10th October 2017 is World Mental Health Day.
Mental health problems can affect anyone, any day of the year, but 10th October is a great day to show your support for better mental health and start looking after your own wellbeing.
The theme for World Mental Health Day 2017 is workplace wellbeing.
Mental health problems at work are common. At least one in six workers is experiencing common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.
You might not be talking about it, because mental health is still a taboo subject. And many people feel scared and confused about confronting the issue at work. But there are small, simple steps you can take to look after yourself and make your workplace mentally healthier.
Ten strategies for coping with stress at work
- Learn to relax:
- Practice relaxation techniques every day – breathing techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing can help you feel calmer and help combat the physical and emotional effects of stress. Try different ways to relax such as yoga, aromatherapy or Mindfulness.
- Slow down – talk slower, walk slower, eat more slowly, relax your shoulders and breath more naturally.
- Watch what you eat and drink:
- Eat well – eat a well-balanced diet with lots of fresh vegetables. Try to plan ahead if you know you won’t be home until late – this will stop you buying a take-away on your way home. Eat your lunch away from your desk and remember to chew it slowly.
- Avoid unhealthy snacks – try to avoid crisps and sugary snacks and drinks which can cause a high followed by an energy crash. Eat snacks like fruit, nuts or raw vegetables, instead, to keep your energy levels steady.
- Cut down on caffeine – aim to drink no more than two cups of coffee per day. Drinking too much caffeine can produce the same sensations as stress and anxiety. Take some herbal teas to work, instead, and drink lots of water.
- Avoid drinking alcohol – it’s really easy to have a glass or two of wine after a stressful day at work without realising how much you have started to drink each week. Drinking too much alcohol will actually increase your levels of stress as well as disrupting your sleep and increasing your risks of long-term health problems. Swap a drink for relaxation!
- Look after your health:
- Take regular moderate exercise – 30 minutes every day can help you feel calmer and boost your wellbeing. Take a stroll at lunchtime or ride your bike to work. Swimming, yoga or dancing are also great ways of exercising.
- Get a good night’s sleep – it can help you feel stronger and cope better. Did you know that checking your laptop or mobile phone before bed-time can disturb your sleep?
- Stop smoking – it’s a complete myth that smoking helps you relax. Taking a quick cigarette break when you’re feeling stressed will only increase feelings of anxiety and low mood. Quitting smoking can boost your mental health as well as reduce your risks of developing long-term health problems.
- Manage your time:
- Learn to prioritise – don’t try to deal with everything at once – don’t get overwhelmed by too many tasks. Decide what needs doing now and what can wait – making a list can help. Doing too many things at once can increase levels of stress and frustration when things don’t get done. Think about which tasks will make the biggest difference and try to concentrate on one at a time.
- Keep a structure to your day – keeping to a routine can really help if you are coping with stress – get up and go to bed at the same times and try to get out and do your usual activities like meeting friends or going to night school.
- Take breaks:
- Take a lunch break – you will get more done in the afternoon. Go for a walk outside. Being mindful of what’s happening around you, rather than thinking about work, will help you return to your desk feeling refreshed and more relaxed.
- Take your holidays – working under pressure for months without stopping can allow stress to build up and affect how you are feeling and behaving.
- Pace yourself – working long hours and taking work home will increase tiredness, irritability and anxiety and mean less time for relaxation and exercise.
- Take control:
- Keep your desk tidy – a calm working space where you can find your papers can help reduce unnecessary stress.
- Divide problems up – if you are feeling overwhelmed break problems up into easy realistic chunks.
- Organise your workload – start to plan projects early so that you can set deadlines for yourself and flag any problems to your manager.
- Plan for the unexpected – create some slack in your workload each day so you can react to unexpected demands and tasks that take longer than expected.
- Reduce the pressure:
- Are your managers expecting too much of you? – if you are struggling, or not clear about your role, try to talk this through with your manager. If you are given unrealistic targets at work – try to confront this and say ‘no’. Explain what is realistic and why and suggest an alternative solution instead.
- Are you expecting too much of yourself? – do you put extra pressure on yourself to get everything finished? Does everything you do have to be perfect? Do you do everything at high speed? Do you usually do too many things at once? Learn to be more realistic about what you can achieve. Ask yourself – what can wait, what’s important and can anyone else help?
- Connect with others:
- Try talking through a problem with a friend or colleague – sharing a problem which is troubling you with a trusted friend can relieve some of the pressure and help you feel more supported. A friend can also see the problem in a different way and suggest new solutions you may not have thought of. Don’t keep problems to yourself.
- Find time for yourself:
- Create time for yourself each day – build in at least 30 minutes each day to shut off and do something you enjoy – read a book, watch your favourite TV programme or listen to music.
- Change the way you think:
- Challenge any negative or unhelpful thinking – using words like ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘have to’ and ‘ought to’ can allow guilt to build up and make you feel like you are failing. Don’t say things like ‘I should have done that already’ or ‘I must write that report today’ – it will only put unnecessary pressure on yourself.
Leeds Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) supports people experiencing common mental health problems. If you would be interested in more information you can contact the Touchstone team on 0113 216300 or find out more information online at https://www.touchstonesupport.org.uk/services/improving-access-to-psychological-therapies-iapt-service/ and https://www.leedscommunityhealthcare.nhs.uk/iapt/home/