Everyone has different experiences of their workplace. The workplace can bring many positive attributes to your life; learning new skills, developing friendships, create meaning or a sense of purpose to your life. Even in fulfilling jobs, there will be bad days where you may feel unproductive or drained. When there are more bad days than good or when your work environment is negative (perhaps even toxic), it can have an impact on your mood and behaviours. Feeling these emotions for a prolonged period of time not only affects your work life but can also spill into your life outside of work. Some issues that may arise include stress, conflict, bullying, harassment, communication problems. Some knock-on effects of this include decreased performance/productivity, decreased sense of satisfaction/happiness, stress, inability to detach from work outside of work, and feelings of dread.
Depending on your experience in work, different experiences can impact you in different ways:
Stress – Upset, nervousness, under pressure, exhaustion.
Bullying/Harassment – Low self-esteem, shame, anxious, embarrassed, upset.
Some ***physical symptoms may include headaches, changes in appetite, changes with sleep, nausea.
Some behaviours may include calling in sick to avoid work, isolating yourself inside and/or outside of work, overworking/underworking.
*** If you are experiencing these physical sensations, it is also important to visit your GP to carry out a physical examination or blood tests to rule out any other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.***
Things that can help
Talk about it: Although it can be really difficult to share, speak to a trusted friend or family member about what you are experiencing. It is more beneficial to speak to someone that you are going to feel assured and validated by as opposed to speaking to someone who may judge you for your feelings. Your workplace may have policies in how they deal with bullying, harassment etc. You could potentially speak to HR if you feel you will be supported by HR. Colleagues in the same environment can be useful to reach out to as they may have a good insight into your work environment and offer validation.
Additionally, reaching out to someone outside of work can offer non-biased support and an outsider’s perspective. Therapists can help you to develop healthy coping skills to manage work-related stress, assertive communication and boundaries. Therapists can help you to understand factors that may trigger unhappiness in your work and support you in whatever decisions you make in relation to work.
Self-care: Self-care inside and outside of work is always crucial. Some ways to look after yourself in work include
- Creating boundaries e.g. taking your full breaks, not having lunch at your desk/computer, not bringing work home with you, starting and finishing work at the right times.
- Get moving; whether that’s going to make tea/coffee or getting some fresh air when you need it (as opposed to waiting for your designated break).
- Have a clean and positive workspace. Some additional items to include on your desk might be to have sticky notes with affirmations, photos, colourful stationery, plants…whatever works for you!
Back to basics: Sleeping well, eating well and physical activity are also important factors that contribute to our overall mood. Sleep may be more difficult when experiencing stress in particular, but it’s important to find ways that may support getting adequate sleep e.g. stick to a sleep routine, limit phone use at night, reading, colouring or practicing mindfulness to help unwind. What you put into your body also has an impact on your mood so limiting caffeine, alcohol and smoking can benefit while having a balanced diet. Exercise can help put excess adrenaline into something useful and release serotonin, which can improve your mood. Like everything else, finding a type of exercise that works for you, is going to be most beneficial for you. For some people, it will be outdoor activities like running, walking, team sports. For other people, it might be something indoor like going to the gym, swimming, or dancing.