Mental Health and the work place
One in four people in the UK will have a mental health problem at some point. While mental health problems are common, most are mild, tend to be short-term and are normally successfully got over. Mental health is about how we think, feel and behave. Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health problems. They are often a reaction to a difficult life event such as bereavement, but nowadays it is commonly caused by work-related issues or work induced stress. Here are some tips on how to cope with stress at work and now to get support if you need it.
Talk About It
Awareness of mental health is increasing but fear of discrimination and feelings of shame are amongst the top reason people give for not telling their colleagues or boss about how they feel. A good employer should create a culture in the workplace where people can be themselves and where it should be easy for employees to speak about mental health concerns without fear and also easier for them to reach out for help when they need it. Even so, the decision to disclose distress at work is not one people take lightly you must go this route in order to get the support you need.
Ask for help
If you feel your workload is spiralling out of control, or if you feel you are being put upon because you never say no resentment is going to build up and this will make you feel stressed and under pressure. If you find yourself in this position it is essential, you speak to your line Manager. Unfortunately, in most offices no-one is going to notice you floundering in the corner, everyone is getting on with their own jobs, but if you feel you can’t cope with what you are expected to do then you must tell your boss. If you don’t it will all become too much and will result in you loosing it in the office, walking out of your job or even having a break down.
Adjust your working day if possible
If traveling into work in the rush hour be it by public transport or in the car is stressing you out see if you can negotiate more flexible working conditions. With the current Covid situation travelling on public transport in particular can be frightening, not everyone is as mindful to social distancing as you are. There is nothing wrong with explaining this to your boss and asking if you can change your working pattern and perhaps start later or finish earlier. It may be possible that your employer will allow you to work from home on some days thereby taking the pressure of travelling out of the equation for you and thereby relieving your stress.
Exercise is good for you
Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep and feel better. Exercise doesn’t just mean doing sport or going to the gym. If you work in an office, it can make a huge difference to get out for a walk or do a class at lunchtime or build in exercise before or after work to ease you into the day or create a space between work time and personal time. Something simple like working to and from work if it is possible definitely gives you time to unwind and get rid of work time stress.
Watch what you eat
What we eat can affect how we feel both immediately and in the longer term. A diet that is good for your physical health is also good for your mental health but, it can be hard to keep up a healthy pattern of eating at work. Try and plan for lunchtime at work by bringing food from home or choosing healthy options when buying lunch and also have lots of water. Try and get away from your desk to eat, have a little break from work. This will definitely help to distress.
Alcohol is nice – but its not always good for you
Most of us like a drink at a social occasion some people drink when they feel low, depressed or stressed believing it will make them feel better, but the effect is only temporary. Be careful with drinking it’s all to easy to go home and pour yourself a glass of wine or even a little vodka after a hard day at work but it’s a well-known fact that alcohol whilst in the short term is a stimulant in the long term is a depressant. This wont necessary help your stress and anxiety.
Take a break
A change of scene is really good for your mental health, this could be reading a book during your commute to work, a weekend away exploring somewhere new or ideally a holiday. Not an “at home” holiday, but a real get away in order that you have some ‘me time ‘. Regular breaks are essential in order for you to have a good work life balance. There is one rule though whilst you are off from work on holiday you must resist the temptation to check in with work. If you find that you can’t break away, it may be a sign that you should be re-examining your workload. Rest and sleep are essential to our mental health. Listen to your body. Without rest stress will fester and get worse and worse.
What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? Enjoying yourself can help beat stress. Concentrate on something you like, it could be gardening, going to the theatre, or visiting museums. By doing what you enjoy you will forget you worries for a while and this will change your mood. Its OK to be good at your job but when you’re stressed it can be easy to forget what makes you happy. If possible, you should plan your life to include time for yourself in order that you can have some ‘me time so you can relax and have some fun. It’s a great distresser.
Accept yourself for who you are
We’re all different. Its much healthier to accept that you are unique than to wish you were more like someone else. Feeling good about yourself boosts your confidence. Good self-esteem helps you cope with life when it takes a difficult turn. It can be very tempting to invest everything in building self-esteem around work success. That often means that people who give everything at work and who are high achievers often suffer with stress. Its really important that you balance your life, its not all about work, it’s about you, it’s about enjoying life, work is part of that but should never be the whole of your life.
Don’t be frightened of change
The world is changing, we are not going to ever be as we were pre-covid, many employers have found they have needed to restructure and make redundancies or change staff working conditions or contracts. Any change process is a challenge to an employee’s mental health. It’s really important that if you find yourself on the redundancy list or if your job has been changed that you accept this is not your fault. This is nothing to do with your performance it is just the situation that your employer has found themselves in. Try to embrace the change if possible and think positively. The future is yours to dictate and stressing yourself out about the loss of your job or having to learn new skills won’t help you. You need to take positive action and try, if possible, to see the situation as an opportunity rather than a worrying change. It’s very hard I know but your mindset now will dictate your future – don’t stress.
I think the most important message that we can give is that you are not alone, whatever you are feeling no matter how depressed you are, people are there to help you. You are also protected in the workplace and your employer has a duty of care to ensure you are supported.
Look after yourself