Mental health might seem like the latest buzzword floating around social media, but concern for worsening mental health in America is anything but a fad. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 1 in 5 Americans experience some form of mental health condition resulting in high depression, anxiety, loss, and disassociation. With worldwide issues like the Covid pandemic, social injustice, financial hardships, and extreme political polarization inching their way into the workplace, employees are starting to wonder how they should manage their personal lives and mental well-being. And since many workplace settings have rapidly changed from in-person to remote and hybrid options, prioritizing your mental health has become more critical and necessary than ever before.
Whether you’re working from home, in an office, or hybrid, there are several ways you can start tending to your mental health in the workplace without breaking the bank or taking days off. Interested in learning more? Read about the five methods you can use when you need a mental break.
Take a ten-minute screen break every hour.
Research experts and therapists agree: everyone is addicted to electronic devices. Our world might seem like it revolves around social media, a 24/7 news cycle, and the internet, but that doesn’t mean you need to be bombarded with ‘virtual noise’ nonstop. Many counselors recommend occasionally stepping away from screens to achieve optimal wellness and recharge your mind. When you do so, you give your eyes some rest and redirect your focus to non-media-related things like caring for pets, watering plants, or grabbing a healthy snack. It also enhances your productivity in the long run. With the added benefits of improving your overall sleep, studies have even indicated that taking screen time breaks promotes deeper connections with friends and family and breaks self-reinforcing patterns typically hijacked by smartphones and computer devices. By simply taking a short 5-to-10-minute screen break every hour, you can increase your mental well-being dramatically and might find yourself happier by the end of the day.
Try some breathing exercises.
You might be surprised at how much tension you hold because of your lack of effective breathing. Just ask renowned neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman. As an advocate for non-invasive mental health procedures, Dr. Huberman recommends adopting some simple breathing techniques to relieve stress and reduce the anxiety you might be feeling in the workplace. With over $300 billion a year lost on stress-related mistakes within U.S. businesses, it’s no wonder companies have started incorporating breathing time-outs to reduce turnover, high costs, and employee burnout. The next time you start feeling stressed or hyperventilating, try breathing exercises that focus on deep breaths and muscle relaxation to expand your airways for more airflow and overall mental clearing.
Go for a walk outdoors.
Did you know that going out for nature walks can be linked to various mental health benefits, including improved attention, less stress, increased empathy, and even elevating your mood? Whether you’re walking around your neighborhood, city block, or at a local park, getting outdoors and away from your desk can significantly reduce your bottled-up stress and even get you to focus more. Walking 20 minutes a day can also minimize any underlying mental health issues. Plus, with the added benefits of direct sunlight, your cognitive benefits greatly improve, resulting in you mentally ‘checking out’ for just a few minutes and better sleep night after night.
Take your lunch break.
Nationwide, 1 in 10 employees don’t take breaks away from their desks, with over 70% of employees eating while they work. Not only does not taking your lunch break inhibit you from taking a moment to enjoy a meal—it also prevents you from interacting with your coworkers and engaging in healthy conversations. A survey researching 1600 employees’ thoughts on taking lunch breaks found that nearly 94% said they felt happier when they take their breaks, translating into them staying with their company longer and recommending their company to friends and family as an excellent place to work. Thanks to the increase in remote jobs, research shows that employees are, on average, working an extra hour more than they would be in person. This extra work often takes place during the lunch break, meaning that employees are skipping meals or mindlessly eating in front of their computer, which can lead to other physical and mental issues. As a way to combat that, the solution is simple: take your lunch break. Disconnecting and eating your lunch can help tremendously with your mental state and keep your metabolism and physical well-being under control.
Openly talk with your employer if you are unwell.
Requesting mental health days are a great way to disclose to your supervisor that you are unwell and may need some time off to recuperate, grieve, or seek assistance. According to a career services professional at Indeed, mental health days can be used to address problems that prevent you from excelling at work. These problems can range from difficulty sleeping, increased anxiety, frequent sickness, or irritability. As such, talking with your supervisor can really smooth out any questions they may have about your reasoning for taking a mental health day or what options are available to you as an employee. However, the choice is ultimately always up to you. Before talking with your supervisor, seek help from an employee assistance program (EAP) and think about creating a space for an ongoing conversation in case things worsen.
Consider talking with a licensed therapist.
With over 190,000 licensed therapists currently practicing across the country, many employees are starting to consult therapists and counselors via text, phone, or online. In fact, there are several low-cost to free services available through service providers like Betterhelp, Talkspace, and the Crisis Text line, giving you the freedom of deciding who you prefer speaking with, time duration, and frequency amount without needing to compromise your mental health. Talking with a licensed therapist can also bring you new perspectives to consider about what you’re going through and can even refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist, if needed.
Prioritizing your mental health should never be a second thought. That’s why ACU Online teaches the importance of time management while promoting an engaging virtual environment for students in all stages of life. With programs like a B.S. in Psychology or a Master of Marriage and Family Therapy, students can dive deeper into how they can address mental health concerns in their workplace to further advocate for adequate working conditions and those quietly suffering from mental illness. Looking to learn more? Give us a call at 855-219-7300 or visit acu.edu/online to gather additional information.