With the rise in mental health awareness in recent years and the abundance of self-care tips available to the general public, managing your mental health is more doable than ever. However, while putting yourself first at home can be an easy decision it can be much harder to stand up for your health in a work setting.
According to the CDC, mental illnesses are associated with higher rates of disability and unemployment and negatively impact job performance. A study by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America found that over 50% of employees felt stress and anxiety impacted their workplace performance, relationship with coworkers and peers, and quality of work.
Prioritizing your mental health may feel counterproductive (especially if it means taking a day off or slowing things down) but it will save both you and your employer time and money in the long run.
So how can you take care of your mental health at work? Here are a few ways:
1. Understand What is Normal.
Stress is a very natural emotion that everyone will experience, and not all stress is bad. But when work stress becomes unmanageable, long-term, or overwhelming, it could mean a mental health disorder.
If you know your stress is not connected to an underlying issue but you feel it affecting your job performance, take some time to figure out where the stress is coming from and if there are any changes you can make to manage it. Everyday stress can also be soothed by establishing health boundaries at work, taking time to recharge at home, and even talking to a supervisor if necessary.
If your stress never seems to go away or is making it difficult to focus at work, you may be suffering from a mental health disorder like anxiety or depression. Always talk to a health care professional if you suspect anything unusual about your stress levels. They will be able to help you determine the best way to move forward and will make your life SO much better!
2. Take Advantage of Your Time
If you have some flexibility with your work schedule and can easily take a personal day when needed, get on that girl! Four productive days and one off-day are way better than five unproductive days, right?
If you don’t have the luxury of time off when you need it (I’ve been there and I see you), take advantage of the time you do have. Use your lunch break to go for a walk or call a friend while you eat. Offer to grab coffee for everyone so you can get out of the office for a few minutes. Clock out at 5:00 pm even if your co-worker is punching in overtime. Prioritize what you need, not what you think others expect of you.
3. Understand Your Rights
If you do have a diagnosed mental health condition, you are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. A huge right you can receive here is reasonable accommodation, which can mean anything from more breaks at the office to working from home a few days a week depending on your situation. If you feel yourself seriously struggling at work, talk to HR and see if you can find a better environment for yourself.
4. Add Personal Touches to Your Desk
Most people can’t afford to switch jobs or quit because of mental health issues, unfortunately. But even if you have to be at a job causing you distress, there are ways you can make your environment more welcoming and friendly.
A gray cubicle and empty desk aren’t going to do your mental health any favors. Adding some homey touches won’t magically make your stress disappear but they’ll help a little, which is sometimes the best we can do, right? Some family photos, a cute notepad, or a small plant can make your workplace feel less like a prison and more like home.
Your mental health should be one of the biggest priorities in life. After all, jobs come and go but at the end of the day your health is all you’ve got. If you can’t control your work environment (which most people can’t) take advantage of what you can control. Take care of yourself!