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Looking after your mental health in the workplace

14/05/2019
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The 13th-19th May 2019 is Mental Health Awareness Week, where organisations and individuals across the country are pointing the spotlight on the often invisible factors that can affect our daily wellbeing.

For Mental Health Week 2019, we're encouraging people to improve their own mental health while at work
(Image via Pixabay)

One in four people are affected by mental health problems, from anxiety to depression, stress, body image issues and more.

Just like physical fitness, mental health can be improved by setting goals and working at it. But in a modern, fast-paced, work-filled life, one of the hardest parts can be finding the time to work on your own self-care.

When you’re spending a significant portion of your time in the workplace, it can be easy to neglect your mental health self-care. To lose yourself in your daily tasks, to ignore the effects on your mood or general wellbeing and to fall into bad habits.

So how do you ensure that you’re doing enough to look after your own mental health while at work? Here are a few tips:

Find someone you're comfortable talking to - whether it's a colleague or a manager - and set aside some time to catch up
(Image via Pixabay)

1. Find someone who you can talk to

The most important thing for maintaining your mental health is to talk about it. It’s also the hardest thing.

Find someone in your workplace who you are comfortable talking to. Whether it’s a colleague who you can spend some time with on a lunch break, or a supervisor/manager who you can set aside some time with to talk about how you’re getting on. Taking that initial step to open up and talk about how you feel can be scary, but you’ll be surprised how many people will respond with support or by sharing their own experiences with you. 

The more active you are, the better it is for your mental health - even something as simple as taking a walk at lunchtime will improve your mood and reduce stress and anxiety
(Image via Pixabay)

2. Keep active

Mental health is intrinsically connected to physical wellbeing. Anyone whose previously active lifestyle has been cut short by injury or illness will tell you what a dramatic effect it has on their mood. 

And it works the other way. If you’re used to not getting a lot of exercise - for example, if you work at a desk all day - then you might just consider this your “normal”. But once you start taking the time to engage in a physical activity, you’ll soon see the benefits on your mood and mental wellbeing.

It doesn’t have to be intensive exercise. Experts say that most people should do about 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week. But every little bit will make a difference. Take a walk at lunchtime, sign up for a fitness class after work or even just start taking the stairs instead of the lift in your office will boost your body and your mind.

Healthy food promotes a healthy brain so stock up on fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts to snack on at work
(Image via Pixabay)

3. Eat well

This is another one that you may have thought would only affect your physical health, not your mental health. But getting the right balance of nutrients has just the same effect on your stress levels, mood and overall mental wellbeing.

It’s also, unfortunately, another factor that is made harder by the modern workday. How often do you grab something quick and easy to eat at your desk - or even neglect meals entirely to focus on work. How often do you snack on unhealthy treats, relying on a sugar and caffeine rush to give you the energy to get through the day?

If you can, prepare a healthy meal the night before that you can bring in for lunch. Switch unhealthy snacks for things like fruit and nuts. And try cutting down on sugar and caffeine if you are finding yourself feeling stressed or down.

Also important - stay hydrated. Keep a bottle of water with you throughout the day and make sure you’re drinking plenty.

Take some time for yourself at work - you can't stay focused for hours
(Image via Pixabay)

4. Take a break

No matter how busy you are at work, it’s important to remember that no-one can stay focused for an entire workday. Breaks are essential for resetting, refuelling and de-stressing.

Have you ever had a day where it feels like you have hundreds of tasks piling up, only to take five minutes away from the job and come back to it realising that everything suddenly seems a lot more manageable? Getting too deep into your work can have that effect, with the unfortunate result that when you most need a break is when you most feel you can’t take one.

Remember that and when you start feeling stressed, move away from your task. Make a cup of tea, get some fresh air. Even if it’s as simple as moving on to an easier task. Do something that will give your mind a break so you can come back to the job feeling fresher, clearer and calmer.

The best thing you can do for your own mental health is to help someone else with theirs
(Image via Pixabay)

5. Support someone else

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, depressed or struggling with any other mental health issue, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone.

If one in four people are dealing with mental health problems then statistically there is always someone else in your workplace struggling to cope. One of the best things you can do for yourself as well as for them is to make yourself available.

Talk to people about your experiences and encourage them to open up to you. Not only will you be providing them with someone to talk to, but you can begin to build a relationship where you can help each other.

The Mental Health Foundation is a great place to learn important skills for maintaining your own mental health, in and out of work
(Image via Mental Health Foundation)

The most important thing for maintaining mental health is the one thing that has historically been ignored - talking about it. It’s time for that to change.

Find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week and more steps you can take to improve your own wellbeing with the Mental Health Foundation.

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