By Amari Pollard
Working in media is a labor of love. One that often pays very little, requires long hours in front of a computer screen, and being completely plugged in to the latest political news and pop culture trends. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all this job requires, and unfortunately, that also means it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. These six mental health strategies will help you remember to breath (woosah) and take a step back from your work to check in with yourself.
Get up and walk away.
It’s a myth that you’re more productive when you nail yourself to your desk. Not only does it decrease your concentration and impact your productivity, but it can also attribute to physical health issues—hunching over your desk and staring at your computer, for example, can strain your eyes, cause headaches, and increase shoulder and neck pain. So force yourself to take short 10-minute breaks throughout the day (setting an alarm on your phone will help) to get up, away, and moving. And while we’re on the subject: please, please, take your lunch break.
Spruce up your desk.
You need an area that you’re excited to return to, that makes you feel comfortable and inspired to get through the eight-hour work day. You don’t have to go all out and make it look like Pinterest attacked your workspace, but do your best to add a stylish touch to your cubicle or office, whether it’s buying some desk plants, hanging pictures that make you smile, or simply adding a decorative pencil cup. It’s the small things that bring you joy that will carry you through.
Talk to your co-workers.
Maybe it’s just me, but the perpetual silence in my office gives me anxiety. Since people rarely speak to each other out loud, I’m hyper aware of every movement I make, from adjusting in my chair to chewing snacks to quietly blowing my nose. To shake things up, try making a habit of moving conversations with co-workers out of Slack and into the office space. Ask them how their day is going, chat about something non-work related, or go grab some coffee; it’s incredible what the tiniest human connection can do for your psyche.
Allow yourself to feel all your emotions.
No one expects you to keep it together all the time. And while work is a professional setting, sitting at your desk suppressing your emotions is only increasing your distress level. When you feel on the verge of crumbling or boiling over, go for a walk around the block or take a few minutes to cry in the bathroom. It’s important to let yourself move through those emotional periods so you can recuperate.
Use your vacation days.
American work culture has brainwashed us into thinking we always have to be in the office, but we’re given vacation days for a reason. Stop equating used vacation time with weakness or laziness. Taking time off has proven health benefits, such as lowering stress levels and increasing happiness.
There is no ranking system for the level of pain and stress you are experiencing. If you’re not feeling like yourself, if you’re experiencing extreme shifts in your mood, if you feel tired all the time, reach out for help and talk to someone. This person could be a friend, a therapist, a primary care physician, or even someone in your HR department. No one can truly know what you’re going through unless you let them in. Psychology Today’s therapist finder is a great tool for seeking help.
Just remember: you matter, and you deserve to give yourself the care you need.
Amari D. Pollard is the Social Media Editor for The Week. She has written pieces for Parents, Popsugar, Elite Daily and Inside Lacrosse. She’s a news junkie obsessed with her collection of glasses, vintage shopping, and brunching. Check out her work at amaridawn.com and follow her slightly above average life on Instagram and Twitter.