• Kate Pritchard

Making mental health a focus every day

Updated: Nov 19, 2018

I am writing this on World Mental Health Day.

It is great that mental health is now a topic that is being widely discussed, and that people are opening up about their own mental health. But we still need to do more to support mental health in the workplace.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 70 million work days are lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year.

Our mental health deserves as much attention as our physical health - perhaps even more – and there is much we can do to support it. Here are three steps we can take, even during a busy working day:

1. Take care of your body

Looking after your physical health also benefits your mental health. So focus on eating healthily, getting enough sleep and regular exercise. Whether that be regularly playing a team sport, or hitting 10,000 steps a day, endorphins keep us happy as well as healthy. Even within our working day we can rack up the steps by getting off the bus/tube a stop earlier than we need to, taking the stairs rather than lifts, and getting outside for a walk at lunchtime.

2. Nurture relationships

Spending time with those we are close to provides us with love and support and increases our feelings of self-worth. Prioritise these relationships. Make time to talk to your real friends and rely less on social media to keep in touch. In the workplace, build relationships by getting to know colleagues in a less formal context. Make time to grab a coffee or lunch together. Regular breaks from working help to keep us more effective too!

3. Make time to be mindful – taking time to focus solely on the present is an effective way to reduce stress and anxiety. Doing this for just five minutes each day can have a positive impact. Remember to step away from your desk and take some time out each lunchtime. A quick walk in the fresh air or a short meditation really helps to clear the mind.

According to Mind, one in six of us experience a common mental health problem such as anxiety and depression in any given week. That could well mean that someone in your team is currently struggling.

There is much we can do to support each other within our workplaces and it doesn’t need to be complicated. Small gestures can make a big difference – for instance:

Make time to talk – ideally outside the workplace. Even 10 minutes of your full attention away from distractions can make a big difference to a colleague.

Be aware of team members’ working patterns: Are they taking lunch breaks? Do they regularly work excessive hours? Encourage them to seek support if there are concerns.

Normalise mental health conditions by speaking up about them and encouraging others to do so too.