May appears to be a significant month for looking after our well-being, not only was last week National Mental Health Awareness Week but it is also National Walking Month! So, what better time to shed light on the importance of taking care of your well-being at work.

For most of us, work is a huge part of our lives.  It is our way of earning a living, forming friendships and where we spend most of our time. The inevitable pressures we therefore place on work can have a real impact on our mental health; undoubtedly a fulfilling job can hugely better our well-being.  At some point or another, we’ve all felt overwhelmed by work, whether due to tight deadlines, long shifts, social pressures or from a toxic company culture.

Once reaching heightened peaks, work-related stress can be the source to new, or aggravate pre-existing, mental health issues – yet 38% of employees have reported finding it difficult to open about their mental health. This often is from a fear of other’s responses; feeling shame and embarrassment so to not appear struggling with workload or if requiring additional emotional support. Does this sound familiar? In order to uphold the stereotypical strong and confident male identity, similarly, men are hesitant to expose their vulnerability; societal pressures generally restrain men more than women from opening up about their mental health. Phrases like “man up” and “take it like a man” give more reason for men to isolate themselves and their battle with mental health.   Shifting away from these attitudes, the BBC has launched the “man-up” campaign in aid of men suffering from mental health. You could also say the same with Superheroes. Their personas would suggest they do not have any underlying insecurities or mental health problems, but how would we know?

It is an employer’s legal requirement and in their best interest to ensure these risks are reduced as far as possible. When addressing well-being at work it can increase a workers productivity by as much as 12%.  Nevertheless, whether life gets on top of us as a result of work-related stress or outside work, prioritising and learning how to manage our own mental health is vital. Here are a few ways to improve your well-being…

Recognise the signs and act on them

It is easy to misconstrue mental illness with just day-to-day stress at work. If you notice a negative impact at home, work or on your relationships – the chances are it is an impact of poor mental health.  Work performance is a good indication of this; feeling fatigued, an inability to cope with daily stress, challenge to motivate self, making uncharacteristic mistakes as well as fluctuations in emotion.

If you recognise these changes or more obvious signs of mental health, such as behavioural changes – talk to your manager and/or seek support outside work, you are not alone. By talking about your feelings, it can help you maintain your mental health and deal through troubled times.

Sleep, Eat and Repeat

This phrase has real importance.  Sleep helps us to recover from both mental and physical exertion; disturbed or lack of sleep can therefore contribute to issues with mental health. Typically sleep deprived workers cannot detect signs of sleep deprivation nor recognise impaired performance, and so often have a false sense of normal functioning.  The common assumption is to get 8 hours sleep, but for a more productive and happier lifestyle 6.5-7.5 hours of sleep is recommended per night.  This together with eating well, can have a positive affect on how we feel both immediately and in the longer term.  We all know the importance of having a balanced diet, yet what most workers forget is to plan mealtimes.  By avoiding long periods between meals you can sustain your energy better throughout the working day. Additionally, water intake can affect energy levels and by staying hydrated throughout the day it can also boost mood and concentration.  It is recommended to have 6-8 glasses of water a day, so drink sensibly!

Keep Active

There is more reason to take short walks this National walking month! As we are all told to exercise regularly , this does not mean an intense workout at the gym, health experts claim people should do at least 75-150 minutes of fitness a week – that could simply be 20 minutes of continuous walking a day.   Keeping active can boost energy and self-esteem, even a burst of 10 minutes of moving your body can increase mental alertness and positive mood.  Get walking!

Take a break

Breaks are essential, and workers are recommended to take short breaks at least every hour or so. To avoid mental strain and a build up of any stress, by removing yourself from work for 5-10 minutes it can make all the difference – especially if sat behind a desk all day. Whether making a cuppa or having a stretch, it doesn’t have to be much. After a few hours or so then make sure to properly unwind with at least a 30 minute break to separate yourself from work.

Find balance between work and personal life

Work-life balance is key to a happier lifestyle; the pressures of demanding work cultures are supposedly the most pressing challenge to mental health of the general UK population.  As such, we must make the most of relaxing and enjoying time outside work to allow our brains to stop ticking away.  Maintaining relationships is one factor in this – maintaining and spending time with friends and family can be a great distractions from worries at work.  Additionally, getting involved in activities we love doing, where we can lose ourselves, is beneficial to our well-being.  Usually the hobbies we enjoy are the things we are also best at, and so they can boost self-esteem.  Plan your workload around fitting in the tasks you are good at and enjoy, never forget to find time for yourself.

Here are a number of organisations who offer support and useful resources to help with metal health in the workplace:

Mind

Samaritans

Mental health Foundation

Together for Mental Wellbeing

Medicash for RE / Ambrose staff