for better mental health

How to be mentally healthy at work

Explains how you can be mentally healthy at work, giving practical suggestions for what you can do and where you can go for support.

Work and stress

Good stress management is important in the workplace. If you often experience feelings of stress, you might be at risk of developing a mental health problem, like depression or anxiety, and stress can also make existing problems worse. Building resilience can help you to adapt to challenging circumstances.

"I try to keep each task short and clear, take breaks when getting tired and be polite, honest and empathic with the people I work with."

You don't need to cope with stress alone. Here are some general things you can try:

  • Recognising the signs of stress and the causes is a good place to start.
  • Work out what you find stressful and helpful in the workplace. Once you know what works for you, talk to your employer about this. They may be able to make some changes to help you.
  • Try different coping techniques to use as soon as you start to feel pressure building. Everyone is different, so it may take time to find a method that works for you. Try the Stress Management Society website for ideas.
  • Try mindfulness. Focusing on the here and now can help you to create space to respond in new ways to situations. See our pages on mindfulness for more information.
  • Look after your physical health. See our pages on physical activity and food and mood for more information on how this can help your mental health.

For more ideas about coping with pressure and building resilience, see our pages on stress.

"I don't take on too much at one time, little steps are the way. Breathing strategies, having a mindset and thinking, 'I can do this!'"

Managing common stressful situations at work

If you're finding that you're feeling stressed because of a particular problem at work, here are some suggestions to manage common stressful situations:

Having problems with your workload

  • Ask for help. Everyone needs a hand from time to time. Discuss your workload with your manager. Talk about setting realistic targets and how you can solve any problems you're having.
  • Balance your time. Occasionally you may need to work longer hours to get something done, but try to claim this time back later if you can. Don't do too much at once. Give each task your full attention. It often takes longer if you try to do too much at the same time.
  • Reward yourself for achievements. It is easy to focus on what needs to be done next and forget to reward yourself for what you have already accomplished.
  • Be realistic. You don't have to be 'perfect' all the time.

Poor work-life balance

  • Take short breaks throughout the day as well as at least half an hour away from your desk at lunch. Go for a short walk outside if you can.
  • Take some time off. If things get too much, taking a few days off or a long weekend can help you feel refreshed and actually increase your productivity in the long run. Use the holiday you're entitled to.
  • Don't let your life be work. Nurture your outside relationships, interests and your skills that your job doesn't use.
  • Develop end of day habits. Do something at the end of each working day, such as tidying your desk or making a list of what needs to be done tomorrow. This can help you to switch off from work.

Lack of support

  • Make a Wellness Action Plan to map out what causes you stress and what keeps you well at work. Make use of other support already on offer. Some organisations provide employee assistance programmes (EAPs) which give free advice and counselling. Others have internal systems such as mentoring or buddy systems.
  • If you don't feel supported, communicate this. If you feel you can't talk to your boss, speak or write to your human resources department or trade union representative if you have one.
  • Develop good relationships with your colleagues. Connecting with them can help to build up a network of support and make being at work more enjoyable.

This information was published in April 2016. We will revise it in 2019.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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