Work Performance vs Mental Health: How to Make Your Health the Priority
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A recent Centre for Mental Health study found that in the UK, employees on average take 7 days off of work a year for mental health reasons which equates overall to 70 million lost working days a year.
These are huge figures and the reason behind them lays in employees prioritizing their workloads over their mental health.
Employees who are dealing with poorly managed, overwhelming workloads, and unfair management expectations are at more risk of damaging their mental health through pressure, stress, anxiety, and depression.
Overall it’s a vicious cycle, as employees who are failing to manage their workload will emit reduced productivity, making their goals of achieving their tasks and resolving their pressures even worse.
For employees and employers, there are ways to combat this. Here are some essential ways staff can make sure their mental health stays in good shape and takes priority over their workloads.
1) Discuss how you’re feeling
Within any workplace, employees should have people they can confide in if they are struggling. These colleagues could have undertaken workplace mental health awareness training, be mental health champions, or just friends.
Talking is a recommended holistic method for alleviating mental health symptoms. Bottling things up can lead to stress eating away internally, whereas sharing these worries or problems with a friend can lighten the load through receiving understanding, support, and advice.
As well as a trusted colleague, worries, problems, or declining issues should be communicated with a trusted management figure as together an action plan can be put into place that creates achievable solutions to resolve or alleviate sources of stress or worry.
2) Get Fresh Air
When an employee feels overwhelmed with their workload, they often tend to take shorter breaks, if any at all. Taking breaks is vital to relax and reset the brain, and in the face of battling mental health concerns at work, it is recommended to get fresh air and exercise at least once daily.
Fresh air helps send oxygen throughout the body and brain, allowing the brain to work more efficiently which is known to boost productivity.
Additionally, exercise boosts dopamine levels which makes us feel happier, healthier, and stronger overall.
A brisk 20-minute walk can be enough to recharge the body, refresh the mind, and help ease stress.
3) Maintain a work/life balance
When fixated on work performance it can be very tempting to decline offers from friends and colleagues of catch-ups or nights out.
Maintaining a work/life balance is key to maintaining good mental health. Isolation and lack of socialization are two key factors in poor mental health and can lead to increased depression and anxiety.
Make the time to go out with friends after work, or join the work quiz team for after hour social events. If you are a sole worker, invest in co-working spaces to meet other telecommuters. Alternatively, sign up to classes that ensure you have to commit to carving out time for yourself.
Prioritizing your health will prioritize your happiness, and you’ll be much more refreshed, relaxed, and productive when coming back to your workload.
4) Schedule breaks
The Pomodoro technique is so well known and recommended because of its effectiveness. The time management system is a technique that involves working for 25 minutes, and then taking a 5 minute break.
Whilst 5 minutes may seem short, these quick uses of time can be enough to take a breath, get some air, change the scenery or even let go of any frustrations that arose whilst powering through a piece of work.
These quick changes serve as quick boosts to productivity by being stress relievers and relaxers.
Whilst short breaks are a good place to start, scheduling in holidays is essential too, as are making use of employee mental health days if the employer offers these. Sometimes just a weekend or day away can entirely refresh our perspectives and prevent mental health issues from spiraling.
5) Accept yourself
Nobody is perfect and in the same breath, nobody is a superhero. If a workload is unmanageable, or you are struggling with a particular element of your workload, learn to be mindful of this and accept it as part of who you are.
Recognize the things that you may not be so good at and combat these by identifying the things that you are. Take strength from your successes and learn to let failures go as a normal part of existence.
Meditation can be key to having us be more mindful and accepting of our shortcomings. Taking the time to look inside and accept these, whilst in the same breath learning to let them go can make us happier by reducing the pressure of expectation that we all place on our shoulders.