Sarah Landrum

The world of work is one that is busy, nonstop and constantly in motion. Showing weakness, especially for women, is a quick way to lose credibility. Unfortunately, that constant show of strength can also be detrimental to one’s mental health. Finding some ways to put your mental health first can help you maintain the strength you need to succeed at work without compromising your mental health. 

Here are a few tips and tricks you can apply during your workday to help you improve overall well-being. 

How to improve your overall wellbeing at work

1. Be realistic.

One of the biggest factors of succeeding is setting goals and working to achieve them. As human beings, we tend to set extravagant and sometimes unrealistic goals that are nearly impossible to attain. While setting goals is a healthy and useful way to get things done, setting unattainable goals has been shown to be detrimental to mental health. Instead of setting work goals that you won’t be able to reach, set your goals up in small stages. Each stage should be easily attainable, and once you complete that stage of your goal, reward yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant or expensive, but a small reward is a great way to encourage yourself to continue on your path. 

2. Try meditation.

Meditation is a great way to help everyone manage stress levels and improve overall well-being. Studies have shown that meditation is a good way to maintain your mental health, reduce your stress and even improve your physical health. Most meditation techniques encourage you to mediate either first thing into the morning or last thing in the evening before bed, but sometimes the stress relief that mediation offers is best taken advantage of during your stressful workday. There are meditation techniques that are designed to help you de-stress during the day without taking up a ton of time or requiring you to sit cross-legged on your desk. Take a couple of minutes, a few deep breaths and center yourself throughout the day.

3. Institute healthy habits.

Most of us spend between eight and 12 hours in the office, at least five days a week. For many, that’s more time than we spend at home, so it’s easy to understand why convenient food becomes so appealing. It’s too easy to head to the local fast food restaurant or the office vending machine for breakfast, lunch or an afternoon snack, but filling up on junk food can be detrimental to your health, both physical and mental.  If your lunch choices are less than healthy, consider preparing your own lunches and snacks. Mason jar salads, precut snacks, and other healthy but tasty foods are a great way to improve your eating habits and in turn, improve your mental health. 

4. Try therapy.

Sometimes, all you need to do is talk to someone to help improve your mental health. Unfortunately, only two of every five people with anxiety or mood disorders actually seeks assistance early on. With anxiety being the most common mental health issue in women, it’s all too easy to brush it off as stress. However, anxiety and depression are serious conditions that interfere with your daily life and should not be taken lightly. If you’re concerned for your mental health, it’s important to talk to someone.

Therapy, either individually or in a group, allows you to talk out your problems and get feedback from an unbiased third party. While this isn’t something that’s easy to do during the workday adding a weekly session with a therapist, whether it’s cognitive behavioral therapy or art therapy session, can be a great way to make sure your mental health is taken care of. 

5. Take breaks.

We all try to get as much done during the day as we can, with as many as one in five employees working 60 or more hours a week. The idea of taking a break is often utterly terrifying, but it can be a great way to improve your mental health throughout the day. Taking periodic breaks helps you stay focused, keeps you from getting bored, helps you retain information and keeps you from getting frustrated with your daily tasks. Most importantly, though, is not to feel guilty about taking breaks. Don’t let yourself feel bad for walking away for a few minutes. Breaks will make you a happier and more effective worker, so don’t feel bad about taking them!

6. Get support.

Mental health is one of the most important things to consider when you’re at work, but you can’t always do it alone. Support from friends, family and co-workers is a great way to help you maintain your mental health.  Creating a safe workspace is a great way to both give and get support in the office. Crafting an open-door policy in your office will make it easier to maintain your mental health while at work. 

7. Embrace creativity.

The 9-to-5 can be a grind of the same thing, day in and day out. Adding a bit of creativity to your day is a great way to help you break out of that rut and improve your mental health. Something as simple as listening to music or coloring a page in a coloring book can be beneficial by improving your mood and relieving stress. As an added bonus, studies have also found that creativity and creative exploits help to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s later in life. 

8. Establish a work/life balance.

Most of us inevitably take work home with us – we check our work emails from our cellphones or respond to calls or texts from co-workers asking for help without even thinking about it. Unfortunately, that workaholic nature can be detrimental to your mental health. Make it a point to leave work at work. Turn off your work email notifications when you walk out of the office at night. Turn off your phone, if that is an option for you. Stop thinking about work when you leave for the day.

9. Make a change.

In the words of the late entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn, “If you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree.”  When it comes right down to it, there are plenty of things you can do to improve your mental health at work, but if too many pieces of your job have negative effects on you, it will wear you down. If that becomes the case, it may be time for a change. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic change. Try something smaller at first, like changing your shift or your co-workers or your boss. If that doesn’t work, you always have the option to change your whole career. 

How workplaces can create a mentally healthier workplace

Workplaces can take simple measures in order to create mentally healthier safe spaces for their employees. Here's a list of ways that workplaces can make small changes:

  • Have an open-door policy, so employees feel comfortable opening up about their questions and concerns.
  • Promote diversity so that all employees feel accepted, valued and respected at work.
  • Encourage the use of paid time off so that employees get a break.
  • Respect work/life balance by allowing employees to take time off when they need to and work flexible hours when necessary.
  • Motivate employees with incentives like bonuses, for example.
  • Offer self-care benefits like discounted gym memberships, for example.
  • Support working parents in the workplace by offering paid parental leave for new parents and respecting the responsibilities of existing parents.

Don’t neglect your mental health in favor of a job or a career. You and your mental health are more important than any job. Try a few of the tricks we’ve mentioned above and let us know how they turn out. Did we miss any of your favorite tricks for putting your mental health first at work? We’d love to hear them!

Mental health is important. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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