5 Tips for Mental Health in the Workplace

Thursday 9th September is R U OK Day. This day encourages people to check in with their friends, family and colleagues and ask, ‘R U OK?’.  

The day also recognises that ‘before you can look out for others you need to look out for yourself’. Here are 5 tips to help support mental health in the workplace.  

  1. Self-Care. Often when we talk about self-care people say, “I don’t want to be selfish”. Self- care is the opposite of selfishness. It is caring about others enough to give them the best of you. Self-care can include something simple such as; having a bath, engaging in meditation, drinking enough water, enjoying nutritious foods, exercising, taking your full lunch break as well as getting some fresh air and sunshine.  

If you are working from home, try and move into another room or go outside when you need a break. Self-care is also acknowledging and accepting that feelings are present and will flow in and out, lasting perhaps a moment or maybe longer. Remember “self-care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you”.  

  1. Normalise talking about mental health. If you are having a challenging mental health day and you feel comfortable talking about it, please do. It’s OK not to feel OK and if you need to take a day off to recharge that is OK.  

People will sometimes hide their mental health days behind a ‘stomach flu’. However, the more people can talk about, and normalise prioritising mental health, the healthier our workplaces will be.
R U OK Day encourages everyone to talk about mental health. To both ask and think about your answer to ‘R U OK?’  

Remember “the only thing more exhausting then being depressed is pretending that you’re not”.  

  1. One Task at a Time. We know it’s much easier said than done but if you can, focus on one task at a time. Focusing your attention to a single task it will help you feel more present and in control of the moment. It’s when we let our focus and thoughts go to a million places that can evoke feelings of overwhelm and anxiety.  

Remember “your focus determines your reality”.  

  1. Be intentional about what you engage in. The news cycle is 24/7 via social media, TV, radio, news outlets as well as through conversations with friends, family, or colleagues.
    If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s ok not to engage in this messaging. You can also say to people who wish to discuss topics overwhelming you, “thank you for including me in the conversation but to protect my mental health I am currently not engaging in conversations about this topic.” Make sure you find and research reputable sources to provide information and help you make informed decisions on topics important to you. It’s also ok to focus on reading, watching, listening and doing things that bring you joy and laughter.
    Remember, “you can’t always control what goes on outside, but you can control what goes on inside”.  
  1. Ask for help. Isolation and consistent negative thoughts can create feelings of worry, irritability, nervousness or anger and we can at times feel out of control or anxious or depressed. If you feel that you need additional supports do not hesitate to reach out to a friend, colleague or family member or visit https://www.ruok.org.au/findhelp for a comprehensive list of resources.  

If you think someone you know may need some support.
The R U OK Day’s 4 step conversation starter is a helpful tool for checking in on those close to us:  

  • Ask R U OK?  
  • Listen with an open mind  
  • Encourage action  
  • Check in  

are-able advocate for healthy mental health conversations in the workplace. Every day we support people experiencing mental health challenges to find meaningful and ongoing employment. This article was written with the assistance of are-able Counsellor Nancy Hewitt.