Six steps to better mental health at work

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Blue Monday may be a marketing ploy, but the start of a new year can be a hard time for many workers.
Six steps to better mental health at work

Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health problems in the UK, with one in four of us experiencing problems every year.

The workplace can often exacerbate mental health problems, but here are some things you can do to help yourself and others.

Please note - If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, the best thing to do is to talk to your GP and get professional help immediately.

Step 1 – Talk to your friends and colleagues

Connecting with others is a good way to fight isolation and improve your mental health. Building good relationships raises your self-worth and combats a sense of isolation or ‘not fitting in’.

You shouldn’t rely on social media alone to build or maintain relationships - physical contact is more important.

Try joining a colleague for lunch or chat with your co-workers instead of listening to music at your desk.

Step 2 – Get some fresh air and exercise

Exercise doesn’t only get you fit, it’s also a great way to improve your mental health. It releases endorphins - chemicals in your brain which make you feel more positive. You can also feel a sense of achievement from setting and then reaching fitness goals.

You can exercise as part of your working day. Try to include walking or cycling into your daily commute or use your lunch hour to go for a walk. Some employers offer cycle to work schemes or discounted gym membership.

Talk to your union rep if your employer doesn’t already offer some of these - they may be able to help make your workplace more exercise friendly.

Step 3 – Get a good night’s sleep

Long-term sleep problems can lead to anxiety, depression and other serious mental health issues. It can be difficult to get a good night’s sleep if you’re worrying about work.

Cutting out caffeine or alcohol, regular exercise and avoiding screens at night are all easy ways to sleep better.

If you find yourself worrying about work at night, writing in a diary or making a note to deal with an issue later can also help.

Step 4 – Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness – paying attention to the present moment – can do wonders for your mental health.

Noticing your thoughts, feelings, and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness. Practising CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) techniques is an effective way to deal with anxieties and worries.

Setting up a breakfast/lunchtime yoga and meditation club at work could also help improve mental health in the workplace.

If you’re just starting out, try using guided meditation such as a 30-minute ‘Body Scan meditation’. Headspace and Insight Timer are also useful tools to help practise mindfulness.

Step 5 – Keep a healthy diet

Diet can affect our mental health but keeping to a healthy eating pattern at work can be difficult.

Planning your meals and bringing food from home is a great way to keep body and mind healthy. Keeping a good supply of nuts or fruits handy can also help decrease stress and replace sugary snacks.

Joining your colleagues for a ‘bring and share’ lunch is a great way to try new things and leave your work behind for an hour.

Step 6 – Help us improve workplace mental health for everyone

One in six workers are affected by mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and stress.

We have created a survey to find out how the Welsh workplace affects mental health.

Your answers will help us create useful resources to improve mental health and well-being for everyone.