Many people find going to work is good for their mental health, as it provides them with a sense of identity, steady routine, and structure, as well as friendship and regular contact with others.
However, there is still a stigma around mental health problems - a social stigma that is a big concern for the many people who struggle in all kinds of work environments.
When people think of mental illness in the workplace, they are likely to evoke images of a typical office environment. However, being ill at work is not only confined to a communal workplace, and self-employed people or freelancers can also face a very stressful work-life divide.
Mental health problems affect the way you think, feel, and behave, and around 1 in 8 work absences are due to mental health problems - namely stress, depression, and anxiety. Here’s why these three things are so common in the working world.
Some pressure at work can be manageable, but when it becomes excessive - through work relationship problems, job uncertainties, or poor support - it can lead to work-related stress.
Feeling overwhelmed or being unable to cope are early signs of work-related stress, as well as feeling nervous and unmotivated. However, getting help and taking the right steps can prevent it from turning into a long-term problem.
One of the most important things to do is to speak about how you’re feeling to your employer or to colleagues you feel comfortable talking to. By opening up, you’ll directly tackle some of the causes and feelings of isolation.
Having a bad day or feeling sad from time to time is perfectly normal, but if these feelings continue to grow or get worse they can start affecting your daily life and you may need help. Depression can develop gradually and is usually caused by more than one thing. Work can be a contributing factor, especially if you feel a lack of job security or experience problems with colleagues and your workload.
Symptoms to look out for when someone might be depressed include feeling irritable or overly emotional, lacking confidence, taking a very low interest in life and feeling disengaged. It can sometimes be beneficial to take time off work to focus on yourself rather than struggling to balance your workload and mental health problems.
However, if you feel well enough to remain at work, talking to someone you trust or your line manager about how you feel can help to lift your mood.
In the modern world of smartphones, round-the-clock news, and all the pressures of twenty-first century life, it’s natural that most people occasionally feel anxious.
However, anxiety can become abnormal and disruptive if it interferes in your day-to-day life and activities. When a person is feeling anxious they experience feelings of fear and self-doubt alongside unpleasant physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking, a faster heart rate, and feeling sick and nauseous.
Anxiety in a workplace can be frightening, distressing and even horrific, and the added pressures of the job can make it one of the worst places you can suffer. Workplace situations, toxic environments, or stressful tasks can create chronic stress and this has the potential to cause long-term anxiety.
Overcoming work anxiety is difficult when you are stuck in the same job, but it's not impossible. If you’re constantly experiencing symptoms of anxiety, it can be treated through talking therapies and medication. Speak to your GP if you feel you would benefit from treatment.
Small steps, big changes
It’s vital that employers speak openly about mental health problems and build a workplace that’s conducive to tolerance and understanding, as this would help more people feel comfortable about disclosing their own problems. Mental health is still very much a taboo subject in the workplace, and to break this taboo companies need to promote an open and supportive working environment.
It’s very important to take care of yourself and ensure you feel a sense of fulfilment in your life. Thankfully, making positive changes does not need to cost a fortune or take up immense amounts of time. Here a few small changes you can make today:
- Keep active. A very effective way to improve mental health is regular exercise. Regular exercise has a positive impact on depression and anxiety as it can boost your mood. Any exercise is better than none, but a moderate level is useful. On average an adult should do 150 minutes every week of exercise.
- Talk about your feelings. Often talking with someone you gain a different perspective that can help you find different solutions to your problems. Talking it out can also help lessen worry and reassure you that there is a better or different way forward.
- Make time for yourself. In our fast-paced daily lives, hopping between friends, family, and work can cause you to inadvertently neglect yourself. Allocate yourself some alone time and be good to yourself, as this helps keep anxiety and depression at bay.
- Sleep more. Your body can’t function properly if you don’t get enough sleep. Consider setting a regular bedtime as your body craves consistency, plus you’re more likely to get enough sleep if you schedule your rest like other important tasks.
By making small, positive changes to your daily routines, you’ll be giving yourself a much greater chance of successfully combating your problems. And you’ll be a happy worker at that.
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