Work takes up a significant portion of our time and energy as we navigate through our daily lives. However, it can also be a major source of stress and anxiety, which can lead to a negative impact on our mental health. The constant pressure to meet deadlines, handle difficult coworkers, and deal with work-related challenges can take a toll on even the most resilient employees.

As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s an excellent time to prioritize your mental well-being, especially within the workplace, where employees have been facing a mental health crisis in the United States for years, suffering from depression, anxiety, and burnout.

Impact of Mental Health Struggles

To put this into perspective, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five American adults experience mental illness each year including the workplace. In fact, a study by the American Psychological Association found that stress is becoming so rampant that an alarming proportion of adults reported that stress has an impact on their day-to-day functioning, with more than a quarter (27%) saying that most days they are so stressed they can’t function.

The impact of mental health issues on the workplace is significant. Mental illness is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and it costs employers billions of dollars each year in lost productivity, absenteeism, and healthcare costs. A study by the World Health Organization found that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion per year in lost productivity.

The effects of mental health issues in the workplace can also be seen in employee turnover rates. A study by the McKinsey Health Institute found that employees who experienced high levels of burnout were more than twice as likely to leave their job within the next six months.

In order to prioritize your own mental health in the workplace, it’s important to understand the warning signs.

Symptoms of Workplace Mental Health Issues

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental health issues is crucial for addressing them early on. Some common indicators that you may be experiencing mental health issues in the workplace include:

1. Changes in mood.

If you notice that you’re feeling more irritable, sad, or anxious than usual, it could be a sign of a mental health issue. Mood changes can also manifest as sudden outbursts of anger or frustration.

2. Difficulty concentrating.

Mental health issues can make it challenging to focus on tasks and can lead to procrastination and decreased productivity.

3. Physical symptoms.

Stress and anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, and digestive issues.

4. Fatigue.

Feeling tired and drained, even after a good night’s sleep, can be a sign of mental health issues such as depression and burnout.

5. Changes in appetite.

Mental health issues can affect your appetite, causing you to overeat or lose your appetite altogether.

6. Increased absenteeism.

If you find yourself calling out sick more often than usual, it could be a sign that you’re struggling with mental health issues.

7. Avoiding social situations.

Mental health issues can cause people to isolate themselves and avoid social situations, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

8. Reduced work performance.

Mental health issues can lead to decreased work performance and difficulty meeting deadlines, which can result in disciplinary action and increased stress.

If you’re experiencing any of these indicators, it’s crucial to prioritize your mental health and seek support from your employer or mental health professional. Recognizing and addressing mental health issues early on can help prevent them from becoming more severe and impacting your work and personal life.

7 Strategies for Navigating the Workplace

Fortunately, there are several actionable steps that you can take within the workplace to protect their mental health and create a positive and productive work environment.

1. Prioritize self-care.

It’s important to prioritize self-care by engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as taking a walk during your lunch break, listening to music or a podcast, or practicing meditation or yoga. Remember to take care of yourself both physically and mentally.

2. Build positive relationships with colleagues.

Building positive relationships with colleagues can create a supportive work environment and help reduce stress. Take the time to connect with coworkers, whether it’s by having a friendly conversation or collaborating on a project.

3. Communicate with your manager.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or struggling with mental health issues, it’s important to communicate with your manager. Discussing your concerns can lead to solutions that will help you better manage your workload and reduce stress.

4. Set boundaries.

Create a work-life balance by setting clear boundaries between work and personal life. This could involve limiting work-related activities after hours or taking time off when needed. It’s important to prioritize your mental health and well-being outside of work as well.

5. Take breaks.

Taking frequent breaks throughout the day to recharge your batteries can improve focus and productivity. This could include going for a walk, taking a short nap, or engaging in a relaxing activity.

6. Seek help.

Don’t be afraid to seek help if you’re struggling with mental health issues. Many companies have Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that offer counseling and other resources to employees. Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

7. Practice gratitude.

Practicing gratitude can help shift your focus from negative thoughts to positive ones. Take a moment each day to think about things you’re grateful for, whether it’s a supportive colleague or a recent accomplishment. A positive mindset can help reduce stress and improve mental health.

Take Control of Your Mental Health

By following these actionable steps, employees can take control of their mental health and create a positive work environment. Mental Health Awareness Month is an excellent opportunity to prioritize mental health and take steps towards reducing stress and anxiety in the workplace. Remember, a healthy mind is a productive mind!


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Brandon Osgood is a strategic communications and digital marketing professional based out of Raleigh, NC. Beyond being a passionate storyteller, Brandon is an avid classical musician with dreams of one day playing at Carnegie Hall. Interested in connecting? Email him at