By Marcus Hoo
Mental health is an aspect that we all have. When we enjoy good mental well-being, we have a sense of purpose and direction, the energy to do the things we want to do, and the ability to deal with the challenges that happen in our lives.
When we think about our physical health, there’s a place for keeping ourselves fit, and a place for getting appropriate help as early as possible so we can get better. Mental health is just the same and is just as important.
Look after your mental health
We can all take steps to improve our own mental health, and build our resilience, self-care is a skill that needs to be practised, however, it isn’t easy, especially if we feel anxious, depressed or low in self-esteem. This is where the 7 ways provided below will attempt to help you guide through.
There has to be one or two you do well. These can be your assets, your go-to methods for working on your wellbeing.
1. Talk about your feelings
Talking about your feelings can help you maintain your mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. Talking about your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy.
You might encourage people to be more open at work if you set the same standard first, especially if you’re a leader.
If you don’t feel able to talk about feelings at work, make sure there’s someone you can discuss work pressures with like family members and friends.
2. Keep active
Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and look and feel better. Exercising doesn’t just mean doing sport or going to the gym. Try to make physical activity that you enjoy a part of your day.
If you have a physical job, you’ll notice if you are off sick because of injury or physical illness how quickly your mood starts to be affected by the change in activity level.
However if you work in an office you can get out for a walk during lunchtime, or perform some exercises before or after work to ease you into the day or create a space between work time and personal time.
3. Eat well
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.
Try and get away from your desk to eat. You could try a lunch club at work, where you club together to share meals and try new things. If you are busy or feeling stressed, try reducing or giving up caffeine and refined sugar, and swap it out for fruit/vegetables and snacks like nuts or trail mix that provides ready nutrients.
Keep in mind that some people find public eating at work very stressful because of past or current eating disorders. So if someone doesn’t want to come for work dinners, or makes different food choices in the office, don’t pass comment or put pressure on them to join in.
4. Drink sensibly
We often drink alcohol to change our mood. Some people drink to deal with fear, stress or loneliness, but the effect is only temporary.
Most people don’t drink at work – but most of us recognise the pattern of drinking more at the weekend or in the evening when work is hard going. At the end of the day, you have to be careful with your alcohol.
5. Keep in touch
Relationships are vital to our mental health, and that is why working in a supportive team is crucial for our mental health at work.
It is natural that we might be working with someone we do not have good relationships with, which means we might not get on with managers, colleagues or clients, thus it can create tension. In times like this you may need to practise good d, but you may also need to address some difficulties.
Work politics can be a real challenge when we have mental health problems. It can be helpful to find a mentor or a small group of trusted colleagues with whom you can discuss feelings about work.
6. Ask for help
We all get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things don’t go to plan. However there are ways to combat this issue. Your employer may have an employee assistance programme. These services are confidential and can be accessed free and without work finding out. You may also be able to access occupational health support through your line manager or HR service.
The first port of call in the health service is your GP. Your GP may suggest ways that you or your family can help you, or they may refer you to a specialist or another part of the health service, or they may refer you to a counsellor.
7. Get some rest
Find a way for yourself to de-stress. It could be a five-minute pause from what you are doing, a book or podcast during the commute, a half-hour lunch break at work, or a weekend exploring somewhere new.
If your employer offers mental health days, take these, and make sure you use them well. It can be hard to take holidays and time off from work. When we are stressed, it can seem even harder to take the breaks we are entitled to. Try and plan periods of leave for the year so that you always have a break to look forward to.
When you are on leave or at home, 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 to manage stress.
Finally, get some rest. At the end of the day, nothing beats a good night of sleep, as it is essential to our mental health. Without good sleep, our concentration goes downhill so as our mental health.
The world of work is changing, and many employers find there is a need to reconfigure and make exceptions, or change staff working environments or contracts.
Any change process is a challenge for workers’ mental health. If you have to plan a change process, you have to make sure decisions are communicated effectively, to balance some of the obvious stressful aspects, this is so that people have as much time as practically possible to digest decisions, and that support is made available both via external support like employee assistance programmes and to find new employment, and within the workplace.