While some may look at the month of October and immediately have images of pumpkin spice, colorful leaves, and haunted houses dance through their heads, there is an often overlooked day that takes place this month and is even more essential to celebrate. World Mental Health Day takes place on October 10th, a day to raise awareness of the plight of people who struggle with symptoms and to mobilize supports in the community.
This year’s theme is “mental health in the workplace” — a difficult thing to maintain in societies where citizens often feel overworked and exhausted. Here are some helpful methods for maintaining and improving everyday mental health for those inside and outside the workplace.
How to Take Care of Your Mental Health at Work and Home
1. Practice Saying “No”
Being accommodating with co-workers and daring to take on new opportunities are revered at the office (and in families, friendship circles, and basically everywhere else). There is nothing wrong with putting these traits into action. But you can take them too far, especially if they lead to you being stretched too thin.
Working “too many” hours is the norm for many people. Either out of financial necessity or feeling as if they have to say yes to extra requests, this phenomenon of being overworked is bad for our health. Working longer hours has been linked to serious health effects (such as heart disease and stroke) and can also increase occupational injuries.
If you feel overworked, take some time to reevaluate how you spend your time during the week. Can you achieve happiness and stability without taking an extra shift, if it means the alternative is feeling like a zombie and not being able to spend time with loved ones? Practice saying “no, I can’t do that” to requests that you do not absolutely have to take.
2. Take Time Off
Scheduling time away from major stressors is excellent self-care. It has been found that Americans aren’t taking the time off of work they have earned. Yet, we also know that unplugging from a normal, everyday, stressful routine can do us wonders. Not only can spending time away from the daily grind do us some good, but scheduling a vacation and getting excited about it in the weeks beforehand can also give us a boost. Plus, many of us often feel refreshed when we come back from a vacation, thereby improving our mental health at work.
3. Find Appropriate Outlets for Your Emotions
It is very easy to get together with a friend every week and find that, in the time that has gone by since you sat down together, all you did was complain about work. It is perfectly healthy to need a soundboard where you can vent and get your frustrations out. But if that is all you do in your downtime, you’re really not disengaging from the workplace at all.
Instead of spending too much time with your pals venting, start a journal. It has been found that using expressive writing to process frustrations and stress can quite literally get it out of our heads and onto paper, making us less anxious and more productive in the process. Try timing yourself when you write so you know when to switch gears to another, health-promoting self-care activity.
4. Invigorate the Non-Work Parts of Your Life
While, for some, being an employee is a huge part of their identity, it is important to realize that we are all well-rounded people who play many roles and have many priorities. Being a productive and happy worker is an excellent goal. But that goal falls flat on its face if you aren’t feeling productive and happy outside of the workplace.
This month, take some time to reflect on how strong a role the other important parts of your life are. Does your “work-life balance” need shifting? Do you remember a time when you saw your best friend several times a month and you really, really miss that? Have you found yourself less satisfied after putting a beloved hobby on hold? Figure out a way to change that so the workplace fits into your life and doesn’t necessarily take it over.
5. Know When to Find Professional Support
Entering mental health counseling is taboo in many circles. The downsides to this fact of life are many: people who would benefit from the support aren’t getting it, feelings of shame arise if someone even considers reaching out, and misnomers about therapy are reinforced. Counseling can be an excellent tool for recovering from some of life’s biggest challenges.
Think of it this way: counseling can provide what venting to a friend cannot. Therapists are bound by the ethics of confidentiality not to blab your troubles to anyone else, they provide a unique outside perspective, and they are equipped with experience and resources for any type of difficult life issue. They are specialists of the mind just like cardiologists are specialists of the heart.
If you don’t know where to turn for help, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for more information.
Katie Medlock is a writer, mental health counselor, and educator on a quest to make the world a better place. Her writing has appeared on Headspace, Inhabitat, Care2, Ravishly, and Chic Vegan. On her days off, you will find her cooking, catching up on nerdy podcasts, blogging at The Offbeat Herbivore (https://offbeatherbivore.com), or lounging with her partner and rescue dachshund.
If you have used or know of any other techniques to improve mental health at work or in your personal life, please share below in the comments.