Poor mental health in the workplace is common and too often people suffer in silence.
A recent survey found that 85 per cent of those questioned said there was a stigma attached to mental health issues and stress in the workplace; 58 per cent said they would not be comfortable telling their boss they had been diagnosed with a mental illness.
Given this environment, here are some simple and practical steps you can take in 2018 to help cope with stress and anxiety. They aren’t a substitute for professional advice, but they can give you some tools to cope with the demanding work life of a busy PR: the tight deadlines, demanding clients/bosses, and the constant expectations that you should always be ‘up’.
Think of these steps as your mental and emotional MOT. Try to recognise the triggers and signs of burnout so you can take action.
Everyone reacts differently, but when I used to run busy PR departments I always knew that when my office or desk was in a mess, it was harder to cope.
Boundaries are important. When the office comes home it encroaches on all- important downtime; we need to recharge. If you must work at home, set a time limit and don’t allow work emails to encroach on the dinner table or the sofa.
It sounds obvious but remember to breathe. For those of you who practise yoga or Pilates you’ll know how important it is to breathe deeply and steadily.
When you feel anxious take yourself to a quiet place and sit quietly breathing deep into your diaphragm for a few minutes.
Holidays are important. Don’t be one of those people who say they don’t have time to get away. Having a complete change of scene is both restorative and relaxing.
Exercise is good for mental wellbeing. But you have to plan an exercise schedule. Some companies might offer free gym memberships. Make sure you are physically active, even if it is only a brisk walk.
Ecotherapy – spending time with nature – can improve your mood and self-esteem. Taking up gardening if you have the opportunity can help; even if it is just a window box or two for those with no outdoor space they will be a benefit.
Now that I’ve left the busy world of PR and the hectic London life, my own personal way for reducing stress is my animals. It is scientifically proven that pets, if you can have them, reduce stress.
State the business case
Finally, be brave. Your wellbeing is not only important to you, but to your company. More than half a million people took time off work because of stress last year, losing businesses 12.5 million working days, according to government statistics.
It is in businesses’ interests for you to be well. Ask your boss or the HR department for the support you need. More companies are beginning to understand the business case for mental health. As a counsellor I would seriously recommend counselling if life is getting on top of you.
Simple ideas can make a difference to our mood and wellbeing but I understand simple isn’t always easy. One last thought, however, cheers me up. A recent study by Oxford university found that being kind to others actually can make you happier.
Eileen Wise is former global head of PR for The Economist and the founder of Wise Counselling