A staggering 1 in 6 employees experience mental health problems in the UK. Today we’ll look at 5 things we can do to support mental wellbeing.
Conversations about mental health have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. Advice such as ‘just get on with it’ has been rightfully dismissed as outdated guidance, replaced by a more serious look at the stresses of modern life. But there’s still such a way to go.
The UK lost 1.7 million working days to stress, depression, and anxiety in 2016 — constituting 37% of all work-related illnesses. In light of this, here are 5 methods at our disposal to help us:
1. Exercise! Exercise is likely the single most important method of managing stress and mental health. It has been proven to lower cortisol (a stress hormone) levels for a significant portion of the day. Whether you prefer going to a gym, participating in sports, or anything else — the important part is raising your heart rate. Even a walk during your lunch break every day is a step in the right direction; something is always better than nothing. Also, many workplaces feature well-being benefits like a discounted gym membership or private health insurance. Be sure to ask yours what they can offer.
2. Meditation and other relaxation techniques. Meditation helps alleviate symptoms of common issues such as stress and anxiety, according to researchers at the John Hopkins University. A simple few minutes of deep breathing can have significant calming effects, too. Many companies now offer internal and external resources, such as group yoga classes or counselling, which can be extremely useful.
3. Getting more sleep. Easier said than done, right? Stress is a leading cause of poor sleeping habits, creating a vicious cycle. Luckily, engaging with our other tips can help. Exercise tires us out, and meditation can quieten the chatter of thoughts in our mind. Healthy habits go hand-in-hand, improving our relationship with sleep. Other methods such as avoiding caffeine in the evening and taking time to wind-down before bed can help, too. Avoid blue light before bed, as it has been found to disturb our circadian rhythm. Software such as f.lux – or the night mode settings on smartphones – can help to reduce a screen’s effect on eye strain and our sleeping pattern. Going to bed at roughly the same time each night can help, also.
4. Organising time away from work. Making time for yourself is crucial. It doesn’t have to be alone, necessarily — but make sure you have breaks from your to-do list and notifications. Modern life expects us to constantly be online and contactable, with notifications ringing in our ears and tasks circling our minds. Take some time out each day, set your devices to silent or ‘do not disturb’ mode, and relax. It can be revitalising!
5. Talking to someone. Talking is a cathartic process. Sometimes an outside perspective on your concerns is all that is needed to help work through them. Speaking to a friend or close colleague about how you feel can help you manage your stress. Having regular catch-ups between management and employees can identify sources of work-related stress, and help work through these issues.
You will find that implementing these tips, little by little, will have knock-on effects.
This should gradually change your outlook on mental health and stress, allowing you to manage it better.
However, sometimes individual action alone is not enough to deal with long-term mental health issues. Employers have a legal responsibility regarding employee’s welfare at work, and this includes mental health.
As an employer, you should constantly strive to make the workplace a positive environment. This includes providing resources for managing stress and mental illness. As an employee, you should always ask for help from your employer where it’s needed. Remember: don’t be afraid to talk to someone if everything gets too much. It could be a friend, colleague, or medical professional. Don’t let mental health problems go unchecked!
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