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Little things you can do to improve wellness at work

by | 17 Apr, 2019 | People

Stress isn’t the same as pressure.

Anxiety isn’t the same as worry.

Depression isn’t the same as feeling sad.

Mental health isn’t an excuse because you can’t be bothered to do something. And it’s not something you can control. It’s a genuine illness that can, in extreme cases, cripple sufferers.

According to the Government report, “Thriving at Work”, the number of people forced to stop work as a result of mental health problems was 50% higher than for those with physical health conditions.

Feeling lost and alone

When you suffer with the more common mental health issues – stress, anxiety and depression – your outlook on life changes. To the outside world, you appear to have everything, living in a shiny bright world with a loving partner, great kids, forever home, material possessions, amazing holidays…

But inside everything is dark.

You feel alone.

You feel scared.

You feel like there’s nothing worth living for.

The rational part of you knows you have 101 things to be grateful for; and it’s not that you don’t want these things, or that they make you unhappy, you just don’t feel the joy they used to bring you, and you can’t understand why.

When you suffer with mental health issues, even breathing can feel like the hardest thing in the world. Your alarm goes off in the morning and it takes all your strength to open your eyes. Then you spend 10 minutes saying to yourself, “now sit up”.

When you finally muster the strength to sit, the next step is to simply stand.

At this point, you can’t even comprehend getting to the bathroom to take a shower – this seems like an unachievable lifetime goal. All you can think about is the next…baby…step. If you can just keep taking these tiny steps, eventually you’ll do what ‘normal’ people take for granted. And hopefully one day you’ll see that everything is going to be ok.

The trouble with mental health is that it’s unpredictable

There are times in your life when you know you’re prone to an episode (e.g. a bereavement or relationship break-up). Certain hormonal changes can trigger episodes (e.g. postnatal depression). And then there’s the environmental factors that wear you down and eventually break you…

Earlier this year, we made the shocking discovery that nearly half of SME employees have quit jobs because of work-related frustrations and stresses that weren’t addressed. In addition, a third admitted to calling in sick because of work-related stress.

Trade Union Congress (TUC) believes that employers need to recognise, and address, mental health as a workplace issue. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) agrees. Claiming that one in four people in the UK will have a mental health problem at some point, HSE says:

Whether work is causing the health issue or aggravating it, employers have a legal responsibility to help their employees.

Take things one step at a time

CIPD states that organisations need a framework to support employees that are experiencing poor mental health:

Investing in employee well-being is the right thing to do, and it also enhances employee engagement and productivity, which in turn supports business growth.

But only 6% of organisations actually have a standalone mental health policy.

Clearly there’s room for improvement. But creating a new mental health policy, and having it adopted across your organisation requires a huge cultural shift that you might not be ready for.

So take a baby step…

Mind advocates ‘five ways to wellbeing‘:

  • Connect: e.g. talk to someone instead of sending an email
  • Be active: e.g. take the stairs not the lift
  • Take notice: e.g. get a plant for your workspace
  • Learn: e.g. learn a new word (Countdown’s Susie Dent can help here…)
  • Give: e.g. a simple act of kindness
  • These might seem like ‘silly’ things, but when you’re battling with mental health issues, it’s all the little things that see you through, that give you hope and let you know that everything is going to be ok.

    Too touchy-feely?

    Ok, so not everyone is a people-person or likes to get emotionally involved with their team. In which case, why not consider some small changes to the way you work…

    Encourage transparency: let people see how their work fits into the bigger picture and makes a difference.

    Let employees do work they feel passionate about: you employed clever people, so let them get on in the best way they know how.

    Develop your management skills: change your leadership style to create an empowered, motivated workforce.

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