The risk of suffering at work or experiencing burnout concerns each of us. There are ways to protect yourself and, if necessary, get help.
How to maintain our mental health at work
Work can have beneficial effects on our mental health. It reinforces our feeling of having our place in society, gives us an identity through our profession, and contributes to self-esteem. But it can also cause mental health problems. As in our personal lives, in our jobs, we can experience periods of well-being and others of discomfort.
At work, our well-being depends on many factors over which we do not have the power to act directly, for example the financial situation of the company that employs us, working conditions or the general atmosphere. However, there are ways to act , on a daily basis, to preserve our mental health.
Here are a few, proposed by the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety, a government agency, and by the Canadian site Workplace Strategies on Mental Health.
- Take regular breaks , even short ones. A break to stretch, drink tea, listen to music, call or text a loved one helps reduce stress. You can also hand deliver documents to colleagues, go out for a walk or go for a bike ride.
- Avoid unnecessary stress by…
- learning to say “no”
- classifying tasks and responsibilities into two categories, urgent and non-urgent
- recognizing our limitations and accepting that we can’t do everything
- Break down tasks that seem insurmountable into several small, successive objectives
- Ask for help and let others help us
- Pay attention to our successes in our work
- Practice being comfortable enough to say “ I don’t know ” when it is the case
- Think about ways we could be of service to our colleagues. When we adopt helpful behaviors, it can help us feel less stress.
- Better manage conflicts with our colleagues.
- If there is a problem with a colleague, we can discuss the facts surrounding the conflict with someone we trust. She will be able to give us another opinion and help us adjust our perception of the situation.
- We can sit down privately with our colleague. It is important, at this time, to resist the urge to blame or humiliate the other. We must focus only on the solution by asking ourselves: what change can be made?
- If the task seems too daunting, we can ask another person we both respect to help us do it.
When work hurts
Work can cause suffering. This can notably take the form of professional exhaustion syndrome or burnout . This is the phenomenon by which a person “burns out” at work, a form of extreme overwork that leads to emotional, physical and psychological exhaustion. The risk of burnout is proven when working conditions generate strong tensions and are emotionally demanding.
More generally, poor working conditions can lead to mental health problems or aggravate existing psychological disorders. Situations that arise at work and endanger our mental health are grouped under the term psychosocial risks . These include:
- the stress
- moral or sexual harassment
- conflicts between people or between teams
- violence such as insults, threats, attacks, committed by people outside the workplace, for example customers
Psychosocial risks can result, for each and every one of us, in discomfort or suffering, addictions to tobacco, alcohol, cannabis or other drugs, and a deterioration in our physical health. and mental. If such a situation arises, there are ways to get help and support.
Some preconceived ideas about unhappiness at work
“You really have to be psychologically fragile to have depression because of your work.”
IN FACT: Work has undergone profound transformations, which can have harmful effects on mental health. For example, the pace has intensified , many jobs have become precarious , automation and dematerialization have developed ( INVS Scientific Day , 2009).
“We cannot prevent psychosocial risks . We can only act if the person is already suffering.”
IN FACT: It is possible to organize yourself to prevent these problems from arising. It is even an obligation of employers , who must do everything to guarantee zero risk. To do this, a reflection can be carried out on the management practices in force in the company or establishment. Employers can also schedule stress management interventions, listening units, violence management programs or offer personalized support or coaching to people who wish it.