The first time you enter the workplace is challenging. The professional world is a significant lifestyle change from your flexible school timetable. You are juggling a lot – the desire to prove yourself in a professional environment, your well-being and your personal commitments (family, friends etc). Read on for some mental health tips for young professionals that helped me with this transition.*We encourage you to share this post using the social media buttons on the lefthand side. By spreading the word, you help more people have access to quality and affordable healthcare. Together we can make the world a healthier and happier place.
As I alluded to above, entering the workforce as young professional (A.K.A "YUP" or "Yuppie") is equally exciting and daunting. It's a big adjustment. Most people have issues dealing with workplace stress in general, and they're used to it! If you're a young professional, below are some mental health tips that will help you acclimatize. Even though they are really basic, they truly make a huge impact. If you need help with more general workplace issues, follow these links for help with culture shock in the workplace, common thinking traps, and work-life balance.
You'll soon learn, if you haven't already, that when a big project comes in with a tight deadline, your life can easily be consumed by work - raising your stress levels, reducing your free time and encouraging you to make poor dietary choices. There are 4 areas you can learn to control from the start that will help you survive the professional world.
1. The clock is your friend
Time management is a skill to learn quickly. Procrastination is not your friend. Googling random cats on YouTube is just delaying the inevitable - the work on your desk. Every minute procrastinating is wasting time outside of work.
Prioritization is key. Everything is urgent...for the person delegating you work. There is an art to figuring out which task on your desk is the most urgent. When someone appears at your door, outline what you’re already doing for whom and ask if this task is more important. If it is, you let the other task owners know, you’re working on something more important according to your new task owner and their task will have to wait. They can take it up with the new urgent task owner if there is an issue.
Getting on top of time management will help you professionally as it demonstrates a key skill that you will require to succeed and it will also help you maintain your life outside of work. You need time outside of work to unwind from your stressful environment and look after your well-being.
2. Keep your sleep
Sleep may appear to be the easiest aspect of your life to reduce when you are time poor but lack of sleep can have negative and even debilitating effects. Reducing your sleep can impair your ability to think properly. It affects your alertness, concentration, and problem solving abilities. These are all required for your day job.
In the rat race, functioning on less sleep and the hours spent at your desk have become a kind of badge of honor. But sleep specialists say you’re only fooling yourself if you think you’re functioning at your best under these conditions. Even more seriously, a chronic shortage of sleep can lead to mental conditions such as anxiety and depression.
If you don’t get enough sleep, there is only one way to compensate – get more sleep. To make up your sleep debt, it will take more than a single day. If you’ve had months of limited sleep, you will have built up a significant debt, so expect recovery to take several weeks.
3. Snack on healthy food and avoid drinking a lot of alcohol
It is optimal (obviously) to lead a healthy lifestyle regardless, but it is particularly important to be aware of the impact stress has on your food choices. When you are under stress, your fight-or-flight response triggers your body to release a hormone called cortisol. It increases your appetite because the body is requesting more energy to fight your stressor. This is when you reach for the chocolate bar or the bag of potato chips. These sorts of junk foods actually reduce the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream, thus reducing stress (at least temporarily) and teaching you to seek out these foods when you’re under pressure.
If you know that a big project is coming, that will lead to lack of time and high stress, be prepared by putting healthy snacks in your top drawer and pre-make some meals to take with you to work (or find a healthy delivery option).
The other thing to watch is booze. It is very easy to reach for a glass when you need to unwind from a stressful day at work or blow off steam partying with your friends. Unfortunately, booze can have the opposite effect. If you drink too much, you can increase your anxiety levels which will not help you in a stressful workplace (see this for techniques to reduce stress and anxiety in the workplace). Also - the hangover is far more painful under the fluorescent lights the next day!
4. Keep moving
There are many clear undesirable physical and emotional consequences of staying at your desk for 16+ hours a day. This can become normal as a young professional and it is important to carve out time to exercise (even though it might seem like the last thing you want to do!). People who sit for more than 8 hours daily are at heightened risk for depression, diabetes and obesity.
When you are stressed, it is even more important to continue moving. You don’t need to make a big commitment - a 10-minute walk is all you need. Psychologists have found that this 10 minutes is an effective way to relieve anxiety and depression. Investing time in regular short walks can get your mind off work stress and help you reset.
There are significant mental and physical health benefits to be gained by this small 10-minute commitment - so keep it in your routine even if you have a deadline looming.
For more stress management tips dealing with common workplace stress and anxiety explore the RingMD blog: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in the workplace, the impacts of workplace stress and anxiety, workplace stress and inner-child work.
If it feels like you don’t have control of your new life, and you're thinking "I need a therapist near me" but dont know where to start, try the RingMD therapist directory. We will help you find the right therapist for YOU!
Speak with a doctor online on RingMD. Why leave home to find a doctor if you don't have to? Avoid sick people in busy waiting rooms and skip the traffic jam. Can you have a doctor appointment online? Yes, consult a doctor online, right now! When appropriate, the doctor is able to provide you with a signed Medical Certificate (MC) via email if you need one for work or school reasons.
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