Small Ways to Take Care Of Your Mental Health at Work

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Small Ways to Take Care Of Your Mental Health at Work
Small Ways to Take Care Of Your Mental Health at Work

Especially during challenging times, putting well-being first is non-negotiable.

Thrive and SHRM recently brought together over 90 companies to pledge to continue prioritizing the mental health and well-being of their employees. We launched the pledge amid growing concerns that as the economic times are getting tougher, the advances made during the last two years in support of employee mental health could be lost. And if we’re going to set ourselves up for long-term success, we need to build on the lessons of the past two years — since it’s in challenging times that we most need to double down on our mental resilience.

We asked our Thrive community to share with us the small ways they take care of their mental health at work. Which of these ideas will you try?

Take regular breaks

“I take care of my mental health by setting boundaries with my work and by taking breaks. I set boundaries with my work by making sure that I don’t overwork myself and give myself time to rest. I also make sure that I am not working on anything too stressful or emotionally demanding.  try to take a break when the feeling of overwhelm starts coming up, but if it doesn’t happen, then I make sure that I at least have a 30-minute break every few hours.”

—Kristin Marquet, business owner, New York, New York

Declutter your workspace

“When I become overwhelmed with tasks, a challenge, or a hurtful comment; I pause, and take a few minutes to clean my space. It doesn’t matter whether it’s my physical space, running a dish to the dishwasher or clearing up a stack of papers, or my digital space, cleaning up my inbox or organizing a file folder. This practice of clearing your space to clear your mind is known as mise en place in the cooking world and it is immensely useful.”

— K. Sweitzer, project manager, Bellingham, WA

Aim for progress over perfection

“As a recovering perfectionist, I strive for B+ work, and I remind myself that work that is well and done on time is better than striving to do something perfectly and not finishing at all. To help accomplish this, I time block everything. I give myself a certain amount of time to do everything on my to do list. I prioritize them by most to least important and get the small stuff done first.”

—Alana Van Der Sluys, certified intuitive eating counselor and English teacher, NJ

Reframe your stress

“One way that I take care of my mental health at work is by not entertaining the word ‘stress.’ Instead, I replace it with challenges or experiences. Our world is filled with all types of chaos and things that are totally out of our control, as well as things that we can control. It is highly important to take this step back, reframe your stress, and breathe.”      

—Marcia Sterling-Craig, billing representative, Orlando, FL

Plan something to look forward to after work

“Mental health is important, and the rise of remote work took away a lot of the human connection we once felt at work. I find it helpful to plan a get-together with friends. Rather than connecting with them virtually, plan a human, in-person connection. You can reconnect with old peers, invite new contacts, and just explore new places outside or around the city.”

—Archana kini, psychotherapist and counselor

Talk to your manager about taking a mental health day

“I’m exposed to a lot of data, people, processes, and platforms on a daily basis, and sometimes it stresses me out because it’s too much information for my brain to process. I find communicating my mental state with my manager and team has helped me the most. It takes a lot of courage to share your vulnerabilities at the workplace but it keeps me sane. Whenever I hit a rock bottom, I tell them how I feel and why I need some time to myself. There have been days that I’ve taken leaves, stating my mental health as a reason. These are not planned vacations, but days when I was not in my rhythm. Luckily, I have a team that supports me and my mental health.”

—Pavithra Sekar, community engagement specialist, Chennai, India

Create awareness among teammates

“I suffered a major mental health crisis in March of 2020. After being in and out of work for around six months, I finally was back to work in October 2020 and I knew I wanted to help create a safe space for people to share their everyday struggles and a place where we could normalize mental health in the workplace. I created an employee resource group at work called Mental Health Advocates, as a safe space for over 100 staff members. It brings me great joy and pride to know that we are supporting each other in this critical way in a time that is extremely hard on our collective mental health, and it supports my own mental health at work.”

—Macey Cox, HR specialist, Alexandria, VA

Take stretching breaks

“To take care of my well-being while I work, I have become rather disciplined in getting up from my desk every hour and doing a few postural alignment stretches. I find this re-energizes both my body and mind. I couple this with distant eye gazing exercises to give my eyes a screen break and to focus on something much further afield. I have adopted these two Microsteps when I am with clients too.”

—Candice Tomlinson, coach and hypnotherapist, Sydney, Australia.

Set the tone with a diffuser and plants

“Each morning I use a diffuser with a citrus scent to refresh my office. I also keep three plants outside my office and I take little breaks during the day to take time to water them. That allows me to go outside for at least ten minutes, breathe fresh air, walk a little, and have some ‘me time’ away from the computer.”

—Alicia de la Peña

Pause to take a walk

“Go for a short walk during lunch break. I find it extremely beneficial to have a real break for lunch time; getting out of the room and spending a short time outdoors really helps bring my stress levels down. It allows me to truly disconnect from work for a while, have a rest from the screen, the noise, and sometimes tensions. When I come back from my walk, I feel more relaxed and more energized which helps with motivation and focus.”

—Isabel Galiano, cancer coach, Singapore

Set healthy boundaries

‘I’m someone who has dealt with ongoing biological depression and workaholic, perfectionistic tendencies. Looking back, I realize how much personal life I lost by not prioritizing my mental health over my work life. Set your boundaries and plan time to have some head space in the morning and decompression space in the evening. Don’t be afraid to ask to help at work when you are very overwhelmed. Remember, employers, are nothing without a mentally healthy workforce.”

—Jolene Monaco, certified professional organizer, Dallas, TX

Remind yourself to stay present

“I’ve found it helpful to remind myself that wherever you are, be fully there, totally present. Work-life integration has become scrambled with the growing access to digital technology. When I’m at work I seek to be fully engaged, and when I’m with my kids I shift to be present and engaged. Mind the resistance and be fully present where you are. The next step is letting go.  Whether holding on to the pain of the past or clinging to precious memories of the ‘good ole’ days,’ choose each day to let go. It’s by letting go that we are able to actually be fully present and not pulled into the pain or pleasure of the past or fear of the future. Practice this today: Be present, and let go.”