How You Can Boost Your Mental Health at Work
We spend a large part of our lives working, and how we feel often affects how we do at work. Here is a list of small steps you can take to help your mental well being in the long run.
1. Open up
Opening up and talking about your feelings can be really hard, especially at work. You and your colleagues don’t have to be best friends, but you can find a support structure at work. And if the causes of your stress are work-related, you will be surprised to find the similarity in what you and your colleagues are going through.
If you don’t feel able to talk about feelings at work, make sure there’s someone you can discuss work pressures with — partners, friends and family can all be a sounding board.
2. Keep it moving
Desk jobs can be detrimental to your mental health. Long hours of relative inactivity can make you feel gloomy, lethargic and extremely stressed. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and look and feel better.
Exercising doesn’t just mean doing sport or going to the gym. Experts say that most people should do about 30 minutes’ exercise at least five days a week. Try to make physical activity that you enjoy a part of your day.
You can take walks in the morning or post lunch, cycle to work, schedule a swim session in the evening or spend some time doing any physical activity of your choice.
3. What (and how) you eat matters
Eating is often neglected in the race for deadlines. A good diet benefits both your physical and mental health. Try to take out some time for a break from work to eat. Disconnect and focus on anything else- a small conversation, a change of view, a post-lunch walk for a few minutes while and immediately after you eat your lunch.
Another thing to be mindful of is what is on your plate. Generally, cutting out (or reducing) caffeine, refined sugar and processed foods from your diet in exchange for fruits, nuts and other natural snacks will give you more sustained energy through the day.
Be aware that some people find public eating at work very stressful because of past or current eating disorders — so if someone doesn’t want to come to work dinners, or makes different food choices in the office, don’t pass comment or put pressure on them to join in.
4. Drink Sensibly
Most often, we don’t drink at work anyway. Drinking is an activity usually delegated to the weekend or the end of workdays, especially the long ones. But if you are not mindful of how much and how often you are drinking, it can have a serious impact on your physical and mental health.
Drinking regularly and heavily can make you feel isolated, burnt out, hungover and have the opposite effect of the social activity it can be. Alcohol is a depressant. Choose other activities to socialize with your friends, and relegate drinking to special occasions.
5. Develop a hobby
Finding something to do that you love and can get lost in, does wonders for your mental health. Enjoying yourself can help beat stress. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you’re good at it, and achieving something boosts your self-esteem.
Concentrating on a hobby, like gardening or doing crosswords, can help you forget your worries for a while and can change your mood. It’s OK to be good at your job — when you feel stressed, it can be easy to forget your talents, or fall foul of imposter syndrome (where you feel like a fraud, or that you don’t deserve your successes).
If possible, you should plan your workload to include tasks you know you are good at, so as to ‘sandwich’ things you know will be harder or more stressful. At work, you may have a hobby you’d like to share or join in with colleagues on — a work cycling club, book group or crafting group can be a great way to share a skill with others.
6. Ask for help
It is easy to feel overwhelmed when you think you have to do everything by yourself. Trust me, there is no shame in asking for help. When you are overloaded with work and deadlines you can’t possibly keep, it’s better to have an honest conversation with your boss about delegating some of it, rather than carrying on stressed and doing work of a lower quality than you would have wanted.
Similarly, approaching a doctor to help with stress, anxiety or other negative emotions you may be feeling is a good thing. Recognizing that you are burdened with things you are not able to cope with and reaching out for help can prevent your problems from getting worse.
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