Most of us spend a large portion of our days at work. Our work can provide us with a valuable sense of purpose, as well as the practicalities of earning money to provide for ourselves, and in some cases our families, and live our lives outside of the workplace.

Mental health includes our emotional, social and psychological well-being. How we think, feel, and act is affected by it and it’s important to understand the impact it has on the way we make choices, handle stress, treat others, treat ourselves and how we see the world.

Our mental health affects everything in our lives and when cared for, can have an incredibly positive impact on all aspects of our lives. Physically, our health can become compromised when we have poor mental health. Emotionally, it affects our relationships, work life, self-image, productivity, and motivation. By looking after our mental health, we stabilise our behaviours, emotions, and thoughts. A lack of self-care could lead to hopelessness, sadness, worthlessness, feeling guilty, anxiety and worry, fear, and loss of control.

While our employers have a legal duty to provide us with a safe and healthy workplace, as employees, we also have a duty under the Workplace Health and Safety Act 2011 to take reasonable care for your own psychological and physical health and safety at work. On top of this, it’s in our best interest to do so, because an injury or illness caused in the workplace doesn’t stay in the workplace, it affects all aspects of our lives.

How to spot signs of poor mental health
By being aware of the following signs and acknowledging them, you could have a positive impact on someone suffering.

  • Changes in eating or sleeping pattern
  • Social withdrawal
  • Emotional Outbursts
  • Mood swings
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling tense or anxious
  • Poor memory or forgetfulness
  • Excessive drinking and/or drug use
  • Feeling really tired and lacking in energy

Looking after your mental health
Most people are likely to experience some level of stress at work, and in short bursts, it can be useful to help keep you motivated and performing at your best. However, frequent or prolonged stress can lead to serious psychological and physical health complications.
There are many factors in the work environment that can negatively impact on our mental health, and while we cannot control all of them, there are some strategies we can take to enhance our capacity to cope with the daily demands placed upon us. Tips for looking after your mental health and wellbeing include:

  • Make time to relax and recharge – taking time out for yourself is essential for preventing and managing stress.
  • Take your holiday leave – make sure that you have a complete break away from work.
  • Set boundaries – Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’. Continually taking on more work than you can handle, and/or regularly working overtime, can result in chronic stress and lead to burn out. 
  • Seek support – if you are feeling stressed, talking to people that you trust, such as friends, family or your work mates, can be a great help. You could also chat with a health professional such as your GP or make use of your workplace EAP service.
  • Enjoy regular exercise – exercise is one of the best things that you can do for both your physical and mental health and wellbeing. Aim to get in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week.
  • Get enough sleep – Unfortunately, stress can affect your sleep, and in turn, lack of sleep can negatively affect your mental health. Make sleep a priority and aim to get around 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night.
  • Eat well – When you eat right, you feel right. Whole, nutritious foods provide your body and brain with the essential nutrients they need to function optimally. This improves your mental state and makes you happier and healthier.