Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental Health Awareness Week is taking place from 10-16 May 2021, hosted by the Mental Health Foundation. To celebrate this week, we have put together the below blog to help you understand how to manage your own mental health within the workplace. We will also discuss how you can help colleagues to feel supported.

What is mental health?

Before we start, we thought it useful to clarify that mental health is the way we think, the way we feel and our ability to deal with the ups and downs of day to day life. Everyone has mental health, some days our mental health will be good allowing us to have a strong sense of purpose and direction. 

On other days, our mental health won’t be as good and simple tasks that are fine on a “good day” may feel strenuous or draining. Your mental health will change based on the external circumstances such as pressures at work or home. It is important to have a supportive workplace as well as having your own techniques to sustain positive mental health.

If we want to work on our physical health, we all know what to do - activities like going to the gym, playing our favourite sport or going for a run. However, keeping on top of our mental health can be a little more challenging as there isn’t a physical place to work on our mental health, it is something we have to work out and manage internally.

How can we improve our own mental health?

There are lots of things you can do to improve and sustain positive mental health. Talking about your feelings is really important, this can be with a family member, friend or a professional - like a teacher, counsellor or sport coach. The saying goes “a problem shared is a problem halved” and we certainly believe this to be true. 

Your diet, physical activity level and water intake also play an important role in maintaining your mental health. Having a regular sport that you take part in can be really useful to relieve stress and anxiety. Your brain needs a mixture of nutrients to remain healthy so a good, balanced diet is also key. 

Another thing to be mindful of is the use of drugs and alcohol, some people use these as an escapism for fear or loneliness but the effect is only temporary and can negatively affect your mental health. Alcohol or drug use is not a good way to manage difficult feelings. Instead consider speaking to someone, a professional if required.

How can we stay on top of our mental health in the workplace?

When it comes to the workplace, there are a few things you can do to ensure you are safe, supported and able to manage your fluctuating mental health. Firstly, ensure you have someone you feel it is safe to speak to when you’re having a bad day. This may come naturally but if it doesn’t, speak to your manager to see what can be put in place.

It’s also important to be able to take breaks, working time regulations state that we are all entitled to a 20 minute break for every 6 hours of work we complete. On this break, try to get a change of scenery. Positive things you can do during your break are going for a walk, taking your break in another room or giving someone a call to talk about your day.

Having a growth mindset in the workplace is really important, being able to ask for help so you can learn new things is really important. No one in the workplace expects you to know everything so see each day as a learning day and don’t feel afraid to ask questions to help your own growth and development.

Lastly, be yourself. Be open with your colleagues about who you are, what you’re interested in and your values. Trying to be someone else is draining and will have a negative long term effect on your well-being.

How can we support others in the workplace?

Caring for others is really important. Asking someone how they are is important for them, for you and for your relationship. Once you’ve asked, really listen to their answer so that they feel heard. If you feel that their troubles are too big for you to support, either signpost them to a mental health service or someone more senior within the business for support.

Remember that everyone is doing their best. Every day, we are all trying to be the best versions of ourselves, especially when at work. If someone is having a bad day, don’t give them a hard time about it. Support them, listen to them and help them.

You might be wondering how you can help people in the workplace, especially if they are more experienced or older than you. Remember, having more experience doesn’t make people a master at managing their mental health. The help you offer doesn’t have to be radical or life changing. Just offering to cover them for 10 minutes whilst they take a break will help them. Don’t overlook the small things, they will appreciate them.

Here are some mental health services you can use and also signpost others to: Kooth, Mind, Talkspace, Time to Change. If you think things are escalating for yourself or a colleague, the best thing to do is see your GP for support and guidance. They will refer you to mental health services if they feel they are required.

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