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March 15, 2022 Haeli Harris

Struggling With Mental Health at Work? Here’s What To Do Next

Addressing mental health challenges in the workplace: for employees and employers

Struggling with mental health at work is normal. In fact, mental health challenges have increased and show no signs of slowing down.

Everyone experiences pain in their life—including painful mental health challenges. It is part of the human experience. But ignoring your mental health struggles at work isn’t usually the best option.

Here are some ways employees embark on the journey to healing if they find themselves struggling and how company leaders can help employees throughout the process.

Tips for Employees That Are Struggling

Here are three steps to take if you think you are struggling with your mental health at work.

  1. Do a self check-in
  2. Make a plan to get what you need
  3. Reach out to others

1. Do a self check-in

Sit down and remove distractions. Pull out a piece of paper and a pencil, and ask yourself these two main questions:

  • What is bothering me right now?
  • What do I need?

Write down any responses to those questions that come to mind.

If you’re not sure what is bothering you, feel what is happening in your body. This can give you clues on how to take care of yourself. For instance, if your muscles are feeling sore, try stretching. If you feel restless, go for a walk.

This may seem rudimentary, but it is common to disregard what is happening in our own bodies in our hyper-distracted and busy world.

Still stumped? Here are some more common signals that your mental health needs a boost, according to the American Psychiatric Association:

  • Sleep or appetite changes — Dramatic sleep and appetite changes or decline in personal care
  • Mood changes — Rapid or dramatic shifts in emotions or depressed feelings
  • Withdrawal — Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Drop in functioning — An unusual drop in functioning, at school, work or social activities, such as quitting sports, failing in school or difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Problems thinking — Problems with concentration, memory or logical thought and speech that are hard to explain
  • Increased sensitivity — Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch; avoidance of over-stimulating situations
  • Apathy — Loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity
  • Feeling disconnected — A vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings; a sense of unreality
  • Illogical thinking — Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events; illogical or “magical” thinking typical of childhood in an adult
  • Nervousness — Fear or suspiciousness of others or a strong nervous feeling
  • Unusual behavior – Odd, uncharacteristic, peculiar behavior”

2. Make a plan to get what you need

Here are some of the top tools you can use to boost your wellbeing. Instead of distracting yourself with work and other responsibilities, block some time on your calendar each day to recharge and take care of yourself.

  • Talk to a loved one. Connecting with others is one of the best ways to overcome mental health struggles.
  • Start going to therapy. About 75% of people that go to therapy feel better.
  • Exercise consistently. Physical movement helps the body let go of stress.
  • Create a healthy meal plan. Eating whole foods gives the body the energy it needs to fight stress.
  • Ask someone for help doing things that feel difficult right now. Getting that extra support and personal time for self-care can help.
  • Self-reflect if it is safe for you. Write down a list of what makes you happy so you can refer to it whenever you need it.

A short time block each day for self-care may not be enough for some. Short Term Disability Leave may be a good option. Check out this article to learn more about Short Term Disability Leave and if it is the right option for you.

Related: Stress Management in HR: Tips for HR Leaders

3. Reach out to othersStruggling With Mental Health at Work Here's What To Do Next—woman working at laptop at dining table at home

In some cases, you may need to talk to your coworkers, boss, or HR leader to get what you need to heal.

Your coworkers or manager can likely direct you to resources your team provides to support employee mental health, such as an EAP or mental health program.

In this article, NPR outlined the DEAR and MAN methods for talking to others at work about your mental health.

“D—Describe the situation using facts.
E—Express how the situation made you feel or how it affected you.
A—Assert your needs.
R—Reinforce the outcome and how it will be a win-win.”

Use MAN to help you stay calm in these situations.

“M—Be mindful of your words, and stay in the present moment.
A—Be assertive. If you’re raising a mental health issue at work, it’s important for everyone involved, so stand your ground!
N—Negotiate. Your office might not be able to shift to your ideal hours, but perhaps you could work together to set firmer boundaries for emails or start actually honoring lunch breaks. Work with your manager to find solutions.”

It is normal to feel concerned about discussing your mental health at work. When talking to your manager, focus on the facts, and give an example of what you need. Talk about how you expect this will help you, and express that this will help you be a better employee.

Tips for Employers That Want To Help Employees Struggling With Mental Health at Work

Here are three steps to create a workplace culture that helps employees feel safe and supported at work.

  1. Start talking about mental health in the workplace
  2. Get leaders on board
  3. Provide mental health tools

1. Start talking about mental health in the workplace

Communicating regularly about mental health will help fight the stigma, helping more employees get support.

A great place to start is to learn about mental health. Talk to your coworkers about what helps you cope with stress. Present to your company leaders the importance of addressing mental health at work. This article and presentation give a great overview of why workplaces should address mental health.

Related: 5 Ways HR Leaders Can Get Executive Team Support

2. Get leaders on board

Change has to start from the top. When company leaders talk about their personal experiences, a few things can happen:

  • People may feel more open sharing mental health challenges and stressors
  • Employees may realize they are stressed and need support
  • Employees may feel more comfortable talking about mental health at work and seek help

Leaders can start by bringing in a counselor to talk to employees about struggles with mental health at work and how to address them. You can even share your own mental health story or share what helps you cope with your stress.

When the leaders set the stage, company culture will follow.

3. Provide mental health tools

No mental health initiative at work is complete without a mental health program for employees. A mental health program and EAP can help employees get the support they need when they realize they are struggling.

Mental health programs have become a must for many job-seeking employees—76% of people say that mental health benefits are critical when evaluating a new employer.

Mental health programs also help take the burden off of your managers. Instead of feeling like they must solve employees’ problems, they can direct people to free tools that can help them.

Continuing to run initiatives that support diverse employee mental health needs will keep wellbeing at the forefront of everyone’s mind at work.

Related: How to Measure the ROI of Your Mental Health Program

Mental Health Resources

Here are some more helpful articles to share with your team:

Learn About the Power of Self-Care

Download the Mental Health Tool Kit to learn about mental health in the workplace – what it is, why it matters, and how you can start supporting employee mental health!

Disclaimer

By participating in/reading the service/website/blog/email series on this website, you acknowledge that this is a personal website/blog and is for informational purposes and should not be seen as mental health care advice. You should consult with a licensed professional before you rely on this website/blog’s information. All things written on this website should not be seen as therapy treatment and should not take place of therapy or any other health care or mental health advice. Always seek the advice of a mental health care professional or physician. The content on this blog is not meant to and does not substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Haeli Harris

Haeli Harris, LMFT is the Lead Counselor at Nivati. She has been practicing as a Marriage and Family Therapist since 2014. Haeli has experience working as a therapist in private practice settings, residential facilities, outpatient treatment care, schools, and telehealth.

Licenses, Certifications & Memberships
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, UT & HI
Registered Yoga Teacher 200
Trauma Conscious Yoga (2021)
Clinical Member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

Education
Bachelor's of Science Degree in Human Development and Family Studies, University of Utah
Master's of Arts Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, Northcentral University

MENTAL HEALTH FOR THE WHOLE EMPLOYEE