According to researchers with Mental Health America, people in the United States will spend anywhere from a quarter to a third of their lives in the workplace. On an average day, we spend more of our waking hours at work than we do at home or taking time to be with our families. So making sure we’re at the peak of our mental fitness on the job and at home is vital.
Some of our working conditions are out of our control, but there are several things you can do to improve your mental health at work.
Take a break from technology
This works in a couple of ways. Experts recommend that we get up and move away from the computer to help relieve stress. There’s another aspect to this too. Instead of shooting off another email, talk to a colleague in person. Working in isolation can increase mental anxiety. Building relationships increase our feelings of socialization and support.
Ask for help
Along that same line of making sure we walk away from technology now and then to cultivate personal relationships, experts also recommend not always trying to go it alone. In most work environments, employees are not lone wolves. Better results come when we can pool our ideas and resources. So if an on the job problem has you stumped, ask a colleague to help you brainstorm or provide a sounding board for some of your ideas.
Give help to others
Just as it’s a good idea to get help when you need it, providing assistance to other people can have the same positive benefit for your mental outlook. It doesn’t even have to be strictly work-related. You might bring in coffee for your colleagues or merely give a coworker a compliment to help brighten their day. In doing that, you may find it lifts your own mood.
Studies show that regular physical activity can help boost your mood and relieve anxiety. This could be a daily routine such as going to the gym or taking a walk a lunchtime or while you’re on a break. If all else fails, stand up at least once an hour, especially if you’re working at a computer, to give your body and your eyes a break.
Stand Up for Yourself
Something that isn’t necessarily talked about is the ability to stand up for yourself in the workplace. People often generalize it as being mean or rude to one another, but it doesn’t necessarily have to fit this criterion. As long as you’re honest and also remember what brings you joy about your job, it should be easy to communicate. If that’s not the case and there are instances of abuse or anything interrelated, you can always make a workers compensation claim that can further bring out anything in the workplace that is inhibiting you or your coworkers from working in a safe environment.
Whether it’s completing a significant project or simply clearing some of the paperwork from your desk, setting goals—large and small—can help boost your mental health by giving you a sense of accomplishment.
Take a break
These can be long or short. Studies of schoolchildren show that mental fatigue can negatively affect learning. The same applies to adults on the job. Taking a few minutes to give yourself a brain break can improve performance and productivity in the long run. Another option is to make sure you get away from the workplace for lunch if that’s possible. At the very least, get away from your desk and leave your work behind for a few minutes. And then there’s vacation time.
According to the latest statistics from Project: Time Off, 52% of Americans left vacation time unused at the end of 2017. While that number is decreasing, it still shows a tendency among American workers to ignore the genuine need to take time for themselves.
Taking a few minutes before and after work to calm yourself helps you change gears—either to mentally prepare for work or to decompress after.
- It’s okay to say no – It’s not always necessary to take on extra hours and extra work. While it’s not easy to say no to a colleague or a boss, if the demands exceed your ability to deliver, you are better off to answer no and explain your reasons. Along with that same line, try not to take work home. With so many of our waking hours already devoted to work, sacrificing family and personal time to additional work can only increase stress and negatively affect mental health.
- Employee Assistance Programs – Many employers offer workers access to confidential counselling programs. Some may be tied to health insurance coverage but not all. If you find that stress is affecting you at work or home, this may be an option for getting any additional help you need.
According to Mental Health America, mental health problems cost businesses more than 500 billion dollars annually. Taking simple steps to improve your mental health benefits both you and your employer.