Mental Health and Work: Striking Out a Balance
Why is mental health so important?
Mental health is essential for several reasons. It:
- Helps determine how we think, feel, and act
- Is a vital part of our overall health
- Affects our ability to cope with stress and make healthy choices
- Plays a role in our relationships, work, and school life
- Helps us deal with difficult times
Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood to adolescence and through adulthood. Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior may be affected.
Mental health through the years
Mental health has recently gained heightened attention, but it’s always been a part of our lives. A significantly higher proportion of people now care more about mental health compared to 50 years ago. The increased focus on mental health is for good measure because it means more people are discussing it and seeking help when needed.
Mental health problems can affect anyone at any age and from any background. Mental illness is common, affecting tens of millions of people each year.
According to surveys, there are different causes of stress. However, work is among one of the top contributing factors. Supporting this, a study by the American Psychological Association found that money and work are the top two most common sources of stress for Americans.
This just goes to show that we need to focus on our mental health, as it’s easily affected by different factors in our lives. We need to find a balance between work and the other aspects of life — taking care of our mental health allows us to function properly in day-to-day activities.
While it’s not always possible to eliminate stressors from our lives, there are ways to manage them.
COVID-19 and mental health
The pandemic brought a lot of change into our lives. We were suddenly thrust into a new mode of living and working, which was markedly difficult to adjust to. Along with physical health concerns, the pandemic also took a toll on our mental health.
The CDC reports that symptoms of anxiety and depression have increased since the start of the pandemic. A study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 41% of adults in the U.S. reported struggling with anxiety and depression.
There are a plethora of reasons why people are struggling with their mental health during the pandemic: the uncertainty of the situation, anxieties about our loved ones, work displacement, and changes to our daily routines are all stress factors.
Many people were forced to make significant changes in their lives. While some switched to remote work or had to homeschool their children, others lost their jobs and are struggling to make ends meet. Due to the lockdowns, it was difficult for everyone to adjust to the “new normal” as we weren’t allowed to meet up with friends or family.
Work-life balance also suffered as we were suddenly expected to be accessible at all hours through work email and video calls, making it a challenge to disconnect from work.
Fortunately, there are ways to cope with the stress of the pandemic. Finding time for yourself, doing things you enjoy, and reaching out to loved ones is important. You can also seek help from a mental health professional if you’re struggling.
4 tips to manage work-related stress
Work-related stress can be caused by several factors, including the type of work you do, your work environment, and even your co-workers. Whatever the reason may be, these tips for managing it will surely help!
Be mindful of your stress triggers
Understanding yourself and knowing what triggers your stress is the first step in managing your mental health. Once you determine the factors, you can begin developing a plan to avoid or manage those triggers.
Maintaining a journal is a wise method of documenting your triggers, as it can help you to keep track of progress and recognize which techniques are working for you.
Some common work-related stressors include:
- Working long hours
- Having a heavy workload
- Not having enough time to take breaks
- Having an unclear job description
- Working in a high-pressure environment
- Having a lack of control over your work
- Not receiving enough support from your co-workers or boss
Choose healthy coping mechanisms
Once you determine what causes your stress, you can begin developing healthy coping mechanisms. Some of these include:
- Taking regular breaks throughout the day
- Exercising or participating in a physical activity
- Eating healthy foods
- Getting enough sleep
- Connecting with friends or family members
- Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation
Aside from the common ways to deal with stress, like those mentioned above, there are other ways to deal with stress. One such way is by talking to animals. Yes. You read that right. Talking to animals can help relieve stress.
An article by NIH discusses such interactions with animals. They mentioned that having these interactions can lower blood pressure and heart rate, as well as reduce anxiety and tension. So next time you feel stressed, try talking to your pet or observing some wildlife. Another option would be checking out your local cat/dog cafe in town; if one is available, of course — a cup of tea and furry companion might be all you need.
Another way to deal with stress is by spending time in nature; it’s been proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. So, next time you’re feeling mentally stretched, try taking a walk in the park or even just spending some time outside in your backyard.
You can also go shopping! Now, before you write this off as a frivolous way to deal with stress, hear us out. Shopping is actually very therapeutic. The act of picking out items and making purchases helps boost your mood and relieve stress.
When you’re healthy, you’ll be able to manage stress better. This means you can perform and cope with work demands and day-to-day activities more effectively.
Create a support system at work
It’s important to have a support system at work. This comes in the form of a mentor, a friend, or even a coworker. Having someone to talk to about your work stress helps you to feel emotionally supported and less lonely.
If you don’t have anyone at work that you feel comfortable talking to, consider joining a support group for people with similar experiences. This is a great way to connect with others who understand what you’re going through.
Talk to your boss or human resources department
If you’re struggling to manage work-related stress on your own, it’s important to reach out for help. Talk to your boss or the Human Resources department about your stress and how they can help you manage it. They may be able to offer you some flexible working arrangements or give you some time off.
Mental health is just as important as physical health, so don’t hesitate to seek help if you’re struggling. Remember, you’re not alone!
If you want more information about mental health issues, read on!
Types of mental health issues
There are different types of mental health issues, but they generally fall into four categories:
- Mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder
- Anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder and social anxiety disorder
- Psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder
- Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa
Causes of mental health issues
So, what causes these mental health issues?
It’s different for everyone, but there are some common factors, including:
- Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
- Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
- Family history of mental health problems
Mental health issues manifest in a variety of ways. It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms so that you can seek help if you or someone you know is struggling.
As mentioned, signs and symptoms of mental health issues vary depending on the condition. However, there are some common warning signs, such as feeling sad or down, extreme mood changes (including irritability or mania), confusion or disorientation, substance abuse, and acting out with violence.
Taking care of yourself for better mental health
It’s important to take care of yourself so that you can perform at your highest potential. Work-related stress is a common problem that many people face; however, it’s important to remember that there are ways to manage it. By following the tips above, you can begin to take control of your work-related stress and improve your overall mental health.
Mental health is something we all need to be aware of. It’s easy to let work consume us, and before we know it, our mental state is in a downward spiral. Be sure to take the necessary precautions to avoid letting work cause too much stress in your life. Your mental health is worth it!
We tend to overwork and neglect our mental health. Today’s society often perceives taking care of one’s mental health as a sign of weakness, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! When you’re mentally healthy, you’re able to function at your best and be there for the family and friends who need you.
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