We usually measure our fitness by our physical health, but our mental health is just as important. Mental health distress and illness can negatively impact your safety and the safety of your co-workers. Though everyone experiences stress and trauma differently, there are common signs to watch for and proactive steps you can take to prioritize your mental health.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, nearly one-in-five American adults live with mental illness. More face stress and anxiety from unexpected crises, whether it’s a personal issue or a workplace incident. While mental health concerns can feel overwhelming and may not seem like a risk to you or your co-worker; however, they can pose serious dangers.
According to the CDC, mental health concerns can impact your physical health. Depression, for example, increases the risks for diabetes, heart disease and stroke. In stressful situations, it can be tempting to ignore the cause of our anxieties and focus on something else, but that will only compound the problem. Understanding the risks of mental distress and facing the source of your stress is the first step toward successfully managing these issues.
The signs of mental distress may not show up for weeks or months after a stressful situation or experience. Regardless of the timing, watch for common signs such as:
- Feeling unmotivated, or physically or mentally drained
- Feeling sad, lonely, numb, or worried
- Changes in your appetite or sleep patterns
- Increases in alcohol or drug use
- Difficulty focusing or making decisions
- Arguing more or becoming easily frustrated with family, friends, or co-workers
Even if you don’t notice these signs, if you aren’t feeling like yourself, don’t ignore it. There are many myths and misconceptions about mental health, which can make it difficult to recognize the signs in yourself. It is not wrong to have these feelings, but if you are having them frequently, it is a sign you should seek additional help. In addition to looking for these signs in yourself, you can also watch and listen for signs in your co-workers, such as:
- Disclosure of exceptional stress or mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety
- Failure to fulfill major life responsibilities, such as work, school, or financial obligations
- Withdrawal from important relationships
Don’t pry or make assumptions, but it can be helpful to check in and listen with compassion. Learn more about the common signs and causes of workplace stress and what you can do to help manage it.
There are resources available to help you. At work, you can talk to your supervisor or human resources about what’s causing your stress. Your workplace might offer an employee assistance program (EAP) with access to counselors, financial planners, and other resources. Outside of work, you can talk with your doctor, a loved one or a trusted friend. Remember that there is no shame in asking for help or seeking counseling. No one needs to conquer a crisis alone; lean on others when you need help and provide assistance when others need it from you.
Once you understand the source of your stress, there are proactive steps to address it and reduce your anxiety. Focus on keeping yourself healthy by:
- Getting at least seven hours of sleep each day to recharge both mentally and physically
- Exercising regularly for 30 minutes a day, it could be as simple as a walk
- Eating healthy food
- Separating work from your personal life, including taking time for activities you enjoy and using all your vacation days
Stress won’t go away overnight, but each step can make a difference. While maintaining these healthy habits, you can make your body and mind more resilient, and better able to deal with stress. The more prepared you are to manage your stress, the more you can do to help keep you, co-workers and loved ones safe.