How Life Inside and Outside of Work Influences a Person’s Mental Health

Keeping mentally healthy at work goes hand-in-hand with an employee’s life outside of the workplace. Life outside of the workplace can affect a worker’s ability to handle the stresses and challenges at their place of employment.

Beyond Blue General Manager Workplace, Partnerships & Engagement Patrice O’Brien said four factors shaped an individual’s state of mental health – their work, lifestyle, social relationships and thoughts. “It is very important for people to realise that their work environment and the job they do will deeply influence their mental wellbeing,” Ms O’Brien said. “But to be mentally healthy at work, you also need to be mentally healthy outside of your place of employment too. “The stress felt at work can be carried into home life and vice versa, so it is essential that people take a holistic approach to staying mentally well.” Workplaces can have a huge bearing on the state of people’s mental health once they head home for the day.

Ms O’Brien said there were several strategies people can draw on if they feel they need to improve their mental health at work such as:

• Limiting working extra hours;
• Scheduling meetings during core work hours;
• Taking regular breaks;
• Taking little to no work home, when possible;
• Taking your holiday leave;
• Setting realistic deadlines and delivering on time;
• Saying ‘no’ when you are stretched for time;
• Have a technology switch off after hours;
• Using company employee assistance programs; and,
• Adopting flexible working arrangements if it’s suitable.

“Of course, there also are many steps you can take outside of work to nurture your mental health,” Ms O’Brien said. “The lifestyle factors to consider are eating healthily, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, avoiding harmful levels of alcohol, avoiding illicit drugs and finding time to relax. “In social settings, maintain close relationships with family and nurture your friendships.

“Joining social and networking groups or volunteering will provide another sense of purpose while introducing you to new people and potential friends. “It’s also important to monitor your thoughts, find ways to keep a positive frame of mind and keep your feelings in perspective.”

Ms O’Brien urged people to seek help if they notice persistent changes in their thoughts, feelings or behaviour, especially if it interferes with work performance or quality of life.

“Intense or prolonged stress can lead to depression and anxiety. It’s always best to intervene early before getting to that point, so make sure you take action early,” Ms O’Brien said.

“This could mean talking to your manager, a colleague or friend, taking time out, or re-organising things at work to make sure your role is manageable.

“If you feel your mental health is being compromised, we recommend that you see your GP or a health professional.”

The Heads Up website, an initiative of Beyond Blue and the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, has more information and resources for workplaces on how to take care of your mental health.

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