Mental Health in the Workplace – 11 Ways to Protect Yours

Despite strides by the government to improve mental health in the workplace? A recent survey by PwC found over a third of British employees now report stress, depression, and anxiety at work.

Is it time you took your mental health at work seriously?   

Mental health in the workplace – why does it matter?

The average UK employee spends over 1,700 hours a year at work. If we are unhappy in the workplace, it tends to then affect our family life and social life, and even our physical health.

At worse, it can lead to a nervous breakdown. And no salary is worth that. 

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[At wits end over work? Book a Skype therapy session now and start talking to someone who truly understands.]

So what can you do to protect your mental health in the workplace? 

1.Set boundaries. 

Sure, you must say yes to your boss. But saying yes to your colleague who always wants you to cover for them, yes to the office moaner who fills up your breaks with gossip, or yes to endless after work drinks when you actually want to get home and rest? Not so great.

Knowing how to set and stick to boundaries means we gain time, energy, and, ultimately, other people’s respect. If you find saying no hard, see it as a goal to work towards in steps, keeping a record of your wins to inspire you. Each time you say no to someone else, you say yes to yourself. 

2. Drop perfectionism. 

Aim for some perspective here. Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes it’s better to get things done on time than to let perfectionism ruin things.

If you struggle with perfectionism, it can be a sign of bigger issues. Consider talking to a coach to see what drives your fear of making mistakes.

3. Take your breaks.

Your brain and body need time outs. It actually leads to better productivity, and more focussed work.

And enforcing your legal rights to breaks and holidays lets colleagues and bosses know that you value yourself and practise self-care.

They are less likely to then turn to you to clean up their messes, or be the one who stays late to do overtime.

Another tip here is to take hourly ‘mental breaks’ by practising mindfulness. It’s shown by research to do wonders for stress. Even just a few minutes of deep breathing and now-moment awareness each hour can reduce anxiety.

4. Get up and out daily.

Forget the tradition of eating a sandwich at your desk. It’s now proven that exercise improves your moods. As does time spent in nature. 

No matter how lazy you feel, pushing yourself to leave the office at lunch, walking the long way to the cafe, and sitting in a park to eat your sandwich? Or walking around the block on your break? It will have a positive knock-on affect for the second half of your workday. 

5. Have a life outside the office, too. 

Maintaining interests, hobbies, and good relationships outside of work means that when workplace stress hits we don’t lose ourselves to it. And when retirement comes we don’t have a crisis

If your job is taking up so much time you feel it’s not possible to have any sort of life otherwise? Then it’s time to look at your work-life balance and make a long-term plan.

6. Don’t keep it to yourself.

Pretending we are managing when we aren’t tends to backfire. We end up doing a poor job of a presentation, exploding on another colleague, or walking out of a meeting.

The thing to be cautious of here is sharing our stress and anxiety with the wrong people. The colleague who gossips can make things worse. A friend outside the workplace is a better bet.

Also be wary of expecting one other person to always be your ‘go to’ when you are upset. It is a lot to ask of someone and can seriously strain relationships. If you don’t have a circle of support, consider counselling.

If too much is being asked of you in the workplace, speak up to the appropriate channels. Using calm, non-violent communication, explain to your manager or HR why you feel overwhelmed or how you feel your job description has been overstepped, and outline what you think would be helpful solutions.

7. Stop workplace bullying in its tracks.

It doesn’t matter if it is another colleague or even your boss. If you are in any way being belittled, harassed, or tormented, speak to human resources. Workplace bullying is a serious issue and needs to be treated as such. 

8. Learn the steps to wellbeing and apply them.

Wellbeing is not just a buzz word, it’s an art form and a science proven to help. Psychologists have even created a wellbeing test you can take. If you implement the steps of wellbeing into your life, you will see results.

[Why not sign up to our blog now and receive your free wellbeing guide? It’s full of actionable content that means you can get started immediately.]

9. Use the mental health services your workplace offers. 

Ignored the free courses on wellbeing and mindfulness offered by HR? Not bothered with the mental health check each employee is entitled to at your workplace?

Mental health is as important as physical health, and a bit of prevention goes a long way. Just like you exercise and take vitamins for health, see mental health services as time well spent for the long-run.

10. Be honest if it really is your workplace that is the issue.

Complaining about the workplace is socially acceptable. Far more socially acceptable, sadly, then admitting our marriage is a shambles, we are worried we are a bad parent, or that debt problems are keeping us up at night.

So it’s actually common that endlessly complaining about our jobs can be a way to hide the real issues in our lives. But if there are other issues, no amount of promotions or career change is going to make you feel better. You need to face up to what is really bothering you, and seek the support you need to find a working solution.

11. Get proper support.

Most workplaces provide insurance for counselling and psychotherapy, which can do wonders for workplace stress. A talk therapist creates a supportive, judgement-free environment for you to find clarity on what is bothering you.  Talk therapy helps you realise better ways to deal with your mental health issues, build resilience, and work towards career and life goals.

Don’t feel your workplace stress is ‘serious’ enough to go to counselling over? It’s a myth that therapy is just there for when we are ‘crazy’. The best time to go to counselling is when the stress starts. It means that breakdown never has to happen in the first place. 

Time to seek some support for your mental health? Harley Therapy connects you with London’s top talk therapists in central locations. Not in London? Use our booking site to access registered UK therapists, and Skype therapists you can talk to from any country. 


Have a question about mental health in the workplace we haven’t answered, or want to share your experience with other readers? Use the comment box below. Comments are monitored to protect our community.

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