How to take care of your mental health at work in times of stress


Thrive and SHRM recently brought together more than 90 companies to pledge to continue prioritizing the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. We launched this pledge amid growing concern that in tougher economic conditions, the progress made over the past two years in supporting employee mental health will be lost. And if we are to set ourselves up for long-term success, we must build on the lessons of the past two years, because it is in difficult times that we need to double our mental resilience the most.

We asked our Thrive community to share with us the little ways they are taking care of their mental health at work. Which of these ideas are you going to try?

Take regular breaks

“I take care of my mental health by setting limits to my work and taking breaks. I set limits to my work, making sure not to overwork myself and giving myself time to rest. I also make sure not to work on anything too stressful or emotionally demanding. I try to take a break when the feeling of being overwhelmed starts to set in, but if that doesn’t happen I make sure I have at least a 30 minute break every few hours.

—Kristin Marquet, Business Owner, New York, New York

Declutter your workspace

“When I am overwhelmed with tasks, a challenge or a hurtful comment; I pause and take a few minutes to clean up my space. It doesn’t matter if it’s my physical space, running a dish through the dishwasher or cleaning up a pile of papers, or my digital space, cleaning out my inbox or organizing a folder. This practice of clearing your space to clear your mind is known as establishment in the world of cooking and it is extremely useful.

— K. Sweitzer, Project Manager, Bellingham, WA

Aim for progress rather than perfection

“As a recovering perfectionist, I strive to get a B+ job, and I remind myself that a job well done and done on time is better than striving to do something perfectly and not finish at all. To help accomplish this, I block everything in time. I give myself some time to do everything on my to-do list. I prioritize them from most to least important and do small things first.

—Alana Van Der Sluys, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and English Teacher, NJ

Reframe your stress

“One of the ways I take care of my mental health at work is to not hear the word ‘stress’. Instead, I replace it with challenges or experiences. Our world is filled with all kinds of chaos and things totally out of our control, as well as things we box control. It is very important to take a step back, reframe your stress and breathe.

—Marcia Sterling-Craig, Billing Representative, Orlando, FL

Plan something to look forward to after work

Mental health is important, and the rise of remote working has removed much of the human connection we once felt at work. I find it useful to plan a meeting with friends. Rather than connecting with them virtually, schedule an in-person human connection. You can reconnect with old peers, invite new contacts, and simply explore new places outside or around town.

—Archana kini, psychotherapist and counselor

Talk to your manager about taking a mental health day

“I am exposed to a lot of data, people, processes and platforms on a daily basis, and it sometimes stresses me out because there is too much information for my brain to process. I find that communicating my mental state with my manager and my team has helped me the most. It takes a lot of courage to share vulnerabilities in the workplace, but it keeps me sane. Every time I hit rock bottom, I tell them how I feel and why I need time for myself. There were days when I took time off, citing my mental health as the reason. These are not planned vacations, but days when I was not in my rhythm. Luckily, I have a team supporting me and my sanity.

—Pavithra Sekar, Community Engagement Specialist, Chennai, India

Educate teammates

“I suffered a severe mental health crisis in March 2020. After being at work and out of work for about six months, I finally returned to work in October 2020 and knew I wanted to help create a safe space for people to share their daily struggles and a place where we could normalize mental health in the workplace I created a resource group for employees at work called Mental Health Advocates as a safe space for more than 100 staff members. It brings me great joy and pride to know that we are supporting each other in this critical way at a time that is extremely difficult for our collective mental health, and it supports my own mental health at work.

—Macey Cox, Human Resources Specialist, Alexandria, Virginia

Take breaks to stretch

“To take care of my well-being while I work, I have become quite disciplined in getting up from my desk every hour and doing some postural alignment stretches. I find it re-energizes both my body and my mind. I couple this with remote viewing exercises to give my eyes a break from the screen and focus on something much further away. I’ve also embraced these two Microsteps when I’m with clients.”

—Candice Tomlinson, coach and hypnotherapist, Sydney, Australia.

Set the tone with a diffuser and plants

“Every morning, I use a citrus-scented diffuser to freshen up my desk. I also keep three plants outside my desk and take little breaks during the day to take the time to water them. allows you to go outside for at least ten minutes, breathe fresh air, walk a little and have “me time” away from the computer.

—Alicia de la Pena

Break for a walk

“Take a short walk during the lunch break. I find it extremely beneficial to take a real break at lunchtime; getting out of the room and spending some time outside really helps me reduce my stress levels. It allows me to really disconnect from work for a while, to rest from the screen, the noise and sometimes tension. When I come back from my walk, I feel more relaxed and energized, which helps with motivation and focus. »

—Isabel Galiano, Oncology Coach, Singapore

Set healthy boundaries

“I am someone who has dealt with ongoing biological depression and perfectionist, workaholic tendencies. Looking back, I realize how much personal life I lost by not prioritizing my mental health over my professional life. Set your limits and schedule time to have some head space in the morning and decompression space in the evening. Don’t be afraid to ask for help at work when you’re really overwhelmed. Remember, employers are nothing without a mentally healthy workforce.

—Jolene Monaco, Certified Professional Organizer, Dallas, TX

Remember to stay present

“I have found it helpful to remember that wherever you are, be fully there, fully present. Work-life integration has become blurred with increasing access to digital technology. When I am at work, I seek to be fully engaged, and when I am with my children, I change to be present and engaged. Pay attention to the resistance and be fully present where you are. The next step is to let go. That you hold on to the pain of the past or whether you are clinging to the precious memories of the “good old” days, choose each day to let go. It is through letting go that we are able to be truly fully present and not be dragged down into pain or the pleasure of the past or the fear of the future. Practice this today: be present and let go.”

—Josh Neuer, Licensed Professional Counselor, Greenville, SC

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