How to Manage Your Mental Health at Work

Learn how to maintain your mental health and power through to success!
Sarah Si
Sarah Si
Editor, gradsingapore
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Mental health is about how you act, feel, think and cope with stress. It’s an integral part of every aspect of your life, yet it’s something that isn’t often discussed in the workplace. In reality, mental health is a growing concern, with an Ipsos May 2020 survey showing that 25% of Singaporeans were not in good mental health in early 2020, due to circuit breaker and social distancing measures. By 2021, a year into the pandemic, a survey by AIA found that nine out of ten Singaporeans were struggling with their mental health!

Mental health (or lack thereof) isn’t just limited to mental health issues – like depression or anxiety. According to Singapore’s Institute of Mental Health, not having mental health issues doesn’t equate to good mental health. In fact, good mental health refers to “the presence of positive characteristics”. For instance, in professional life, a positive characteristic for good mental health is a work-life balance.

Fortunately, there’s rising mental health awareness today – 68.9% of respondents in the annual Singapore 100 Leading Graduate Employers Survey 2021 conducted by GTI Media Singapore (S100 Survey) said they wanted to work for a company that offered a good work-life balance, and there are more companies offering mental health support.

But good mental health at work isn’t just about good work-life balance, however. There are other ways to manage your mental health at work. Try subscribing to these methods to keep your mental health game up!

Make “to-do” lists

Feeling the need to get up to speed in your new job can be overwhelming. You’re dealing with being the new boy or girl on the block (or office), you don’t have as much experience as your peers around you, and you’re given a list of tasks to complete by a certain deadline. Although the offer of help is typically extended to new hires, you likely still feel like you’re buried under a mountain of work.

This feeling of being overwhelmed will likely be accompanied by constant flitting from task to task as you finish one and try to decide on what to focus on next. So, instead of contributing to what might become a mental health issue, start making “to-do” lists. You’ll be able to get your thoughts in order, and get a good feeling every time you check something off the list!

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Avoid gossip at work

Although gossip at work does offer good entertainment fodder, or even provides an opportunity to get to know your new co-workers, it can cause conflicts and disrupt team harmony if you’re not careful.

Instead, if you have any problems at work, speak directly to the person. This will reduce miscommunication – which often results in frustration and poorer mental health – and may lead to a quick resolution with minimal stress. Consider getting your supervisor or manager involved as a mediator if required.

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Take breaks

Exploring a new place over the weekend and letting a part of your mind rest is a break. But a five-minute jaunt to the kitchen or pantry for a slice of cheese or chips constitutes a break as well.

A few minutes taken here and there will be enough to let you unwind and de-stress a little before you jump back to the demands of your “to-do” list (remember the earlier point?). To ensure you’re getting enough “me time” to keep yourself mentally buoyed and healthy, though, you can schedule 30-minute work blocks, with five-minute breaks in between.

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Decorate your workstation

Looking at little personal touches at the desk you’re assigned in the office can help you de-stress when working life threatens to overtake you. These little decorations can help you re-centre yourself and recall positive memories that’ll keep your mental health up. But before you start bringing in fairy lights, check with your company if there are any guidelines!

If decorations are allowed, take note to not clutter your desk with too many pictures or reminders of your hobbies! At the end of the day, you’re still a working professional in a corporate space.

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Get to know signs of a problem

When a person’s mental health starts to slip, there will be some changes to behaviour, whether it’s a lower concentration level, frequent tiredness or taking longer to complete what are deemed simple tasks. Unfortunately, as these issues come by, most tend to write it off or just work harder to get more done – which actually makes the issue worse.

It’s possible some of these signs may just be you taking a bit more time to adapt to your new schedule. But in any case, counter them with exercising, picking up a new hobby outside of work, or talking to someone about how you feel.

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Don’t be afraid to ask for help

There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help. Recognise that needing help is not a failing on your part, and give yourself permission to ask for help.

You don’t even need to jump straight into counselling sessions if you don’t feel ready for that; you can turn to family or close friends for a listening ear.

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This list – although not exhaustive – can help you manage your mental health at your first job. But it needs constant work. Mental health is a fluid thing, affected by your circumstances of the day and what you need at any given time. No one formula works for everyone, either, because everyone has different needs and personalities. Instead, figure out what works best for you. Then use it to manage your mental health in the best way possible, so you can always put your best foot forward!