Two Easy Ways to Feel Better (Just in Time for Mental Health Awareness Month)

The universe unveils itself just as it should, in its own sweet time (which aggravates me to no end sometimes). As I sat down to write this week’s blog, this article about stress and emotions, and their impact on burnout and disease, popped up as a “pocket-worthy” read. Talk about timing and aligning.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a topic that resonates deeply with me. In recent years I had the opportunity to work alongside a group of community leaders to raise awareness about the mental healthcare needs of our state through a “Mental Health Starts With Me” campaign. As part of this initiative and as a member of the Broadlawns Advocate Circle, I saw up close and personal the struggles that our community members face when it comes to mental health, and the many ways we fall short in addressing their needs.

This is why more articles like the one above and others, including “5 Mistakes We Make When We’re Overwhelmed” or “Lost Touch, How a Year Without Hugs Affects Our Mental Health” will continue to fill up my news feed. 

I’m reminded that mental health doesn’t play around. Sure, it can come on slowly, but sometimes it hits like a Mack truck, making us incapable of deciding the smallest things.

However it occurs, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues can cause irreparable harm to our bodies and our relationships—as well as impacting us in the workplace. In fact, a MetLife study found that 38% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, an increase of 27% since 2019, and 41% of employees regularly feel stressed, burned out or depressed at work.

As someone who has his last name on the door, I can sincerely say that the people I work with are what I value most about our company. The people. The work is rewarding. Our nonprofit partners, inspiring.  But without our people, we’d be nowhere. So whenever I hear about someone struggling with their mental health, I instinctively want to make things better.

Above all, I’d say this to any one of them—and you if you ever find yourself grappling with mental health: You are worth every ounce of care, time and energy.

Oh, and another thing: Please, please, give yourself a break.

Here are two ways:

1. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

We all make mistakes or don’t know how to do certain things. None of us is infallible. Your intelligence and value in the world are not in question because you made an error, so stop berating and judging yourself over it. Mistakes happen for all of us, so tell that devilish internal voice to simmer down.

Instead, when a mistake happens at work try these steps:

  • Admit it
  • Present your boss with a plan to correct the issue
  • Don’t point fingers at others
  • Apologize, but don’t beat yourself up
  • Correct the mistake on your own time, if possible

2. Take a break.

“Taking a break is essential to higher productivity, energy, concentration, efficiency, creativity, and just about every other good thing that you need to survive,” writes author Neil Patel.

Studies prove it. One, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, studied four groups of people who worked on a brain-intensive task for 50 minutes. The group that took more breaks had the highest mental stamina at the end of the 50 minutes.

Did You Know? 55% of employees feel that they can’t possibly take a break during the workday.

While it might feel counter-intuitive, taking a break is time well spent. When done appropriately, a quick break allows you to step away from a problem or tedious task and gives you the space to tackle it anew. We’ve all faced deadlines that make us feel we can’t possibly leave our chairs until we’re done. But by 11 a.m. we’re hungry, in a brain fog and paralyzed about how to take the next step. Stepping away for a brisk 15-minute walk and a light, healthy lunch allows you to fuel and refresh your mind and body and ultimately get the job done faster and most likely, better. 

A good rule for taking a breather includes stopping work every 75 to 90 minutes for a 15-minute break, longer for lunch. Break for meetings that run over an hour, whether they’re in-person or on-screen. Make the most of the time by completely getting away from your screen—including your phone.

Instead, move about. Literally, get away from your task. Walk up and down stairs or around the block. Even 15 minutes of exercise or simple stretching changes your view on how you see a perplexing or stressful situation.

TRY THIS: Practice deliberate, meditative breathing to lower muscle tension, headaches, anxiety and blood pressure.

  • Breathe in through your nose to a count of four.
  • Hold for a count of four.
  • Breathe out through your mouth to a count of six.
  • Focus and refocus on the counting when your mind begins to wander.

DARE I OFFER THIS? Celebrate your mistakes. Not as in “isn’t that hilarious that I messed up that report,” but rather stopping the stigma of making mistakes or defaulting to blaming others. At Stelter we say, “No blame, no shame.” This approach assumes that everyone is pitching in with equal weight and dedication to the job.

“… Celebrating mistakes—not just tolerating or even allowing for them—helps to produce an environment that supports experimentation, risk-taking, and trust, which are essential building blocks for growth and new learning, as well as innovation and creativity,” says author Cathy Salit. 

How do you handle mistakes in your line of work? What advice would you give to someone new to gift planning about taking care of their mental health in the workplace? Scroll down and leave us a reply in the comments section.

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