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Caring for your mental health in the workplace

Caring for your mental health is just as important as your physical health! Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic many people have had the opportunity to work remotely from the comfort of their home. This change offered a new insight to mental health awareness within the workforce and an opportunity to put mental health needs first. Employers have found the benefit that mental health days offer their employees like the chance to reset from a stressful week and return energetic and productive.

Rebecca Peterson, Director of House of Mercy, says to make mental health a priority, you need self-awareness to communicate with your employer what you need.

“It really takes each and every one of us knowing ourselves and having that awareness,” says Peterson. “That awareness to recognize whether or not things are going well for you or if there’s additional stress and symptoms that need some greater attention.”

Asking for accommodations

When you step into your first job or a new job, employers often ask if there are accommodations you need. If those accommodations are mental health related, how can someone relay that comfortably with their supervisor?

“First, I would suggest you discover what level of support you have from your employer already built in,” says Peterson. “What do you have with benefits, Employee Assistance Programs or other options for more formalized mental health therapy. From there, if you do have a doctor or therapist you are working with, make sure your supervisor knows what that looks like — that accommodation might be that you may need to leave early on certain days for therapy or work from home. Don’t be afraid to ask!”

Breaking down the stigma

When becoming more open and honest about your mental health it is important to keep in mind that receiving help does not mean something is wrong with you. The steps taken to better your mental health are positives and can benefit you most when looking at it in a positive perspective. 

“The stigma unfortunately is very real and it does prevent people from seeking help,” says Peterson. “Mental health is a continuum, and at any point in life you may experience some symptoms from that. It’s something we all go through and the more that mental health is discussed, the more we can help to break down the stigma.”

But Peterson says the work doesn’t stop just with having conversation – action is needed.

Mental health concerns are not always visible. It can be especially hard in the workforce for a supervisor to notice this in an employee but even harder for that employee to talk about what has been going on. Here’s how you can start the conversation: 

“Make it part of your regular meetings — check in on each other and ask how you are doing,” says Peterson. “Some of those conversations might be more private but those connections are key in being able to help one another.”

Work-life balance

It can be hard to remember sometimes that you have other things going on besides work, especially if you have a high demanding job. However, being able to balance your work life and personal life is important to caring for your mental health.

“In therapy we talk a lot about coping and developing your toolbox of different skills to learn what works best for you,” says Peterson. “One of my favorite resources is Burnout: the Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle because it talks a lot about how doing something for your body release that stress can break the cycle. It’s going to look different for everyone, but connecting mind and body to find balance and release will help greatly.”

Start this discussion by asking yourself “What does balance look like for me?” It will look different for each of us and can change over time, but the key is coming up with a plan that you will implement and sharing it with those around you to hold each other accountable.

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