Working….the average Canadian does it full time. Between preparing for, commuting to, and being at our jobs, we spend 42% of our waking hours working on….work!
The rewards of being employed are fairly obvious and, for most, necessary to live. We wouldn’t get far without our wages and benefits but we also enjoy and gain from the social aspect and feelings of accomplishment and pride that come with a job well done and goals achieved.
The stresses are also evident. Commuting alone is a strain on a lot of workers. In many cities across Canada, there’s been a trend toward rising house prices so we’ve seen large portions of the populations of those cities relocating to suburban settings that are further afield thereby increasing commutes. The average Canadian spends 60 minutes commuting 5 days a week. Long commutes by car can affect a person’s health, safety, and personal finances. With long commutes, too, comes traffic, higher levels of stress, and less time for other activities.
Some other common pressures associated with being employed are workload, job insecurity, and conflicts with co-workers or bosses. Symptoms include a drop in work performance, depression, anxiety, and sleeping difficulties.
Considering the above, employees and employers alike must be concentrating on, nurturing, and investing in creating optimal workplace mental health standards.
Below are some ideas to help improve your mental health in the workplace.
Make time for breaks
When you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it can be tempting to just power through and try to get as much work done as possible. However, this can end up making you less productive.
Taking regular breaks – even if it’s just for a few minutes – can help you clear your head, recharge your batteries and come back to your work with fresh energy. And, if you’re working on a project that’s proving to be especially challenging, taking a break can give you the time and perspective you need to come up with a new solution.
So, next time you’re feeling frazzled, step away from your work for a bit – you may find that it helps you get more done.
If you can, try to get up and move around every 20 minutes or so. Even just a few minutes of moving will help to get your blood flowing and improve your energy levels. Try the “Snack on Exercise” approach as seen in Lauren Parsons’ TEDtalk. If you have a lunch break, use it to stretch, go for a walk or run. Getting some fresh air and movement will help you to feel refreshed and recharged for the afternoon. If you have a job that requires you to sit at a desk all day, see if you can set up a standing desk, or take calls while walking around. Block time in your schedule as you would any task or meeting to keep yourself accountable and reaffirm its importance.
There is increasing scientific evidence that what you eat can have a big impact on your mental health. Food is fuel, after all, so eating healthy and balanced meals will help give you the energy you need to get through the day. When you’re eating healthy foods, your body gets the fibre, vitamins, and minerals it needs. All of these work together to keep you mentally sharp and focused and don’t forget to consume adequate levels of protein for energy. It is important to try to avoid sugary snacks and caffeine-laden drinks during the day as they can lead to an afternoon slump in not just energy but mood as well.
Connect with others
When you spend most of your week with the same people, you’re bound to form bonds with some of them. It’s great to have co-workers who support your goals and inspire you and for optimal mental health, it is important to reach out and connect with others. Talking to a colleague, joining a professional organization, or attending networking events are great ways to connect. And while not setting boundaries at work can cause tension, miscommunication, and distractions, building appropriate professional relationships with others can help reduce stress and improve overall mental health.
Seek professional help
If you’re struggling with your mental health stemming from the demands of your job, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Work problems can be very complex and difficult to resolve on your own and having a neutral third party to share these issues can take a lot of pressure off. Most companies have extended benefits offering some sort of counseling and psychological support. There are also public health resources that can be leveraged to help manage workplace anxiety and stress. It is more common than not to experience some level of stress at work and it is not something that you should avoid sharing and working through with a trusted professional.
The benefits of focusing on workplace mental health for employees and employers alike are almost too many to count. From mitigating accidents, errors, and decreased productivity to preventing absenteeism, aggression, and sadly even sometimes violence, a strategy is key. We spend so much of our time and mental effort in our places of work every week that having tools to help us navigate the stresses and demands can do nothing but increase our chances of success and optimal health.