This year’s theme is Mental Health for All. ‘I want to keep mentally healthy throughout my career, any tips…?’

When you ask a question, others are probably thinking it too. In this series ‘any tips?’, I’ll be taking your requests to our teams for their input as answers. We have a very time pertinent question ahead of World Mental Health Day on Saturday, looking for tips to stay mentally healthy throughout your career. Here’s what our team has to say:

Susan, Employability & Skills Manager says: My best tip for your career mental health is to be open to all possibilities and embrace the now. The current landscape looks bleak for many. COVID and lockdown have changed the world of work, whilst there are still many employers who are hiring and putting their roles and recruitment activities online, many others are furloughing or letting go of staff. It’s a time of great uncertainty and adjustment for all. You may have been directly affected by these changes and it is easy to feel despondent. Perhaps you thought you had a clear career path mapped out, and now all the signposts appear to be written in a foreign language, the paths covered in thick vegetation, and you don’t know which way to go. This can be confusing and often frightening. Standing at the crossroads, with no clear directions, leads to increased stress and anxiety which can lead further into depression. If this is how you are feeling, remember that the destination is still ahead of you, you might just have to take a slight detour to get there. During your time at Christ Church you will have developed a whole backpack of knowledge, attributes and useful skills to help you navigate the road ahead. Take a step back and a deep breath and re-evaluate where you are. Like the sat nav in a car, where you are faced with roadworks or you take a wrong turn and are forced to drive a different route, the system has to recalculate, and so do you. Every job you take, every experience you have, will fill your backpack with valuable tools you can use in the future. The best adventurers are creative, adaptable, prepared for all eventualities. Keep your mind on your long-term goal and stop worrying about the obstacles you are facing. Do what you need to do at this moment in time and keep recalculating. You will get there. Stay focused on the end destination, explore the possibilities and enjoy where you are right now.

Hannah from Unitemps writes: For my own wellbeing I make sure I leave the desk regularly, too many days have I sat here and realised I haven’t moved for hours. This is draining both physically and mentally. I usually start the day with some form of exercise, spin, hiit or pilates and then I make sure I get my 10,000 steps in, so a walk at lunch time.
If I am having a tough day I put some music on in the background, something cheesy on Spotify. My current fave is ‘songs to sing along to in the car’. And something I have had to learn since working from home is, don’t be too hard on myself if some days aren’t as productive as others. This will happen and its OK! Talk to friends and colleagues about your day and life in general, especially if you live alone or are in the house alone all day.

Charlotte from Enterprise and Engagement adds: Mental health and mental illness are on a continuum (see this article from Mind). My advice is, that if you notice your mental health is suffering and affecting your work, speak to someone sooner rather than later – nip it in the bud as early as you can, to prevent the problem escalating to mental illness. Have a confidential chat with your line manager or somebody in HR.  If this isn’t possible (due to trust issues or the absence of an HR department), you can contact Remploy, the mental health arm of Access to Work (a government initiative). This is a free and confidential service that will support you in work, or in returning to work if you are temporarily off due to mental health.

John from Employability & Skills adds: I spend time with my hens (Flo, Moe and Houdini), they are fun to watch and help me relax 😊
… pets are a fantastic way of concentrating on something different for a while, and getting outside too!

Susannah from Employability & Skills notes: I love the above quote. It reminds us that mental health and physical health are closely connected, and both important. For me, it’s all about two things; boundaries, and exercise. For more about boundaries, do read my recent blog – ‘3 Top Tips for Winning at Work’. Exercise is my switch off – different people have different outlets, but testing the limits of my body and concentrating on something completely different from work is a great way to set myself up for the day, or to de-stress after a difficult day. It’s also a nice way to socially distantly catch up with friends, when going for an outdoor run, but that’s going to take a bit more motivation and bravery as the weather gets colder! Also, I take great heart from the reminders of artist Charlie Mackesy. It reminds me of things like this:

charlie mackesy on Twitter: "… "

Amber from GradForce says: Looking after my wellbeing only really became a priority for me when we went into a national lockdown. I realised that for many months I had been working myself to the max and not giving myself much time to de-stress and look after my own mental wellbeing, so I decided to change a few things in my life. Firstly, I joined a home workout fitness app and committed to a workout series. I had a fitness buddy and we made a pact to do it at the same time after work. I feel energised and it’s a great way to release the endorphins after a day of work! Secondly, I go outside! I’ve come to appreciate that time to reflect on my day. Thirdly, A new healthy balanced diet. The old Amber used to make excuses. The new Amber makes priorities. Now, I wouldn’t compromise on these three things as they are a fundamental part of what makes me feel happy and well day-to-day. Today is always a good day to do something new for YOU!

Andy from Employability and Skills finishes with: Your mental health is so important! Especially when you are new to a job and want to impress people by getting results quickly. I have experienced this and still do in my current role that I have been doing for many years. My advice would be that you are not a robot and cannot always be achieving great things. You will have some bad days/weeks and that is completely normal. The key is to not try and make up for this natural way of being by trying supernatural feats of effort. By this I mean by having work email notifications on your personal phone that ping and get your attention when you should be resting or focusing on other areas of your life. Starting your day with some form of self reflection or meditation is key for me as it allows me to ground my sense of worth in more than just what I achieve in a day from a work perspective, as this is not always down to what I can do but more to do with factors completely out of my control – for example internet connections becoming poor, or colleagues having a bad day themselves! In summary, you are allowed to have bad days or weeks. We are not robots and we need to be kind to ourselves and accept that as part of how we work, rather than trying to right the wrong of having a bad day by overworking and harming ourselves even more.

Tomorrow' - illustrated by Penny Redshaw (Motivating Giraffe). | Giraffe  quotes, Giraffe facts, Giraffe art

Want to look at more on mental health? Read this article on the Hub about looking after your mental health at work. Or in the black search bar at the bottom of the screen when on the Hub, type in ‘mental health’ to see other interactive ways you can learn about this important topic.

What tips would you like our lovely teams to give you? If there’s anything you’re keen for some advice on, do comment below or email careers@canterbury.ac.uk and we’ll put your request to them!

Getting further support from The Careers and Enterprise Team at CCCU

You can get ongoing careers support via the following ways: