"As professionals, entrepreneurs, and freelancers make gains in shaping the workforce into something flexible and fluid, we all should remember to keep our mental health at the forefront of our career-based decisions."
Whether you’re completely remote, doing forty hours in the office, or balancing a hybrid remote and in-person work model, our jobs and careers can be heavy burdens. Regardless of how much you love being a professional or an entrepreneur, there comes a time when your career requirements stress you. Some stress is good – it can motivate and catapult you to the next level. However, too much pressure weighs you down and can break you, making it challenging to care for yourself, let alone complete work tasks.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and at a time when the approach to work and “professionalism” is fluid, it’s too easy to let mental health maintenance fall by the wayside while we navigate our new normal. We must do our part to manage and maintain positive mental health.
Here are five things you can do right now to manage your mental health in your career:
Balance work time
Communicate your needs
Relax without screens
Balance Work Time
How we view the 40-hour workweek has shifted because of the workforce changes put in place due to the pandemic. More professionals are learning that working 9 to 5 Monday through Friday is not the best, nor most efficient, method for completing projects and work tasks. Instead, employees are switching up their workweek. Working during the most productive hours for them, whether within or outside of nine-to-five, empowers employees. When empowered to complete work tasks in a timeframe more specific to their needs and abilities, professionals see an improvement in productivity and attitude towards work. Productivity and attitude are foundational building blocks in positive mental health.
Communicate Your Needs
Even before the pandemic struck and altered how and when we work, individuals struggled with self-advocacy in the workplace. Communicating what you need to show up as your best self at work can be difficult, especially in an unsupportive office environment. Yet, that communication, the willingness to ask for what you need when you need it, is beneficial to you, your job, and the clients you may serve.
Even with remote work, you can still find ways to discuss the challenges you face and how to address them. One might think that those challenges don’t arise with professionals working remotely, but that’s a simple, unexamined take. Work isn’t only about the environment. If you need time off or have to switch up what you’re working on – even remotely – reach out to your manager and, if needed, discuss the EAP option available through most HR programs.
Relax Without Screens
For remote professionals, freelancers, and entrepreneurs, the body of our work happens through the screen. Think laptop, phone, camera/recording device, television, etc. Technology has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, and in most cases, professionally, digital is the standard. With our workdays and hours spent in front of some type of screen, we should schedule time to relax without screens.
I know I like to unwind with a casual scroll through social media or a good tv show, but even that can inadvertently increase stress levels. Instead, try reading a book or magazine, doing a puzzle, or my personal favorite: adult coloring books.
Growing up, I would always hear my elders say: “you need to go outside and touch some grass.” As a youth, I could only capture the literal meaning of their words, and it didn’t click for me. As an adult, I understand that they stressed the importance of spending time outside the home.
It seems easy to add to your routine, but so much of life in the 21st century is about convenience, and being outside isn’t on the list of things that make life easier. But it should be. Don’t ever get so caught up in work and the convenience offered by almost everything being digital that you forget to reconnect with your physical reality. Touch some grass and see if you don’t breathe a little easier or view your problems from a less-stressed perspective.
We can never understate the importance of socializing. We need it in all areas of our life; work, home, recreational, etc. Whenever you feel at your limit, and your mental health has taken a hit, find a reprieve in people you know and love — schedule lunch with a coworker. Spend time with a friend or family member who’s good at helping you relieve stress. The best thing you can do for yourself to take care of your mental health is to make socializing a regular occurrence in your schedule. Don’t let the only time you interact with people be for work or through your screens on social media.
As professionals, entrepreneurs, and freelancers make gains in shaping the workforce into something flexible and fluid, we all should remember to keep our mental health at the forefront of our career-based decisions. Prioritizing mental health feeds into productivity, creativity, and overall job satisfaction. So to get the best out of your job and for your job to get the best out of you, make habits out of the things listed here to maintain your mental health.
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