An Introduction to Mental Health in the Workplace
Increasingly, good mental health in the workplace is an issue being raised. Job stresses are being recognized as affecting work performance and also an individual’s over-all well-being. There is a lot of information available about how to promote good mental health in the workplace but perhaps insufficient initiatives actually being used. Providing employees with information promoting good mental health alerts them to the problems but may not achieve the solutions. Within the larger society good physical health is overwhelmingly accepted as the first step to good mental health. Can mental health issues in the workplace be addressed in the same way, by first promoting improved physical well-being?
Nutrition and Diet
The benefits of good nutrition are important for everyone at home and at work. Good health begins with a good breakfast. People who have a morning meal are more likely to take in more vitamins and minerals, and much less fat and cholesterol. (WebMD, 2008) The effect is often a leaner body and less chance of overeating and going to the vending machine during work hours. Researchers at the 2003 American Heart Association conference reported that breakfast eaters have a lower chance of being obese and getting diabetes. Another study in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition concluded that people that eat breakfast cereal daily feel better both physically and mentally compared to the people who almost never ate cereal for breakfast. A Web MD article explains “To get the full benefits of breakfast, the Mayo Clinic recommends a meal with carbohydrates, protein, and a small amount of fat. They say that because no single food gives you all of the nutrients you need, eating a variety of foods is essential to good health.” Even if an employee does not have time to eat before work, because they are rushing to be on time or their morning consists of dealing with children, bringing a breakfast that they can eat as soon as they get to work would be a healthy habit to get into. Multi- tasking is possible when eating cereal, fruit and nuts at the same time as checking voicemail or emails. Good nutrition needs to continue throughout the day. Fruits and vegetables, healthy snacks, drinking water or tea to stay hydrated, and eating dairy products all add to well-balanced meals. For example, eating healthy dinners with fish two times a week can vastly improve a person’s well-being because fish has omega 3 fatty acids. There is a link between getting more omega 3 in the diet and reducing allergies, asthma and autoimmune diseases which can all be an extra burden at work. For the most part, people need to be responsible for their own meals, but the management of a workplace that wants to help with this aspect of good mental and physical health for their employees can provide kitchen space as alternative eating at a desk, and fridges for bag lunches, vending machines with healthy choices and enough time off for good snacks and lunches. (Bee, 2008) Mental health issues arising from poor eating habits can be acknowledged and addressed within the workplace.
Exercise in the Workplace
Physical health is most often associated with some level of exercise. Most adults do not get their daily recommended exercise. It is important because it helps manage weight gains and maintains a healthy immune system along with bones and muscles. Work can create severe stress and numerous physical conditions such as anxiety, raised blood pressure, headaches, increased heart rate and, most common, depression. This isn’t just a problem for the individual but society as a whole. Companies need to be able to offer some sort of exercise program for their employees. Management could give employees time during the day for employees to participate in aerobics classes or nature walks or help pay for gym memberships. Maybe there can be fitness program incentives such as prizes for the...
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