5 ways to improve your mental health at work
In 2016, around 20% of US adults reported to having some form of mental illness, and over 70% said they had at least one symptom of stress. Over 60% of Americans are part of the US labor force, and while stress at work can be a trigger for mental illness, the workplace can also be a place where mental health issues can be addressed.
Unfortunately, less than a third of people diagnosed with a mental illness receive the treatment they need. As an employee, if your mental health needs are not met, your work life may suffer. Not taking care of your mental health may lead to:
- Decreased productivity and performance
- Less effective communication with colleagues
- Worsening physical well-being
However, there are many steps you can take to improve your mental health at work.
Take advantage of resources offered
Your workplace may offer a well-being program, which can identify mental health risks and connect you into treatment if needed. The program may also provide support for reducing and managing stress. Be sure you understand both the physical and mental health benefits that your company provides.
Once you know what is offered, take advantage of those services! Try a tool or app, attend a seminar, or enroll in a coaching program if you are eligible.
Connect with your colleagues and supervisor
Fostering relationships with your colleagues is an important way to maintain good mental health at work. If you feel comfortable, you can even share your mental health experiences with others to help reduce stigma around the subject. Additionally, provide support for colleagues and encourage them to seek help if needed. Help normalize the conversation about mental health.
Be honest with your supervisor about your mental health and any accommodations you may need. Don’t cover it up and pretend that you’re not struggling; instead, talk to someone if you’re experiencing mental health issues.
Make your physical health a priority
Your mental health and physical health go hand-in-hand; when one suffers, the other is likely to as well. Maintaining your physical health can help improve your mental health. Make time for physical activity—a little bit every day helps—and aim to get adequate sleep every night. Additionally, be sure to eat balanced, nutritious meals.
Manage your stress
Cultivating habits that help you reduce and cope with stress will also benefit your mental health.
- Stay positive; it’s okay to acknowledge negative feelings and mistakes, but don’t dwell on them
- Take time every day to practice gratitude
- Try meditation or yoga, even for a few minutes at a time
- When you feel stressed, try breathing exercises or other relaxation techniques
- Take control of what you can when it comes to your schedule and availability, and if needed, talk to your supervisor about making changes
Think about the big picture
You may already set work-related goals, but consider setting “well-being goals” for yourself as well. Having goals to work toward may help you keep mental health at the forefront of your mind. Additionally, think beyond the day-to-day tasks of your job. Identify the ways your job adds meaning and purpose to your life (eg, through relationships you’ve grown, services you provide to help others, ideas that have been well-received, etc).
Making your mental health a priority is important to all parts of your life, including your work life. Finding ways to improve your mental health in the workplace will lead to lasting improvements in the workplace and beyond.