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Studies show that 1 in 5 employees have a mental health disorder, the most common being depression and anxiety. Because people often hide their problems at work, many of those who suffer never get the support and treatment that could significantly improve quality of life and job performance.

To address this problem, it’s helpful to understand how mental health symptoms often present at work as compared to in other situations.

For example, a coworker who is depressed may seem nervous, restless, or irritable, and complain of physical aches and pains. He or she may become passive, withdrawn, aimless, and unproductive. They also may be fatigued, partly as a result of the mood disorder or because they are having trouble sleeping at night. Depression may also impair judgment or cloud decision making.

Anxiety has similar manifestations, including restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and excessive worrying. Employees may require constant reassurance about performance. Sometimes, as with depression, physical symptoms or irritability are noticeable.

If you notice these tendencies in yourself, there are simple but important steps you can take to improve your mental health. These changes may seem trivial but, in total, they represent an important lifestyle shift that can be hugely helpful in maintaining balance. It’s best to approach these with a commitment to building long-term healthy habits for your mind. They only take a few minutes, but can make an enormous difference. Here are a few:

* Give yourself time to start your day in a relaxed way. Hitting the snooze button for as many minutes as possible before you have to run out the door sets you up for a hectic pace that can be hard to slow down. Establish a practice of getting up a half hour earlier so that you can take a few minutes to simply breathe, thoughtfully enjoy a hot drink or listen to soothing music.

* Make your work area soothing. Plants, photos of loved ones, and inspirational quotes that you can glance at from time to time can all give you a mental boost that helps shift your energy and mood.

* Identify realistic accomplishments for the day. It’s all too easy to lay out a week’s worth of tasks to complete in a day. If the pressure is self-imposed, this only creates stress and a feeling of defeat when those tasks aren’t done. Whenever possible, be realistic about what you can accomplish. Find satisfaction with your daily achievements, big or small.

* Take brief mindfulness breaks throughout the day. This can be a 30-second chair stretch, five deep breaths every 10 minutes (try setting an alarm on your phone to remind you!), or a walk at lunch break. You might be surprised by how restorative these simple, brief and enjoyable actions can be.

If you feel your or a friend’s mental health concerns are more than these actions can help, take a brief, anonymous screening at HealthyMindsPhilly.org.

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