From The Expert: Be A Pro At Managing Mental Health At Work

15 Jul 2020

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Workplace stress isn’t uncommon, yet we don’t speak about it or address it in a way and to the extent that it’s supposed to be. We often push it under the carpet thinking it’s temporary and that it’ll ease out as soon as we are done with the task or meet the given requirements before the deadline. Well, it does ease, but at what cost and for how long?

Deadlines, office politics, toxic managers can be more than just ‘a little stressful,’ it can impact your health, personal, and professional life. So, it’s about time we destigmatize this subject and talk about the importance and impact of mental health at work. 

Here I will be your guide to manage your emotions, help you be more productive, and take care of your mental wellbeing at and after work. 

Manage Your Emotions At Your Workplace

Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries is, perhaps, the most important thing to do, and should be one of the first things that you do when you get a new job. I call this important because not having boundaries can mix your personal and professional life and make both a mess. It, sometimes, can even make things uncomfortable for you at work.  

What To Do: To set your boundaries, you must first evaluate your expectations and limitations, and communicate them honestly and clearly to everyone around you. Make sure that your boundaries are solid and that you don’t keep shifting them for the comfort of others. It is meant for you and your comfort. 

Communicate The ‘NO’

There is a chance that people may exploit your helpful nature, especially at work. Remind yourself what doesn’t fall under your profile, isn’t your responsibility; and neither are you the one to be doing everything. You need to take a stand for yourself and learn to say ‘NO!’. 

What To Do: If saying ‘no’ is too bold or too rude for you, try phrases like ‘I have prior commitments’, ‘I don’t think I’ll have the time for it’ or ‘I may be able to help once I’m done with my work’. The first few times will be difficult, but you’ll soon get a hang of it.  

Being A Workaholic Isn’t Always Good

The desire of doing better is good, but the constant need for exceeding your own expectations can burn you out. With over shifts and extended work hours, you may impress your boss who may even praise you and pat on your back, but on the other hand, you’ll be messing up your health. All work and no fun can cause physical weakness, exhaustion, low attention, and lack of creativity.  

Such an extensive amount of work-related pressure and no work-life balance can cause the occurrence of midlife crisis in your early 30s, which usually is known to happen between the ages of 45–64.

What To Do: To deal with this, I suggest you sign up for some hobby class or workshop that demands you to be present at a particular time and on a regular basis. It could be anything, something that you love doing or something that you’ve always wanted to do. If you join something that you have the knowledge of, make sure that you sign up for a level higher so that you don’t spend time (and thereby, lose interest) learning the things that you already know about. This way, you’ll not get bored and will have the desire to attend the class regularly. I personally suggest this because it helps you get your mind off of work, helps you relax, decompress and destress.   

Breaks & Scheduling Strategies 

No matter how big of a workaholic you are, you ought to take breaks! Just pause, close your eyes, breathe, take a sip of water and get back. 

What To Do: One of the most efficient strategies for managing time and having a perfect balance of working and taking breaks would be the Pomodoro method. Using this method, you break your workday into chunks of 25 minutes separated by a five-minute break each. You can tailor the range, make slight changes as per your schedule, but the 25-minute span is considered to be ideal. 

Another important thing that helps you keep your cool at work is planning. Make a to-do list or a task list and plan your day accordingly. Also, make sure that you stick to your plan, or else you’ll be all over the place with a productivity score equal to zero. To avoid that and be more efficient throughout the day, I suggest and follow the Eat Your Frog method. It is a very simple technique, all you need to do is pick up the most important task from your list and finish it first. Completing a major task helps you feel light and relaxed for the rest of the day, and you are able to give your full attention to the things that you do after. 

Be Assertive 

Being unable to speak up, put your points up, or voice your opinions can make you feel neglected and of less importance. It can lead to stress, burnout, or make you almost invisible in a place where promotions and raises are decided based on visibility. Therefore, it is important to be assertive, especially in such a setting. 

Being assertive is nothing but a communication skill that showcases your confident side. Assertiveness helps you express your opinions while acknowledging and respecting others’. It helps you put up your ideas, boosts your self-esteem, makes you feel important, and earn others’ respect.  

What To Do: Start by speaking to one person or a small group on smaller topics, build your confidence as you go.

Take A Mental Health Day-Off

Just like you’d stay home if you were down with a fever, you must do the same when you feel down mentally. Take a day off when you don’t feel mentally fit to show up for work, because even if you manage to make it to the office, you won’t be able to be as productive. It’ll affect the quality of your work and may even prove to be a waste of time as you’ll have to redo things later. 

Not being able to focus, not being able to get things done right, and constant nagging from your boss and clients can make things worse. By the end of the day, you’ll feel even more exhausted both physically and mentally. Therefore, it is better and wiser to take a day off, rest, relax, and get back to work afresh. 

What To Do: On your mental day off, try to do activities you enjoy, even if that means lazing and catching up on shows.

Maintaining Meaningful Interpersonal Relationships

Having a close bond with your colleagues and having a work-BFF may sound really exciting, but things can get nasty when you cannot draw a line between your personal and professional life. It can affect your work quality, affect your relationships with your colleagues both personally and professionally, and may even give birth to other problems like unhealthy competition, workplace politics, etc. Therefore, maintain good relationships, but try and keep things as professional as possible. 

It may seem like an impossible task for extroverts and people who love making friends, but it’s important to separate your friends from your coworkers, at least for those few working hours. 

This is pretty much everything you can do to keep yourself mentally healthy at work. However, if you still find yourself mentally drained at the end of the day, or if you notice that your work isn’t being appreciated, or if you experience a pushback, you might be working in a toxic environment which cannot be helped. In that case, it may be the time you start exploring new options. 

Also, remember that your job is just a job and you have a home, a family and a life. Do not get too deep in it that you lose yourself. Accept the fact that you cannot and are not obligated to please everyone. So, if sometimes you let someone down or cannot produce your finest work, it’s okay! You’re only human after all. 

Authored By Priyanka Varma

Priyanka Varma is a Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor & Psychotherapist. Founder of The Thought Co. an organisation that works towards mental health awareness for all, she has successfully run MHAW (Mental Health Awareness Weekend) and is actively involved in Caregiver Support for Individuals with Dementia. She is also a consultant at Global Hospitals and Holy Family Hospital.

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