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Protecting Your Mental Health at Work

Even at a job you absolutely love, the pressure to perform at your highest level while balancing personal and home life can be extremely stressful. Oftentimes, the impact that a demanding week has on our mental health is swept under the rug.

However, work can seriously and negatively affect your mental health if you aren’t able to recognize the signs and symptoms of overwhelming stress. Being aware of the signs of work stress and anxiety and then devising ways to combat these feelings can help you can thrive — both mentally and physically.

The Effects of Work on Your Mental Health

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), work can be good for your mental health in general. It helps us feel productive and validated, and it creates a time in which we are focused on a bigger objective. However, a negative work environment can cause both physical and mental health problems if not addressed. Each year, the global economy experiences losses that cost about $1 trillion because of anxiety and depression — two common mental health problems that can result if you’re one of more than two-thirds of Americans unhappy at work.

Symptoms of an Unhealthy Workplace

Workplace wellness usually depends on a healthy workplace. The Workplace Health Survey studied the perceptions and attitudes of more than 17,000 employees spanning 19 industries across the United States. A lack of praise, lack of respect or staff recognition, and minimal potential for growth and teamwork were reasons people cited for being unhappy in their jobs. Those employees who were the happiest felt committed to the organization, a sense of purpose or meaning, and also enjoyed satisfying interpersonal relationships with colleagues.

Protect Your Mental Health

You might not always have the option to quit a job in what appears to be an unhealthy environment, but this doesn’t mean you’re at its mercy. For example, if you aren’t getting enough feedback about your job — or if you’re only hearing negative feedback — set up a meeting with your manager and present a list of the goals that you would like to be working toward. Even when faced with negative feedback, try to be mindful of your reaction and even view criticism as an opportunity for improvement. This approach can serve as self-motivation if used constructively.

Taking a mental health day is also a terrific option if you happen to be feeling less than enthusiastic about your work environment. You can take this time to focus on recuperation and allow yourself to temporarily block out pressures and expectations from work. Focus on activities that relax and rejuvenate you. Reading, writing, exercising and cooking are just a few positive outlets for anxiety that nurture your mental health. These productive activities create a sense of accomplishment and help distract you from dwelling on worrying thoughts.

Tumultuous relationships at work can take also toll on your mental health. It’s common to feel like your supervisor has targeted his/her dissatisfaction at you, and work-related dread can influence your home life. Try to keep a mental distance when a supervisor’s criticism is aimed at you, or seems too personal —it doesn’t define you. Always remember that it’s business — not personal.

Ready for some quick tips?

Practice mindfulness

Recognize the signs of stress or anxiety building up. Relieve them by practicing yoga, for example, which can often ease depression and anxiety.

Bring healthy snacks

It’s no surprise that a balanced nutrition can be a mood booster. Avoid foods high in sugar that can lead to an afternoon crash.

Take a walk

If you have a standard lunch hour or afternoon break, set aside that time to get outside. 15 minutes of sun and light exercise can help you clear your mind.

Get the full 8 hours

The most stressful work days often follow nights of restlessness. Lack of sleep can have a detrimental effect on your productivity at work (in addition to negative impacts on your physical health). To ensure you’re working to your full potential, make sure sleep is a priority.

Focus on Relationships

Dedicate time to building a positive relationship with your supervisor, as well as with direct reports and peers. Healthy relationships will allow you to share your thoughts and feelings more easily with those around you.

To learn more about stress-related symptoms like high blood pressure, migraines or insomnia, speak to a clinician at an urgent care center near you.

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