You eat nutritious meals, drink plenty of water, exercise daily, and go to the doctor when you’re not feeling well. You do all of this to maintain your physical health. But what about your mental health?
It's possible you may treat your mental health as a secondary concern, or you simply aren't aware of the impact your mental well-being has on your life. Your mental health dictates your emotions and behaviors and determines how you connect with others. When you forget to prioritize your mental health, it can negatively affect your everyday life, manifesting in irritability, sadness, fatigue, substance abuse, and depression—all of which prevent you from living life to its fullest.
Improving your mental health can be challenging, especially if you suffer from a clinical or chronic condition. But there are some healthy practices you can use on a daily basis to mitigate symptoms and continue feeling like your best you.
The importance of mental health practices during and outside of working hours
If you’re like most people, one of the biggest stressors in your life is likely your work.
Perhaps you’re in a fast-paced career or carry a great deal of responsibility in your role. If you're an entrepreneur or business owner, you could work long hours trying to get your company off the ground. It’s important to establish healthy boundaries and wellness practices so that the stress of work doesn’t negatively affect your mental health when you’re off the clock.
The opposite can also be true. If your personal life is particularly stressful, you may feel the repercussions while at work, making your day and tasks more difficult to manage.
List of evidence-based practices in mental health
There’s no magic trick or “perfect recipe” to achieving optimal mental health; everyone’s journey in this life is different. Below are a few of our favorite self-care practices for mental health. But if you’re struggling with clinical or chronic conditions and feeling overwhelmed, please know this: You aren’t alone, and help is available 24 hours a day, no matter where you are.
1. Practice mindfulness while at work
Mindfulness is the art of staying in the moment. When you are present and focused on your current task, you’re less likely to become overwhelmed or react negatively.
You can start practicing mindfulness in the workplace by intently listening while others are talking and minimizing distractions while doing solo work. Restrict your cell phone use, stay off social media, and avoid multitasking. You can download an app or adjust your device settings to manage your screen time.
2. Take breaks
If you love what you do or are on a tight deadline, it may be hard to look up from your work and step outside for some fresh air. But taking breaks is essential to clearing your mind, reducing stress, and increasing productivity, allowing you to better focus when you return to the task at hand.
If you need a place to start, try the “Pomodoro Technique.” In this method, you work in 25-minute intervals with a five-minute break in between each.
3. Learn to say “no”
It may be easier to say “yes” to everything you’re asked because you want to please your team or boss. Saying “yes” all the time may make you feel more valuable and productive. But it’s important to set boundaries so you don’t take on too much. If saying “no” feels negative, practice saying it with people you are comfortable with and start out small. Coming up with the right words before a situation arises can help you feel more prepared to stand up for yourself and manage others’ expectations. Try saying, “Normally, I’d be happy to help, but today I’m fully booked,” as a way to politely say “no.”
Once you set boundaries, be consistent with them. This will help those around you learn what they can ask of you and when you’ll be able to help.
You may find that saying “no” reinforces your self-worth and allows you to achieve your goals.
4. Prioritize and don’t multitask
Despite popular belief, multitasking isn’t actually efficient. When you try to multitask, you overwork your brain, lose focus on individual tasks, and prime yourself to make mistakes.
Instead, try making a list of everything you need to complete in a day and put tasks into finite time slots. Start with your most urgent and important work, and be honest about what you can and cannot achieve. If you feel like you simply can’t get everything done, you may have too much on your plate!
If you love playing a particular sport, you understand how exercise brings joy. But even if you’re not a tennis aficionado or natural-born runner, regular exercise still has the potential to boost your quality of life and affects the chemicals in your brain. Try to find time for a head-clearing walk during your day and let your brain release an uplifting dose of serotonin and endorphins. Just be sure to offset all the exercise and hard work you’re doing by getting enough sleep.
6. Engage in artistic activities in your free time
You don’t have to be a professional artist to find creative, enjoyable processes to relieve stress. Neuroscientists have proven creating art reduces stress and makes us feel good. Check out the following list of creative pursuits and see if there are any you gravitate toward:
- Songwriting/playing music
- Making ceramics
7. Practice gratitude
On tough days, it can be difficult to feel thankful for anything. But studies show that people who acknowledge the good in their lives feel more optimistic. Try writing down for what or to whom you’re grateful. If you’re going through a rough patch, recall positive experiences and memories with family members, friends, and loved ones.
8. Get help from a mental health care professional
Last but certainly not least, getting professional help is an excellent way to take charge of your emotional health. We can’t solve all of our problems alone, especially when life or work takes overwhelming, unexpected, or difficult turns. And that’s okay! We can always ask for help.
Establish a relationship with a therapist or counselor you trust, and you’ll always have someone to talk to on good and bad days. Whether it’s face-to-face or via the internet, a professional can support you by helping you identify coping skills that work for you. They can also recognize mental health conditions that might require specialized care, treatment, or medication.
It’s time to implement good mental health practices
If you feel stressed or overwhelmed at work, you’re not alone. We all experience this. Even if you’re the kind of person who prides themselves on being able to “do it all,” there’s no shame in recognizing that you need a helping hand or a break.
Start taking better care of your mental health today by fostering new skills using the list above. Your brain and body will thank you for it.
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