Tips for Looking After Your Mental Health at Work

One of the most significant barriers people with mental health issues face is the shame and stigma that continues to persist around this state of psychological and emotional well-being. This can lead to reluctance in talking about and, in some cases, fear of getting treatment. It is essential to understand that mental illness does not discriminate and affects individuals of every gender, culture, race, religion, and socioeconomic background.  


Stress, like mental illness, is expected in the workplace. Although stress is not a medical condition, without relief, it can contribute to developing physical needs and mental health concerns, including depression and anxiety.  


Stress is experienced when individuals feel the demands made upon them are more significant than their ability to cope. Some stress is healthy, but too much can be debilitating. Irritability, insomnia, and depressed mood are all common symptoms of excessive stress and should not be ignored. 


A report from Alberta Blue Cross, states: “According to the World Health Organization, around 450 million people currently struggle with mental illness making it the leading cause of disability worldwide. Closer to home, more than 6.7 million Canadians are affected. In fact, one in two Canadians have, or have had, a mental illness by the time they reach 40 years of age.” The cost of mental health to our economy is also significant at an estimated $51 billion/year. 


If more employers and employees have a dialogue about stress and mental health, the quicker the subjects become a regular part of the workplace conversation. 


How to Protect your Mental Health  


Talk about your feelings  

Talking about your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s part of taking charge of your well-being and doing what you can to stay healthy. Talking can be a way to cope with a problem you’ve been carrying around your head for a while. Just being listened to can help you feel supported and less alone. And it works both ways. If you are open, it might encourage others to do the same.  


It’s not always easy to describe how you’re feeling. What does it feel like inside your head? What does it make you feel like doing? You don't need to sit your loved ones down for an extensive conversation about your well-being. Many people feel more comfortable when these conversations develop naturally - maybe when you do something together. If it feels awkward at first, give it time. Make talking about your feelings something that you do. 


Keep active  

Staying active is beneficial to your mental health. In a study conducted a few years ago, researchers found that on average, a person has 3.4 poor mental health days every month. However, among those who exercised regularly, that number dropped by more than 40%. Many experts believe that exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make your feel good, therefore boosting your self-esteem, sleep, and overall health. As a bonus, exercise also keeps your body healthy! 

Eat Well 

Your body and your mind are closely linked. Therefore, what you choose to put into your body can impact your brain and how you feel. “Sugar and processed foods can lead to inflammation throughout the body and brain, which may contribute to mood disorders, including anxiety and depression.”  

Therefore, while you can certainly still partake in the foods you enjoy, try to rely on a well-balanced diet to help your body and your mind.  

A healthy diet includes: 

  • Many different types of fruits and vegetables
  • Wholegrains 
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Dairy products
  • Oily fish
  • Plenty of water

Stay connected  

Strong family ties and supportive friends can help you deal with the stresses of life. Friends and family can make you feel included and cared for. They can offer different views of whatever’s happening inside your head. They can keep you active and grounded and help you solve practical problems. There’s nothing better than catching up with someone face-to-face. But that’s not always possible. Call them, drop them a note or chat with them online instead. Keep the lines of communication open. It’s good for you!  


Ask for Help 

None of us are superhuman. Sometimes, we get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things go wrong. If things are getting too much for you and you think you can’t cope, ask for help. Your family or friends may be able to offer practical help or a listening ear.  


Your General Practitioner (GP) may be able to refer you to a counsellor. You should consider getting help from your GP if complicated feelings are: 

  • stopping you from getting on with life
  • having a significant impact on the people you live or work with
  • affecting your mood over several weeks.

Everyone deserves to feel their best, both mentally and physically. The more we talk about mental health in the workplace, the easier these conversations will become.  


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