Are you trying to juggle work and home life? Do you find yourself short-tempered or impatient with your boss, colleagues or family? Do you want to enjoy your life but find it stressful? You’re not alone.
We all feel pressure in our jobs which can lead to stress that can subsequently stay with us when we’ve finished work for the day. In this time of constant connectivity with work phones and laptops, it has become increasingly difficult to switch off from work, meaning many of us struggle to relax even when we’re not in the work mindset.
There is no prescription cure to resolve stress and other issues such as work related anxiety, but there are a few steps you can take to improve your mental health at work and ways businesses can support employee wellbeing. This article outlines a few ways you can master mindfulness, de-stress at work and pay attention to your mental health that reduces tension in your mind, with the knock-on effect of improving your engagement and productivity!
Do you get stressed at work and find it hard to switch off?
People all have their own individual ways of relaxing, but many also find it hard to switch off entirely at the end of their working day. There are many different ways experts suggest you can reduce tension in your body and most of all, your minds.
If you are not sure where to start, don't panic - we've done the legwork for you! Here are nine simple tips to relieve that tension, improve your mental health at work, diminish the stress and help you work in a more relaxed environment.
1. Remember your breathing
Many of us get caught up with phone call after phone call, running to and from the printer or in back-to-back meetings with little time to do anything else. Even though breathing is a natural physiological process, most of us forget we even do it. However, what you must not forget is that the more oxygen you have circulating your bloodstream, the better your brain and muscles will function.
So, stop, sit tall and take five deep inhalations through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
2. Open up to colleagues or management
As the old saying goes ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. Opening up to your colleagues or leadership about your feelings is no longer considered a sign of weakness, in fact quite the opposite - by confronting your issues many people will see you as strong for taking steps to gain control of your mental wellbeing.
Attitudes are changing and it is relatively common nowadays for employers to encourage their workforce to open up by offering support via dedicated mental health initiatives. If your organisation doesn’t have arranged sessions and you don’t have any colleagues that you feel comfortable talking to, speak to your manager or someone in HR - it can really help.
3. Invest in relationships with your colleagues
Relationships are integral to our wellbeing, so ensuring you are part of a cohesive and supportive team is crucial for stable mental health at work.
Work politics can be challenging and it is likely that you won’t get on swimmingly with every single colleague, manager or client. But this said, it reflects incredibly well on you as a person if you are seen to be making a conscious effort with all of your peers. If you don’t branch out, it will be harder to speak to someone if you ever need help.
4. Look out for others
This leads on directly from the previous point about investing in workplace relationships - regardless of your role or seniority, being there for your colleagues can be incredibly fulfilling. Helping others gives a feeling of being needed and valued. Not only will you be improving your relationships and helping others, but it will also do a world of good for your own mental wellbeing.
You don’t have to be the dedicated office counsellor, but other people will really appreciate a willing pair of ears who will respect their privacy.
5. Don’t check work emails before bed
As tempting as it is to go through your emails on your phone just before bed, don’t do it! Thinking about work before you sleep will leave your mind whirring about what the next day is going to bring. This will disrupt your sleep and leave you tired and exhausted for your next working day - not very productive, after all!
6. Listen to an upbeat song on your lunch break
Music can instantly change your mood. If you are having a busy morning, take five minutes out to plug in those headphones and listen to your favourite song. This will allow an escape from your surroundings. You’ll come back to your keyboard feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the afternoon.
7. Do you really need another coffee and do you need those snacks?
FACT: The caffeine in coffee increases your stress hormones. The stress response increases insulin production. Insulin increases inflammation and this makes you feel lousy. So, are you feeling groggy? Don’t reach for the coffee, but the green tea or an instant energy boost; a banana!
The links between what you eat and drink to both long term and short term physical wellbeing are obvious, but there is also a strong correlation between your diet and your mental health. It can be tricky to sustain a healthy meal routine at work - the thought of pre-preparing lunches for the week makes many people shudder but it’s a great habit to get into (and you’ll probably save a lot of money).
If you can’t quite stretch to making your own lunch every day, try and go for something healthy when buying from a shop or restaurant - be adventurous and try different things, it may change your diet forever!
8. Regular exercise helps clear the mind
The most important part of this is engaging in some form of enjoyable physical activity that you can do on a daily basis.
If you don’t have time to exercise before or after work, use your lunch break to get out and about for a walk - the fresh air alone can reinvigorate your mental wellbeing.
9. Stretching is beneficial
Do you often feel tightness and tension in your back from sitting at your desk all day, but do not have the time for a 90 minute yoga class?
Try a simple chair exercise that will help you lengthen your spine, release your back and provide some much needed space between your vertebrae - Sit up straight and slightly forward in your chair, ensuring your feet are placed firmly in front of you. Inhale and suck your stomach in. Slowly turn the upper half of your body to the left, with your head looking over your left shoulder. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then slowly exhale.
Bonus tips: Mastering mindfulness at work
Simple, practical actions can help you create a sense of peace and stillness in the midst of work demands. Mindfulness is a type of meditation you can easily incorporate into your daily life which can help you leave stress behind, learn how to be more present to the moment and can even boost both your creativity and productivity levels.
Here’s how you can perform mindfulness exercises at work:
- Sit tall, relax your body, be still and notice your surroundings
- Turn up early to meetings so you can observe your thoughts, feelings and breathe deeply
- Practice non-judgement by replying “Thanks, I hadn’t considered that…” rather than disregarding suggestions
- Where possible, try to avoid multitasking - single tasking allows you to give your undivided attention
- Practice gratitude to help overcome our natural bias towards negativity
These tips and guidance won’t automatically turn you into the happiest person in the office, but if you consider them, it will positively influence your mental health and wellbeing at work.