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Staying Mentally Healthy at Work

By Dr. Ridgley Salter, MD,

The ‘Expert Voices’ submissions are for educational purposes only. They are written by marketing staff at Capital Blue Cross and Wellspan Health, in coordination with the experts listed. They are not connected to news coverage by WITF or Transforming Health. Information in these posts is not meant to replace professional medical advice or treatment plans. Capital Blue Cross and Wellspan Health encourage you to contact a qualified health care professional to discuss your individual health concerns.

The last two years have challenged the resolve of all of us. Our routines have been disrupted at home and on the job. The issue of work-life balance made many people reconsider their own goals and even led some to quit their jobs, leading to a phenomenon some have called “the great resignation.”

Dr. Ridgley Salter, MD,

Businesses have been challenged to meet the needs of their team members. Many are heeding the call to prioritize the wellbeing of their employees. How? By addressing their needs in the moment with added resources like childcare benefits and access to mental health support that is stigma-free. But many employers are also looking at it through initiatives like compensation, benefit packages and programs that address work-life balance.

The pandemic has given each of us the opportunity to rethink what we want in a workplace where we spend so much of our day. With these shifting priorities, use these top five tips to ward off burnout and make wellness a priority at work.

  1. Create space and time for self-care outside of work. Make sure you are meeting basic needs such as getting adequate sleep, eating a healthy diet, and even drinking enough water. Sleep is especially critical. It should be 7-8 hours every night for adults. It’s also important to find time to take care of your emotional needs as well, through exercise, meditation, spiritual time/prayer, or yoga.
  2. Invest in relationships, both in your personal and your work life. Social interactions are an important part of our lives. Find time to connect with a loved-one you haven’t talked to in a while, even if it’s just a phone call. Ask a co-worker to take 10 minutes for coffee, even if it’s a virtual gathering. You’ll be surprised how important that interaction may be to you day, or even your week.
  3. Cultivate Gratitude. Get your daily dose of “Vitamin G” by sharing what you are grateful for at the first meeting of the day or even at break with your colleagues.  Savor the small positive experiences.
  4. Try an end-of-day checklist to help you transition from work toward home. Literally carry a piece of paper in your pocket with these steps as a daily reminder for the end of your workday:
  • Pause and be proud of the work you did today.
  • Consider three things that went well.
  • Acknowledge a difficulty and let it go.
  • Have a compassion check. Are you OK? Are your colleagues OK? If not, talk to someone.
  • Finally, switch your attention to home so that you can rest and recharge.
  1. Forgive yourself and others. Mistakes present opportunities for growth, self-discovery, and learning. Be realistic with your expectations.

The biggest challenge may be just regularly taking the time to take care of your mental health. Hold on to easy-to-remember phrases like “put your own oxygen mask on first” or “you can’t pour from an empty cup.”  Caring for yourself is not selfish.  It helps us to be the best version of ourselves so that we can give of ourselves to others and to our work.  It’s not just something that we should do in response to the pandemic, but something we continue to do as we move forward.