Mental health in the workplace quite rightly is key on many businesses agendas these days. Just like physical health, mental health can improve or deteriorate with time.
And although there are many factors outside of our control that might effect mental health, we all have our part to play in creating healthier environments at work to improve overall happiness.
If I look back over my 25 year career, there are definite bumps in my mental health journey, when in the moment I’ve felt really low and work has been all consuming. In these dark moments, there didn’t seem to be any escape and it was hard to get a clear view on what was causing it, but my work definitely suffered.
And there have also been times when I gave work my everything (especially in the 16 hour days in hospitality – physically, emotionally, and mentally) and I was very close (if not in) burnout. It took time to heal those wounds, but there have, on a positive note, been some formative lessons learnt.
The key one is that I’m now committed to keeping my mental health in check so I look out for my triggers and patterns to prevent burnout rather than fix it once I’m depleted.
I know how much more I can give when I’m mentally strong and it seems imperative to bolster it rather than destroy it.
On the flip side, there have been moments when my work life has had a direct positive impact on my mental health. I enjoy learning and always see a rise in my mood when I’ve been studying or creating.
Equally, when deals have gone through, top clients have been secured or the team around me has been working well as a unit and the energy is tangible – these have been real highs for me.
I think it’s helpful to understand that our mental health doesn’t stay in a static state. It peaks and troughs, just like our physical health, and on the opposite side of light there is often darkness.
So how can we prevent these dips in our work-related mental health?
What can we do within our power of control?
Prevention is important, and one of the key’s here is to raise our awareness of patterns and events that trigger us.
A really interesting exercise to complete (either on your own or for your employees) when you are feel your mental health is suffering is to mark out a happiness timeline.
It sounds woo-woo because it has the word ‘happiness’ in it, but it’s not. Instead it gives us a visual representation of what brings us up and what drags us down.
All you need is a pen and paper, and to follow these 5 easy steps:
- Draw 2 axis on the paper.
One horizontally and one vertically so they meet at the bottom left hand corner to form a basic graph shape.
- On the horizontal axis marks the timeline.
Space out and mark down any key dates and events such as promotions, training, job change, redundancy, stressful events at work, or anything similar which has had a marked impact on your work life.
- The vertical axis marks your happiness.
Write 10 for very happy at the top and 0 for miserable at the bottom.
- Create your line.
Draw a line from left to right, going up or down from 10-0 depending on where you were at in your working life.
- Now reflect. Ask yourself:
What does my happiness timeline look like?
Are there any patterns?
Was it all bad?
Or in fact is it better than expected?
By doing this exercise, you can get an objective view of how your mental health and overall happiness has been directly impacted by your work over the years.
I hope that helps and provides you with some interesting thoughts to reflect on. If you’d like to go through your happiness timeline with me, reflect on areas to improve and put an action plan in place, do get in touch with me on 07954 357 443 or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
I also run workshops on how to prevent burnout in the workplace. Please get in touch for more details.