If your organization is getting hit hard by absenteeism and low productivity, and if people are making too many mistakes and things just aren't running as smoothly as before, you can bet that your workers' mental health may be involved.

According to a Health and Safety Executive study conducted between 2016 and 2017, 12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression, or anxiety.

Another study by Dr. Michael Freeman, a clinical professor at University of California, San Francisco, reported that nearly half of all entrepreneurs surveyed suffered from things like anxiety and depression.

Mental health is serious business, and not staying on top of yours can seriously affect how you and your business performs. If things are turbulent right now and stress and anxiety are beating up on you, you can get your peace back. But it takes looking in the mirror, acknowledging the truth, and making hard changes.

To address the problem, Mark Maule, a health and wellness expert and School of Health Sciences faculty member at Purdue University Global, reached out to me to share five practical tips to mitigate workplace stress. ​Maule should know: He has over 18 years of professional experience working with diverse populations in a fitness and mental health capacity. Here's what he suggests:

1. Participate in a daily activity. 

While the current recommendations for activity are for adults to get 150 minutes of exercise per week, Maule says that a daily activity that could also include things like gardening, chopping wood, walking in nature, or canoeing can improve your mood, bolster confidence to face daily challenges, and improve your physiological functioning.

2. Unplug from your job responsibilities. 

"One of the best ways to relieve stress and incorporate balance on a regular basis is to do something that is completely unrelated to your job," says Maule. That means making it a regular habit to have more "me time" every day to help decompress and disconnect from the pressures of work on a daily basis. "It may have to wait until you are physically away from work--like cranking the tunes on your ride home, immersing yourself in a good read, or chatting with a friend," says Maule.

3. Ask for help. 

Here's what Maule shared with me: "Even if you are a superstar at your job, it can still be necessary to ask for help. Offload tasks that you are confident that your co-workers can handle so you can focus on higher priorities and give them your full energy and attention. By asking for help, you are able to boost productivity, and it can help you enhance team chemistry."

4. Set healthy work boundaries. 

Since we're hyper-connected to tech devices 24/7 and many of us take work home with us, Maule says it's imperative that we set some firm boundaries around what we are willing or unwilling to do beyond the scope of the regular work day. He says, "Be flexible for those special scenarios like a crisis, covering for others, or a strict deadline, but let it be known as the exception to the rule. Understand and embrace that healthy work boundaries can translate to a healthy personal life."

5. Make alternative therapies part of your weekly routine. 

Maule advises us to consider the use of alternative therapies that don't require a visit to a health professional to unwind. Think aromatherapy, like essential oils, which can improve psychological or physical well-being. Maule says this is "an effective way to elicit positive moods and decrease concerns for things that are outside of our control."

Published on: Sep 29, 2018
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