Many people may read the words “mental health” and immediately think, this can’t apply to me. We often think if we haven’t been diagnosed with a mental illness, then taking care of our mental health isn’t important.
I am here to tell you that it is very wrong! As a mental health advocate, I have spent the last 10 years telling my story and highlighting my day-to-day as someone with high-functioning depression and anxiety. I still struggle knowing how to manage mental health in a fast-paced world, but I have been able to learn a lot along the way and am excited to share tips and tricks with you!
First, we need to start talking about how mental health plays a role in our professional life! We spend the majority of our waking hours at work, so mental health needs to be a top priority during this time. According to a 2021 report from mental health consultancy, Mind Share Partners, three-quarters of full-time U.S. workers reported experiencing at least one symptom of a mental health condition in 2020, up from 59% in 2019.
For Mental Health Awareness Month, Spreetail has launched the Mental Matters Series to address how to manage mental health at work. This series includes educating team members on our insurance policies for mental health, an extensive mental health resource doc, hosting a 'Tips and Tools for Mental Well-Being' session, a virtual yoga session taught by one of our very own Spreetailers, and offering the opportunity to sign up for one month free of the Calm or Headspace app. These apps have been created to make a happier and healthier world. With guided meditation, relaxing playlists and scenes, morning stretches, and so much more, these apps are perfect for anyone in need of a little mental boost!
How can we all manage mental health at work? Let’s dig into a few ways below:
- The biggest way to impact mental health at work is a simple, but equally hard task, of openly talking about it. As a society, we still stigmatize mental health, and this leads to fear of speaking up at work. We are often afraid if we admit to struggling in our roles, we will be less likely to be respected or promoted. I personally have been there and spent months not speaking up, but when I finally did, I was shocked at how receptive my managers were. I was given time off, continually checked in on, and still promoted a few months later! I challenge each individual, especially those that manage others, to openly talk about mental health. Don’t be afraid to ask someone how they are doing, how they are taking care of themselves, how you can help, and share your own experiences and how you manage your mental health.
- Setting boundaries and communicating them. When we all moved to a virtual environment, the lines between work and home were blurred. I have been guilty of sitting down to watch TV and opening my computer at 8:00 PM with the excuse of “I might as well be productive.” This is the wrong way of thinking. We all need and deserve time away from work, as well as time to rest. The only way that can happen is if we set our own boundaries. Decide the earliest and the latest you will respond to messages and emails, then communicate it with those you work with. Let your colleagues and managers know your working hours and if needed, give them a way to communicate with you if it’s an emergency. And remember, if you want people to respect your boundaries, respect others as well. If you are working after normal work hours and it’s not urgent, an email is a better form of communication than a message. It allows the person on the other end to not feel obligated to respond immediately.
- Another way to manage your day-to-day mental health is taking breaks! Schedule them into your day, so that it ensures you have 15 minutes to let your mind rest, whether that be taking a quick walk or stepping away from your computer. And don’t forget to take a break and eat lunch! My favorite 15-minute breaks are throwing the ball in the yard with my pups, completing a quick task around the house that makes me feel productive, or grabbing coffee with a coworker.
- Staying active is a vital part of your mental health. When we take preventative measures, just like you do when you choose to be physically active or get a yearly exam, we can more easily stay on top of our mental health. Staying active can include walking, weightlifting, cycling classes, at-home workouts, etc. Find 30 minutes every day to move your body and not only will your mental health improve but so will your overall health! If I am having a bad day, the first thing I do is jump on my bike for a quick 15-minute ride to clear my mind. Take that 15-minute break to go on a walk without your phone or any distractions and you may come back with a clearer mind. Another important part of your physical health is sleep. Make sure you are sleeping an appropriate amount, the recommended seven or more hours a night, to ensure you are staying healthy.
- Utilize resources! Here at Spreetail, we have provided resources ranging from support groups to helpful podcasts on our internal website that every team member has access to:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: a crisis center offering 24/7 counseling at 1-800-273-8255.
- Text MHA to 741741 to connect with a trained counselor from Crisis Text Line.
- Live chat is available online at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
- The Trevor Project: The world’s largest crisis intervention org for LGBTQ+ youth under 25 at 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678-678.
- Mindshift CBT: MindShift® CBT uses scientifically proven strategies based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help you learn to relax and be mindful, develop more effective ways of thinking, and use active steps to take charge of your anxiety.
- BetterHelp: Online therapy that offers low-cost plans, as well as financial assistance when needed.
Podcasts on mental health:
- The Positive Psychology Podcast – Delving into topics like post-traumatic growth and positive parenting, the hosts bring science into a fun and positive light.
- The Happiness Lab – Hosted by Laurie Santos of Yale University, this podcast delves into controlling your own happiness using scientific research on human behavior and emotion.
- Mental Illness Happy Hour – Host Paul Gilmartin interviews a variety of noted figures and celebrities about their experience with mental illness and trauma to break the stigma about talking about issues.
So why is mental health important to you as an employee or manager? Because not only does it affect 1 in 5 US adults, but mental health conditions cost employers more than $100 billion and 217 million lost workdays each year. When we learn to focus on our mental health at work, productivity increases! We all are working towards goals, whether those are promotions, continued learning, or getting better at our jobs, and we can’t do that if we don’t take care of our mental health. If you don’t take the time to take a break or set boundaries, burnout will happen. Burnout looks different for everyone but can come in the form of constantly having “bad days” at work, inability to focus on tasks you normally complete easily, or constant exhaustion (you can learn more: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm).
But even more importantly, you will live a healthier and happier life, both inside and outside of work, when you learn how to focus and take care of your mental health. As I, and many others, continue to fight the stigma around mental health, I will leave you with one final reminder – be kind. You don’t know what the person on the other end of your message or call is going through.