Habits to improve your mental health at work

Written by Chloe Hall.

One of the best things we can do to improve our mental health at work is to adopt good habits. A good habit is one that helps us thrive, that has positive physical, emotional, or psychological effects. As we repeat it, it becomes ingrained in us through positive reinforcement: the activity helps us, or makes us feel good, so we keep doing it, until eventually we do it without thinking.

Building good habits is sometimes easier said than done, but good habits can help keep us on track with work, build better relationships with colleagues, and keep us motivated when work is tough.

3 Habits to improve your mental health at work

Take regular breaks during the working day

Taking breaks between tasks is a good practice which can be hugely beneficial to your mental wellbeing.

Rather than immediately moving onto the next challenge, taking a short breather helps to recharge your energy, refocus your attention, and foster a greater sense of perspective on work issues.

If you’re facing a particularly hectic couple of days, it’s a good idea to pace yourself, and build short breaks into your work time to help you be at your most efficient and focused.

Moreover, moving straight from one task to the next can feel draining, both in terms of your concentration and your output. You are likely to feel more positive and make better decisions if you are refreshed and focused. You’ll be more incisive, more attentive, and look more closely at the details.

So regular, short breaks are in everybody’s interests and should benefit the organisation, the quality of your work, and your own mental wellbeing.  

Take time for your lunch

From time to time, we occasionally cut into our lunch break to ensure work gets finished. If we’re really busy, it can seem like having lunch at our workstation is the only option.  

Every organisation has pressure points and hectic times during the year, and certain people will find themselves in the front line to bear the brunt of the workload. People naturally resort to putting in extra hours and additional effort to manage times like these.

But it is vital for your mental wellbeing, as well as your general performance to use your lunch break to refuel, relax for a short time, and to reflect on issues beyond your work life.

By broadening your outlook and relaxing during the work day you come back to the task feeling revitalised, and your energy levels will be higher for the afternoon.

If you are with colleagues over lunch, it is recommended to try to not talk about work. Encourage colleagues to speak about whatever is happening in their lives beyond the workplace. This can help you build stronger working relationships, viewing each other as fully-rounded people, instead of just work colleagues.

If you’re working from home, or are on your own over lunch, then you could try some simple activities to relax and recharge. Deep breathing exercises are always useful, especially if you have experienced a stressful morning.

Meditation and mindfulness are useful strategies which can also help to refocus and reboot your view of things. Listening to your senses while concentrating on the environment around you will help boost your mood.

Avoid cutting corners and communicate openly

The pressures of work prompt many people to cut corners every day of their working lives. It can be incredibly demotivating to see a long list of challenges to handle, with more tasks and emails coming in, putting further pressure on your time. When this happens, we can easily find ourselves feeling swamped, and from there we’re often tempted to take short cuts, to cut corners, and get as much done in as little time as possible.

When this happens, it is important to assess what you can realistically achieve. From here, communicate clearly and politely with any colleagues who may be affected. Compromising on quality will harm your career in the long run, especially if tasks have to be revisited after completion because they aren’t up to standard.

Any situation which leads to personal unhappiness, or pent-up stress, is detrimental to your mental wellbeing. You will recognise the warning signs, perhaps irritability, lack of focus, a sense of feeling overwhelmed. That is the moment to ask for advice, or help, or more time to complete your work.

So, resist cutting corners, and celebrate inwardly, just for a moment or two, whenever you sign off on a task, or move a situation forward. These habits will boost your self-esteem and self-confidence, particularly if it was a time-consuming challenge.

If you adopt an outlook at work which puts these ideas into practice, then you are likely to approach each day with a positive mindset, and be at your best for whatever challenge you will be tackling.

A few simple adjustments like these can help you to manage, perform, and feel better at work.

Read more about burnout and how it can impact work, or learn about how to stop sabotaging yourself at work.

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Posted on: 25th November 2022