There’s a fine line between stress at work and being burnt out. So preserving your mental health at the workplace is vital, as an unhealthy mental state has the potential to pervade all aspects of your life.
Thursday 10 October marks the 27th annual World Mental Health Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of global mental health education and advocating against social stigma.
Related story: How to tell your boss you need a mental health day
But if you still find it difficult to speak up about personal struggles at work, there are steps you can take to preserve your mental health while you make a living.
According to the experts, here’s how to take care of your mental wellbeing at work:
1. Keep work at work
While you’re at work, work. But when you’re not, switch off – properly.
This means a number of things, according to Heads Up, a platform developed by Beyond Blue and supported by the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance: avoid working overtime; schedule meetings during core work hours; and not take work home.
Of course, some exceptional circumstances and events mean you’ll have to put in some extra hours sometimes.
“It’s when long hours becomes the norm rather than the exception that it can negatively impact our health,” said the Heads Up website.
Try not to take work home, either – and when you do, try to ensure it’s the exception, not the rule.
“By ensuring our work doesn’t come home with us we can pay full attention to those who are waiting for us at home and get the downtime we need for a healthy work-life balance.”
If you work for an hour or more before going to bed, you’ll wind up wide awake just when you want a good night’s rest which may negatively impact your sleep, affect your energy levels the following day, and subsequently your general well-being.
2. Take breaks
This means taking your breaks during your day-to-day routine at work as well as ensuring you take your annual leave to have a proper holiday from work.
Leaving your desk to get some fresh air will actually make you more productive, according to Heads Up.
“However, being busy all the time will lead to burnout and reduced productivity. Research highlights that taking breaks, both physical and mental, can boost our productivity.”
Heads Up advises leaving the office in your lunch break, exercising, and taking time out for an afternoon tea break.
3. Stick to a healthy lifestyle
Make sure you don’t go wrong with the basics: meditation app Headspace advises eating well, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and not overdoing the alcohol or drugs (or avoiding it altogether).
All of this will help keep you calm, focused, improve your sleep and productivity – and boost your emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.
4. Use your Employee Assistance Program
Many workplaces may offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to help employees with any personal or work-related issues that impact their work performance or wellbeing.
Find out if this service is available to you, and what services they provide – and make the most of it, according to Heads Up.
5. Keep the fun in your life
Headspace offers the following piece of advice: remember to do what you love to give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment in your life and stay connected with others.
“If you feel like you might be spending too much time online, some of these things, such as drawing or playing the guitar might just be for fun, but other things like work or study can give you new skills and might help to give you meaning and create balance.”
5. Learn skills to arm yourself for rough patches
There are actions you can take to help navigate your way out of a period of difficult thoughts and feelings, according to Headspace.
“Things like meditation, taking a digital detox, listening to music, spending time outdoors or writing things down are just a few ways that can help you handle challenging times.”
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