Looking after your mental health in the workplace

Work is the where we spend most of our time throughout the week. In fact, most people in Australia work a 36 to 40-hour week.

Given how long we spend (usually) in the same location, often with the same faces, it is important to look after your mental health.

Many people work considerably more than 40 hours per week, while others may work less. Yet no matter how much time you spend working, prolonged exposure to stressful situations can affect your mental wellbeing. We all try to find a balance in life, and sometimes work can either help or hinder that balance.

 

What causes workplace stress?

Workplace stress can stem from multiple sources and result from a number of reasons, such as:

  • The demands of the role exceed the time available to perform the role
  • Resources are inadequate to succeed in the role
  • There is exposure to potentially toxic or traumatic environments
  • There is a lack of support from colleagues or management
  • Organisational changes affect morale, job security, and role requirements
  • Reward and recognition is missing
  • The environment is not physically safe.

A lot of things can contribute to workplace stress, and while anxiety and depression are different to workplace stress, unchecked stress can lead to greater mental health and wellbeing issues.

 

So what can you do to help make your work day a little less stressful?

Take regular breaks

Change your physical position at least once every hour.

Go for a walk at lunchtime

Do this even if it’s just around the building (the effect of a mental ‘reset’ can be highly beneficial). If you have a health app on your phone, keep an eye on it to track your steps and try to get in a few more each day.

Plan your time

  • Can you fit in a walk before work?
  • Can you prepare your lunch the night before so you’re eating healthy and not rushing in the morning?
  • Can you consider flexible working hours to manage both work and personal commitments more effectively?
  • Does your work provide an employee assistance program (EAP)? If you need to, get in touch with them. Being proactive will help keep you in good mental shape.

Try to get home on time

According to the ABS, over 60% of Australians work over 40 hours per week and 20% work over 50 hours per week. Spending more time with your family and loved ones is conducive to better mental health.

Leave work at work

Do you need your work emails on your phone? Is it a job requirement that you be contacted at all hours? Consider ways to disconnect with work after hours. You may be surprised by how little it is actually necessary to be connected and by how much better you feel as a result of letting go.

Say no

If something is outside of your realm of responsibility, or perhaps you’re swamped and can’t prioritise new requests, now may be the time to speak up and clearly outline why you have to say no.

Talk to your colleagues

You may find that you are not the only person in your workplace that is feeling the effects of workplaces tress. Consider talking to your colleagues about ways to be more productive and more efficient.

 

Need help? You can find support services in northern Queensland or complete a self-administered K10 test for depression and anxiety. You can also join the online social and mental health forum to talk with like-minded people.