Mental health in the workplace has become a widely spread topic that more people are comfortable talking about as well as organizations adopting practices or initiatives in the office to help staff be mindful about their mental health.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in 25 adults in the US experiences a serious mental illness in a given year, yet fewer than half get the help they need.
Mental health in the workplace doesn’t have to mean you are suffering from anxiety, depression, or any other mental health issues. Taking care of your mental health can also prevent or help manage burnout, stress, and resentment.
Even if you love your job, career, or company, a job is still a transactional relationship. There are set duties and hours in exchange for payment. There is more to you and your life beyond a career. Taking care of all aspects of your life leads to a well-balanced and happy whole person.
A happy whole person is easier to work with, more productive, works smarter not harder, and saves the company money.
What makes up a whole person? There are many rules of thought and ways to categorize and evaluate what makes up a complete person. But, the most simple way, and the easiest to start thinking about is mind, body, and soul.
All three areas make up the wellness wheel. Each part needs love and attention and to be actively exercised in order for the wheel to function properly. When your wellness wheel functions properly, you are a happy whole person!
Set your mind at ease
Let’s get started with focusing on your mind. These tips will help you give your mind the time and nurturing it needs to be in a positive space.
1. Goal setting
It’s important to set both short-term and long-term goals. Here are a few examples:
- This week I want to finish writing this article.
- This year I want to work towards completing a Google Analytics class. Both are achievable goals, but If I keep them on the same goals list, it’s unrealistic, overwhelming, and guaranteed to fail. And it only gets exasperated the more goals you add. Having a realistic timeline set for your goals allows you the space to not think about goals that are not the priority at the moment. My year goals provide me the freedom to break out a larger goal into do-able chunks throughout the year that I can schedule on my calendar when it makes sense and I have the time. Not having any goals written down is just as bad. What do you want to achieve or accomplish, or work towards?
2. Challenge thoughts
There may have been times when these common thoughts have popped up in your head on the job:
- Why was I invited to this meeting?
- I don’t know anything.
- No one hears me.
- Why did I say that aloud?
Stop the self-doubt. Learn to be nicer to yourself. If you really think about what you tell yourself in your internal thought monologue, would you ever say those comments out loud to your colleague? Most likely not; what we tell ourselves is often mean and completely over-dramatized. Feelings are valid, but you need to ask yourself, “Is what I’m telling myself realistic or helpful?” Shift your mindset from berating yourself to offering yourself solutions to the problem like you would with a colleague.
3. Delegate tasks
Delegation is a valuable tool at your disposal, but it is often forgotten. People tend to feel bad about shifting work to others, don’t know how to delegate properly, or feel that they can complete the task better. You can’t do it all and shouldn’t have to.
A company is much like a puzzle. We each complete an important piece of the bigger picture; no one singular part is more important than the others, but all pieces are needed. Focus on your piece and let others own their own.
4. Pause before you speak
If a situation at work upsets you or bothers you in any way, your first instinct may be to run to a manager or human resources and complain. But more often, when we do this, we tend to say things out of anger or frustration that we may not completely agree with.
Instead, take a time-out. Take a quick walk or even give yourself 24 hours before you respond. Changing up your scenery can spark a change in your thought cycle. Come back to the problem with a clear mind, helpful feedback, and possible solutions to the problem — you’ll more likely be heard, and positive actions will take place.
Love your body
If your body isn’t healthy, it impacts your work and your personal time. Try these suggestions to give your body what it needs to move you through your day.
1. Get quality sleep
Plug your phone in — in another room — read yourself to sleep, use an eye mask or sound machine, and set the mood to teach your body that it’s rest time. Try to follow a similar routine each night that is easily replicable if traveling. A good night is an elixir to most of life’s challenges.
2. Eat a balanced diet
There is nothing wrong with treating yourself to a cupcake, a glass or two of rosé, or the occasional box of Girl Scout Thin Mints cookies, but it must be done in a balanced manner. I don’t believe in following fad diets at all. I do believe in making healthy choices throughout the week to fuel my body and feel good while allowing myself treats here and there without the guilt. And always remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
3. Make time for movement
Ride a bike to and from work, take a walk around your building, run up and down a staircase, sign up for a workout class nearby, or just do anything that you enjoy and that gets your heart rate up even a little.
“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy,” — wise words spoken by Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde.” In all seriousness, though, your body needs to move, and without consistent movement each week, your body tells your mind to stay stagnant, and it eventually leads to depression.
4. Get Vitamin D
That’s right, get outside and get some fresh air and some sun. Sunlight provides many natural benefits — including Vitamin D — that can help prevent seasonal depression and overall makes you happier. Just don’t forget to wear sunblock.
Soothe your soul
Don’t neglect your soul. The following three pieces of advice will provide you with comfort and relief.
1. Talk to someone
It’s better to ask for help when work tasks feel to heavy than to carry the load alone and suffer in silence. Whether that’s reaching out to your human resources representative, a mentor at work, a mental health professional, or a friend you trust, expressing feelings and emotions can feel as though a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.
If you bottle emotions up for too long, they ferment and eventually explode into a burst of anger. Which is the last thing you want to happen at work.
Tip: If you want to chat with a friend, always ask permission first before you unload. You never know what someone else is going through each day.
If a colleague reaches out to you for some emotional support and guidance, first check in with yourself and be realistic if support is something you are capable of providing at the moment. If it’s not, be honest and suggest that they speak with someone else directly at the company who may be able to help.
If you are willing to provide support, ask them about the particular experience and what kind of support they are looking for. Each scenario and person will warrant a different need. Someone looking for sympathy just needs to be heard. Something looking for empathy is looking for someone who has gone through the same experience. A person in need of compassion needs someone to provide help in the form of actions.
2. Give credit where credit is due
Filling someone else’s bucket not only brightens their day, but it’s also a little reward for yourself. It can be easy to go about your day-to-day and forget to acknowledge those around you that go above and beyond or out of their way to help you in some way. It can be as simple as, “I noticed your hard work, and I appreciate it.”
3. Stand in your truth
The truth will be different for each person. Some rely on religion, some rely on lifestyles, and others have a unique set of beliefs that work for them. Recharge with like-minded folks away from work. You could find this at church, community service, volunteering, book clubs, hitting the trails or gym, and spending time where you feel at peace and feed your soul.
Better mental health = a better life
Taking care of your mind, body and soul creates a happy whole person who can show up to work with increased motivation, concentration, productivity, creativity, and collaboration. Working on yourself both while you are at work and after work hours strengthens your overall mental health in the workplace. If at any time you ever feel as though things are too heavy to carry alone, please seek help from a friend, human resources, or a mental health professional.
Editors Note: This article first appeared in the Summer 2022 Seated Magazine issue.