For most people, work is often the main cause of stress in their lives, and for some, that stress will contribute to depreciating their mental health. Many people don’t feel comfortable or safe sharing with others, especially employers, that they are struggling. According to the National Alliance Mental Illness of Pierce County, “roughly 85% of employees’ mental health conditions are undiagnosed or untreated.” The longer one neglects taking proper care of their mental health, the closer they get to having a breakdown or burning out. Nobody wants this to happen, so taking the proper steps to take care of yourself helps decrease the likelihood of you experiencing this outcome. The following article will provide five ways that can help you manage your job’s impact on your mental health.
1. Accept yourself
The first step to managing mental health in the workplace is to accept that you are struggling and recognize that there is nothing wrong with you for feeling stressed or overwhelmed. We can often be our own worst enemies and biggest bullies, leading to us being hard on ourselves for feeling stressed or overwhelmed and/or pushing those feelings away. We must combat that by acknowledging that negative self-talk is not a helpful nor productive use of our time.
As you begin to accept yourself and stop the negative self-talk, it is important to reflect on the cause(s) of the way you are feeling. This can be done in your head, in a journal, or in any way that works best for you. Check out this article on Healthline about emotional triggers, how to identify them, and how to manage them.
2. Seek professional help
Step 1 is not an easy feat to achieve, so Step 2 may occur simultaneously with Step 1. Resources like this website are an excellent starting point for locating professionals and information that can help you with stress and anxiety related to your work or personal life. Some employers offer mental health resources as part of their health plans, such as funds to use toward services, PTO that can be used for appointments, or sponsored professionals available at little to no cost. If using such resources interest you, don’t hesitate to explore your options.
At the same time, don’t feel obligated to use those. You should explore and select whatever resource you are comfortable with and financially able to afford. There are also free options, such as support groups and group chats, that can help you understand and manage how you are feeling. Some popular options include Better Help, podcasts (which sometimes throw in coupon codes for other resources), or even reading a book intended to help with what you are struggling with.
3. Take frequent, small breaks
You may think the most effective way to manage your work is to plow through it, but this can actually cause a lack of progress and increase distraction, causing further frustration.This is a vicious cycle and is an ineffective use of time. Instead, I recommend removing all distractions for a certain period of time, whether that be 30 minutes or an hour, and then taking a 5-10 minute break. Continue to repeat this throughout your day.
When you begin your workday, make a plan of what you want to achieve that day. This allows you to have a realistic, organized view of your day ahead instead of jumbled thoughts of everything you need to accomplish. This plan does not need to be married to a timeframe because there are bound to be speed bumps and arising needs throughout your day that cannot be avoided. Take your day one hour at a time, adjusting your list as you go and checking off what you complete.
When you take a break, you should perceive it as a reward for your work during that time frame. This is the case regardless of what you accomplished because, remember from Step 1, you’re working on decreasing negative self-talk. Your break can be used to complete a breathing exercise, to walk around, or pick a method of your choice to give your brain and body a quick break to recharge.
4. Say no / Speak your concerns
When an employer asks you to do something, regardless of the current responsibilities you have, chances are that you say “yes.” However, this can leave you overwhelmed and wondering how late you are going to have to work in order to finish everything. Well, in light of working on improving your mental health, it is essential to sometimes say “no” and communicate to your supervisor your reasons for saying no. You don’t need to disclose all of the details about how you are doing, but you can say something like this: “Although I would love to take on this assignment, I cannot dedicate the time necessary to complete it with the other responsibilities I have. I don’t want to spread myself too thin, and I would not be able to perform my best work.”
Now, I am not recommending that you say no to every assignment or additional project offered to you (that would probably get you fired). I am suggesting that you be aware of your limits and do not compare yourself to your coworkers. By saying no, you are acknowledging your needs and preventing burn out.
5. Take care of yourself
Although all of the ways mentioned above are important, it is paramount that you take care of yourself first and foremost. It may not be easy for everyone to have the energy or make the time to perform activities of daily living (ADLs), such as properly feeding yourself, but this is the foundation for improving your mental health and overall well-being. Start by nourishing your body, taking part in some form of exercise (even if only for a short time), and doing something each day for you! Healthy living habits are essential to improving your mental health because the better you physically feel, the better you can emotionally feel.
The process of improving your mental health is not an overnight process and will require commitment and dedication. These are only five steps that can help, but I encourage you to conduct further research to find the combination of the most effective steps.
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