On October 10th every year The World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day, which highlights the importance of looking after our own mental health and recognising when our friends / colleagues may also need help. For years, discussing mental health has been somewhat of a taboo subject, but the fact is we all have mental health and it is something that can affect every single one of us.
What is Mental Health?
The dictionary defines mental health as “a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being”. It’s also sometimes referred to as emotional health / well-being, and maintaining it is just as important as your physical health.
Mental Health and Stress
One way a lot of us can relate to mental health struggles are when you think about the times you have experienced stress, and this is something that for many of us is closely linked to our work lives. In fact according to the Health and Safety Executive, around 526,000 of us are suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety.
How can it affect us?
Stress can cause us to react in several different ways including feelings of fear, anxiety, sadness or frustration. Stress has a huge impact on our emotional well-being, but can also manifest into physical symptoms, and even cause depression. It can cause us to behave differently to how we normally do, and even cause us to turn to things like smoking and drinking alcohol as a way to cope with these overwhelming feelings. According to mentalhealth.org.uk work-related stress accounts for an average of 23.9 days of work lost for every person affected, and chances are if you realise it or not someone in your organisation is either experiencing (or has experienced) stress within their role.
How can you reduce stress for yourself and your employees?
Recognise when stress is becoming too much
There are varying levels of stress, for example there is a big difference from a work deadline that puts the pressure on you to work a little bit harder to get that project over the line than an ongoing situation causing you to feel overwhelmed in your role and even burning out in work. If you notice signs in yourself or others (e.g. change in behaviour, tension, headaches, tiredness etc.) you need to take a step back and see how you can change the situation.
Pinpoint the cause
Workplace stress is often caused by either: lack of training / support to effectively do your job, unrealistic workload / deadlines / targets, a colleague leaving causing your workload to increase, taking on new responsibilities such as training new employees. However not all workplace stress is actually caused by factors in the workplace, so it is important to also recognise the signs and reach out to employees who you feel may be suffering. Without speaking to your employees, you may never know what they are dealing with in their personal lives so try an adopt an open environment where employees feel encouraged to share how they feel.
If you can, change the cause
If the stress is caused by work, there should be something you can change to help reduce this. It may be that you hire more employees, provide additional training / support or reduce the workload for the individuals that are suffering. You can also introduce elements such as flexible working and health benefits such as in-office massages to try and ease the stress of your employees further. The important thing here is to speak to your employees, and provide a safe environment to speak up if people are suffering. If the stress is caused by something out of your control (e.g. home life) then simply being supportive and listening can even make a huge difference to how your employee is feeling.
Check out the conversation about #WorldMentalHealthDay on Twitter Here.
Want to get some more advice about stress and mental health? Visit mind.org.uk.