Workplace mental health was already an emerging topic in 2019, and now with the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s being discussed more than ever before. For animal care workers, managing both the physical and emotional demands of their roles, combined with health-related concerns, finances, and other personal commitments, can increase the predisposition to feel stressed and overwhelmed.

If you’re in charge of a team, it’s important to carve out some time to check in with yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically, so you can help encourage others to do the same. As airplane safety instructions advise, you need to first put on your oxygen mask before helping others.

Please keep reading for some of our favorite tips to help you focus on self-care, improve your time management, and feel more connected both at work and at home.

 

Prioritize small self-care habits

Write down a couple of activities that make you feel relaxed, whether it’s taking a walk, reading, making a homecooked meal, meditating, or exercising. Set time aside for a couple of these activities every day, making sure not to have outside distractions during that time.

Pro tip: Book it on your calendar! Treat it as you would a regular meeting and make it a priority to attend. For example, book time for lunch, a walk outside, or mental reset. This makes it a point to get you off your office chair, move around, and get your circulation going. Instead of going on social media, put on your favorite playlist or visit a meditation or relaxation app.

 

Practice time management

Do you find yourself often overwhelmed with the daily flurry of emails, meetings, deadlines, and projects? Write down all your tasks for the day in order of most important to least important and focus on getting them done one by one. This way, you ensure that the most crucial tasks get done first. As you list your to-dos, try to pinpoint the items taking up most of your time. This can help you identify any area where you can delegate or outsource. Often, HR departments spend most of their time in HR administrative work that a third party can easily handle. Bringing in a partner to help you manage payroll or other time-consuming HR tasks, can free up time you can spend on strategy, building your team culture, and rolling out employee retention initiatives.

Pro Tip: Use existing technology, like Microsoft Office and Teams, to your advantage. Have a few minutes? Search for “Outlook tips and tricks” in YouTube to help make your day more efficient.

 

Get at least 7 hours of sleep a day

Getting a full night’s sleep can help you feel replenished and more alert, making you less likely to experience burnout. One of the most important habits you can practice before going to sleep is eliminating screen time at least 30 minutes before bedtime, as recommended by The National Sleep Foundation. The blue light from our phones, tablets, and TVs suppresses melatonin, making it harder for you to wind down and sleep. If you’re finding it hard to let go of your phone, try putting it in another room at night and using an alarm clock to wake up instead.

Pro Tip: If you don’t have a good book, you can use a guided meditation app to wind down before going to sleep.

 

Practice gratitude

During stressful times it can be hard to think positively. Get in the habit of writing down one thing you’re grateful for every day, whether it’s a good meal, a fun time with friends and families, a cute pet, or a good workout. Practicing this exercise daily can help keep you thinking positively and feel more grounded when stressful situations come up.

Pro Tip: When finding activities to decompress, the key word is simple – don’t overthink it. Sometimes, a cup of coffee with a friend or colleague can make a difference in your day and can help you recharge.

 

Consider reaching out

Sometimes, we need to talk to an expert. Many companies offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), which are programs that offer mental and emotional resources for employees in order to help them perform their jobs more effectively. Be sure to keep in mind that EAPs often offer personal and professional counseling at little to no cost.

Pro Tip: Take advantage of the resources you have through your employer. Many employees are not aware that most EAP programs provide up to 3-4 sessions of free counseling per life event. EAPs can also offer childcare or eldercare resources, relocation resources, tools to help with financial debt, addiction, and conflict resolution. AlphaStaff offers a free Employee Assistance Program to all clients, regardless of whether they participate in our benefit plans.

Managing stress and taking care of your mental health isn’t something that can be done overnight, it’s a slow process that requires you to regularly check in with yourself, and as a manager, with your team. If you have any questions regarding this topic, please contact [email protected] and stay tuned for our upcoming webinar for more tips on stress and time management!