How to support mental health at work

Our workplace is where we spend a large amount of our time, so it comes as no surprise that sometimes when life gets on top of us it can be down to work related issues, such as deadlines, pressures, or travel.

Whilst awareness of mental health is increasing, many people who experience distress try to keep their feelings hidden, afraid of other people’s responses. Fear of discrimination and feelings of shame are among the top reasons people give for not telling their colleagues about their mental health, quite concerning when one in six people experience the symptoms of a mental health problem in any given week.

Looking after your mental health at work

We can all take steps to help improve our own mental health in the workplace – here are some best practice tips as recommended by the Mental Health Foundation:

  1. Talk about your feelings

Talking about your feelings can help you maintain your mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. It can be hard to talk about feelings at work. If you have colleagues you can talk to, or a manager who asks how you are at supervision sessions, it can really help. Identify someone you feel comfortable with and who will be supportive.

  1. Keep active

Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and look and feel better. Try to make physical activity that you enjoy a part of your day. It can make a huge difference to get out for a walk or do a class at lunchtime, or to build in exercise before or after work to ease you into the day or create a space between work time and personal time.

  1. Eat well

What we eat can affect how we feel both immediately and in the longer term. A diet that is good for your physical health is also good for your mental health. It can be hard to keep up a healthy pattern of eating at work. Regular meals, plus plenty of water, are ideal. Try and plan for mealtimes at work – bringing food from home or choosing healthy options when buying lunch. Try and get away from your desk to eat.

  1. Drink sensibly

We often drink alcohol to change our mood. Some people drink to deal with fear or loneliness, but the effect is only temporary. Most people don’t drink at work – but most of us recognise the pattern of drinking more at the weekend or in the evening when work is hard going. Be careful with work functions that include drinking. It can be tempting to have a drink to get ‘Dutch courage’, but if you feel anxious you may drink too much and end up behaving in a way you’d rather not, which will increase feelings of anxiety in the medium to long term

  1. Keep in touch

Relationships are key to our mental health. Working in a supportive team is hugely important for our mental health at work. We don’t always have a choice about who we work with, and if we don’t get on with managers, colleagues or clients, it can create tension. It may be that you need to practise more self-care at these times, but you may also need to address difficulties. It can be helpful to find a mentor or a small group of trusted colleagues with whom you can discuss feelings about work – to sense check and help you work through challenges.

  1. Ask for help

None of us are superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things don’t go to plan. Your employer may have an Employee Assistance Programme. These services are confidential and can be accessed free and without work finding out. You may also be able to access occupational health support through your line manager or HR service. The first port of call in the health service is your GP who may suggest ways that you or your family can help you, or they may refer you to a specialist or another part of the health service.

  1. Take a break

A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. It could be a five-minute pause from what you are doing, a book or podcast during the commute, a halfhour lunch break at work, or a weekend exploring somewhere new. A few minutes can be enough to destress you.

  1. Do something you’re good at

What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing in the past? 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. 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.

  1. Accept who you are

We’re all different. It’s much healthier to accept that you’re unique than to wish you were more like someone else. Feeling good about yourself boosts your confidence to learn new skills, visit new places and make new friends. Good self-esteem helps you cope when life takes a difficult turn. Be proud of who you are.

  1. Care for others

Caring for others is often an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you. Working life can provide opportunities to care for others – contributing through vocational jobs like nursing or care work can be hugely significant for mental health. In most jobs, you can choose to be there for colleagues – either as a team mate, or as a line manager, when strategies like coaching and training are good ways to support others. Helping can make us feel needed and valued, and that boosts our self-esteem.

For further resources about mental wellbeing in the workplace, as well as the full document these tips have been taken from, visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk.

Or if mental health is high up on your agenda for your business, but you’re confused about where to start, take a look at our blog on the importance of Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace, which also includes some best practice tips as recommended by MIND – the mental health charity’s Thriving at Work core standards.

We also address Mental Health at work in this episode of the Revitalise & Grow podcast. The PR and marketing industry is renowned for being high pressured, with recent research revealing half of people working in PR, marketing and comms reported experiencing severe stress, anxiety or burnout on several occasions over the past 12 months.* In the episode we look at why this is, but most importantly we address how essential it is to keep the conversation about mental health going as well as how to talk about things and get help if you are struggling.

*The survey of 1,000 PR, marketing and comms professionals, conducted by Coleman Parkes, was commissioned by Innovate Comms, Harvard and CCgroup to explore people’s experiences of mental health in the workplace.