Living with mental health; day in day out can take a tole. Sometimes it feels like we are two separate people and we have to put on a front; this is especially true at work.
Although progress of mental health awareness at the workplace is becoming increasingly more common, there is still very much a stigma attached to it and is often referred to as a simple case of the ‘’Monday blues’’. These mis-informed and idiotic references however frustrating, doesn’t stop that stomach-churning mix of emotions and expectations to keep on going and battling through the work day. Most people don’t see the moments where you have to force yourself out of bed and brush your teeth let alone eat breakfast, only for a commute to last two hours and when you do finally arrive into work your desk is a mess and you have a 100 emails to answer…
We have compiled our top ten tips on how to manage and make life a little bit easier at work when you suffer with mental health;
1. Keep a record
It’s important to track progress and for the majority of the time in our lives we keep to-do or grocery lists but why don’t we do this for our mind and accomplishments? Make a promise to yourself to start writing down how your day went, how you felt and any achievements big or small down in a notebook or diary. You managed to get out of bed, you attended that meeting even though you had a panic attack just before it (well done) – remember to write it down. It doesn’t have to take long to write these down – five minutes tops and you can even just bullet point, but no matter what keeping a record of your days will make a difference especially when you can look back in a months time and see how far you have come.
In the workplace; writing a to-do list has been proven to help us sort tasks that need priority and allows us to be more in control, this in particular is very important when it comes to mental health. It can be all too easy to slip into a negative pattern especially at work, so we suggest to apply this writing method to how you feel at work. Write down how you felt about your work day, was there any members of staff who were nice to you, what did your workload look like? If you jot down this everyday not only does this accumulate to keeping track of your workflow, it also provides you grounds and highlights your workplace performance which if you can document and present at your next performance meeting – it may even get you a promotion.
However it has been reported and I bet we have all experienced at some point that a to-do list can be a double edged sword and leaves us feeling more anxious and stressed. So a great tip, is to write down every single task you need to get done that day and take it to your manager and ask them to prioritise what they want done first. Let them decide which is important.
2. Have a comforter
It’s important to feel comfortable at work especially if you are experiencing a bad day with your mental health so we suggest a comforter, something that is close by to you – just to help you centre yourself. A comforter can come in many forms it could be a plush or an image on your desktop screen or phone. It could even be a plant or a favourite quote. Keep it on your desk or in one of your desk drawers or if you don’t feel comfortable having it there and just need a little time away, then we suggest finding an area to go or it could mean taking five minutes out to make yourself a coffee in your favourite mug. If you feel confident enough, why not approach your boss and suggest an area to be created for all staff if they need a little time out and start and raise awareness about mental health in your workplace. You never know, this could help people you never knew struggled with mental health.
Finding someone you trust with your professional and personal life has been proven to significantly help with anxiety and depression as well as being a tool to cope with life’s curveballs. A true and great saying is ‘’a problem shared, is a problem halved’’. Talking with a mentor is a great resource especially to plan your work flow and allows you an opportunity to voice any concerns in the workplace.
4. Lunch Break
Sometimes we barely recognise lunch time has rolled around and with a staggering eight out of ten employees still choosing to eat and work at their desks, well we really don’t like this statistic, so we want to encourage you to start taking your lunch outside. Make a conscious effort to bring your own lunch into work, not only will you avoid the lunchtime crowds, it will save you time and stress in the long-run, plus help with your budget which is always a positive. Take the time to look around, bask in the sun, look up at the sky, get your breathing in control and slowly chew your food. Avoid your phone and instead start a conversation with someone – you never know where it could lead. If the weather is not on your side that day why not switch it up a bit and go to the canteen at work – make an effort to approach a new group or sit in a different spot. If you find the majority of your colleagues are eating at their desks why not encourage everyone to sit together or at least once a week arrange to all have lunch out of the office and book a table at a local restaurant?
Taking control of our time is no easy task, when in a perfect world it should be one of the simplest things to do but we all know this can feel like the hardest when suffering with mental health. We think inwards all the time, we dwell and punish ourselves with negative talk and guilts of the past or even something we did last week. If we talked to people like the way we do internally to ourselves we wouldn’t have any friends, so the next time you start to think bad things about yourself or worry about how much you have to do at work that day, just think of your commute as an opportunity to do whatever you want. We know that commuting to work is stressful yet whether you walk, bike, car or tube it, we suggest enjoying your time by closing off any thoughts you have for the day ahead and just enjoying the time you have before work. Easier said than done right? Yet these simple steps can and will ultimately transform you over time and when you eventually get into work you will be more prepared.
So why not listen to your favourite podcast, music, take the time to mediate, play a game, watch some Netflix or simply look out the window – you would be surprised how often this goes a miss – our brains just go into autopilot.
6. Ask for help
We may not want it or don’t want to be a burden to anyone but sometimes we need to admit we need help – so ask for it. When you are ready to take that step make sure to confide in a trusted friend, colleague or healthcare professional. For more guidance make sure to visit Mind.
7. Acceptance / Voice
We can’t always plan what happens to us and others in life but we can control how we react to it. Practise acceptance and forgiveness at home and at the workplace. It’s all too easy to be upset about a comment a colleague made to you, yet they may not know how deeply it effected you. Talk to them and we are positive that 90% of the time they will not have realised what they said and will be very apologetic.
We may not like it yet it has been proven time and time again that exercise is one of the best forms of mediative and helps to alleviate anxiety and depression. So treat yourself to some new workout gear and encourage after work exercise clubs or fun workplace sport days.
9. Know your rights
The topic of mental health in the workplace is still very much a taboo subject yet knowing your rights at work when you have a mental illness is paramount. If you are experiencing unjust and unfair treatment at work make sure to keep written evidence of these experiences with detailed times, dates and what was said and who was involved. Being subjected to dismissal or unfair demands for taking a day off for mental health or booking an appointment with your GP should be granted by your employer, so we highly recommend reading and being informed of your rights. Here is a great resource to keep up-to-date with the law, so please visit Time to Change.
10. The job itself
Some people say that a job is whatever you make it, yet it can be the case of a job is a job. Or it’s a job I used to love but now I am going through a rough patch and it’s not what it used to be… If you are feeling any of these things just note you are not alone. There are many resources out there that can help and offer advice on your career and especially workplace rights; however assessing how you really feel about your workplace or career is something that needs a check in at least every six months. Like a doctors or dental appointment honouring and respecting yourself when it comes to your job or career is important. You need to feel comfortable at your workplace and when suffering from mental health your job can be either be the one thing that distracts or helps with your mental health or it can be the complete opposite and feels like a battle. Ensure you take some time to think about what you want in your job and whether you can lead within it whilst going through this period of mental health.
We hope some of these tips where helpful and we encourage you to share your own helpful tips and experiences with your own mental health stories within the workplace and feel free to share this article with anyone you think would benefit from it.
We are here for you.