A shift is happening in the way we talk about mental health at work. Employers are waking up to the fact that mental health goes beyond the treatment of mental health disorders and are including preventative mental health care as part of their overall employee wellness initiatives and benefits.
This is good news, for sure, and it leaves many of us asking, what exactly is mental health and how do I protect my mental health in and outside of work.
Mental health is the combination of your mental and emotional state. Your mental state refers to your ability to think clearly and make good decisions, while your emotional state refers to your ability to cope with and manage emotions, and your ability to have positive relationships. Together, they shape how you experience and react to the world around you.
Mental health isn’t simply a question of treating illness. Like taking care of your physical health, caring for your mental health means keeping your mind and emotions in good shape.
Let’s look at an example. Mel (they/them) is a mid-level manager for a big tech company. They struggle with their relationship with their boss, often getting annoyed with their boss’ communication style. Mel carries this stress home with them, complaining to their friends about what the boss did that day, and jumping on Slack after hours to complain to their colleagues. Mel has trouble falling asleep and often wakes up anxious in the middle of the night, leaving them tired and unmotivated the next day. They are considering quitting the job that they worked very hard to get.
In this example, Mel’s coping mechanisms increase their stress level and could affect their mental health, potentially leading to illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
So, how can Mel protect their mental health so that they can be less stressed and feel happier and healthier at work, regardless of what their boss is doing? There are three simple strategies that we all can do to help protect our mental health.