Having to balance your personal life and home life while still having to perform optimally every day at work can be extremely taxing on your mental health, even if you love your job. A lot of the time, we tend to pay little attention to this impact and it can have devastating long-term effects on our overall wellbeing.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises that work can actually be good for your mental health but that a negative working environment can lead to physical and health problems.
A study looking at workplace wellness in America found that a lack of praise, lack of recognition, lack of respect and no room for growth were some of the key reasons that people experienced workplace unhappiness.
WHO lists some of the most common risk factors for strained mental health at work:
- Inadequate health and safety policies
- Poor communication and management practices
- Limited participation in decision-making or low control over one’s area of work
- Low levels of support for employees
- Inflexible working hours
- Unclear tasks or organizational objectives
You may be unhappy at work, but you might not always have the option to type out a hot resignation letter and leave. It’s at this point that it becomes important to find tools and strategies that can help you preserve and protect your mental health in the work environment.
Here are some of the ways that you can give yourself some peace of mind:
An unhealthy working environment often induces strong feelings of anxiety, and practicing mindfulness has been shown to reduce these symptoms. At its very core, mindfulness is about deliberately focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgement.
An easy way to do this at the office is to quickly find a quiet area (it could even be a bathroom cubicle) and to focus on your natural breathing and repeat a mantra that works for you. While you do this – let whatever thoughts come in and out of your mind to do just that without any judgement.
2/ Leave on time
In whatever industry you work in, there are certain days where you have to meet urgent deadlines. On these days, it’s okay to put in a bit more work and to stay longer at work. It becomes unhealthy when every day is urgent and the exception becomes the norm.
It’s important to create healthy boundaries at work and the most important of these is leaving work on time. This will help reduce stress and is an aid in balancing your social, personal and home life.
3/ Speak up
If you have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder that could, in any way, impact your work – it’s important to be honest about this so that your manager also understands your perspective and needs.
“Organisations have a responsibility to support individuals with mental disorders in either continuing or returning to work,” WHO writes.
“In particular, flexible hours, job-redesign, addressing negative workplace dynamics, and supportive and confidential communication with management can help people with mental disorders continue to or return to work.”
Struggling in silence will only get worse and you’ll soon feel like you’re drowning. It’s better to have everything on the table so that you’re better managed and understood.
4/ Unwind to and from work
Your commute to and from work is the perfect opportunity to engage in a feel-good exercise. Listening to current affairs or talk radio can sometimes be mood-dampener.
If you don’t have the best work situation, try to use your commute as your pick-me-up time. You can do this by listening to inspiring and uplifting podcasts or playing and jamming to some of your favourite tunes. Start and end the workday on a high.
Numerous studies have examined the link between exercise and workplace productivity and a boosted mood. One study conducted by the University of Bristol in the UK found that on the days that employees worked out, they scored 21% higher for concentration, 22% higher for finishing their work on time and 41% higher for feeling motivated to work.
“The study demonstrated that workday exercise can improve white-collar workers’ mood and self-reported performance on days when they exercise at work over days when they do not,” the study wrote.
“There are clear implications not only for employee wellbeing but also for competitive advantage and motivation by increasing opportunities for exercising at work.”
6/ Take full advantage of your lunch breaks
Instead of eating at your desk while you work, always remind yourself that your lunch break is YOURS. It’s your time to step outside of the office and take a walk, drive to the mall and get yourself a smoothie or just sit outside in the sun and eat your lunch in peace. Taking some time away from your work desk and computer can be a great way to re-energise and burn off some of the stresses from the first half of the day.