7 tips for maintaining mental wellness in the workplace

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Whether you’re an employee or a business owner, work-related stress is the most major source of stress for American adults. According to a 2020 Mental Health America survey, nearly 83% of Americans feel stressed or emotionally drained from work. Another 85% say that workplace stress affects their overall mental health.

And that’s on top of the mental health effects caused by the coronavirus pandemic. According to a recent MetLife study, 38% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in 2020, an increase of 27% since 2019.

Social distancing, shelter-in-place orders, and shut-downs shoulder some of the blame, but work-related stress is still a culprit. Work environments have changed drastically and, in some cases, irrevocably within the last 12 months. Hundreds of thousands of businesses temporarily or permanently closed in 2020, causing unemployment rates to reach record highs.

Those fortunate enough to continue working from home or operating their businesses from remote environments juggle childcare services, homeschooling, sharing workspaces with partners or parents, insufficient workspaces, or spotty internet connectivity. It’s no wonder 65% of respondents say they find it difficult to concentrate in their work environment, causing productivity to plummet.

It all comes full circle. Feeling emotionally drained or stressed at work is directly correlated to distractions in the work environment, lost productivity, and uncertainty about the future. But failing to manage this stress properly can result in total burnout or lead to serious mental health issues like depression and anxiety. And that’s only half the equation. These mental health issues can cause physical problems, like high blood pressure and chronic diseases.

Whew. Pause. Take a deep breath—in through the nose, out through the mouth—that was a lot to digest.

More than anything, these scary statistics serve as a reminder for employees and employers alike that mental wellness should be a priority, both in and out of the workplace. By putting mental health first, you decrease the risk of burnout, increase productivity, and improve your physical health.

Sounds pretty good, right? You already know you’re supposed to eat a balanced diet, get a decent amount of sleep each night, and maintain an active lifestyle to improve your mental health. But there are a few more steps you can take to improve your mental wellbeing on the job.

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1. Take mental health days

It’s easy to wake up with a sore throat or stuffy nose and determine that you’re not feeling well enough for work. It’s harder to make that call when you wake up feeling stressed or anxious—these symptoms aren’t quite as obvious. But mental health days are just as important as sick days. Your mind needs time to rest and heal in the same way that your body does. Taking that time ups your productivity when you do return to work and lowers your risk of physical illness down the line.

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2. Take a break

It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re hunched over a keyboard or staring at a computer monitor. We know, you’re in “the zone.” But spending long stretches of time at work can negatively impact your productivity and motivation. Schedule mental health breaks to take a short walk, read a book, meditate, grab a snack, or whatever helps you relax your mind and body. Recharging your brain batteries will help you power through the rest of your day. Seriously, stop reading this article and add a recurring mental health break to your calendar. We’ll wait.

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3. Talk to someone

Lots of companies offer an employee assistance program (EAP) as part of their benefits package. These programs offer employees direct access to mental health professionals via phone or in-person. EAPs are confidential and often free of charge. Beyond that, EAPs offer a wealth of mental health resources. If you’re not taking advantage of your EAP, it’s time to start.

No EAP? No problem. There’s an app for everything, and that includes mental wellbeing. Mental health apps like Talkspace, Lantern, and Betterhelp can connect you with mental health professionals virtually, 24/7. Apps like Calm, Headspace, and Happify can guide you through mindfulness techniques, help you balance stress and anxiety, and live a happier life.

Beyond that, talking to a licensed therapist or confiding in a trusted friend or partner can help you process your feelings and diminish stress. When in doubt, talk it out.

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4. Socialize with coworkers

This one is easy. Workplace relationships play an important role in job satisfaction and mental wellbeing. If you’re working remotely, you might be missing out on those mentally critical watercooler conversations. However your business currently operates, make time to connect with your team (safely, of course).

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5. Draw a bold line between work and life

In 2020, thousands of employees found themselves suddenly working from home — for many, that meant working from the living room or the kitchen table. According to a 2020 QuickBooks survey, 58% of these workers didn’t have a dedicated workspace in their home, and it blurred the line between work and life. If you can, designate a space for work — even if it’s just your desk. When you’re done for the day, cross the line between work and life and don’t look back until morning. If you’re having a hard time knowing when to call it quits, use an app to track your time at work. Clocking in and out can help your brain respect the boundaries you’ve set.

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6. Get comfortable

You might not think your desk chair can impact your mental health, but if you’re uncomfortable, your mental wellness suffers. It’s worthwhile to invest in an ergonomic setup to keep your spine and your spirits aligned and feeling good. While we’re at it, take some time to declutter and organize your workspace. A desk filled with papers and post-its can invoke feelings of anxiety and stress. On the flip side, placing a small plant on your desk can actually decrease stress levels (as long as it’s alive). Clear desk, clear mind.

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7. Talk about mental health in the workplace

An estimated one in five American adults suffers from a mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. And yet, the topic of mental health can still feel taboo. Beat the stigma by speaking openly and candidly about mental wellness in the workplace. Share articles, resources, and books with your team. Then, keep the conversation going.

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This article originally appeared on the QuickBooks Resource Center and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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