May has been recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States since 1949. Yet, only in the last several years has there been a concerted effort to remove the stigma around mental health, and begin treating it like we do with our physical health. Thankfully workplaces are starting to prioritize mental health concerns as part of their wellness programs, especially because of the urgency and return on investment this focus generates for any organization.
Mental health issues cost US businesses between $80 and $100 billion annually, so finding help for employees and their families greatly reduces strains on organizations operating budgets. Mental health challenges such as depression aren’t isolated to individuals. Surveys continue to show that employees struggling with depression decrease the morale of their colleagues.
While it is encouraging that organizations continue to build resources for mental health, as a leader and employee there are steps you can proactively take to strengthen your own mental resilience and health. Protecting and strengthening yourself against the challenges we all face in life and at work has a ripple effect on the rest of your colleagues and teammates.
Here are 5 simple tips you can implement to improve your mental health in the workplace.
Mindfulness is a mental state of being present and fully engaged in the current moment, without judgment or distraction. Starting your day with mindfulness sets a positive tone for the rest of your day, including your workday. When you wake up, it’s important to take a few moments to center yourself and set your intentions for the day ahead. This can be done through meditation, deep breathing, or simply taking a few minutes to enjoy your morning coffee in silence. By starting your day mindfully, you are more likely to approach your work with a clear and focused mindset.
For remote workers, it’s even more crucial to practice mindfulness as work and personal life easily blend. It’s easy to get caught up in work when you’re working from home, and it is challenging to switch off at the end of the day. By incorporating mindfulness practices throughout the day, such as taking regular breaks to stretch, go for a walk, or do some deep breathing exercises, remote workers better manage their stress levels and avoid burnout. It’s important to prioritize self-care and mental wellness when working remotely to ensure that you perform at your best both professionally and personally.
2. Stop Multitasking
One reason many of us feel so much stress and overwhelmed at work is that we are bombarded by multiple priorities and deadlines. Our solution is to multi-task in an attempt to clear the deck and become more efficient. Yet, study after study shows how detrimental multi-tasking is to productivity. It creates psychic stress because your attention is pulled in multiple directions. Even when you attempt to work on one task, all the other priorities pull into your mind. It’s better to prioritize your tasks and focus on one at a time, giving each task your full attention before moving on to the next one.
Setting boundaries is a key component in learning to focus on the task at hand. It’s important to know your limits and communicate them to your colleagues and supervisors. Saying no to additional tasks when you’re already feeling overwhelmed is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of good self-care. Trying to take on too much leads to burnout and long-term negative impacts on your health and well-being. Be mindful of the dangers and stress associated with multitasking and prioritize tasks while setting realistic boundaries.
3. Focus on Your Strengths
It is commonly believed that we should focus on improving our weaknesses to become better individuals. However, studies have shown that working on developing our strengths instead of fixing our weaknesses leads to faster growth, greater happiness, confidence, and reduced stress. Utilizing our strengths allows us to engage in activities that feel natural and enjoyable, leading to a sense of accomplishment.
To achieve personal and professional success, concentrate on strengths. By being more of who we already are, we capitalize on our innate abilities and seek out projects that satisfy us. This approach fosters a positive and fulfilling experience, as working on our strengths feels effortless and enjoyable. Embrace and utilize our strengths to maximize our potential and lead a fulfilling life.
4. Connect with Others
Maintaining positive relationships with colleagues and socializing outside of work significantly benefit your mental health. Consider joining clubs or interest groups to meet new people or finding a mentor or support group to help you navigate work challenges. Seeking support from mental health professionals, employee assistance programs, or trusted colleagues and supervisors also improves your well-being.
Comparing yourself to others leads to low self-esteem and unhappiness. Instead, focus on healthy improvements by measuring yourself against specific goals and concentrating on who you are versus who you aren’t. Talking to someone you trust about your experiences and joining social media groups centered on mental health at work helps you feel less alone. Doing things for others at work, like volunteering or mentoring, also improves your mental health and well-being while benefiting others.
5. Know Yourself & Stressors
Self-awareness is crucial for your mental health and well-being. It is the ability to recognize and understand your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, enabling you to identify and address areas of your life that may be causing stress or anxiety. By being self-aware, you gain a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to make informed decisions and manage difficult situations more effectively. Moreover, self-awareness helps you become more resilient in the face of stress and adversity, as you are better able to recognize and cope with your emotions.
To maintain good mental health, it is also important for you to accept your emotions without judgment. Rather than rejecting or denying feelings of fear, sadness, or shame, accept them and be aware of your emotions. This acceptance will help you stay present in the moment and increase your self-awareness, ultimately contributing to better mental health and resilience against stress. Remember that your emotions are temporary and will not last forever. By accepting them, you better cope with difficult situations and maintain good mental health.
Mental health is a crucial aspect of our lives and especially in the workplace. We must prioritize mental wellness as part of our overall well-being, as it affects not only our personal lives but also our productivity and success at work. By implementing the five tips outlined above, including mindfulness, avoiding multitasking, focusing on strengths, connecting with others, and self-awareness, we develop greater resilience and better manage stress in our work and personal lives.
Remember that improving our mental health is not just a personal responsibility, but also an essential investment in our work environment, colleagues, and overall organizational performance. So, let’s take action and commit to prioritizing our mental health in the workplace.