Experiencing ups and downs with your mental health is a natural part of life.
But ongoing difficulties with your mental health can make it hard to cope at work and home.
If you’re finding it hard to cope, it’s important to get help sooner than later.
With the right strategies and supports in place, it’s easier to deal with difficulties that arise, manage your emotions and work towards your goals.
Mental health in the workplace
Staying mentally healthy can have a positive impact on your performance at work, as well as your motivation and focus.
But it’s not possible to feel on top all of the time. Having coping strategies up your sleeve and knowing when to ask for help can help when navigating stressful times at work.
Stress is a normal part of working life, and little bits of stress can even help us focus better or be more productive at work.
However, too much stress, or stress that lasts for a long time, can have a negative impact on your physical and mental health.
If you’re experiencing low mood, anxious feelings or high levels of stress that aren’t going away, it’s important to get help from your doctor. Find out more: How to know if you have depression.
Managing your mental health at work
Put the following tips into practice to improve your mental wellbeing at work as well as other areas of your life.
1. Set boundaries around your work
It’s easy for work to creep into other areas of your life, especially during busy or stressful periods.
Over time, working long hours, taking work home or answering emails outside of work hours can have an impact on your mental well being.
Setting boundaries around when you work and when you think about work can help you make sure you’re getting enough time for rest, social connection, hobbies and other things that are important to you.
Here are some tips for setting healthy boundaries around work:
- Turn off notifications for work-related emails outside of work hours
- Avoid bringing work home
- If working from home, use a dedicated space for work
- Schedule meetings during work hours
2. Know your limits
Understanding what causes you stress at work can allow you to take steps to improve your mental health.
It’s also important to understand what situations and environments you thrive in and feel good in.
Once you know your limits and needs, it’s important to communicate them effectively at work.
Tips for working within your limits:
- Use a scheduling app to avoid overbooking yourself
- Set realistic deadlines and deliver on them
- Learn how to say “no” when you’re at capacity
- Take your holiday leave for a complete break from work
- Take breaks throughout the work day
3. Look after your physical health
Your physical wellbeing can have a significant impact on your mental wellbeing.
By looking after your overall health, you might find you’re better able to cope with work stress.
Particularly look at improving your sleep, eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
Improve your physical and mental wellbeing by:
- Going to bed at the same time every night
- Avoiding screens before bedtime
- Doing some physical activity every day
- Eating meals rich in whole grains, vegetables, legumes and nuts
- Avoiding foods high in sugar, saturated fats and salt
- Limiting alcohol and drug use
4. Ask for accommodations
Small changes to your workplace, schedule or work process could help relieve some work stress and make it easier to manage your mental health.
Australian employers are required to make reasonable adjustments at work to help employees do their job safely and productively.
You and your employer may be eligible for funding to make some of these changes.
Accommodations may include things like:
- Working from home some days
- Time off for mental health appointments
- Noise cancelling headphones to reduce distractions
- Organisation tools or scheduling software
- Regular breaks throughout the day
- Flexible start or end time
5. Stay connected
Social connection is an important part of staying mentally healthy.
Healthy relationships can improve your mental health, while isolation and unhealthy relationships can have a negative impact on your well being.
Having trusted friends, family and colleagues to talk to when things get tough can help you feel more supported.
It’s also important to make time to have fun and relax with people you love.
Try these tips for staying connected:
- Schedule a time to catch up with friends and family
- Join a sporting club, social group or community group
- Try volunteering
- Say hello to your neighbours
- Set up a Facebook or WhatsApp group to stay in touch
When and where to get help
If you’re finding it hard to cope at work, it’s important to get help.
Speaking with your GP is a good place to start.
They may refer you to a mental health professional who can help you develop tools for managing your mental health effectively.
You can also speak to your employer about accommodations at work or flexible working arrangements.
If you’re looking for work or finding it hard to cope in your job because of your mental health, you may be eligible for support through Disability Employment Services at no cost.
A provider in your area can help with things like workplace accommodations, accessing mental health services, career planning and job searching.
Mental health benefits of work
While work can sometimes be a source of stress, working in a supportive environment can often be beneficial for your mental wellbeing.
Work can give you a sense of purpose and meaning, and an opportunity to contribute positively to your community.
Employment can also improve your financial situation and help you work towards short and long term goals.
Working in a team is a great way to expand your support network, connect with others and keep your mind active.