5 Ways to Take Care of Your Mental Health While Working in an Office
Working in an office can be great. Chatting with office friends over endless cups of tea, knuckling down and getting some deep admin and writing work done, collaborating with management over fun meetings. However, sometimes it can be difficult. The depression of monotony, the anxiety of human contact and the stress of having to keep up appearances can all have a bad effect on mental health. Don’t be afraid, if your mental health is being taken care of, office work can be rewarding and exciting and we’ve got a few tips to make sure that happens.
Don’t be afraid of taking mini breaks
Anyone who works with a smoker knows how important cigarette breaks are to them. They pour limitless dedication and energy into making sure they can escape for five minutes. Why should a mental health break be any less important to you? If you need to, talk to your line manager about setting up a few five-minute breathers throughout the day. People are generally quite understanding.
Familiarise yourself with the law
If you meet the definition of disability under the Equality Act (2010) you are legally entitled to ask for reasonable adjustments at work to accommodate your disability. It is illegal for your employer to not provide you with reasonable adjustments as required. The government has subsidised schemes in place to ensure you have the equipment you need, for example, if you are eligible they will pay for “a support service if you have a mental health condition” or “disability awareness training for your colleagues” (https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work/).
It is important to note that the government very firmly includes mental health under disabilities that are protected by the Equality Act (2010). It is also important to note that “the application of a rule or policy or the existence of physical or communication barriers which make accessing something difficult or impossible” is discriminatory, and that “the discrimination does not have to be intentional to be unlawful” (https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/advice-and-guidance/disability-discrimination).
Working from home and alterations to working hours are considered reasonable adjustments. Make sure you’re protected by putting any requests in writing and ensuring you have all required documentation and evidence of disability before approaching management. The law is the law and you have your rights.
Ease yourself in
Give yourself a few weeks to settle. If you’ve just started in an office, that’s a huge shift in lifestyle and it’s important to give yourself a chance to adjust. That means not trying to do everything at once. It’s important to not isolate yourself, but try to limit how long you stay out on weeknights while you settle in. Make adjusting to the new setting a goal in and of itself and treat that goal with the kindness and patience it deserves.
It’s no secret that disturbed sleep can drag down mental health rapidly. One of the hard parts of working in an office is the pressure of waking up on time. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but some creatives are used to working late in the evening and at night. The shock of having to rise before you’re ready can tip the balance of happiness and leave you feeling drained. Give yourself enough time at night to sleep properly. That means, at least for the first few weeks, turning off all electronics when it’s time for bed. If you’re suffering with insomnia, talk to your doctor or pharmacist and try to fit some exercise into your evenings.
Eat yourself happy
One of the hard parts of working in an office is eating enough food. A lot of people don’t notice how heavily their state of mind is dependent on the food they’re eating. Psychology Today pointed out that “some of the microbiome can release neurotransmitters, just like our own neurons do, speaking to the brain in its own language via the vagus nerve” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201404/the-gut-brain-connection-mental-illness-and-disease).
That means that the microbes and organisms in our stomach are speaking to our minds. The health of our minds and the happiness of own internal monologues are deeply dependent on the strength and quality of our gut bacteria.
When working from home, it’s easy to cook something as part of your lunch break. From an office, there are restrictions to your food preparation options and your time. Tesco sandwiches and chicken shop chips become an easy habit to fall into. Preparing your food at home and bringing it in becomes vital. It doesn’t have to be difficult, just cook a little extra for dinner and take it to work in a Tupperware box. You’ll be surprised by the difference this can make to your longer term mental health.