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5 Tips for Coping with Mental Health in the Workplace

Updated: Mar 5

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In a perfect world, every employer would allow and promote taking days off to focus on your mental health when you feel you need it. Unfortunately, for many, this is just not the reality we live in. So, what can you do when you need to show up to work but can barely show up for yourself? Here are a few tips for coping with mental health in workplace and getting through your workday when it feels impossible to even get through the day. 

Set Boundaries: Setting boundaries between your work life and personal life may take some practice but can be beneficial on days you really need some relief. 

1. Create and stick to set work/life boundaries when you’re feeling good. Practice making this a priority that will eventually become a habit.

2. During work, try to compartmentalize what is weighing heavily on your mental health. An excellent way to do this is by practicing the container exercise. Place outside stress and anxiety in the container and revisit it after work hours.

3. Set boundaries with supervisors and co-workers. You are only one person; you can only do what you can. Make sure to work with your employer to set realistic goals. Hint: realistic goals may vary depending on the state of your mental health, take that into account! 

Practice Self-Care: When you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed, find time to take a break and reboot for a bit. Take a break to do something you enjoy! 

  1. Take a walk. Most employers promote a healthy and active lifestyle. Use this time to decompress, distract yourself, or practice one of your coping skills.

  2. Take a mindfulness break. During this time, focus your attention on how you are feeling, where you are feeling it, and what could be causing these feelings. Sometimes identifying the feelings can help ease the severity of them.

  3. Schedule time for yourself, even if it’s 5 minutes every 2 hours. Set aside time to focus on your needs. Self-care is critical, more so on hard mental health days!

Prioritize Tasks: Many employees report feeling overwhelmed with the amount of responsibility on their plate. Between work, life, parenting, relationships, household duties, and other tasks, your to-do list can seem never-ending.

  1. Separate your tasks into categories. First, create a list of all the tasks you need to complete then evaluate what category they can go into. Some examples of categories could be: Complete Today, Complete by the End of the Week, or Can Complete Next Week. Focus on the essential tasks and set the others aside.

  2. Be mindful of what is truly important. You may feel like you need to complete the project by the end of the day, but in actuality, the deadline isn’t until next week. Give yourself grace, especially on hard days.

Seek Support: It is common to want to isolate yourself during challenging times; however, seeking support can be beneficial in so many ways.

  1. Ask for help. I promise no one out there has it completely figured out. Ask for help when you need it! Your coworkers and supervisors are part of your professional support system, use them!

  2. Contact your support system: Take a few minutes to call or text a friend, partner, or family member. Your support system is there to help you. Sometimes venting to a friend and getting feedback and advice can help clear up any negative feelings you’re experiencing. 

Use Your Coping Skills: This is arguably the most effective way to work through complex mental health days, especially if you have to show up and be present for work. Create a list of coping skills that have helped you in the past. You can even create a “work-specific” list of skills to practice while at work. It may not be practical to take a 30-minute meditation break, but there are many coping skills that can be practiced quickly and discreetly. 

Here are some coping skills that can be practiced at work:

  1. Deep Breathing: You can follow along with a quick guided breathing video on YouTube. You can use visual breathing skills like box breathing, star breathing, or rainbow breathing and have a printout handy for when you feel you need it. 

  2. Use Grounding Techniques: Focus on your 5 senses by naming 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. Ask yourself orienting questions: Where am I? What is around me? What is the weather like outside?

  3. Use Positive Self-Talk: It can be easy to fall into a habit of negative self-talk. Be mindful of any negative thoughts you may have and actively work to replace these negative thoughts with more positive ones. Instead of “I’m so dumb I will never get this presentation done.” actively change that thought to “I am good at my job, and I know what I am doing. I can complete this presentation!” Soon enough, you will be replacing negative thoughts with positive ones without even noticing. 

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