Managing your Mental Health at Work
We’re here to champion you all in looking after yourselves and your own mental health, by providing some guidance for staying mentally well at work. Many of us are starting […]
We’re here to champion you all in looking after yourselves and your own mental health, by providing some guidance for staying mentally well at work. Many of us are starting to return to work in one way or another, so make sure you’re fully prepared to be at your best. Our tips below are curated from CABA, Mind, and our own practical experiences.
The relationship between work and mental health
Maintaining paid employment is generally considered to be a good thing. As well as earning a living, having a job provides identity, contact and friendship with other people, and a way of can give structure and purpose to your day-to-day life. And while it’s possible to thrive without paid work, unemployment is often linked with poor physical and mental health, and poverty.
However, paid employment brings its own pressures on your mental health. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that every year around 2 million people experience a health problem caused by their current or past work. Stress is the largest cause of work-related illnesses, so our tips today generally focus on that.
If you already have a mental health problem, maintaining paid employment can be a challenge: the pressures of work may sometimes make you feel worse, or you may feel that you can’t be open about your condition to your boss or colleagues. However, with understanding and support from your employer, and a little bit of flexibility, work can be a positive experience.
Dealing with stress at work
While numerous combinations of factors can cause stress, taking action, however small, can improve your life at work or prevent stress developing in the first place. Some things you might be able to do might not need to reference to anyone else, but some things you will need to negotiate, formally or informally, with colleagues or managers.
Taking control yourself
- Develop helpful relationships with colleagues so you can build up a network of support.
- Talk to someone you trust about what makes you feel stressed, and say if you need help.
- Write a list of what needs to be done to help you to prioritise, focus and get things in perspective. It can also feel satisfying to tick items off once they have been done.
- Take regular breaks and get away from your desk or situation for a few minutes every hour. Get out of the office completely at lunchtime if possible.
- Keep to regular working hours as much as possible and take all the leave you’re entitled to when you need it.
- If you are provided with opportunities to have some input, particularly in decisions that may impact you, then take advantage of those opportunities.
- If you are working from home, make the most of opportunities for contact.
- Maintain a healthy work-life balance – nurture your outside relationships and interests, and skills.
- Make sure you drink enough water and that you eat during the day to maintain your energy levels.
- Learn some relaxation techniques.
Working with your employer
- Work out what you find stressful in the work environment, e.g. unrealistic targets; and what helps you work well, e.g. a quiet space. Then talk to your employer about potential solutions.
- Discuss your workload with your manager or supervisor and set realistic targets for what you think you can achieve, balancing your health with their expectations.
- Find out how your goals fit in with the organisation’s overall aims and objectives so that you can see a real purpose to your work.
- Discuss the possibility of flexible working hours if that will be helpful to you.
- Make your physical work environment as comfortable to work in and appropriate to your needs as you can. If necessary, seek the help of a health and safety representative.
- Make use of the support already on offer. Some organisations provide employee assistance programmes, providing free advice and counselling. Others have internal systems such as co-worker support.
If you feel able, please share your best stress management advice via Twitter and Facebook to support your peers and colleagues.