Amanda Gregory, LCPC, EMDR Practitioner

Work environments can be stressful, exhausting, and depressing—and that’s a problem. Supporting your mental health at work is not optional; it’s required. Mental health issues can lead to decreased productivity, conflicts with coworkers, low job satisfaction, and even an inability to keep your job.
If you dread going to work, here are four things you can do to promote your mental health in the workplace:

1) Protect yourself from negativity. A frequent recurrent stressor in the workplace is negativity among coworkers. It is common for colleagues to discuss their frustrations with their jobs. At times these discussions can be healthy, but at other times, they can be bad for both the sharer and the listener. How can you tell which is which? Healthy interactions are focused on productive strategies, such as problem-solving or letting go of negative emotions. If a coworker expresses anger related to their boss and then feels better and goes on with the day in a better mood—that is a productive conversation. Negativity, on the other hand, is a pattern of repeatedly expressing the same concerns without any attempt or intention to solve them. Imagine that your coworker continues to complain about their boss day after day. They do not feel better after venting their emotions and they are not interested in making changes. Maybe you have tried to give your unhappy coworker advice, feedback, or support, but their behavior is still the same. It’s important to restrict your exposure to negativity at work, as it’s easy to slip into similar patterns yourself. If you’re already feeling frustrated or down, these interactions can feed into your own negative emotions—making them much worse.

2) Take regular breaks. Some employees do not use their vacation time, personal time, and sick time. It’s important to take time off in order to manage stress that might build up at work or in your personal life. You should know how many days off you have available and make a plan to use them. (If you aren’t sure, check with your human resources department.) Some people like to plan longer vacations while others prefer to take a few days off here and there as needed. You should also take advantage of lunch breaks and other required break times. It might be tempting to devote the time to catching up on work, but breaks should be focused on giving your mind and body a chance to rest in order to prepare for the remainder of the workday.

3) Learn about and utilize EAP benefits. Your employer might offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which is an intervention program designed to help you to address any personal issues that might have an impact on your job performance—such as marital conflicts, substance use, or emotional concerns, to name a few. These programs often cover a number of free counseling sessions with a contracted provider. Many people are unaware that they have EAP benefits through their employer. To find out whether you have EAP benefits, check with your human resources department.

4) Ask your employer to provide mental health workshops. You and your coworkers might benefit from attending a mental health workshop in your workplace. Symmetry Counseling provides the following professional training workshops:

  • Anxiety in the Workplace: Learn Practical Techniques to Manage Anxiety at Work
  • Breaking the Stress Vice
  • Continuing Legal Education: Achieving Lawyer Wellbeing
  • Digital Dialogue: How to have Successful Office Relationships in the Digital and Telecommunication World
  • Empathetically Dealing with Difficult People
  • Mental Health Training for Managers
  • Self-Care for the Frequent Business Traveler

If you are interested in participating in a workshop in your workplace, ask your supervisor or manager to reach out to your human resources department. For more information about how to schedule a professional training workshop provided by Symmetry Counseling, contact Dr. Anne Malec at annemalec@symmetrycounseling.com.

Promoting your own mental health in the workplace is an essential part of your ability to be successful and satisfied at work. Avoiding negativity, taking time to care for yourself, and learning about the resources offered by your employer are steps in the right direction.