This article is part of Hive’s Mental Health Week initiative. To celebrate World Mental Health Day on October 10th, we’re hosting a panel all about mental health at work. To compliment that panel, we’re releasing articles throughout the week about mental health in an effort to open and improve dialogue around mental health. Read more of our Mental Health Week content here.

It’s no secret that long hours, complicated office dynamics, and the other hurdles that come with working in the professional world can be a detriment to mental health. Stress, anxiety, depression and other complicating mental health factors affect most individuals in the working world, with 18% suffering from a diagnosed anxiety disorder specifically. Of that group, “half said their work responsibilities trigger symptoms of their disorder (53 percent), primarily dealing with problems and meeting deadlines. Interpersonal relationships also trigger symptoms,” according to the American Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Even if you’ve never been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, all of us have experienced stress, panic, or the feeling of being overwhelmed at work before. These are universal emotions — especially in high-stress environments and intense roles — and they can interfere with our work, disposition and productivity in the office.

Obviously, it’s totally normal to be stressed out, and to have that stress affect your work. Sometimes it can even impact your work positively. But more often than not, stress and anxiety are detrimental to our productivity. And when you’re in an office environment, or working under a boss, that requires you to be “on” 100% of the time, this can be a problem. In recent years, we’ve definitely made strides towards understanding mental health as a key component of overall wellbeing, akin to physical health. And you wouldn’t make someone with a broken leg come into the office — so why do we have trouble understanding the limitations of someone facing a panic attack or extreme anxiety?

To bring greater awareness to the importance of mental health in the workplace, we’ve sat down with a few leaders in their space to get their their refreshing take and perspective on balancing mental health and productivity in the modern working world.

Juliana Jaoudi, Senior Director, LinkedIn

“It starts with the company you choose. All organizations have unique cultures, defined by their values. When interviewing, make sure to ask questions about company culture. How do they think about wellness? Do they at all? And how do they address conflict? Do words like authenticity, collaboration, compassion and empathy come naturally to the interviewers? Ideally, you’ll find a company that values the employee experience and in turn, encourages a supportive and collaborative culture, mitigating anxiety and encouraging “healthy productivity.”

“Remember you’re not alone. When we feel anxiety coming on or we’re in the midst of it, it feels incredibly lonely. That loneliness only exacerbates our already uneasy mindset. Just talking about how you’re feeling can alleviate stress – consult a mentor, confidante, friend or trusted colleague/peer. You’re likely to discover they have had similar experiences/feelings which helps lessen the intensity. If you’re not able to find peace of mind, consult a therapist, coach, your HR Business Partner (HRBP) and if you feel comfortable, your Manager. Your HRBP, for example, has your interests at heart and is trained to help you find solutions and resources.”

“Take some time when you’re feeling healthy and strong to reflect on what/who triggers your stress or anxiety. Identifying those triggers can help you anticipate them and thus manage through them proactively more consistently. Seeing a therapist or talking to a coach to work on this and develop tools can be immensely helpful. For example, if you’re afraid to disappoint but you find yourself unable to meet deadlines and the volume of looming deliverables is creating anxiety, learning to say no and to prioritize is a critical skill in managing stress.”

Ellie Gluck, Founder and CEO, MNDFL Meditation

“Meditation can really help create a natural balance between productivity and mental health. Research has shown many health benefits that come with consistent meditation including improved stress resilience, boosted creativity, and higher productivity. These benefits don’t just make us happier human beings at home, but they can make us kinder, more effective colleagues at work as well. In fact, we’ve seen our MNDFL @ Work corporate business double each year since we started working with companies, as offices see the benefits of a meditation program for their employees both personally and professionally.” 

“It also helps us learn to flex our muscle of choice. Much like we can become consumed by thoughts and then choose to come back to the breath on the cushion, off the cushion, we can use that same awareness when we become consumed by emotions and then choose to sit in our discomfort instead of reacting in a way that might cause harm to us or someone else. In the workplace that could look like forcing ourselves to continue to work even though we’re burned out or feeling emotionally spent by office dynamics. Meditation can help us learn how to make the choice to take a break, but it can also be the reason we take a break, using that time to practice and de-excite the nervous system. Practicing is helpful because it can give us the tools to begin to become aware of how we are occurring in whatever moment we are in and act from a place of true self-compassion.”

Alyssa Petersel, Founder and CEO, My Wellbeing

“As our to-do lists seem to be ever-growing, many of us are faced with mounting anxiety around how we will get it all done in a limited amount of time. I recommend scheduling your absolute must-dos into your calendar so that you can map out how much time each task will take and view the reality that you can and will handle it. For example, if your to-dos are mapped out on Wednesday through Friday, on Tuesday night, you can remove the to-do list from your mind, and rest knowing that everything will be taken care of.”

“Included in your must-dos should definitely be at least 1 hour per week for yourself (ideally 5-10 hours or more), whether that be exercise, television, connecting with community, therapy, or something else entirely that brings you joy and time to restore. Therapy in particular is a safe, personalized space for you to unpack anything and everything on your mind that is causing you stress. After therapy, you will feel catharsis and additional space internally to better manage everything on your plate. Moreover, getting enough sleep, as challenging as it is when time is scarce, will make a tremendous difference for your mental health and your productivity. Each of these things are an investment worth making.”

Julio Rivera, founder of Liberate Meditation

“One of the most important ways I make sure not to burn myself out during the days is by blocking off time in my calendar for breaks in advance and respecting those breaks. I’ve found a rhythm of doing focused work for 45 minutes with no distractions and then taking 10-15 minute breaks. During these breaks I’ll either walk outside, meditate, or listen to some music. It’s so important to respect your breaks because if you don’t, how will your colleagues or manager? My mental health is my responsibility so setting boundaries for what needs is also my responsibility.”
“When I did work in an office, I had a relationship with a colleague where we kept each other accountable for stepping away from the desk. We took walks together and grabbed coffee together. Accountability helps when you don’t have the willpower to prioritize your mental health yourself.”
Do you have any helpful tips or practices that help you balance work and mental health? Please let us know in the comments below.