Prioritizing Mental Health at Work

January 19, 2017

It’s been said that we spend the majority of our lives at work. As a matter of fact, according to the World Health Organization, one-third of our lives is spent working. Not only do we gain income and livelihood from working, but it can be the source of self-esteem and status for some. But for many of us, it’s a source of stress and anxiety, a place where mental health gets pushed to the bottom of our daily to-do lists, resulting in diminishing overall health and performance. Many of us think it’s “soft” to prioritize our health over our jobs, but we need to think differently: health is a finite resource, and once it’s damaged or destroyed, it’s nearly impossible to get it back. Nothing can happen without your health, so guard your life with your life.

Prioritizing your mental health at all times is important, but even more so at work. Here are some tips to keeping your brain and body chemistry at peak wellness:

Stay on any doctor-prescribed medications and regimens – First and foremost, if you have a mental health condition, the most important thing you can do is to follow your doctor’s orders. Take your medications as prescribed, and follow any care regimens given. If your doctor wants you to limit work hours or any other variation of your normal schedule, find a way to make that happen.

Exercise – Studies have shown that even a few minutes of walking can help with overall health and brain chemistry, so building in a sweat session before you go to work, at lunch, or immediately afterward can help with stress relief and anxiety. Waking up that extra hour early can make all the difference.

Build in breaks – The human body is not a machine, and it’s not meant to go for endless hours without relief. Build in breaks every hour to stretch, and every couple of hours get up and walk around for a bit or do something you enjoy. Also, you must remember to eat. A light snack every 2-3 hours helps keep your blood sugar up, which is important for brain and body health.

Find organization strategies – Everyone has organization systems that work best for them, but it’s important to find the best means of getting your work done. Whatever you can do to feel in control of your destiny as best you can, do it and stick with it. Avoid hypervigilant activity such as checking email every so many minutes or time wasters such as social media. Stay focused so the work gets done and your anxiety stays low.

Laugh – Finding time during the work day to laugh makes the day go by faster, alleviates stress and anxiety, and promotes positive brain chemicals that keep stress at bay. Whether it’s a quick funny video or a conversation with a co-worker, find a way to put some play in your day.

Find your tribe – Workout buddies for pre-work sweat sessions, lunch with friends during work hours, and activities with friends after work can make the day go by faster and can really help with stress and anxiety. Remember to build in some time with friends so you don’t isolate, and prioritize these relationships in your day and in your life.

Mandate work-life balance – When work needs to be done, it’s important to focus on it, but when it’s time to shut down, be firm about it. Endlessly checking email in front of the tv or receiving phone calls at all hours of the night means you’re never really off work, and it can take a toll on your brain and your body. Even if you have to work late sometime, mandate the nights that you’re not available, and make it stick. Turn the phone off. Nobody truly ever has an empty inbox. It will all get done in time.

Take vacation – Finally, take all the days off you’re allotted. If you work for yourself, build this into your schedule. Vacation is important to recharge the brain and body so you come back a better performer. It’s important to rest, so be sure you take every chance you can get.