With the wake of the pandemic, mental health issues all over the world are rising. This is especially true for corporate employees and other professionals. With work from home setups being on the rise, a lot of people have problems separating work from personal time. And it affects their mental well-being. That said, here are mental health tips for employees you can apply wherever you are.
These mental health tips are not HR initiatives. Rather, they are specific strategies that you can apply with yourself as an employee to maintain and strengthen your mental health. Whatever your job is, wherever you work, these tips are effective. But only if you work on them.
Contributors Of Mental Health Problems
The #1 reason for our mental health issues at work is putting our thoughts and feelings on a pedestal. We overvalue what we think (i.e. I’m right) and how we feel (i.e. my happiness comes first). Our thoughts and emotions are important, but only up to a certain point. When they hinder us from growing, from learning, we need to put them under a microscope and inspect how they affect us.
You see, you are not your thoughts. And much more important (and true) is you are not your emotions. They are a part of you, but they are apart from you. At any given point in time, you can change your thoughts and feelings. It’s a skill you can develop with consistency and deliberate practice.
Now, as I pointed out, your thoughts and feelings are important. But a better way to manage them so it develops a stronger mental health is to step back and process:
- What your emotions and thoughts are (i.e. it’s characteristics, naming that emotion, etc.);
- Why you’re feeling or thinking them (i.e. what is the reason, what brought those emotions, etc.);
- How you played a part in the situation;
- The effect of these thoughts and emotions on you (e.g. is it harmful or empowering?); and
- What you can do to manage them
Of course, there are external factors that contribute to mental health issues in the workplace. And most (if not all) are preventable. Here are some of those:
Toxic Working Environment
If you’re working in an environment that drains your energy just by thinking about them, it’s a big sign that it’s toxic. Your job is draining enough. Working with people who argue over trivial things, treat you as a number, or lie to get what they want isn’t worth it. You’re wasting your life away so it’s best to get out as soon as you can. After all, it’s hard not to bring our problems at work back home.
If you have this kind of environment, you are left with two options. First, you can make it better. This applies to you if you know you’re working with good people, people of character. And if you have the authority (or at least trusted enough) to make change happen. It may be that the company culture is the problem, and you can help change that.
Second, get out. To be honest, you can only do so much to save a sinking ship. If you’ve done your part to make things better and it’s not working, it’s not on you. The best use of your time is to find another job at a good company.
Poor Job Support
We all need support, no matter how long you’ve been in a company or organization. I once worked with a company that offered little to no support, especially in IT. A simple request would take hours before they look into it. Worse, it would take days. In fact, they lent me a laptop with a broken keyboard and I reported it to IT. When it was time to return it, they even blamed me for breaking it. The cherry on top was that they were doing nothing but play mobile games all day.
If you’re getting little support and it’s affecting your performance, let your boss know. Let them know specifically what kind of support you need. Explain how it’s affecting your job. A sensible boss would help you if you ask for it.
Neglect Of Immoral Activities
This is a big one. If the management of your company knows of an immoral activity and decides not to do anything about it, that’s a big red flag. They may do something if the party involved are rank and file. But if they’re part of the bosses, that’s where your company’s moral sense is tested.
Aside from this, immoral and unethical conducts (e.g. affairs, misconducts, bullying) affect the working environment overall. It lowers morale, decreases productivity, and may even increase turnover. A study known as the Ethical Impact Theory (EIT) backs this. Researchers suggest that unethical behaviors can lower the psychological and physical well-being of employees. Both the parties involved and those that are not. It may result to:
- Anxiety, Depression, and other mental health issues;
- Sleep problems;
- Low Self-Esteem;
- Job-Induced Stress; and
Vague Or Unrealistic Expectations
Problems arise when people don’t know what’s expected of them. This is true especially as a professional since you’re not only expected to do your tasks; you’re expected to do a hundred others. Think about it: when you don’t know what’s expected of you, you won’t know what to do. It’s one of the leading causes of stress and conflict with your colleagues.
With the advent of work-from-home setups, this is bound to be worse. It used to be that managers “manage” their people by physically being there. They trust what they see, not their employees per se.
But now, a lot of people are working virtually, without the presence of a manager. The bosses who don’t trust their people imply an unrealistic expectation that people should be on-call 24/7 since they’re only working from home. This only causes burnout.
Finally, there’s miscommunication. It’s the oldest workplace issue in the book and it’s never going away. The faster communication happens between two people, the higher the risk of them misunderstanding the message. Yes, we’re communicating, but not everyone is comprehending. Emails get misinterpreted, emojis get abused and overused, written messages get misread.
The answer isn’t more Business Writing Training. To be honest, I think that’s counterproductive since the only thing it teaches is how to sound like a robot. The best way to overcome miscommunication is to be human. Ask questions. Be empathic. Listen without judging. Get to the point. And make an effort to bridge the gap of miscommunication.
Mental Health Tips For Employees
To overcome challenges and day-to-day stress at work, you need strong mental health. My goal for you is not only to survive in your workplace. Not only for you to learn how to navigate to the daily obstacles at work. But to thrive: to inspire others to be strong and well-adjusted, too.
That said, here are some mental health tips for employees that I know work.
Create And Keep A Journal
Having a stress diary allows you to develop self-awareness of what ticks you off. You’ll know your triggers and therefore, you can plan for when they happen. Not only that, keeping a journal shows you your progress over a certain period of time. And progress, hands-down, is one of the few things that will make you truly happy.
Stop Subscribing To News And Negative Discussions
I’ve stopped watching the news since 2013 and honestly, I don’t miss it. When big and important issues in society arise, I hear about it from other people. Subscribing to news and negative discussions can fill your mind with poison. Sure, you’ll be “aware” of what’s happening – the latest news and gossip. But you’ll be unaware of its long term effects.
You see, our mind is like a computer. What comes in must come out. And GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) is the only destination of following negative news.
Same goes with negative conversations at work, gossip or otherwise. It doesn’t and wouldn’t serve you, other than it being mental bubble gum. Sweet and juicy at first. But passed around, it becomes disgusting.
I’m not saying go live in a rock. And this isn’t toxic positivity. What I’m saying is for you to be mindful of what you’re putting inside your mind. After all, it shapes the way you see the world.
Think Less But Better
One sure path to mental health issues is biting more than you can chew. It’s the attitude of “more” and “doing it all.” A path for a quieter, more peaceful life is the way of thinking less but better. Less but better things to pay attention to. To focus on. To care about.
At work, this is about carefully evaluating every “opportunity” that comes your way. Just because it’s new and exciting, doesn’t mean you should go for it. And just because you were asked for help by your colleagues, doesn’t mean you’ll say yes.
It’s easier to do this to your colleagues, I know. But what if your boss asked you to do another project on top of what’s already on your plate? Simple. Explain the things you do. Then ask them which project should be your priority and which one should be dropped off (or at least delayed). They’ll either choose or assign the task to other people.
Celebrate Your Victories
Often, you and I don’t celebrate our victories. Especially the small ones. I remember when I got promoted. I was happy for about an hour, then I shrugged it off. Without savoring my victories, I dismissed it as something “easy”. Because of that, I never really appreciated the things I do well and never felt happy about my accomplishments.
You need to celebrate your victories, no matter how small. It doesn’t have to be grand, no party needs to be arranged. Celebrate your own way. The important thing is to focus on how you made it happen and expressing gratitude for the blessings you receive. As the saying goes, count your blessings.
Take Mental Breaks
The Pomodoro Strategy works because it takes into account mental fatigue. You can’t be productive 24/7/365. You’re not a machine (even machines need rest). You need to rest and recover. Having short mental breaks prevent mental breakdowns and allow you to be more productive in the long-term.
Do Something Outside Of Work
Work fills more than 1/3 of your day. If we don’t control it, it will creep into the other 2/3s of your life. The best way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to do something outside of work. It doesn’t have to make money (yet), it just has to take your mind off of things.
Here’s a list of hobbies that you can start learning or doing outside of work:
- Learning Music (Instruments and Vocal)
- Stitching and Crocheting
- Reading Books
- Creating Contents
Although there’s no one-size fits all solution to our mental health challenges, these mental health tips for employees work. But only if you work them. Pick one and test it out. See if it improves your overall mental well-being. If not, then discard it and move on.
Life isn’t just about work. You were not born to earn money to pay bills. You’re meant for something more. Make sure to enjoy the work you do and do work that you enjoy.
Live an inspired life,