We all have the same 24 hours. If you’re one of the lucky ones who get 7–8 hours of sleep, you’ve got 16 hours left.
If you take an hour to get to work each way, you’ve spent almost half of your day at work.
During that time, you’re expected to be focused and mentally present at work. And even take some work home with you if the occasion calls for it.
But it does not always work that way.
The pressures and demands of work can leave us with increased stress and even signs of depression.
Different personalities, workload, competing agendas, and poor execution from others can really take its toll.
Over time, you may find yourself missing deadlines, making mistakes, and just being indifferent.
The most valuable asset you’ll have is your ability to protect your mindset and mental health at work
Even if you love your job, it will get crazy at times. And the ability to manage the tough times prevents it from turning into a job you hate.
There are many reasons your mental health is affected at work. Some include:
- Trying to get too much done in one day.
- Taking people’s opinions to heart (can’t separate the mess from the message)
- Saying yes too much
- It’s not what you really want to do
- Poor office politics/dynamics
- Poor coaching/mentoring/leadership
Or a combination of issues.
Try these steps to make your workspace and headspace better.
1. Talk about it
The best start is to be open about your stress and mental health. Even if the odds are against you. Most companies have provisions for counseling, coaching or an Employee Assistance Program. However, close to 70% of employees believe it’s better to stay quiet about work stress and mental health.
It will take courage to break the stigma but the rewards are worth it. And even if you feel everything’s fine, still take some time to talk to someone unbiased about how you feel about work. For me, it revealed some anxiety I was trying my best to suppress rather than address.
2. Reclaim Your Time
To perform the best at whatever we do, we need to have adequate amounts of rest. It’s at rest where muscles grow, where our best ideas come from and where we can reset.
We can get so engrossed in your work that we forget to take a break. While that may be commendable, two things happen if you keep this up:
- People expect you to always be available.
- You will burn out.
As much as possible, try to take time back to unwind and not focus on work.
Try to take rests every 90 mins at work. This gets you into a ‘Flow’ state and reduces stress.
Reclaim your lunch break. When was the last time you took a full hour?
Even if you don’t take long to eat, you can take a walk in a nearby park, read a book or call up a friend for the rest of the time. I’d walk a couple of blocks on my lunch hour just to clear my head and get ready for the afternoon.
Take some vacation. Hundreds of millions of vacation days go unused every year.
This primes your mind for more work and reduces stress over the longterm.
Time can be molded into better mental health but you must demand it.
3. Change Your Environment
No, I’m not talking about quitting your job.
Making simple changes in the surroundings can place you in a happier state. This could be as simple as adding some great pictures or ornaments on your work desk. You can relocate to another area or closer to another team. Great smells or soft music can help create a stress-free area.
Mixing it up can place you in a fresher mental state.
4. Quit trying to be perfect
We put a lot of undue pressure on ourselves to succeed.
There’s only so much you can get done in the day.
Even if your boss is on your back, there’s no point in beating yourself up even more.
Especially if you’ve tried your best. As the saying goes, Perfection is the enemy of good.
Beating up on yourself grows like compound interest and you’ll find more opportunities to do the same. Every day, remember to do your best and forget about the rest.
Will these steps immediately change your mental health at work? No, they won’t. But they will show you what’s possible. And when practiced consistently, work becomes a little easier to manage.