We can all agree that mental health is an important topic. But how many of us are actively prioritising it in our daily work routine? In honour of Mental Health Awareness Week, 10 – 16 May 2021, we want to share some simple things that you can incorporate into your day to help your mental wellbeing.
Get out into nature
This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is “nature”. Nature has many restorative and healthful properties. It is proven to reduce stress and anxiety. LawCare, an association that offers emotional support for legal professionals, explains that as workers in a busy sector, “we often think we don’t have time to take a proper break during the working day, but having a break outside can make all the difference to your productivity and give you perspective on a work issue. Researchers found that time spent in nature can renew our attention spans when they are flagging after a hard day’s work or an extended period staring at a screen – this is known as Attention Restoration Therapy (ART).”
Take a break
If you are unable to get outside or into nature, still make sure you give yourself a proper break during your workday. Step away from the screen, even if it’s just for some lunch or to sit down in another room. A change of scenery or a change of pace is good for your mental health.
Do something you are good at
It is definitely true that people tend to feel more positive when they feel that they are achieving something, when they are good at something or when they are enjoying something. This doesn’t necessarily mean they feel negative when they are not doing one of those things, but incorporating things associated with positive feelings into your day will have a good effect on your overall mood.
If possible, you should plan your workload to include tasks you know you are good at or enjoy, so as to “sandwich” things you know will be harder or more stressful. If it is a particularly high-pressured time at work, this may mean also including hobbies that you enjoy to give you that boost. For example, taking 20 minutes to read on your lunch break.
Talk about your feelings and ask for help if you need it
There is sometimes a misconception that in order to be professional you should leave your personal matters “at the door”. This is really not the case. The Mental Health Foundation says that “talking about your feelings can help you maintain your mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. Talking about your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy. 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. You may want to think about what you want to disclose, who to and when a good time and place to do this could be. If you are open about how you feel at work, especially if you are a leader, it might encourage others to do the same. If you don’t feel able to talk about feelings at work, make sure there’s someone you can discuss work pressures with – partners, friends and family can all be a sounding board.”
Stay in touch
It has never been more important to stay in touch. With the majority of us working from home, sometimes we can feel disconnected or lonely during our workdays. In a survey conducted last year, SecsintheCity found that “28% of business support professionals said the toughest part of the abrupt pivot to remote working was not getting to see their colleagues in the office every day.” It therefore makes sense that keeping in contact and having that regular social interaction each day will boost our wellbeing and mood. Make an effort to speak to people on the phone or make arrangements to share a lunch break Zoom. Now that restrictions are easing, you can meet people for a lunchtime walk or an after-work coffee.
Prioritise your health
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 for some of us to keep up a healthy pattern of eating during the workday. Regular meals, plus plenty of water, are ideal. Sleep is also an important factor. Hard as it can be sometimes to give up that downtime in the evenings, an earlier night might make you feel better than that extra episode of the box set you are bingeing. Exercise can help you destress and releases endorphins. Working exercise (even gentle exercise like a short walk) into your day is a fantastic way to protect your mental health.