In today's fast-paced world, the workplace often demands long hours and unwavering dedication. This can take a toll on employees' mental health, especially in cultures where these demands are the norm. To shed light on this important issue, we sat down with Psychologist Maria Angela Leabres-Diopol, a mental expert from Doctor Anywhere.
In our conversation, Maria Angela shared valuable insights into common mental health challenges faced by employees in the Philippines and offered practical advice on prioritizing self-care without feeling guilty. Moreover, she discussed the self-care practices that employees can integrate into their daily routines to enhance their mental wellness at work and provided guidance for those who wish to advocate for a mentally healthy workplace.
Common Mental Health Challenges in the Workplace
Our registered psychologist, Maria Angela Leabres-Diopol, provided us with insights into the various mental health challenges that employees commonly encounter in the workplace. Here are the key challenges she highlighted:
Work-Related Stress: This includes heavy workloads, tight deadlines, and high job demands, which often lead to heightened stress levels.
Long Commutes: She emphasized the strain of long commutes, especially for those who travel from distant provinces, saying, "If your work is in Manila, and you travel from Cavite or other nearby provinces, commuting can also add to stress."
Lack of Work-Life Balance: Striking a balance between the demands of work and family life can be difficult, often resulting in burnout and adverse effects on mental well-being.
Bullying and Harassment: Workplace bullying and harassment, whether verbal, physical, or online, can severely impact employees' mental health.
Isolation and Loneliness: "When the pandemic happened, we had this isolation and loneliness as also a mental health challenge." The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened feelings of isolation, particularly with the rise of remote work, leading to disconnection from colleagues.
Job Insecurity: The fear of losing one's job due to contractual arrangements or probationary periods can create significant mental health challenges.
Prioritizing Self-Care Without Guilt
Maria Angela, our mental health expert, also gave us helpful tips on how employees can take care of themselves without feeling guilty.
Set Clear Boundaries: Communicate assertively and politely, and don't hesitate to say "no" if extra work compromises your well-being. Remember, saying "no" is a sign of self-awareness.
Utilize Vacation Days: She highly encourages you to take advantage of your leave entitlements to relax, recharge, and spend quality time with loved ones. Disconnect from work emails and calls during your time off.
Incorporate Self-Care: Maria Angela also emphasized the importance of incorporating self-care into daily routines, including activities like mindfulness exercises and desk yoga. These brief pauses of self-care can make a significant difference in managing stress.
Prioritize Sleep: Healthy sleep hygiene is crucial. Ensure you get adequate rest to enhance your mental well-being.
Digital Detox: Regarding digital boundaries, she advised, "Staying away from your social media before going to sleep is also a good practice." This digital detox before bedtime can improve sleep quality and reduce anxiety.
Seek Support: Connect with your HR department and build a support network among colleagues facing similar issues. She shared, “This support network can offer valuable resources and a safe space to discuss challenges.”
Enhancing Mental Wellness through Daily Practices
Maria Angela emphasizes how simple daily habits can boost our mental well-being at work. Taking care of ourselves isn't just good for our minds but also improves our job satisfaction, productivity, and work relationships.
Mindfulness Meditation: Dedicate a few minutes daily to reduce stress and improve focus through mindfulness meditation, which can be discreetly done at your desk.
Positive Self-Talk: Start your day with positive affirmations to boost your self-esteem and resilience.
Gratitude Journaling: She recommended maintaining a gratitude journal, saying, "Jot down at least one to three grateful thoughts or grateful events that happen during the day."
Digital Boundaries: She advised, "Establish specific times for checking and responding to email messages and work-related notifications." Such boundaries prevent digital overload and interruptions, reducing stress.
Time Management: Avoid multitasking and set realistic goals to reduce stress and improve productivity.
Stay Organized: Utilize tools like to-do lists and calendars to stay organized and efficient. “An organized workspace contributes to a sense of control and reduces stress,” Maria Angela shares.
Social Connection: Foster personal relationships with colleagues to reduce isolation and foster a sense of belonging.
Advocating for a Mentally Healthy Workplace
Finally, Maria Angela Leabres-Diopol offered some valuable advice for employees who aim to speak up and promote a mentally healthier workplace without risking any harm to their job reputation or professional status.
Educate Yourself: She emphasized the need to educate ourselves through professional help, seminars, and training. Knowledge empowers individuals to understand and articulate the importance of mental wellness effectively.
Be Respectful: In conversations about mental health, she stressed being respectful and professional. Respectful dialogue fosters a culture of understanding and empathy.
Explore Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): If available, utilize EAPs or consider outsourcing mental health support.
Encourage Administration Support: Advocate for a mental health-friendly workplace culture and policies that support employee well-being.
Build Allies: Maria Angela encouraged forming support groups within the workplace to share concerns about mental health. Collective voices can effect change more effectively.
Create a Supportive Culture: Be a safe space for colleagues to discuss their feelings and challenges, ultimately preventing mental health issues from escalating.
Prioritizing mental wellness in the workplace is not just an individual responsibility but a collective effort. By adopting these strategies and advocating for a supportive work culture, employees can contribute to a healthier, more balanced, and more productive work environment.
Enhance your mental well-being by engaging in conversations with experienced mental health experts through the Doctor Anywhere app. You can download the app for free from both the Google Play Store and the App Store to schedule your appointment.
To learn more about prioritizing and understanding your mental health, visit https://www.doctoranywhere.ph/mental-health for more information.