With World Mental Health Awareness Week, it has been a busy time for me, offering group mindful meditation sessions and yoga classes for a variety of workspace communities and companies. This is a great opportunity for the corporate sector to put on wellbeing programs for employees to find support, have open conversations and learn the techniques that will help them effectively manage their wellbeing.
And whilst it is brilliant to see attitudes changing for mental health, you can't help but wonder how much of it is simply to tick the box. Mental health forgotten until next year, or a headline breaks out in the news. With 1 in 4 people suffering some form of mental health issue every year, the workplace needs to set up an approach that supports it's employees for more than just one or two weeks a year.
For many of us, work is a major part of our lives. It is where we spend most of our time and often where make our friends. Having a fulfilling job can be good for your mental health and general wellbeing. We all have times when life gets on top of us – sometimes that’s work-related, like deadlines or travel. Sometimes it’s something else – our health, our relationships, or our circumstances.
A toxic work environment can be corrosive to our mental health. Your happiness and wellbeing is worth investing in. As my friend always says, a healthy company is a wealthy company. Below, I offer a few simple techniques that allow you to bring Mental Health Awareness into your everyday working life.
Take Regular Breaks
A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. It could be a five-minute pause from what you are doing, a book or podcast during the commute, a half hour lunch break at work, or a weekend exploring somewhere new. A few minutes can be enough to destress you. Give yourself some ‘me time’. There is nothing worse for you than spending the whole day sat at your desk. Most likely your posture is hunched and your eyes strained from staring at the computer screen. Taking regular breaks to get up and stretch your legs and give your mind a rest from work will ensure that you return to your desk with greater focus, a new perspective and motivation.
Take a Walk
Exercise is a fantastic stress reliever that can work in minutes. Taking a walk allows you to enjoy a change of scenery, which can get you into a different frame of mind, and brings the benefits of exercise as well. So whether you just need to take a stroll around the office to get a break from a frustrating task or you decide to go for a long walk in the park after work, walking is a simple but effective way to rejuvenate your mind and body.
What we eat can affect how we feel both immediately and in the longer term. A diet that is good for your physical health is also good for your mental health. It can be hard to keep up a healthy pattern of eating at work. Regular meals, plus plenty of water, are ideal. Try and plan for mealtimes at work – bringing food from home or choosing healthy options when buying lunch. Try and get away from your desk to eat. You could try a lunch club at work – where you club together to share meals and try new things.
Talk to Someone
Talking about your feelings can help you maintain your mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. Talking about your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy. It can be hard to talk about feelings at work. If you have colleagues you can talk to, or a manager who asks how you are at supervision sessions, it can really help. Identify someone you feel comfortable with and who will be supportive. If you are open about how you feel at work, especially if you are a leader, it might encourage others to do the same.
Focus on Breathing
Just focusing on your breath or changing the way you breathe can make a big difference to your overall stress level. Breathing techniques can calm your body and your brain in just a few minutes. The best news is, no one around you will even know you're doing them. So whether you're in a stressful meeting or feeling overwhelmed by the amounting work, breathing exercises could be key to reducing your stress.
Try Guided Imagery
Guided imagery is like taking a short vacation in your mind. It can involve imaging yourself being in your "happy place"—maybe picturing yourself sitting on a beach, listening to the waves, smelling the ocean, and feeling the warm sand underneath you. Guided imagery can be done with a recording where you listen to someone walk you through a peaceful scene. Or, once you know how to do it yourself, you can practice guided imagery on your own. Simply close your eyes for a minute and walk yourself through a peaceful scene. Think about all the sensory experiences you'd engage in and allow yourself to feel as though you're really there. After a few minutes, open your eyes and return to the present moment.
Meditation brings short-term stress relief as well as lasting stress management benefits. There are many different forms of meditation to try–each one is unique and brings its own appeal. You might develop a mantra that you repeat in your mind as you take slow deep breaths. Or, you might take a few minutes to practice mindfulness, which involves being in the moment. Simply pay attention to what you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.
Set Up Yoga Classes
Why not set up a yoga class during lunch hours or after work. Yoga combines physical movement, meditation, light exercise, and controlled breathing—all of which provide excellent stress relief. Yoga offers a variety of physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits and you're likely to reap the long-term benefits if you incorporate it into your life in a consistent way.
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