How to look after yourself at work

Mental Health affects everyone in some form – whether that be experiencing mental ill health or mental wellness. We spend so much time in work it is important for us to be aware of how our jobs can affect our mental wellness and have plans in place to help us cope if we spot things are not going as well.

Time Management

Ok so, this is often easier said than done – it is so easy to get swept up into the tasks of the day and the requests from colleagues. However, having a system in place to help you manage your tasks, and ensure you take regular breaks can really help keep you comfortable and well at work.

Everyone has their own tricks for managing time which work best for them and the job they are in, however here are some tips which could help you:

  • Scheduling time out on your calendar for lunch, and afternoon and/or morning break. Having these set blocks in your calendar means you cannot book meetings into them. It’s important to take some time away from your desk at this point too. Particularly for lunch consider closing your computer and going to sit somewhere different/going out for a walk/reading a book – then you’re not tempted to work as you eat.
  • Another thing that can be hard to do as things keep getting added to your to do pile throughout the day. One useful way for helping you prioritise and manage your time is using a SWOT Analysis style table. This allows you to really work out which tasks need priority, and which can wait – though it is important to review this every day so that task is moved to the right area when needed.

A Swot Analysis for Tasks looks like this:

Important and Urgent: things with an approaching deadline.

Important but not urgent – things that are essential to do but can wait until the urgent things are completed.

Not Important and urgent: Things that aren’t essential to be done but do need picking up soon.

Not Important and Not urgent: Do these tasks really need doing? Can you delegate? Otherwise schedule appropriately

  • Learning to say, ‘That will do’. One of the biggest tips – question yourself: is it going to do you any good spending an extra hour on doing something after your working time, or will you feel more productive tomorrow, and get it done better, if you go home on time and have a proper rest.

Having Boundaries

  • Don’t exceed your working hours – if you work for an hour extra every day, or through breaks, then you are much more likely to be susceptible for stress. The odd bit of agreed overtime might be necessary at times but try not to make it a regular occurrence – and make sure you are paid/get time of in lieu – as compensation.
  • Switch off your laptop and work phone at the end of the day – any emails tor calls that come through after your working hours can wait. Have your working hours on your email signature and that then sets clear expectations to people on when they can receive a response.
  • Are you poorly? If you are ill, then it is ok to take a day off. Give yourself permission to recover. It can be much better for you to take a day off if you are physically or mentally unwell, refresh and readjust, then forcing yourself into work. This could result in you becoming more poorly and needing longer off – which might make you feel more stressed. One of the most helpful quotes we have seen recently is:

Chose to take time to look after your wellness, so you are not forced  to look after your illness (unknown author)

Now sometimes things affect our wellness that are beyond our control, so the quote isn’t necessarily black and white. But, in terms of thinking about it for things like stress management at work, and things we do have some control over, it can be thought provoking.

  • Over the last couple of years, a lot of people are working from home more. This can really affect our boundaries as there isn’t a clear divide between home and work. Try and have your workstation in a different area to where you relax so that you actively have to get up and move when you finish work. If this isn’t possible perhaps set an alarm so that you know when that goes it is time to switch off. 

Know yourself

  • Take some time out to really think about things that work for you. An Employment Wellness Action Plan can really help with this and gives you prompts so that you can think of ideas. The idea of these documents is that you can use them to really get to know what helps you to stay well at work, but also pinpoints what other people might be able to do to help you if they some of your behaviours change. You don’t have to share with others if you don’t want to, but it can be good to go through them with a trusted colleague/manager to increase your support at work.

Mind UK have an excellent Wellness Action Plan with a guide on completing as well.

Reach Out:

Another one which can feel a little daunting, but it is so important to have support. Do you have a trusted colleague/work friend who you can talk to – about stuff in general, about work worries – just someone who you can offload to and have a good chat. You don’t necessarily have to do it in person, you could send them an email, a text, or even a clip art of someone who is stressed as a conversation opener! Being able to offload to someone can really help us put things into perspective, and they might be able to offer advice as well.

Reaching out to your manager – again this might feel daunting, but good communication with someone in management can be helpful for support if you find you are having problems. A manager can help put reasonable adjustments in place and generally just help you with monitoring how things are so that you can maintain your wellness.