Part of the reason we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month is to eliminate the stigma around mental health. For a long time, talking about the subject has been like discussing politics with your family during a holiday dinner — you simply didn’t do it.
However, the past couple of years have underscored the need for us to be more open about our mental and physical well-being. While we’ve certainly had more stress introduced into our lives, we don’t have to accept it. We can still find ways to work through that stress, improving our health and happiness.
It all starts with identifying what’s going on in your life and the lives of others.
Identifying Areas of Stress
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, only half of the people experiencing mental health conditions get help. That takes a toll in the long run, including feeling lost, alone, and disconnected within the workplace. It impacts the company, too, through lost productivity, lower performance, loss of high-performing employees, and rising disability rates.
Knowing the warning signs of stress, depression, anxiety, and mental health strain can allow for earlier action, preventing some of those struggles. Here are a few characteristics to look for:
Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much. Tossing and turning at night can be problematic, as can taking a six-hour nap on a Sunday afternoon.
Fatigue or feeling weak. This often goes hand-in-hand with having difficulty sleeping. It may also lead to a lack of strength throughout the day.
Difficulty concentrating and making decisions. Do you find your mind wandering more than usual? You may be carrying added stress.
Excessive worry or doubt. We all have doubts throughout life, but if you’re doubting decisions you normally make with ease, that could be a sign of larger problems.
Feeling nervous, irritable, or on edge. Have you witnessed public outrage from someone? They might be feeling more stressed than normal.
Once you’ve identified these characteristics, the next step is changing your mindset.
Focusing on a Better Work-Life Balance
A healthy work-life balance is more critical than it’s ever been. A study from Mind Share Partners’ 2021 Mental Health at Work Report found that 84% of respondents — about five in six — reported at least one workplace factor that was negatively impacting their mental health. For younger workers and members of underrepresented groups, that strain is even more severe.
While that’s an alarming number, there were some other encouraging findings. Companies are starting to invest more in mental health, with resources like mental health holidays, extra time off, and mental health training.
The onus of mental health should never fall on an individual. Organizations must continue to make mental health awareness and support key parts of company culture.
It’s Okay to Take a Break
One thing that’s easy to forget: It’s okay for us to take a break.
Recently, I started implementing 10 to 15-minute walks into my day. I put two reminders on my calendar, and when they pop up, I get out of my chair and go outside.
We can also take time to run an errand, see a doctor, or eat lunch. Far too many workers experience feelings of guilt if they leave their desks for more than a few minutes, but that sort of work-centric behavior will only hurt us over time.
In some cases, we might need more time to step back from our daily routines. Maybe that means taking a day off for a long staycation weekend or even taking a week off work to unwind. During that time, rest, heal, and seek proper treatment if needed. Doing so makes a world of difference.
If you realize you may need help, reach out to a person you trust. It can be a loyal and reliable friend or coworker — someone that can help you vent or think things through. If you need more help in the workplace, a supervisor may be more informed with resources that can assist with mental health.
We can get through these rough patches. We just need to be aware, speak up, and take action.
How have you worked toward improving your mental health this month? Drop your thoughts in the comments below.