When working in a busy job with a heavy workload, it is easy to forget to look after yourself. Recent studies by Health and Safety Executive have shown that between 2017 – 2018, 595,000 workers in the UK suffered with depression, anxiety, or work-related stress and 15.4 million working days were lost because of it. Additionally, the study showed that between 2010 and 2012 a massive 44% of Stress, depression and anxiety was caused by workload. This is something that we desperately need to address to ensure that we are happier and healthier in ourselves and that we can work to the best of our abilities. The best place to start is to evaluate your workload, to take stock and speak with your line manager. Together you can think of ways to prioritise work and to look at how you can reduce the stress you are under with the support of line manager. But there are other way to practice self-care to try and alleviate some of the pressure we feel day-to-day at work.
Never underestimate the power of Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) or positive thinking. Though your immediate reaction might be to be negative about some kinds of work, try and hold onto the positive things that you have done rather than the negatives. Sometimes things go wrong and they can be fixed. If you are lost and cannot seem to find a positive, start with the small things; you might have sent a stellar email, or helped one of your colleagues out with a job that they’re doing. Build up the appreciation of these positive things until you can start to realise bigger things to feel good about, like how much you have helped a client with your last project, or dealing with a difficult request which you’ve successfully resolved for example. Having perspective and being able to see things in a positive light is so important to your mental health whilst at work. Getting into a negative pattern about your own work fosters a negative attitude towards your workplace in general. Trying to get yourself up and out to a place you feel negatively about every day can be soul destroying and cause stress in something as small as getting ready for work. Making small steps to feel better about yourself is a really positive move towards happiness at work.
2. Team work makes the dream work
When working in a team, it is important to make sure that you are all on the same page work wise. If someone is struggling and you can help them, one of the best things you can do to restore team morale is just that. We are all at work to do a job, and not everyone is there to make friends, however a team that can work together through tough times is like a well-oiled machine, and you don’t have to be best friends to do that. If you can pick up something extra, albeit even just a phone call for someone who is snowed under with work, it can make a huge difference to someone else’s day. And you never know when the tables might turn and you’ll be in need of an extra pair of hands. Having compassion and respect for your team members is one of the best ways to make sure your mental health is cared for in the work place.
3. Taking time for yourself
Working to tight deadlines is hard for your state of mind at times and skipping breaks and working through lunches can really affect this. Make time during busy periods to have a break and restore some of your energy. Even if you take five minutes out after a working lunch to go and sit outside on a bench and enjoy the sunshine for a moment, or read your favourite book, or have a phone call with a family member about anything but work, you’ll thank yourself for that much needed R&R time to avoid burnout at work.
4. Getting the right nutrients at work
When you are grabbing a working lunch, it is easy to go for quick and easy junk food that fills you up right away, but this isn’t always the best thing for your body and mind. Make sure that you are getting the right foods that will keep you fuller for longer and stop you from getting hungry later in the day. What you eat at work is important not just to quell hunger pains, but to feed your brain everything it needs to keep working properly. Fighting off hunger pangs is an added pressure that you don’t need to put onto yourself when you’re already juggling everything else at work!
5. Making sure you drink plenty of water
Throughout the working day it is easy to forget to drink water and fill up on caffeine. Whilst the caffeine buzz is a short-term fix, starving your brain of precious water can be detrimental to your mental health at work. Keep yourself topped up with water throughout the day to make sure that dehydration headaches don’t become an unwanted burden!
Additionally, try not to take the stress of work home with you. We've all experienced times where we find it impossible to switch off from work when we get home, when we wake up at 4am in a sweat that something hasn’t been done, or when we are out at a family meal and suddenly you remember that you forgot to call someone back. Get yourself a mantra when you find yourself in these situations. Perhaps you write it down in a notepad or put a reminder into your phone to think about it the next time you are working. Either way ask yourself these three questions;
- Is this hurting anyone? Is what you are worrying about affecting anyone right this moment?
- Can I do anything about it right now? Is spending my energy stressing over this right now going to rectify this? If you can call someone at work and ask them to sort it out, that's great, but it won’t do you any good to dwell on things that you have no power over.
- Is worrying about this making me happy?
If the answers to these questions is no, try to put your worries to the back of your mind until a time when you have the ability to make a change. It can be a difficult task, but one which can help you manage your stress in and out of work and enable you to practice self care.
This blog was written by Grace Foulkes, from the Liverpool Public Sector team.