Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind
We all have mental health just as we all have physical health and everyone’s wellbeing is on a spectrum, varying from one day to the next. But mental health is still a taboo topic, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the workplace, where we might fear being perceived as weak, incapable or unable to cope. Despite this, right now 1 in 6 workers is experiencing anxiety, depression or stress.
Most jobs will involve an element of stress, and the role of GP Practice Managers is no exception. It’s when stress becomes unmanageable that problems begin. Sometimes you might be able to tell right away when you’re feeling under stress, but other times you might keep going without recognising the signs. Stress can affect you both emotionally and physically, and it can affect the way you behave.
Common symptoms of stress can include:
- How you might feel: irritable, anxious, uninterested in life, lonely, worried about your health, a sense of dread
- How you might behave: finding it hard to make decisions or concentrate, snapping at people, eating too much or too little, smoking or drinking more than usual, feeling tearful or crying
- How you might be physically affected: shallow breathing or hyperventilating, headaches, indigestion, blurred eyesight, problems sleeping too little or too much, losing interest in sex, feeling tired all the time
The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to boost your resilience and wellbeing. The best antidote to stress is relaxation, but you have to find what is effective for you, which could be a combination of things. Small things can help reduce the impact of work-related stress and make a big difference to how we feel, such as:
- Take a proper lunch break and do something that’s a total distraction from work. Read a book or listen to music to ensure your break really is a break.
- Get some fresh air: Outdoor exercise is proven to boost mood, even if just a walk round the block, it can clear your head.
- Be assertive: Say no if you can’t take on extra demands that are being asked of you.
- Reflect: At the end of each day, sit back and reflect on what you’ve done and what you’ve achieved, rather than spending time worrying about what still needs to be done.
- Leave work at work: Whether it’s closing the door behind you as you leave work, or as you sit down on the bus – take a moment to pause and look ahead to the time you have to yourself for the rest of the evening.
- Get support: If you’ve not been feeling yourself for more than a couple of weeks it’s vital to let someone you trust know, whether that’s family, friends or a colleague. If it’s having a big impact on your life see your GP to discuss what forms of treatment might work best for you.
Beyond looking after yourself, as a practice manager you are also in a great position to help create a mentally healthy working environment within the practice. There are a number of small, inexpensive measures that can make a huge difference. Wellness Action Plans – available free of charge from Mind’s website – can be very effective. Having frequent meetings also creates the space for employees to discuss any issues they are facing and develop methods to tackle these problems.
So far we’ve seen over 350 organisations demonstrate their commitment to supporting the wellbeing of their staff by signing the Time to Change organisational pledge. In recognition of some of the positive steps being made in this arena, Mind will soon be launching a Workplace Wellbeing Index, enabling employers to celebrate the good work they’re doing to promote staff mental wellbeing and get the support they need to be able to do this even better, and encourage other organisations to follow suit.
For more information on mental health in the workplace, including free resources, please visit: www.mind.org.uk/work
Mind’s website also has tips for coping with stress at work