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Mental Health in the Workplace

We write a lot about mental health in a general context on this blog. There are plenty of general resources for life in general, but today this post is specifically about what you can do, not just for yourself, but your your colleagues (if you’re a worker), or for your employees (if you’re the boss). A lot of stress is generated at work, and all the worries about money are thrown in there too. So it’s high time that we take on this problem from the top-down, and from the bottom up.

What causes stress in the workplace?
There’s good stress, and bad stress, as you may have heard. Briefly, good stress is the kind of mental excitement where you’re approaching a task that you know to be challenging, perhaps just beyond what you confidently know you’re capable of. It’s an excitement and fear mixed together, and in a work context, a good amount of performance anxiety. The important aspect of this is that it’s within the bounds of what is healthy for you, it’s not causing you to worry excessively, and it’s not causing you to be in a bad mood around your loved ones, or lose serious sleep. So, that’s the good stress. On the other side of the coin, we’re all familiar with bad stress. We’re all familiar with the overbearing boss, the missed deadline, the confrontational meeting, or the impossible-to-please colleague. Many every-day scenarios such as these are huge triggers for mental anguish, invading into our lunch hour, and often into the hours after we’ve returned home. Many nights I’ve found myself struggling to sleep, thinking about something that someone said or did at work that day. Or, if I’m honest, something they did a month ago. It’s hard to move on and leave work behind once you finish for the day. Is that even the right approach? Should we hit problems head on and avoid repressing anything, or should we “let things slide” after work, and enjoy our ‘real life’? It’s a tricky question, and depends on your circumstances. We can’t be of much help here on your specifics, except to say that it’s better to share this with someone both in the situation (e.g. the colleague who was also shouted at), and someone who is an objective third party, like your therapist. However, there are some things that you can do to improve the entire work situation, and let’s get into them now.

Bottom up
If your work environment is “old school”, if it’s ossified and unlikely to adopt and notion of mental health, and you don’t have access to other more immediate options (such as leaving, or requesting an internal transfer), then you have to take matters into your own hands. It’s often empowering to take responsibility for yourself, and this is one of those ways. You can start to read your positive affirmations at lunchtime, or make it a habit and ritual to get air every day when you’re feeling down. If your work won’t be positive about kicking off one of the many available meditation programs for corporations, then you can do it yourself. You don’t need much to get started, in fact, you don’t need anything but yourself, and a place to stand or sit quietly for a few minutes. That said, it’s definitely better to have a specific goal in mind, such as a mindfulness program for yourself. But even better than going it alone, would be to convince your management to adopt some meditation programs for corporations.

Top down
If you’re in charge, and want to improve mental health outcomes for your employees, or equivalently, if you’re an employee who has managed to convince your bosses of the benefits of meditation, then it’s time to implement it. Best to engage a professional, and while doing in-person sessions can work, it’s time consuming and is certainly difficult to organize when half your organization is remotely working (whether naturally, or as a result of the ongoing pandemic). One fast solution to this logistical problem (we’re not trying to introduce even more stress here, promise!) is to adopt online meditation for workplaces. Essentially the benefits are the same, the service is simply delivered over the internet, rather than in-person. This makes it accessible to both in-person employees (who may wish to meditate together in the same room), and remote workers alike. If you’re socially isolating, then you’re probably in need of many of the benefits of mindfulness meditation, and meditation in general. Doing it online is a safe and effective way to achieve the positive mental health outcomes that you seek.

In conclusion
We’ve talked about several options here, from taking care of yourself to requesting some changes at work. Both bottom up and top down approaches are needed not only with increasing awareness of meditation, but also the importance of mental health in general. If you’re a manager, or a worker, how do you deal with the mental health problems at your workplace? Let us know!