Mental health problems are universal. As mental health issues like anxiety, depression, mood or eating disorders are beginning to be normalized it’s a good time to start the conversation about support with your employer.
Without the proper support, working conditions and environment, mental health concerns can quickly escalate. This is why it’s important to advocate for support in your workplace, which begins by talking to your employer.
Begin the conversation with your employer
Symptoms of mental health can fly under the radar without being recognized until they build up and become an issue. By this time it can be much more difficult to open up about how you’re feeling. Starting the conversation early is important because it allows you to put measures in place for the times when you or other employees are not feeling well, making it easier for you to ask for help.
Conversations about mental illness can be very personal. It’s important as an employee and an employer to treat the topic with sensitivity so that employees feel comfortable sharing how they feel. Aim to promote an open and honest dialogue about support in the workplace.
A good way to broach the subject is to ask your boss if you can invite in an expert to provide talks about how to recognise and manage mental health symptoms. Look for an expert who can also provide recommendations on general self-care and stress management for times when people are feeling low.
Mental Health First Aid training is a type of corporate training that equips workers with knowledge and insight on how to look after their colleagues and their own personal mental well-being.
Once you’ve opened the dialogue in your workplace, the stigma will begin to lift and more people may be comfortable sharing how they feel and asking for help when they need it.
Encourage self-care in and outside of the workplace
Self-care is an important priority at work and at home. The ability to tune into and address your own needs will help you to be your most constructive, effective, and authentic self.
It’s tempting to think of self-care as just physical health, but we need to broaden the criteria to include taking care of the mind, emotions, environment, time, and personal resources.
A good place to start is by paying more attention to your energy levels. For some busy professionals, getting eight hours of sleep every night is (sadly) not realistic. However, it’s important to find ways to rest and rechard throughout the week. Keep in mind that sleep has a strong association with wellbeing, so aiming to get as close to 8 hours per night as possible is in your best interest.
As much as sleep is important at night, it’s equally important to take breaks throughout your workday. Even something as small as stepping out of your workspace for a few minutes during the day can help shift perspective and improve your mental clarity. There are plenty of apps that offer short guided meditations that you can do while at your desk to refresh your mind and bring you back into connection with your body.
Scheduling pockets of ‘me-time’ throughout the day is a great way to take care of yourself while at work. Try setting up a walking meeting (on the phone or in person), or take a lunch break to catch up with a colleague or friend. Simple activities like this will help you feel more like yourself and improve your focus and productivity while you’re working.
Find out what’s offered at your workplace
Mental health concerns aren’t something you have to try to resolve on your own. Many workplaces tuning into the needs of their employees and starting programs to support their overall wellbeing.
Many workplaces have employer-sponsored resources for emotional support and counselling through employee assistance programmes (EAPs) or through early intervention methods.
If you notice there isn’t enough information in your company about the wellbeing initiatives employees can access, ask senior team members responsible to run company-wide presentations to increase awareness and highlight these opportunities to all staff.
Mental wellbeing is a shared responsibility for employees and the companies they work for. Do your part by talking openly about the resources you require and encourage your workplace to respond with information and programs that all employees can benefit from.