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Looking after your mental health at work

21/07/2020
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In the UK alone up to 70 million work days are lost each year due to absences caused by mental health problems. In the current climate it’s to be expected that many of us are feeling additional anxiety and worry that can impact our wellbeing even more. 



As many countries begin to reopen and return to the workplace, now is a good time to re-evaluate how you manage your mental health at work and what changes you could make to support your wellbeing. Whether you're getting back to your familiar routine, continuing to remote work or seeking something new - it's time to make this a fresh start towards better health and happiness in your career.

Remember that you are not alone and there are many resources available that can help you if you’re struggling. Here are some helpful links from the Mental Health Foundation: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health/getting-help



1. Take time for yourself

When at work many people feel under pressure to put their job before themselves. But not taking regular breaks, not having some time for yourself is only going to be detrimental in the long run - letting that pressure build up until you burn out. 

 It’s important to remember that it’s not selfish to make time for yourself. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time - just 15 minutes is ideal for getting yourself together, resetting and refreshing. Step away from your work station, make a cup of tea, take a walk around the office (if you can do so without disrupting others) - just take a bit of time think about yourself and your needs over your work.



2. Change your scenery

If you’re stuck at a desk or a workstation all day, this can have a negative impact on you. Time can drag, you can feel trapped, your mood may fall low. All of this can be caused by a lack of stimulation - even if your work is challenging, your environment is too static. 

Get out of that environment if and when you can. When you take lunch or have a break in your shift, make sure you don’t spend that time in the same area that you work in. 

Evidence shows us that nature boosts mood so, if you can, try to get outside - even if it’s just a walk around the outside of the building. Exercise as well is closely related to mental health so use this opportunity to get your legs moving and engage your senses with something different than your work. 



3. Talk 

Talking is the key to mental wellbeing. If you are struggling then finding someone to talk to can make all the difference. 

But even if you’re not - even if you feel like everything is just fine - it’s good to have someone to talk to within the workplace. Because the people who understand what you go through every day are the ones who are in there with you. So talk to them. Talk about what frustrates you, talk about what challenges you come across, talk about your goals, talk about your setbacks and talk about what you’re working on every day. Even if things are going well, you can build up that support system so it’s there when you need it. And you can spot when others are struggling just as they may be able to spot when you are struggling - sometimes noticing even before you do. 

Talking helps us solve problems before they even become problems. So make yourself open to others in the workplace and encourage them to open up to you.



4. Remember the good times - and the bad

When you struggle with mental health you’ll become used to hearing that you should just “cheer up” or “be thankful that your situation’s better than [X]”. Which of course only makes you feel worse. 

Instead, try to think about your past experiences. Different things work for different people so try a few thought exercises to learn which ones help you. For some people it’s remembering the good times and knowing that they’ll come again. For others it’s thinking back to other times you’ve struggled and remembering that you came through that before, so you can do again. 

Journaling is an extremely helpful tool in this way. The act of writing down your feelings can help you organise your thoughts and make you feel better in a similar way that talking to others can. But it will also give you a reference to turn to at later points. Write down how you feel now, and later on you can look back on it and see how you came through it afterwards. Build a story that shows you your own strength and teaches you that even when things feel difficult, you can get through them.



5. Find something positive

Another habit to get into at work to help reduce anxiety and maintain your wellbeing is to establish something positive in your day that you can turn to regularly. 

Social media can be its own minefield of issues, but there are plenty of channels dedicated to wellness, positivity and inspiration. Follow them and check on them through the day for a quick shot of positivity in your day. Or focus on yourself - close your eyes and think of something you like about yourself or congratulate yourself on an accomplishment you’ve made today - no matter how small. Be kind to yourself and embrace a positive attitude towards yourself.

And, of course, pay it forward. Be positive to others, congratulate them on any professional or personal achievements. Make an effort to thank them for their work if it helped you. Spread positivity and not only will it help you feel good, it will usually come back. 



Wellness at work is more important than ever at times like these, and this is the perfect opportunity to start setting some new patterns that will help you balance your work life and your mental health. Just remember that you are never alone and asking for help when you need it is the best, most important thing to do.

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