8 Ways to Take Charge of Your Mental Health
Sometimes, we put too much pressure on our jobs to change our lives. Of course we want our careers to be fulfilling, get along with our fellow employees, and enjoy a comfortable work-life balance. I’ve seen candidates land those dream roles, yet they still aren’t happy. Ultimately, there’s only so much others can do to improve your life. A majority of our career success comes from our internal mindset, and changing that is an inside job.
But often, we put mental health on the back burner. It feels too overwhelming to tackle all at once. The real trick is to take steps every day to improve your mental health.
1. Don’t read into subtext
Emails and instant messages don’t do a great job conveying someone’s tone, making it easy to get paranoid that someone is frustrated or disappointed with you. But often, those thoughts are unfounded.
If you receive an email that feels short or has no exclamation points, don’t jump to conclusions. If someone is truly upset with you, they’ll tell you. Remember, you don’t know what else might be going on in a person’s life, and a tersely sent message may just be a result of a childcare issue, health problem, generational differences, or something else entirely.
Stopping yourself from overanalyzing messages can help you maintain a positive attitude and concentrate on the work at hand.
2. Step away from your computer
As tempting as it is to sit in front of your computer all day (who knows what you’re going to miss?!), it’s a good way to tank your mental health.
Try to take breaks several times throughout the day, even if it’s just for ten minutes. For example, consider taking a walk at lunch or doing breathing exercises. Stepping away from your desk can help put your work in perspective and return to your desk refreshed and ready to roll.
3. Establish boundaries
It’s hard to set boundaries, but doing it is essential to keeping your mental health intact. Without boundaries, you’re basically inviting people to push your buttons.
So think for a moment about what kinds of boundaries you need. For example, maybe you’re checking your email constantly, distracting you from other tasks. Try setting a rule that you won’t check email after 8pm or before 7am.
Maybe you need to build in more time for yourself throughout the day. Block off your lunch hour for a quick run, or block part of the afternoon to walk your dog. When people book over that time, remind them that you don’t take meetings then.
Getting into these habits is tough, but in the end, they help you stay engaged and sharp.
4. Limit negative energy
Misery loves company. When someone complains, it’s easy to chime in. But participating will instantly put you in a bad mood. Those peers (knowingly or unknowingly) spread negative energy throughout the organization and develop a reputation of being a pot-stirrer. So don’t buy into the gossip.
Now, this goes the other way, too. Being overly positive can also impact your mindset. Failing to acknowledge issues can be aggravating. Rather than approaching problems realistically, toxic positivity promises that everything will work out no matter what. And that’s rarely the case.
Saying you don’t want to engage or just disengaging altogether may be uncomfortable, but it will protect you from falling into these traps.
5. Know what your job is
Many of us struggle with being a people pleaser. But people come to know you as someone who will do anything for anyone and will take advantage of that quality.
Doing something just to be nice is not good for your mental health – it leads to resentment. So don’t be afraid to push back. Know what your job is and what’s expected of you, and communicate that to other stakeholders. Eventually, you’ll see that saying no garners you more respect.
Of course, you can go above and beyond but do it selectively. Make sure you’re comfortable with the ask and have the time to commit to it without skimping on other tasks.
6. Have a plan for the day
Working from home makes it easy for the day to control you. You can get caught up in emails or be in back-to-back meetings and feel like you haven’t done any real work by the end of the day.
So I recommend taking a more proactive approach. Write down a to-do list before your day starts. This will enable you to prioritize and say no to activities or meetings that don’t align with your plan. You’ll inevitably get pulled in different directions, but coming back to your goals will increase your focus and help you feel accomplished.
7. Take care of your body
It may sound like a no-brainer, but your mental health greatly depends on what you eat and drink. You need to hydrate and eat foods that sustain you.
Most of us can’t start our days without coffee – myself included. But it’s important to remember that coffee also makes you anxious. While a huge iced coffee at 3pm may give you a brief rush, you’ll start to feel antsy and crash in an hour or two. So when you feel yourself slinking into that 3pm slump, reach for water and a nutritious snack instead.
8. Don’t let a bad day become a bad year
Part of having a healthy attitude is recognizing that not every day will be a great day. Things go wrong, and that’s ok. Take some time to think about what you could do differently. Then, process your feelings and do your best to leave them in that day.
That’s easier said than done. Something that helps me get into the right mindset is writing down what I’m grateful for. Do you love working with your coworkers? Maybe you appreciate the autonomy you have when working from home. Or perhaps you’re paid well, which allows you to travel. Even having a job is a privilege.
Putting these to paper helps solidify them in your mind and get you in a better mood for the next day ahead.
Make mental health part of your life
The only constant is change. And while that adds an internal struggle to our lives, it also helps us grow. By taking control of our mental health and cultivating an optimistic outlook, we can overcome these challenges and become better employees, teammates, partners, and parents.
Want to work for a company that supports its employees’ mental health? Check out Planet Professional. We’re always looking for more stellar people to join our team.