5 Ways To Keep Your Mental Health In Check At Work
Most of us spend the majority of waking hours at work. We’re expected to be productive and perform at our best, which is only possible if our mental health is in check.
So what can you do to support your mental health while at work?
The WHO describes mental health as “a state of wellbeing in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” It’s emphasized that mental health is “more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.”
Mental health therefore involves:
1. Preventing or curing mental illness, dealing with challenges, minimizing suffering.
2. Cultivating the “good stuff”, boosting wellbeing and happiness, maximizing thriving.
Optimal mental health requires learning skills and creating habits that help you do BOTH of these things!
What follows is a framework that can help you keep your mental health in check while at work, by focusing on boosting wellbeing and happiness.
The PERMA model:
Martin Seligman, one of the founders of Positive Psychology, offers an evidence-based model of wellbeing: PERMA.
This model suggests that in order to have wellbeing there are 5 pillars you want to be cultivating: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment. When you cultivate 1 or more of these pillars all kinds of benefits become evident: People become smarter, they feel more confident, less stressed, more motivated, their performance improves, they take less sick days, are less likely to burn-out.
P – Positive Emotion:
This is NOT all about the Smiley Face or about jumping up and down with joy all day. Did you know that the 10 most common positive emotions are: INSPIRATION, JOY, GRATITUDE, LOVE, PRIDE, INTEREST, SERENITY, HOPE, AWE and AMUSEMENT.
Possible ways to cultivate this pillar while at work:
Start team meetings with a round of appreciation. Invite everyone to share their appreciation for a co-worker.
Finish your workday on a positive note by writing down 3 things that went well that day, or 3 things you’re proud of.
Looking at the list of the 10 most common positive emotions, which one(s) would you like more of at work? What might you start doing to cultivate that?
E – Engagement:
Engagement is being committed, interested and fully involved in what you’re doing. You’re more likely to be engaged when you’re using your strengths. It’s that feeling of being “in the zone”. Strengths can be described as ‘things you’re good at AND enjoy doing’.
Things you might try to cultivate this pillar in the workplace:
Once you’ve identified your strengths, make an effort to use them in a new way each day at work. Choose a strength that you’d like to put into practice more often: How might you use this strength at work today? Here’s some inspiration.
What makes you feel “in the zone” when you’re at work?
R – Relationships:
Having positive social connections in the workplace is beneficial for your wellbeing and performance. Each time you positively connect with someone, the hormone oxytocin is released, which instantly reduces anxiety, and improves your concentration and focus.
Possible ways to cultivate this pillar in the workplace:
Create opportunities for connection by making yourself available to others. You may keep your office door open, arrive early to meetings, spend time in the break room, or periodically take a walk around your workplace.
Nurture high-quality connections with your co-workers by initiating a personal, meaningful conversation, showing genuine interest in the person (e.g. what excites them, things they’re proud of, their interests), and using the skill of active listening.
What might this look like when you’re working from home and connecting virtually?
M – Meaning:
This pillar is about having a sense of direction in your career, feeling that what you do at work is valuable and worthwhile, and understanding the bigger impact of your work. The belief that your job has a positive impact on othersis a strong predictor of meaningfulness.
Things you might do to foster meaning at work:
Find more meaning in everyday tasks that feel meaningless and mundane. Ask yourself: What’s the purpose of this task? Who does it help or serve? What will it accomplish? How does it contribute to a larger whole? If your answers still don’t feel important enough, take it one level deeper and ask: And what is the purpose of that?
Reflect on how your daily efforts at work are like puzzle pieces that help build a broader purpose (e.g. for the organization, on other people, on communities)
What is the bigger impact of the work you do each day? How does it ripple out and why is that important?
A – Accomplishment:
We’re goal-directed creatures. Working towards things that matter to us give us a sense of direction and purpose in life; it motivates and engages us. In the context of work, this is about doing things that matter most to you at work each day, achieving your work-or career related goals, and having a sense of mastery in the process. There are big accomplishments (being promoted, earning a bonus) and smaller accomplishments (mastering a new skill, completing a task or project).
Things you might do to cultivate this pillar in the workplace:
Make a list of goals you want to pursue at work, goals that you REALLY want to pursue, even if nobody was looking or money didn’t matter. Here are some useful tips & tricks you can use in this process of goal setting and the journey to accomplishment.
As you work towards those goals, choose a Growth Mindset. Focus on the process of what you’re doing instead of just the end result. When the going gets tough, recognize that with effort and learning, you can keep improving. When you’re having the thought “I can’t do this”, add on the word “yet”.
What work-related goals are you currently working towards?
It’s my hope that you will feel inspired to experiment with the above and optimize your mental health, at work and beyond!