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Strategies for Mental Health Self Care at Work

The workplace can be an intense environment. The pressure is on to be your best, to perform well and to have everything under control. Colleagues look to you for team playing, leadership, and support through many different challenges. Having a small 'pot’ of stress can be useful, keeping us on our toes and staying ahead of the game. But sometimes, when the pot overflows through lack of an outlet, it can be overwhelming and can start to affect your mental health and emotional wellbeing. 

Recognising signs of stress 

When we are feeling the physical effects of stress, such as headaches, loss of appetite and difficulties sleeping, we are more likely to develop unhealthy routines and habits. These could include drinking too much alcohol or taking recreational drugs, smoking more, comfort eating (high in fat or sugar), not taking exercise, and staying up long into the night. 

Keep an eye out for the emotional signs of stress too: feeling scared, anxious, panicked, or worried often. Or perhaps you’re feeling angry, tearful, alone, and uninterested. 

Stress can manifest differently for everyone, so it’s important to check in with yourself regularly to understand what ‘ok’ feels like, and to notice when you’re not feeling quite right. 

Small changes to relieve stress 

Small changes to the way you plan your day can help to relieve the stress and bring back the sense of purpose and achievement.  

Move More and Take Breaks:

Look after your physical health by moving more. Park a little further away from the office or get off the bus one stop earlier. Even better, cycle or walk to work. Get up from your desk regularly and have a proper lunch break. Instead of sending a message – go and speak to somebody. Not only will this help to work off stress, but it will also increase your social interaction which is important for mental health

Talk and Seek Support:

It’s not a weakness to feel this way so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talking about your worries can be a huge relief and help you feel like you’re ‘getting things off your chest’. Tell colleagues how you’re feeling - others may be feeling a similar way and talking about it together may help to create strategies to reduce stress and make you feel less alone and more supported. You could also talk to your manager or HR department, or to friends and family. If you’re really struggling, seek professional support through your GP or a counselling service. 

Set Boundaries:

Don’t be afraid to say no to people if you feel you are already overwhelmed. Delegate tasks when you need to. If you have competing priorities, ask for guidance from your manager about where to focus your efforts first – this will help you feel confident you’re on the right track and ensures your manager understands your workload clearly. 

Focus on Positives:

Focus on the things you can change, on the positives, and things you are glad of. Think about what brings you joy and how you might bring some joy into your day – playing a good song, making a delicious drink, putting a picture on your desk that makes you smile. Sometimes these are referred to as ‘glimmers’ - what are your glimmers?

Relaxation Techniques:

Your mind and body are very closely connected. By actively relaxing your body, your mind can be brought to a calmer state. If you start to feel panicked or overwhelmed, stop for a few minutes and try some relaxation or breathing techniques. There are thousands of free online videos or apps to help you get started such as Headspace or Balance.

Nurture Social Connections:

Nourish your social life outside of work. Feel connected to others by taking part in community events or joining a club where you can meet different people with similar interests. This may help you to stop thinking about work in the evenings and at weekends and make you feel more able to cope with the week ahead.

Seeking Further Help

If you don’t feel you can cope and stress is taking over your life, please seek help. You can speak to your doctor about trying some talking therapy or medication or ask your employer if you have access to support through a workplace EAP or counselling service. 

For further support and information, consider reaching out to mental health charities and helplines such as Mind or Samaritans - call 116 123 (free from any phone) 24/7, or email for a response within a few days. 

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Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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