Workplace Mental Health: Reflecting on Wellbeing
By NCVC Staff | Published on Oct 11, 2023
Content Warning: This article discusses anxiety and panic attacks, which might be triggering for some individuals.
Last year, we engaged with our Instagram followers to understand how they nurture their mental health in the workplace. Rachel, drawing from her own personal experiences, reflects on the significance of this question and offers valuable advice.
Your Experience of Mental Health at Work
One interesting observation from our survey was the divided responses on whether to disclose a mental health issue at work. Some individuals were initially afraid but found it worthwhile in the long run. They experienced positive outcomes such as reasonable adjustments, increased understanding, and a sense of security knowing there was support available when needed.
However, it is disheartening that others had contrasting experiences. Disclosing their mental health struggles led to differential treatment, feelings of labelling and discrimination, and a perception of job insecurity due to their disclosure.
My Experience of Mental Health at Work
Throughout my employment, which began at 17 and continued through university and beyond, I have worked in various sectors such as hotels, restaurants, and charities. My mental health has fluctuated during this time, with moments of struggle and times of thriving. I’ve come to realize that the working culture, environment, and relationships with colleagues play a crucial role in how I feel and perform at work. Equally important is having a supportive manager.
Making Mistakes and Dealing with Perfectionism
As a high achiever with a penchant for organization, I’ve always held myself to lofty standards. However, I’ve learned that this perfectionism can be detrimental. It leads to unrealistic expectations and self-judgment when I make mistakes. Instead of internalizing shame and guilt, I’ve come to understand the need for self-compassion and forgiveness. Recognizing that mistakes are a part of being human and embracing them with understanding is vital for my performance at work.
Public Speaking, Meetings, and Confidence
As someone who tends to be introverted, public speaking has always been a challenge. Balancing my perfectionistic tendencies with the fear of speaking out has often put me in a difficult position. Despite my apprehension, I am passionate about making a positive impact through my work.
While big meetings can trigger considerable stress, thorough preparation helps alleviate anxiety. Overpreparing allows me to mitigate potential hiccups and increases my confidence, ensuring I can contribute effectively. I have also learned to prioritize my mental health in such situations. If the anxiety becomes overwhelming, I give myself permission to leave a meeting, if possible. Openly communicating my fear of public speaking with colleagues helps establish a supportive environment and provides a safety net when needed.
Toxic vs. Empowering Culture
From my experience, an empowering work culture is essential for maintaining good mental health. A toxic work environment, characterized by hierarchy, isolation, and fear, breeds blame, shame, and micromanagement. Such an atmosphere fosters division, cliques, and a prevalence of bullying, often subtly concealed.
Regrettably, I have encountered workplace bullying in a previous job, where the line between appropriate management and abuse was blurred. Overcoming this toxic situation required courage and decisive action. With the support of teammates, I made a formal complaint to HR and challenged the appraisal decision. It was a challenging process, but eventually, the toxic manager faced consequences, although after I had already left the organization.
If toxic situations persist or feelings of powerlessness intensify, it might be necessary to seek employment elsewhere. Avoid blaming oneself and be conscious of the impact it can have on self-esteem. When searching for a new position, inquire about workplace culture during interviews to mitigate the risk of entering another toxic environment. Surrounding oneself with supportive colleagues who understand and provide a listening ear can also make a significant difference.
Taking Breaks and Striving for Work-Life Balance
Taking regular breaks from work is crucial for both physical and mental wellbeing. Sitting for extended periods affects our physical health and strains our minds. I make it a point to take short breaks, stretch, go for walks, and enjoy moments of fresh air during lunch. Neglecting breaks can lead to illness and hinder productivity.
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is equally vital. I value the time outside of work and ensure that I separate my personal life from my professional life as much as possible. Having varied interests and pursuits beyond work contributes to overall wellbeing. I try my best not to bring work home, allowing myself moments of relaxation and engaging in activities I enjoy, such as reading.
Managing Stress and Anxiety
Stress is inevitable in the workplace and can sometimes become overwhelming. During these times, we might unintentionally upset others due to heightened emotions. I have been guilty of this myself, only to feel regret later on. To avoid reaching unbearable levels of stress, prioritizing self-care is crucial. Being organized, managing time effectively, and taking regular breaks all help prevent stress from escalating.
In toxic situations, it is essential to speak up and address the issue to protect your mental health. Avoid internalizing feelings and confront the challenges head-on. Seeking support from trusted individuals and considering time off if necessary is not a sign of weakness but an act of healing. Personally, regular meditation has helped me manage anxiety and even prevented panic attacks in the office.
Putting Your Mental Health First
In conclusion, prioritizing mental wellness and success in the workplace requires organization, self-compassion, disengagement from toxic environments, and reporting bullying or harassment. Remember to take breaks, manage stress, and seek support when needed.
Always remember, your mental health takes precedence. Even when your job seems all-consuming, your well-being is invaluable.