Feeling a bit overwhelmed by work? Sick of feeling like a busy bumblebee? Want some simple-yet-effective ideas for how to improve your mental health at work? Well that’s what I’m covering in this post, so… get comfortable and let’s talk about better mental health!
Want to watch the video version of this post? Here it is:
(In case you’re wondering why it’s ‘5 simple ideas’ in the video, there’s a bonus point so it’s really 6!)
We spend an enormous amount of time at work, recovering from work, thinking about work, getting ready for work, going to work again, doing work, leaving work and repeating the cycle all over again… some estimates suggest we spend up to a third of our time at work, so we may as well find ways to make the most of it since it’s an unavoidable part of life!
Regardless of whether you work for an employer or if you are self-employed, there are lots of ways that we can make our days (or nights) feel less like a chore and more of a manageable experience. In this article I’m sharing six simple ideas to help you have better mental health at work (and while these might be simple they do require daily work, but it’s definitely worth it!)… these tips will help you to put things into perspective, and the great thing is that you can put them all into practice today! So, let’s jump into the tips…
- Daily planning and prioritisation — it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you have a thousand and one things to do, but there are only so many hours in the day and unless you are Superperson you cannot possibly do everything. I like to use a nice and simple method which is to grab a post-it note or a scrap of paper and write down the three main things I need to achieve that day (three and no more, so you’re not completely overwhelmed) and then I tick them off one by one. It is quick, simple and immensely satisfying when you can see your progress. And the bonus is that once I’m done with all three tasks, I can throw the piece of paper away or use it to play fetch with my cat (who seriously thinks he’s a dog). Simplicity for the win! Well, I mean, I still have to actually do the work, but anyway…
- Turn off notifications — are you feeling exhausted from being bombarded by the constant “ping! ping! ping!” of new emails arriving? If not… you should be! Because every time that happens, it takes your focus away from whatever you’re working on and that makes it harder to return your attention to the task at hand, which then takes more effort and energy and… before you know it, you’re exhausted and need an afternoon nap. Switch off your email so that you can just hear the magic of silence and so you’re not seeing alerts pop up on your screen. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Hey! That’s all well and good but I still have to check my emails!” — and if you did then I’m glad you said that, because my next point is…
- Block out time for key tasks — and that means grouping similar tasks together so you can concentrate on them, rather than jumping around all over the place and having a diary that is so jam-packed with meetings that you don’t even have time to go to the bathroom. Part of that involves adding time for admin tasks which includes email; I do this three times a day — once in the morning, once before lunch and once in the late afternoon. 99% of the time that’s it for me when it comes to checking emails… because getting your work done is more important than reading through 87 replies to the office pot-luck invitation. Focus your energy on what really matters in your job and treat email like a tool (because that’s all it is). Speaking of, my next point is…
- Remind yourself of your priorities — and by this I mean your main priorities in life, because it’s really easy to get caught up in all the drama and conflama that can go on at work but when push comes to shove… it’s just a job, not your entire identity. It’s a means to an end, and we need to focus on working to live instead of the other way around. Focus on what really matters most in your life — for the majority of us, that’s the people we care about and our interests outside of work. Make a daily effort not to be that person who is defined by what they do, but instead choose to be defined by who you are. And that leads to my fifth point:
- Work your hours — when it’s the end of the work day, be like Fred Flintstone and yabba-dabba-doo your way out of there so you can focus on your wellbeing. If you’re employed to work 40 hours a week but you routinely have to work 50, 60, 70 hours to get everything done, something is wrong. Talk to your manager, take a long hard look at your workload, look for alternative options or — if it’s not something you can change because of the nature of the job — think seriously about what matters more: the work, or your mental health and wellbeing? Because if you’re not making enough time to rest and recharge your batteries, you will eventually burn out.
- Leave your work at work — you know how sometimes it can be tempting to take a sneaky look at your emails after dinner or when you take home a big pile of reports to read through on the couch? DON’T! Work is work and home is home. Whether you work from home or work in an office or whatever, it doesn’t matter; create a clear separation between your work life and your home life. I do my work in my home office and I close it off when I’m done for the day, and if you’re working from home but don’t have a separate room then at least carve out a corner of your space that is dedicated to work and ‘pack it up’ or ‘shut it down’ at the end of the day; even turning off your laptop and putting it in a drawer or basket sends a signal to your brain that work is done. Like I said before, you need your personal time to recharge and nobody can run on empty, so make your mental health and wellbeing a priority above all things.
Whatever you choose to do (or not do), consider that your mental health and wellbeing is about looking after your whole self and not just the version of you that exists outside of the 9-to-5 (more like 8-to-6). Although I go to great lengths to point out that work is work and home is home, it’s important to be your 100% most authentic self in all things so that you can be true to yourself and share your unique gifts with the world… and to do that, it requires you to make your wellbeing a priority 24 hours a day, seven days a week which then helps you to be the best version of yourself possible in all aspects of your life.
The choice is yours, as it is with all things related to your mental health and wellbeing… so, what choice will you make today?
If you’d like even more tips on better mental health at work, watch the video below and also listen to Episode 87 of the Let’s Talk About Mental Health podcast (which is also linked below).
Want more? Listen to the weekly Let’s Talk About Mental Health podcast on your favourite podcast service (click here for links to different services via Podfollow) and subscribe to my YouTube channel, Better Mental Health, for weekly how-to videos.
Thanks so much for joining me today, take care and talk to you next time!
Jeremy Godwin (@jeremygodwinofficial on Instagram) is an Australian writer, content creator and coach who focuses on better mental health. His weekly podcast Let’s Talk About Mental Health has more than 540,000 downloads and listeners in over 150 countries, and in it Jeremy shares practical advice for improving and maintaining mental health that is grounded in quality research and personal experience. He also hosts a weekly show on YouTube, Better Mental Health, which focuses on simple advice for how to manage different aspects of mental health. Jeremy’s style is direct-yet-supportive, and his own experiences with depression and anxiety (along with his formal qualifications in psychology and sociology) allow him to provide advice that is both impactful and sensitive.
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