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This is how we start to break the mental health stigma at work

On this week’s episode of ‘Secrets of the Most Productive People,’ we talk about the mental health struggles so many of us are facing right now—and how to bring it up with your manager.

This is how we start to break the mental health stigma at work
[Photo: Feteme Fuentes/Unsplash]

Nearly three months into living under stay-at home orders, many of us are feeling the strain of being in a constant state of anxiety and uncertainty. Millions of workers across many industries have lost their jobs and are struggling to make ends meet. Essential workers continue to put themselves at risk so the rest of us have access to groceries and healthcare. Many people are grieving the loss of loved ones from afar. And those who are fortunate enough to remain employed and work from home face their own challenges: Some people are quarantined alone and isolated from friends and family, while many working parents are juggling full-time childcare with a full-time job.

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Whatever your circumstances, this is likely a trying time—which can leave people especially vulnerable to mental health issues. We’ve already seen a spike in symptoms of depression and anxiety, with women and people of color feeling it more acutely. If you find that your mental health is affecting your work, how do you raise the issue with your manager? It can be difficult to discuss mental health at work even in normal times, let alone in our new reality, when it might feel like so many people have it harder than you.

On this week’s episode of Secrets of the Most Productive People, we talk about the mental health struggles so many of us are facing right now. We also speak with Alice Boyes, a former clinical psychologist and the author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit and The Anxiety Toolkit. Boyes gives us insight into the accommodations that employees have a right to at work and offers tips on how to broach the subject of mental health issues with your manager.

You can listen and subscribe to Secrets of the Most Productive People on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcherSpotifyRadioPublic, or wherever you get your podcasts.

In the meantime, here are a few ways to navigate mental health issues in the workplace.

1. Identify your triggers. Sometimes it’s easy to pinpoint the root of your mental health issues. An external stressor such as a global pandemic, for example, causes a disruption to your routine, which makes you anxious because it can feel like life is out of your control. Other times, you have to dig a little deeper. Perhaps there are specific aspects of your job that you dread, or maybe the number of meetings you’re required to attend zaps far too much of your mental energy. When you know the cause of your stress, it becomes much easier to manage it when it rears its head in the workplace.

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2. Figure out what you can change, or what you can ask the company to change. A small change can go a long way. When you know what your external stressors are, you can figure out what changes you can make to manage it. If having too many Zoom meetings is draining your energy, see if you can make your meetings shorter, or better yet, identify where you’re not critically needed. If you’re stretched too thin and have the power to do so, you can think about delegating—or ask your boss what you should prioritize and what you can complete later.

3. Don’t shy away from getting professional help. Sometimes eliminating external stressors just doesn’t cut it. When you find yourself in a prolonged state of stress, it’s time to get the help of a professional. Chronic stress can have a negative impact on your quality of life and can also make physical health issues worse.

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About the author

Pavithra Mohan is an assistant editor for Fast Company Digital. Her writing has previously been featured in Gizmodo and Popular Science magazine.

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