5 things that will improve your mental health in the workplace
If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you know that we value communication and transparency. After all, we go on about the importance of communication all the time. Not only that, but we’re transparent about how we work and how we look after each other.
This is all well and good. Let’s kick it up a notch though. Let’s talk about…
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Mental health in the workplace!
Okay, so here’s the thing. Mental health is something that can be very difficult to talk about generally, let alone at work. Despite advances in talking about the topic, it’s one that can take a lot of guts to bring up. In most cultures, there’s still a stigma related to talking about mental health despite the fact that it’s something that affects a lot of people.
Which really is a shame, because life can be tough to deal with sometimes. And that is okay. So, in the spirit of practising what we preach — work-life integration, communication, empathy, all that good stuff — let’s talk about mental health.
I’ll go first.
A couple weeks ago, I took an unplanned week off specifically for mental health reasons. Personally, at least, it’s been an intense year. Why it’s been an intense year is almost inconsequential; suffice to say that my brain was full and I. Needed. A. Break.
So, I took one and it helped. I mean, I’m not feeling 100% full of beans; as I said, it’s been a tough year and a week off doesn’t make everything magically hunky-dory. But I do feel a lot better. Taking a break meant that I was able to reboot my brain. I’m lucky in that respect, all of us at Bunny Studio are. We work for a place that recognizes the importance of mental health and have compassionate leaders who want us to succeed in the long term, even if that means hitting the pause button for a little bit to get back on track.
In the next few weeks, we’ll be talking more about this. Specifically, how can an employer, and workplace leaders, foster a compassionate and mentally healthy workplace? So do stay tuned for our thoughts on that.
But, regardless, I’m talking to you know — the you out there who is really, really at the end of their tether and, oh please, just needs a break for one second. Maybe, like me, you need a week off. Or maybe you need something else. Regardless, though, this one’s for you. I hope it helps.
How To Take A Break 101
Talk about it.
Okay, I know this is a scary thing but stick with me on this one. I’m not saying you have to tell everyone about what you’re going through (unless you want to, of course). But a problem shared is a problem halved, as they say. So talk to someone you trust. Traditionally, this is someone who knows you well, say a friend or relative. Definitely talk to them. And, if you feel comfortable and safe enough to do so, talk to your leader at work. A true, compassionate, empathetic leader will want to help.
Apart from that, though, now might be a good time to consider talking to a professional, if you aren’t already. Everyone (yes, absolutely everyone) can benefit from therapy. Therapy can help you get you to know yourself better, and give you tools that will help you guide yourself over life’s rocky patches. Just like exercise can build a stronger body, therapy can build a stronger mind.
“Well, great”, you might say “thanks for that tip! But therapy isn’t for me/is expensive/is scary/is filled with stigma.” Which is a totally valid response, I respect that. Maybe therapy isn’t for you right now or ever. But try not to discount it off the bat — there are many different types of therapy and not all of them involve lying on a couch in a closed-off room (although that type of therapy can help a lot, too). You can even do therapy remotely.
The bottom line, though, is that if/when you’re ready for some sort of therapy, there are resources out there that can help you. You’re not alone. Pinky promise.
Regardless of how or where you work, chances are you spend a lot of time inside. Air-conditioned, hermetically-sealed offices are a thing. Even if you work remotely, the internet is generally to be found inside of a building and, being the hard worker that you are, it can be difficult to find the time to disconnect from the virtual and reconnect with the landscape. At the end of the day, though, we’re animals and we need to connect with nature on the regular.
Depending on how you feel though, moving might be the last thing you want to do. That is also okay. I do recommend you go outside too, though, even if it’s tough. Just have a little sit on a patch of grass and feel the breeze on your face. Trust me on this one. You don’t need to stay outside long if you don’t want to.
If you have a backyard, excellent! Out you go. Live in a city without a private outside space? Find your nearest park. Live in a place where it isn’t totally safe to be outside alone? Find safety in numbers and find a group activity you can do outside, whether that’s an official event or a walk around the block with friends. Really can’t go outside for whatever reason? Find a window, open it, feel the sun (or rain) on your face and enjoy the fresh air for a minute.
Okay, bear with me for a second. I know that probably everyone is telling you to breathe through this, just breathe and, really, have you tried meditation yet? You might be sick of hearing this. So I’m not going to tell you to try meditation or anything like that if you don’t want to.
That being said, breathing deeply does help still your mind. It doesn’t have to be super fancy breathing. Just try a slow four counts in, breathing deep into your belly. Hold for three counts, then breathe out for six counts. And repeat for a while — you can start with five minutes or so. Have a try now. I’ll wait.
How was that? Let me know it went in the comments.
Hang out with people.
Meeting, and hanging out with, new people can help distract you from any feelings of overwhelm. Now, some people recharge by interacting with others in-person. If this is you, cool, go out (or stay in) with others and have a great time.
If, like me, you recharge best by being alone though, don’t disregard this tip just yet. You don’t need to hang out with people in-person, per se. Reading a novel, for example, or listening to a storytelling podcast are good ways of hanging out with characters while still recharging your people batteries. You get to live someone else’s story for a while and that can be a relief from everyday life.
Listen to yourself.
Life can be loud. There’s always something else that needs to get done, always some crisis waiting to happen or that has just happened, always something going on. In all that noise, you can forget yourself sometimes.
So take some time to remember who you are and what you really care about. Cuddle your dog, hug someone, write about what’s been going on, daydream. It sounds contrite, maybe, but you can lose yourself in all the noise. Remember that breathing you did? Do it again, for longer now, and think about yourself for a second. What do you need? What would make this tough time easier for you? You know what you’re going through and you know what you need. Whether that’s some time off or a hot chocolate sundae, you know yourself better than anyone else. Remember, in this time of noise, to listen.
The most important thing, though, is this.
Mental health wobbles are not a sign of weakness. They’re a sign of someone who’s working really, really hard to make their way in the world. And, even if you feel like you are alone in all of this, you’re not. This is true statistically and emotionally. After all, I wrote this article, didn’t I?
So, whether or not you work for a place that honors mental health as a part of being human (and I really hope you do), you are not alone. And whether or not you have the ability to take time off from the daily grind, you do have the ability to take a break if you need one, even if it’s just a mini-break.
So, remember this — you’ve got this and you’re not alone. And that’s something worth celebrating.
Did these tips help? Have some more ideas on self-care that have helped you? Does your workplace provide mental health support? Let us know in the comments.
Also, if you need help like RIGHT NOW THIS INSTANT, here are some global resources. Hang in there, buddy. Remember what I said? You’re not alone.
Please note this blog is a copy of the original published in Medium by Emmy Tither.