What is mental health and how do you maintain it?

Mental health graphic

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Feeling successful at work and in your personal life is highly dependent on your mental health.

Mental health is just as important as your physical health. It is a state of well-being that allows you to cope with the everyday stresses of life, be aware of your own abilities, work productively, and contribute to society.

It is important to differentiate between mental health and mental illness. Mental illness is a recognized and medically diagnosable illness that can cause significant impairment to an individual’s cognitive, affective or relational abilities, and is a result of biological, developmental and/or psychosocial factors. Similar to physical diseases, mental illnesses can be managed using approaches such as prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation.

Mental health is a shared responsibility: Each employee is responsible for their own well-being and work performance but the organization also has an essential role to play in creating a work environment that fosters well-being and productivity.

Here are some ways that managers and employees can work to improve mental health in the workplace:

Managers

  • Be clear about your employees’ tasks and work responsibilities
  • Support your employees’ development for current and future roles
  • Create a work environment where employees feel supported in their work
  • Recognize your employees’ work achievements

Employees

  • Register for professional development workshops or courses
  • Participate in a mentor program
  • Take advantage of counselling and support services offered by your employer, such as the Employee Assistance Program.
  • Balance work and personal life by learning about alternative working arrangements, or telework

Learning more about mental health and mental illness is a crucial step towards ending the stigma, stopping prejudice and promoting early identification and effective treatment – so let’s all do our part!

Ten ways to keep your mental health in check

Here are some tips and tricks to help you to restore balance in your life, and help you take better care of your own mental health.

1. Get moving. Exercise is good for our bodies and our mental health. It can help relieve stress, reduce muscle tension, improve blood flow and flood your body with feel-good chemicals. Exercising doesn’t mean running a marathon; it can be as simple as taking a walk or playing with your kids.

2. Eat right. Choosing the right foods for your body can keep your mood and energy levels steady.

3. Get enough sleep. Researchers have linked a lack of sleep to increased feelings of sadness, anxiety and stress. It can even contribute to weight gain! Try to get into a routine: go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends.

4. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Mistakes are inevitable in life. Rather than beating yourself up for it, consider a mistake an opportunity to learn and do better next time.

5. Open up. Bottling up difficult emotions doesn’t help them go away. Keep a journal, talk to a friend or consider counselling. Life can be complicated and messy. Talking about or writing down how difficult it can be can make it a little easier.

6. Prioritize yourself. Do something just for you, every day. Create a list of activities that make you happy (even things as simple as reading, baking or walking) and try to fit them in your schedule more often.

7. Make a realistic to-do list. You may be tempted to think, “If I can just finish everything on my list, I’ll be able to relax.” But if your list is longer than your day, you may never get to relax and you’ll end up exhausted and disappointed. Scale back your lifestyle, expectations and curb your need for perfection.

8. Accept change. If there is one constant in life, it is change. The best way to deal with it is to accept it and look for the positives in the situation.

9. Don’t be a victim. Blaming outside forces or other people for your misfortunes never solves the problem. Take ownership of your life experiences and focus on controlling what is within your reach and accepting what isn’t. Trying to control things outside of your reach can leave you feeling powerless. Focusing on what is within your span of control will make you feel powerful.

10. Get help when you need it. When life gets really hard and writing down your thoughts or talking to a friend isn’t helping, seek help from a professional. Defence Team resources (Intranet access only) are available when you need them.

For more information and resources on mental health in the workplace, please visit:

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