It will come as no surprise to hear that US workers are stressed out. In fact, just last year, the human resources company Paychex released a survey of over 2000 full-time employees who were asked to rate their stress levels on a scale of 1 to 5. More than 70% reported stress levels of 3 or greater. And many studies have shown that the rates of depression and anxiety are also high, with these mental health issues affecting nearly 1 in 4 US adults. If you are one of the millions who feel this way, you are far from alone.
No doubt you have had times that you feel so mentally drained that you could hardly handle the commute home. Or times that you carry that on-the-job stress home where it affects the rest of your life. Or even times when that stress begins to impact your overall health and well-being. At that time of year when New Year’s resolutions are starting to fade into the background, it is important to still prioritize your own well-being. Here’s how:
Know when to seek professional support. If you’ve tried common self-help tools (e.g. a mindfulness app on your phone) and are still struggling to keep your head above water, look into what resources are available to you. If you feel that way, a therapist or behavioral health coach can be the best support to help you manage your mental health. They can provide you structured and evidence-based care that is specific to you, and many workplaces offer behavioral health support to their employees. Remember, this is not something to be ashamed of. It’s OK to not be OK.
Prioritize your physical health. As a physician, I always emphasize the effect your physical health has on your mental well-being. Stress and anxiety can increase tenfold when you are suffering from a physical ailment, even something as seemingly small as a cold. Go to your doctor when you feel sick. Get your yearly check-ups on the calendar and write down ahead of time what you want to ask them. You will never regret being honest with your doctor, and it could alleviate some of the daily stresses at work.
Stay connected with people in the moment. Everyone has days at work that they feel like they are drowning. It is important on these days to reach out to others and not remain isolated. Put down your phone, close your computer, and spend time building the bridges of real human connection with your friends and colleagues. Social isolation and loneliness are a growing public health concern. Staying connected, with real people, can make a real difference.
Your mental health needs are real. I’d love to hear your personal ways to overcome stress and be your best self on and off the job.