How to be mentally healthy at work

Posted by Tilt Recruitment on April 29th, 2021

How to be mentally healthy at work

Posted by Tilt Recruitment on April 29, 2021

Everyone finds work stressful sometimes. But when “sometimes” becomes “often” or “always”, you’re at risk of developing mental health problems like anxiety and depression. And if you already have mental health problems, work stress is going to make them worse.

That means learning to manage work stress is vital for both your personal and professional life. Here are some pointers.

How to cope with stress at work

Start with the obvious: look after your basic physical needs. Are you eating and sleeping okay? Is your caffeine intake off the charts? Are you getting any kind of exercise? Do you take breaks? When you’re frantically busy, you may not have the time or energy for perfect self-care, but whatever steps you can take in that direction will massively help your ability to cope with stress.

Try meditation, or just practising mindfulness. Mindfulness means focusing on the here and now and what you’re experiencing through your senses, not past regrets or future worries. It can help you stay calm and clear-headed in stressful situations.

Read up on the signs and causes of stress and what makes people resilient (able to bounce back from stress quickly).

Look up some coping techniques. Different things work for different people, so discover what works for you through trial and error. Use these techniques when you start to feel stressed – not when you start to fall apart.

Once you have an idea of what stresses you out and what helps you bounce back, try making a Wellness Action Plan. Talk to your employer and see if they can make some changes to help you.

Managing stressful situations

While workplace stress can happen for almost any reason, we’ve probably all experienced these common ones. That means there are tried-and-tested ways to manage them.

Too much to do

Unhealthy response: Pretend everything’s fine until your brain melts down from exhaustion and you spectacularly drop all the balls.

Healthy response: Tell your manager you have too much to do. It’s not a sackable offence. In fact, any half-decent manager will very much want to know. Discuss the issues and set realistic targets together.
Balance your time. If you have to add extra hours to your workload to get project A done, can you push B or C back to compensate? If you’ve been burning the midnight oil, can you carve out some time to recover?

Reward yourself. Give yourself a break or a treat when you complete a task instead of just focusing on the next to-do.

Be realistic. Don’t expect perfection of yourself. Everyone makes mistakes or does work that’s not their best sometimes. Accept that you have limits and be kind to yourself – don’t treat yourself more harshly than you would an employee.

Poor work-life balance

Unhealthy response: Make work your life.

Healthy response: Focus on life outside your job. Nurture your non-work relationships and make time for hobbies, even if it’s only a bit. This will help you see yourself as more than your job.

Take a proper lunch break (at least half an hour), plus shorter breaks throughout the day. Get outside if possible.

Take the holiday leave you’re entitled to. A long weekend or a few days off can help you recover from stress and come back more productive.

Switch off at the end of the workday with a routine like tidying your space or making tomorrow’s to-do list. This is particularly helpful when you’re working from home.

Lack of support at work

Unhealthy response: Embarrassed silence

Healthy response: First, find out if there is support available that you’re missing. Some companies offer free advice and counselling through employee assistance programmes (EAPs), others may offer buddy systems or mentoring. Not all are great at making everyone aware of these schemes. Try asking your HR department what’s on offer.

If you’re feeling unsupported, talk to your manager – or if your manager is the culprit, talk to someone else, like HR or your trade union representative.

Create good working relationships with your colleagues. This will create a built-in support network and help you enjoy your work.

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