For most of us, work is an important part of our lives. We spend a significant amount of our time weekly at work, and can form some of our closest friendships with our work colleagues.
It’s important we focus on this major part of our lives by looking after our mental health in the workplace. We all have times when life gets on top of us – but can we stop it adversely affecting our performance at work? The value added to the economy by people who are at work, and either have in the past or currently have mental health problems is as high as £225 billion per year, which represents 12.1% of the UK’s total GDP.
Keith Beekmeyer, of Newpoint Capital Ltd says ‘We strongly believe in a workplace where everyone can thrive together as the company grows. A strong and healthy mental health environment keeps employees happy, which helps to increase performance in their work. By us assuring that there is an open platform for the employees to discuss their concerns or worries, it ensures that they are well supported by management and are able to take appropriate steps to manage their mental health while at work.”
It seems obvious that good mental health at work, and good management by employers, go hand in hand: and what’s more, there is strong evidence that workplaces with high levels of mental wellbeing are more productive.
We can all take steps to improve our own mental health, and build our resilience – our ability to cope with adversity. Self-care is a skill that needs to be practised. It isn’t easy, especially if we feel anxious, depressed or low in self-esteem.
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 well being and doing what you can to stay healthy.
It can be hard to talk about feelings at work. If you have colleagues you can talk to, or a manager who asks how you are at supervision sessions, it can really help.
Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and look and feel better.
Exercising doesn’t just mean doing sports or going to the gym. Experts say that most people should do about 30 minutes’ exercise at least five days a week. Try to make physical activity that you enjoy a part of your day.
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.
It can be hard to keep up a healthy pattern of eating at work. Regular meals, plus plenty of water, are ideal. Try and plan for mealtimes at work – bringing food from home or choosing healthy options when buying lunch.
Keep in touch
Relationships are key to our mental health. Working in a supportive team is hugely important for our mental health at work.
We don’t always have a choice about who we work with, and if we don’t get on with managers, colleagues or clients, it can create tension. It may be that you need to practise more self-care at these times, but you may also need to address difficulties.
Ask for help
None of us are superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things don’t go to plan.
The first port of call in the health service is your GP. Over a third of visits to GPs are about mental health. 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. Your GP may be able to refer you to a counsellor.
Take a break
A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health.
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. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you. Give yourself some ‘me time’.
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.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is essential to our mental health. Listen to your body. Without good sleep, our mental health suffers and our concentration goes downhill.
Do something you’re good at
What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing in the past? Enjoying yourself can help beat stress. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you’re good at it, and achieving something boosts your self-esteem.
Accept who you are
We’re all different. It’s much healthier to accept that you’re unique than to wish you were more like someone else. Feeling good about yourself boosts your confidence to learn new skills, visit new places and make new friends. Good self-esteem helps you cope when life takes a difficult turn.
Be proud of who you are. Recognise and accept the things you may not be good at, but also focus on what you can do well. If there’s anything about yourself you would like to change, are your expectations realistic? If they are, work towards the change in small steps.
Care for others
Caring for others is often an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you. Helping can make us feel needed and valued, and that boosts our self-esteem.
It can be as simple as helping your colleague, or perhaps encouraging colleagues to start volunteering with you a couple of hours a week: there’s always a local hospital or animal shelter that needs help and would welcome you and your colleagues.
Ultimately, what we’re looking at here is encouraging you to think about yourself, and to look after your mind, body and spirit. If you can get into the habit of looking after yourself at all times, including at work, you’re going to be on the tracks to keeping yourself mentally well at all times.