The World Federation for Mental Health, an international advocate for mental health, shared that this year’s Mental Health Day is a day to Make Mental Health & Well-Being for All a Global Priority. This year, Mental Health Day falls on October 10, 2022.
When I think of mental health, I consider the mental well-being of the entire population. While there are individuals who have situations where it’s socially acceptable and medically necessary to seek professional assistance, there are many who tend to “deal” with the mental instabilities of their everyday life, as society has led them to believe that it’s a way of life. Specifically, 94% of the population experience stress. Is stress a normal part of life that we should just “deal” with?
The American Psychological Association found that of multiple options presented to individuals, Americans shared that their most common sources of stress were the future of our nation (63%), followed by money (62%), and work (61%).
I understand the future of our nation and money. How about work? Let’s explore that a bit.
A PennState article indicated that persistent, extensive periods of negative stress can precede other issues that impact mental wellness. Based on the American Institute of Stress, 94% of workers report feeling stress at work, and almost a third describe their stress level as high to unusually high. Three-fourths of employees believe the workplace has more on-the-job stress than a generation ago (The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health). What I find more interesting is that only 16% of employees have quit a job because of stress, as found in a Korn Ferry article.
What is causing stress at work?
According to Korn Ferry, the largest source of stress is the boss – as 35% of individuals indicated that their boss and 80% of individuals indicated that a change in leadership was the cause of their workplace stress.
These numbers are alarming, which may be the reason why 51% of United States workers are mentally “checked out” at work (Gallup), or what many are referring to as “quiet quitting.”
How do we prioritize mental health?
In my opinion, making mental health a priority starts with stress.
Statistics reflect that bosses cause stress. I’ve had bosses that took advantage of me when I was underage by offering me money in exchange for sexual favors, I’ve had bosses that micromanaged me, bosses that told me to withdraw my name from a development program due to my being pregnant, bosses that cursed me out when I accepted a job offer, and I’ve even had bosses to refuse to allow me to come back to work after maternity leave since their previous experiences with single mothers was negative.
On the other end, I’ve had leaders who looked out for me, encouraged me, offered me promotions, sought out opportunities for me, and pushed me out of my comfort zone to help me grow.
Prioritizing your mental health when it comes to your boss having a negative impact your life should include documenting issues as they arise, addressing the issues head-on in a professional manner (follow-up in email), and finding ways to focus on your own productivity with a goal in mind – when the motivation doesn’t come from your boss, I found the strength to motivate myself. Also, networking with those who could do for you, such as mentors, and making moves in the background - bring in charge of the things that would manifest your growth.
Changes in Leadership:
Managing change should be the only constant, as change is expected. Changes in leadership can be very stressful, as the direction of your company may change, which directly impacts your job.
Prioritizing your mental health when it comes to changes in leadership should include keeping yourself up to date in your industry – staying abreast and alert. Highlight yourself as an asset by using everyday as an opportunity to learn. Networking also works to ensure your worth within your company. Focusing on yourself and the things you can change or improve upon, helps you to focus less on the inevitable, which includes things out of your reach.
Other techniques to reduce stress at work:
1. Mental Health Day – Take a day off when you can, to focus on yourself – sleep in, get a pedicure, go on a solo lunch date, catch a Netflix show. Taking a day to yourself can help boost your mood immensely. If you’re not able to take an entire day, please ensure you use your lunch break to take a break – don’t work through your break as you need time to reset.
2. Prioritize Your Day – Small victories at work make a difference. If you can’t finish the entire project due to the complexity of the workload, break the work down to manageable tasks, such as what we call in project management “work packages” – it takes away the daunting effect of the workload.
3. Find Your Passion – When I took a personality test, I realized that I’m a protagonist, driven by a purpose behind my work – it made sense why technical positions and repetitive workloads were unfulfilling. I am motivated by purpose and meaningful work. When my job didn’t fulfill me, I found opportunities through volunteer work at work and outside of work, to help me find my purpose and complement my personality.
What other techniques have you found helpful in reducing stress at work?
American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2017/state-nation.pdf
PennState Extension, https://extension.psu.edu/stress-and-mental-health
The American Institute of Stress, https://www.stress.org/workplace-stress
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/99-101/default.html