Not coping with the return to work?
27 January 2023 at 11:57 am
The co-founder and CEO of mental health charity Waves of Wellness Foundation gives five ways to improve your mental health as the end of the holiday season kicks in.
Whether you’re working from home, the office, or a cafe, there’s no denying that getting back into the swing of things after a relaxing break isn’t always easy.
Going back to work with a positive mindset and some healthy new habits will hopefully increase your job satisfaction and reduce the likelihood of burnout. Here are five tips for staying mentally fit in the workplace:
- Start planning your next holiday, or plan something you can look forward to.
Only just unpacking, and already thinking of “where to next”? Perfect! Start planning straightaway. Having something to look forward to can reduce stress and boost your mood. It doesn’t have to be a holiday, it could be hosting that dinner party you’ve always wanted to cook up a storm for, starting a new hobby, joining that book club, or finally doing that day trip hike. A big project can be really energizing. One tactic you can use on a tough or slow work day is simple: just think of something you’re looking forward to. Can’t think of anything? Try to think of something you could do that you’d look forward to – and plan it.
- Put more steps into your workday
If you’ve got a sedentary job (which may be especially true for small business owners who find themselves working around the clock) the benefits of upping your steps are not only physical, but also mentally uplifting. Walking 10,000 steps per day has been shown to reduce a variety of health-related issues and can even help increase productivity. Even while you’re doing traditionally work-related tasks, you could take a meeting off camera, and go for a walk or do the dishes while you listen in. Schedule meetings with teammates as a ‘walk and talk’ or phone (not video) call so you can move while you talk shop. Pop ‘move breaks’ into your diary so it reminds you every day.
- See rest as a positive thing (and do more of it):
In a world filled with mounting pressures and lengthy to-do lists, it can be difficult finding time to just do, well, absolutely nothing. Culturally, we have been led to believe that compulsive busyness is a requisite for being a decent human being or decent employee. But in fact, resting is not lazy – it’s actually one of the most productive things you can do! If we don’t rest enough, we become tired, irritated, and sometimes even depressed. It’s not surprising that rates of depression, anxiety, and stress are increasing as the doingness of life seems to have little counterbalance. Start seeing rest as a positive activity – like drinking water and exercising. Try to just sit and be, without the screen or the book or the podcast, without constant cognitive engagement. Simply focusing your mind on your breath, and then redirecting it back to your breath when thoughts inevitably pop up — be they negative, positive, or neutral — is one way to practice being. Lunch breaks are an import break in the day to calm your mind and switch off. No matter how busy you are, resist the temptation to work through your lunch break!
- Discuss flexibility with your boss
Talk to your boss about doing some (or more) work from home days, a four-day week or the chance to take a ‘mental health day’ once in a while. Explain clearly and concisely the reasons why you want more flexibility, how it will benefit you and make you a more engaged, happier worker. If you can manage it or afford it, try to avoid going back to your pre-COVID rigid ways.
- Create your third space for transitions
Dr Adam Fraser defines the ‘third space’ as that moment of transition between a first activity and the second that follows it. It’s basically a time where we can prepare ourselves to be mentally present for what comes next. At work we are often transitioning between many tasks in a day, and more often than not, we are subconsciously carrying our emotional state from one activity to the next – which can have a detrimental impact. One of the most important transition we can foster is the one from work to home. Often our colleagues get the best of us, while our family gets the rest of us. Having a routine or time between finishing work and getting home can dramatically shift your mood. Music, mindfulness, or phoning a friend, are all great things to help you switch off from work mode and show up for your family, partner or even housemates. If you used to commute but now work from home do not fear, as substituting a “non-commute” ritual like a walk around the block can also give the right message to your brain.
Waves of Wellness Foundation aims break down the stigma and barriers to accessing traditional therapeutic support with free-to-the-public “surf therapy” programs across Australia, plus a corporate wellbeing program.