How Do You Deal With Mental Health At Work?

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How do you deal with mental health at work

Whilst mental health in the workplace has always been a topic worth discussing, perhaps now, more than ever the question hangs in the air… How do you deal with mental health at work?

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of work and mental health? It has been reported that at least one in six workers are currently experiencing mental health problems, including but not limited to anxiety and depression. In order to really understand how to tackle this, we need to understand things in their simplest form. What is ‘mental health’?


What is Mental Health?

Mental health isn’t about walking around happy 247, it is more about a realistic appraisal of your ability to cope with what life throws at you. Whilst good mental health may look like a smile on a face, it encompasses much more. Crying can also be a sign of good mental health or wellbeing if it is appropriate. A sad situation warrants tears. Our perceptions of ourselves and the world around us contribute largely to our mental wellbeing. These perceptions and appraisals can fluctuate throughout various stages in life. Whilst circumstances can affect our mental state, such as the loss of a loved one, job loss, conflict at work, it can also occur without the clear appearance of a trigger.

Twenty-twenty was a year that we could not have predicted, and are still struggling to make sense of. People lost loved ones, suffered from loneliness, lost jobs and experienced difficult thoughts and feelings having more time to spend inside their own head. For some, getting back into work or even continuing in existing jobs can prove to be a challenge. Whether you are going into work or working from home, there are things that can help make the work day that bit better. Let’s look at ways that we can deal with mental health at work.


What can be done?

It is easy to list an array of more obvious suggestions such as; keep active, talk to colleagues, sign off or leave work on time, but harder to put them into practice. Instead, let’s discuss the less obvious and less talked about things that we can do to deal with mental health at work.


1. Recognise what feels uncomfortable and sit mindfully with it.

Whilst this may sound a little counterproductive, it is important. Being self-aware means that we can recognise the things that we are thinking and feeling. It is important not to run from these things as this fosters avoidance of negative emotions, which are a part of being human. When we allow ourselves the compassion of sitting with uncomfortable feelings, we allow ourselves to be human and to realise that we can cope even though things feel bad. If you don’t try to avoid hard feelings, you resist them less as they pass. You then have proof that difficult doesn’t last forever and you can cope with the duration.

Mindfulness is a meditation practice which involves focused attention on the present moment. It does not aim to change what is happening in that moment, but rather to experience it without judgement. The breath offers an anchor to bring you back into the present moment as our busy brains often wonder. Try to focus on your inhale and exhale without altering it. Your body breathes without instruction. Notice the tension in your body without trying to melt it away. Focus on the breath. Notice the thoughts ‘I have so much to do today’, but don’t engage with them or judge them. In this moment, you have nothing to do for a few minutes, just focus on your anchor. Watch the thoughts pass like watching traffic.

Practicing mindfulness at work as well as outside of work can help to reduce stress. You don’t need to sit cross legged in a quiet place to do it either. Try mindfully making yourself a coffee. The process can be your anchor rather than your breath. Listen to the bubbling of the kettle, watch the steam leave the spout. Listen to the sound as you pour the water, the smell that fills your nose. The anticipation of the first sip.


2. Take a mini break.

Even if you have a very busy job and feel that you do not have time for a proper break, find time for one or multiple mini breaks. Some deep breathing whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, or a moment outside to take in fresh air can make all the difference. Life at work can feel very fast paced, but even small breaks help to calm your mind and body and get you through the day. Whilst mindfulness focuses your attention on an anchor, a break can be unfocused and a chance to let go. Don’t underestimate the power of a pause!


3. Learn something new.

Learning at work helps with self-development and self-confidence and has been found to help with depression. If there is an educational training event on, try to take part. If there isn’t, try taking a moment to briefly research something of interest online or in a book. This small act of trying to learn something new stimulates your mind and doesn’t always take up much time!


4. Challenge your thoughts.

Ever had a thought along the lines of ‘Anne didn’t say good morning to me today, maybe she doesn’t like me.’ These types of thoughts can lead to anxiety. Recognise these sorts of thoughts and don’t be afraid to challenge them. There are a number of reasons why our brains can sometimes jump to conclusions, what is more important is how we react when they do.

Maybe Anne didn’t get much sleep the night before and wasn’t thinking or didn’t recognise you. Maybe Anne was waiting for you to say good morning instead because she was battling her own anxious thoughts. Is it helpful to think that Anne acted on purpose, considering I’d like to be less anxious at work? Challenging thoughts is a skill that can be learned in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This can be helpful to research yourself, or reach out to your GP or therapists in your area to help you better deal with your problems.


5. Start each day like it’s the first of the year.

Have you noticed that every year, New Years is a time full of hope and promise of new beginnings? It doesn’t have to be reserved for New Years. Much like diets, with lots of us saying ‘I’ll start on Monday’, we can end up postponing our own progress. There is no perfect day to start, so why not today? If you had a bad day at work on Tuesday, try to see Wednesday as a fresh start. If anxiety got the best of you yesterday, or you felt trapped in your now, home office and didn’t go out for some air, today you can choose to do different.


6. Apologise.

Talking of fresh starts, how awkward is it when colleagues have an argument and the after tension lasts for days? We are human. We may have arguments. Work is somewhere that lots of people spend a large portion of their life and that’s why it’s important to apologise and let go. Everyone gets stressed from time to time and sometimes that gets the better of us and we say things we don’t mean or behave out of character. We are human, that’s okay. Be brave enough to recognise when you may have been in the wrong, and apologise. This can ease tensions and actually bring you closer together.

It can be hard to deal with mental health in general, let alone in the workplace, somewhere where you have a professional image to maintain. The key things to remember are; firstly, you are human and that means you’ll make mistakes and secondly, you are not alone.

Share this blog post with someone who might find it helpful and let’s keep speaking up about mental health.



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