there’s another one that’s just as serious knocking on our doors — anxiety and mental health in the workplace.
In a recent study by Mind Share Partners, SAP, and Qualtrics, 60% of employees surveyed said they had never spoken to someone else in their workplace about their mental health — a worrying figure when you consider that 1 in 4 people experience a mental health issue at any given time.
It’s clear then that we need to seriously improve how we look after our mental health, as well as the mental health of our colleagues. Here are three simple ways to do just that.
1. Take a break when you need it
Work can be stressful enough sometimes. When you add managing a mental health problem at the same time into the mix, it can become exhausting.
Knowing your triggers, your limits, and your coping strategies is essential when it comes to improving how you manage your mental health at work.
One of the best ways to cope with a challenging situation at work is to take a break. Doing something as simple as stepping outside and taking a few moments to focus on something completely different helps you to reset and improve your grip on a stressful situation.
If work becomes too much, smaller breaks aren’t working and you can’t cope, talk to your GP and see what they suggest to help. You can then approach your manager, explain the situation, and ask for some time off to help you get to control the situation.
The mental health charity, Mind, has some great advice about how to talk to your employer about mental health issues and ask for help.
2. Practice mindfulness
Many people swear by mindfulness techniques to help them control their stress levels and better manage their mental health at work.
Mindfulness is essentially the act of using mental and physical exercises to focus on the present moment and build an awareness of how your body feels in a given situation. This can help you avoid becoming overwhelmed by a situation.
Mindfulness isn’t just a New Age fad — in fact, the NHS recommends practising mindfulness techniques as a good way to look after your mental health.
The beauty of using mindfulness as a method to manage your mental health at work is that you don’t need any fancy equipment to do it, and you can practice it from your desk without anyone realising what you’re doing.
This article by Positive Psychology lists some great mindfulness exercises to try, but here are a few simple ones:
Good for: Long-lasting relaxation
With this technique, you’ll take some time out of your day and focus on the things you’re feeling, experiencing and thinking about in the present moment. It’s a good way to gain awareness of your thoughts and feelings in the present moment. Mind has some really useful meditation exercises to try out if you’re interested.
Progressive muscle relaxation
Good for: Quickly relaxing all of your body
This technique is designed to help you get rid of tension in your body relatively quickly. The NHS has a great guide on how to do this technique safely which I’d recommend checking out for more information.
Good for: Getting quick relief
This technique is perfect if you’re experiencing a crisis and you need quick relief. It involves breathing in and out, deeply, to a count, usually five or ten seconds. Again, the NHS has some good tips on how to practise this technique.
3. Be honest with yourself – and others
Unfortunately, there’s still stigma around discussing mental health in the workplace. The only way that we can solve that is by being honest with ourselves.
If you’re struggling with your own mental health, you need to admit that a problem is a problem before you can solve it, otherwise, it will stay as it is. Being honest about the situation is the first step towards getting control of the situation and regaining balance.
If someone asks “how are you?” in the morning, tell them. You don’t need to go into massive detail, but simply replying “not great today.” is honest enough and can help you to feel better. By being honest, you’re taking control of the situation and making a conscious decision to not let your mental health get the better of you.
Here are some simple tips to improve your honesty with others about mental health at work:
- Find out if your company has an employee wellness programme, and if not, ask if one can be started
- Be brave — it’s never easy to be the first to put your head above the parapet and take a stand, but change comes from small, individual actions like being honest about your mental health
- Think about your needs from a situation, and how your workplace can better support you: what simple actions can you co-workers take to help you handle your mental health better?
- Encourage others to be honest with you about their mental health, check in with your colleagues and ask questions
Following these tips can help to encourage openness in the workplace, which is only a good thing.
We hope you’ve gathered some useful tips about how to better manage and even improve your mental health at work from this article. Remember, that if you’re experiencing mental health issues that you can’t cope with, you’re not alone and there are lots of resources that can help, including Samaritans and Mind.