6 min read |  Posted Aug 9, 2018

How to identify and nurture your mental health in the workplace

Ever hear of someone saying that they need to take a “mental health day”? They might even use a “sick day” or PTO to make up for that time off. There is nothing wrong with that. For some that suffer from diagnosed mental health issues, this can seem a touch insulting. However, finding that balance of positive head space and work motivation can be a tricky thing.

“With mental illness affecting up to 80 percent of the population at some point in their lifetime, according to the Journal of Abnormal Psychology — whether directly, or via loved ones and family — it’s clear that conversations about mental health are vital to all of us.” (Bustle, 7 Organizations To Support During Mental Health Awareness Month & All Year Round By CAROLYN DELORENZO)

What are signs of mental health issues?

Confused thinking
Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)
Extreme emotional highs and lows
Excessive fears
Dramatic changes in habits
Strong feelings of anger
Strange thoughts


Confused man

Your well being and peace of mind should be a priority to accomplishing your work objectives. Believe it or not, this does matter to your colleagues and human resources. You might be thinking that it’s a thinly veiled attempt to make employees more efficient. This could be true for some. Since we spend most of our time around our work colleagues, I want to believe it has more to do with a sense of community and growth on a personal and professional level.

“One in six US adults lives with a mental illness (44.7 million),” and depression alone “costs employers $44 billion each year in lost productivity.” Obviously we need to do a better job encouraging mental health awareness in the workplace. (https://jive.com/resources/blog/encouraging-mental-health-awareness-in-the-workplace/)

We are all in this together.

You face any number of challenges from the time your alarm goes off to punching out at the end of the day. It’s crucial that you recognize your daily obstacles or potential stressors to avoid or resolve them as quickly as possible.

Let’s see if this sounds familiar? You work long hours to meet business/consumer demands. Boundaries between work and home are crossed. Isolation for fear of spreading negativity becomes more frequent. It’s very difficult to relate to others. Finances are bogging you down, and you are taking on too many roles.

It might be a co-worker that you see struggling and could benefit from a little attention or kindness. Or it might be you. You could be carrying too much on your plate, but too proud to ask for help. Whatever the culprit of your stress and mental anguish, take care to find the appropriate resources for your solution.

team of rowers on the river

Helpful Resources:


  • The Struggle Bus
  • Happier
  • Don’t Freak Out


  • Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success’ by Matthew Syed
  • First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety by Sarah Wilson
  • Neurotica by Sue Margolis


Busy walkway with bustling people

Do you need to evaluate your mental health?

When you feel like the demands of your business or work are greater than the capacity to manage them, it’s time for a change. Your mental health and happiness shouldn’t take a backseat to your work or any other aspect of your life. Finding the balance in these four key areas: work, lifestyle, social relationships, and thoughts is mighty tricky, but highly beneficial. When you can put a little TLC into these areas, you might find your stress becomes less.

You work hard, and you should feel proud and motivated by your investment. Take note of the positives and negatives in those 4 key areas of your life. How can they be improved? What can you do without? What needs to change? Be honest with yourself and reach out to fellow business owners. They might relay the secret to their success and even yours!

Mental Health Assessment Board

You can print this out or scribble your personal thoughts on any ol’ piece of paper to evaluate each aspect of your work life balance. With this, you can determine what major stressors you could cut from your life to positively impact your mental health.

This could mean taking that much needed vacation. Perhaps, join that painting class you’ve been eyeing and itching to try. There is also a lot to be said for a little alone time or sharing a meal with a friend to reconnect. What’s important is that you find a way to decompress. If you don’t know what works best for you yet, try different methods until you find the perfect solution for YOU. Being “on” all the time will wear you down and trickle down into your work performance and relationships too.

Chart for four keys ares of mental health

Stepping Up to the plate

Whether it’s a client or college, it’s important to find the best way to approach someone to reach out and offer support. The “one size fits all” approach to communication rarely works. Make sure to understand your audience before making any attempts. Here are a few helpful ways to reach your employees.

Channels of Communication:
Posters/Notice Boards (Inclusive, not singling anyone out)
Face-to-face drop ins (Personal approach)
Info attached to a pay slip (Targeted, but private)

Not All Stress is Bad Stress

Stress is unavoidable. Please keep in mind that not all stress is bad for us. We have a “good” stress that actually works to our advantage. Surprisingly, we have good stress in our lives too. You know that feeling that keeps you on edge when you are about to go in for a job interview. It almost feels electric. This is one of those moments where stress has the potential to help you perform better.


Kids getting competitive playing tug of war

Another example might be when you are prepping for a sports event or race, and you’ve got the amped feeling. That’s your “eustress“, propelling you to achieve your goals. It’s an internal motivator to guide you to fulfilling your goals or overcome a obstacle. However, good stress can easily turn to the dark side and become “hide under your desk and close the blinds” bad stress.

All hands are in to show teamwork.

Working with Mental Health Conditions:

Some of your coworkers may already be living and working with their mental health issues. There is a stigma that puts people with mental health issues in a box. Lazy. Unfocused. Emotionally erratic. These are unfortunate stereotypes.

Ups & Downs of working with Mental Health Issues:
+Improved sense of self worth and quality of life
+Promote opportunities for social inclusion/support
+financial security and independence.

-Increased pressure to perform
-Stigma of Mental Health Conditions/Discrimination
-Isolation to avoid sharing struggles


It would benefit you and your employees to be mindful and sensitive to others’ mental health needs. If you are curious. Just ask. Often times when someone is suffering from mental health issues, just talking about what they are going through can bring light on how to improve their mental state, the workplace, and build stronger relationships.

In a world of “ain’t nobody got time for that”, MAKE TIME! You will see positive change in your employees when you can understand and relate to them. Happier employees make more successful businesses too!


“According to Harvard Business Review, “close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%.” Moreover, “people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.” (Forbes, Promoting Employee Happiness Benefits Everyone)


How can your business support mental health awareness? Check out these 7 organizations that support mental health awareness all year round.

What types of programs or involvement does your place have established for mental health awareness?

Download the
Mental Health Checklist

Sam Sierra