When Work Affects Your Mental Health

It’s difficult to find a job that you enjoy, makes you happy, has great coworkers, and does not stress you out. When I first started my job in January, I thought I found a place that ticked all those boxes. Within a few months, it became clear that I had not experienced enough of the job to understand what I was getting into 

Through the years, I have judged how healthy aspects of my life are based on how the anticipation makes me feel. If I begin to dread going to work the night before, I know something probably needs to change to improve my mental health.  

I know it may sound like a tall order to love your job, but there are definitely small ways to make it more bearable. In the past few weeks, I have been making little changes to my work routine to help combat some of the stress it brings me. Although some stress is inevitable, it is possible to find things to look forward to in your work life. Here are a few things I have done in the past month to improve my mental health at work. 

Introduced myself to a new employee: Recently at my office, we brought in a large group of new employees, which was the perfect opportunity to meet new people. I have been working at finding new friends for a while now and work is one of the easiest places to do this. I always found it difficult to make new friends at college; it seemed like everyone had their established friend groups and wanted to leave right after class instead of staying back to chat to other classmates. As a result, I struggled through my college years, feeling isolated and lonely. The great news with the workplace is you can instantly make new friends. Through all my high school jobs and my career now, I have been able to make friends pretty quickly. The work atmosphere promotes natural camaraderie, and there is always something to talk about because there is common ground – your job.  

Last week, there was a girl sitting by herself at the lounge where we have lunch. While refilling my water bottle, I took a chance and started talking to her about her training. Through our short conversation, I found out she was new to the area and was looking for friends. I told her if she wanted to, we could get drinks sometime after work and I could show her the city. A few days later, she invited me out and we have plans for next weekend as well. If you take a chance and strike up a conversation with someone new, it can result in a new friendship, even if it can be scary to take that first step. 

Took walks on my break: I work in an office environment and it can get tedious sitting in a chair all day. I always feel better, at the very least physically, if I get up and take walks around. I enjoy walking around downtown when it’s nice out to get moving and sight-see. This way, I am getting exercise that I normally wouldn’t be getting if I sat down my whole break.  

Wore outfits that made me feel confident: I was getting into the routine for a while of wearing the same few outfits without thought because it was easy and reliable. I have since expanded my work outfits and been more creative with what I’m wearing and accessorize with. This has resulted in some compliments around the office, which is always a way to turn your day around at work. Having confidence is a great feeling and can improve how you look at your workday. You can plan outfits that you are excited to wear, so that you look forward to the workday ahead. 

Treated myself to my favorite snack: Yesterday I was having a bit of a hard time and I decided I needed a small pick-me-up to make me feel better. I walked to a convenience store on my break and bought some chocolate covered pretzels, something I’d been craving that whole week. It was a small gesture, but it was a way for me to treat myself during a hard day. 

Made a gratitude list: During one of the slow hours at my work, I was able to jot down a list of things that I was thankful for that day. This allowed me to focus on the positives, no matter how small. I saw this on an Instagram story of an acquaintance of mine and I loved the idea and plan on employing it more during tough workdays. If you’re feeling creative, you can add in doodles and drawings as well like my friend did on hers. You do not have to think too deeply with the list; for example, adding things like “friends and family” is most definitely something to be thankful for, but those are things that are more difficult to focus on since they are not as specific. I find it helpful to get super specific with my reasons. A good example would be, “Today my coworker told me I was doing a great job with that task I was working on” or “There was a new food truck nearby that I went to on break, and it ended up being really good.” It may sound simplistic, but it really does help. Then, when you read over your list at the end of the day, you realize how many good things did happen. 

Plan something for after work to look forward to: Whether you want to go out with a friend or hibernate indoors, it’s important to allow yourself to de-stress after work so you can recharge. I always look forward to sitting on my couch and hanging out with my dog when I get home from a long workday.

What things do you do to help you through the workday? Have you ever tried a gratitude journal, and if so, what was your experience like? Feel free to share your thoughts below!  

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