For most of us, the workplace is where we spend the majority of our lives, so we all know that being miserable at work can be corrosive and a detriment to our mental health and wellbeing. Our work is how we make an income, where we meet the most people, and where we try to thrive professionally, it is therefore vital that we prioritise our mental wellbeing in these environments.
With the pandemic still not quite behind us, it’s been another unpredictable and difficult year for many of us. Whether we’ve started returning to the office or confirming and agreeing to our working from home schedules, it’s more important now than ever to take care of our minds and not let things get on top of us. Here are 5 simple, quick things we can do every day at work to look after our mental health.
1. Get the most out of your lunch break
Sometimes your days at work feel never-ending. The last thing you want to do when you have a million tasks on your mind is take an hour lunch break to go for a walk or sit at a park and read a book. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Even if it’s a 15-minute break from your desk to walk to a quiet area and eat peacefully or taking half-an-hour to go for a quick walk with a colleague or sitting down to eat with them in a green space, reclaiming your lunch break is an effective way of replenishing your mind. Rather than rushing through your food at your desk, try switching off work for a few minutes and taking a real break, and you’ll find yourself going back to your desk more refreshed and productive, ready to take on any afternoon challenges.
2. Enjoy your commute
With packed, humid trains, cramped buses, and time wasted sitting in traffic, the work commute can feel as stressful and time-consuming as a bad day at work. But we can still use our commute to work as time to nurture our mental health. Just because you’re travelling to work, it doesn’t mean you have to be in work mode yet. Studies have shown that watching something funny alleviates any anxiety you may have around that work presentation or busy office meeting, and who doesn’t want to feel calm and confident during a daunting task? So listen to some of your favourite uplifting music, play a game or watch a show you enjoy on your phone and think about what you are most looking forward to.
3. Ask for help
You are just one person, so if you are feeling overwhelmed, reaching out to somebody at work can really take things off your plate. Even if it’s just venting to a colleague who is going through the same thing, simply getting things off your chest can do wonders for your wellbeing. If you feel like you really need extra support, speak to your manager. After all, they are there to manage and support you! Part of their job is making sure you are in the best position to get your job done, and you can’t do this if you’re stressed out and unhappy. If you feel like you can’t talk to your seniors, reach out to Human Resources, or people at your workplace who deal with personnel.
4. Asking for changes
In life, there are some things we think have no choice and have to accept, even if it hurts our mental health. When you rely on a job to feed your family, it might not be easy to walk away. You might not be able to walk away but there might be smaller things you can do that are within your control that will make you feel better and help alleviate some of that mentals stress. For example there are small changes you can ask your employer for that will make things a lot easier to deal with, that will make your work more effective and your mind a lot happier. For example, working by a window to increase your serotonin and ward off those seasonal blues; communicating by email and using your voicemail more if the thought of speaking to people makes you anxious, or requesting a quieter work area so you can concentrate. The type of changes you request will depend on the type of work that you do, but think of small ways that the day can be a little easier to get through, and you’ll see a wonder of a difference.
5. Find out what your employer has in place for mental health support
According to Mind, 60% of employees say they’d feel more motivated and more likely to recommend their organisation as a good workplace if their employer took action to support mental wellbeing. This could be support lines, offering a mentor that you can confide in, or holding events that allow you to meet with and connect to people in your organisation. Find out what your employer offers – these days every modern workplace has mental wellbeing support in place. There are so many helpful services and resources out there that we aren’t even aware exist. So enquire at your workplace, and start getting involved in some of the programs designed to make you feel good at work.
As we start rounding up the year and looking forward to the next, it’s time you start getting into the practise of prioritising your wellbeing at all aspects of your life.
It may feel impossible to try all these tips, especially as our work lives post-lockdown pick up, but implementing just one of these while at your desk or on a break will do wonders for your mental health. Which tip will you try? Comment below.