Those who have roles in addressing people’s wellbeing, such as healthcare professionals and teachers, tend to invest greater time and energy into taking care of their own mental health than other professions, according to Masters Psychology & Co. Managing Director and Founder Rochelle Masters.

The clinical psychologist said people in these professions learned about self-care as part of their workplace strategy and were more likely to take advantage of workplace mental health days than others.

When life is busy – and when is it not? – we tend to put our self-care on the backburner, all the while knowing one day it will catch up to us.

Finding a balance can seem impossible when there is lots to get done at work and at home.

Mrs Masters said it was important to set aside specific downtime on your calendar, just like you would for anything else that was a priority.

“It needs to be built into your schedule and become part of the routine,” she said.

While it can be argued there is a growing percentage of our population suffering anxiety and depression, some have suggested the number isn’t growing, but rather more people are speaking up about mental health issues.

Whether or not that is the case, it is helpful to understand mental health for your own sake and to help those around you.

According to Mrs Masters, 67 per cent of anxiety and depression cases were typically caused by something biological, meaning it was as a result of some sort of sleep, appetite or hormonal disturbance.

“For example, in men, sleep disturbance is a common contributor, and for women, hormonal issues play an enormous role,” she said.

“And for someone in a senior leadership position, those sorts of things are often the first to be affected.

“People in management roles tend to put work first and themselves last.”

In addition to biological causes, work stress can enable the problem to persist.

“Sometimes people in senior leadership have to carry roles that they’re not the best fit for,” Mrs Masters said.

“For their areas of weakness, they often don’t know how to resource those areas, and that can cause a lot of stress for them.”

So, if you are having trouble sleeping due to stress at work and your sleep disturbance is creating a vulnerable position for your mental health, making it harder to cope with work pressures, how do you get out of the cycle? 

“Address the biology as you simultaneously make changes in the workplace,” Mrs Masters said.

Many people assume they are suffering with anxiety because they notice their symptoms align with a diagnosis they found on the internet, but ‘Dr Google’ isn’t always your friend when it comes to understanding mental health.

“The signs that you might be experiencing a mental health crisis include significant interference with your workplace, your education or your interpersonal functioning,” Mrs Masters said.

“There are some other signs as well that your mind and emotions have become unanchored.

“It’s very difficult to come to a place of rest in those moments or to want to socialise – you tend to withdraw for example, and it’s very hard to show restraint and say no to things.”

Every person’s symptoms are unique, and it is best to meet with an expert.

Mrs Masters said not many people were aware that each year they were entitled to 10 sessions with a clinical psychologist and 10 group sessions that were subsidised by the government.

The group sessions include classes on the skills of mindfulness and managing thoughts and emotions, along with many other options.

TAKING CARE OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

Make sure your biology is right: This means eating well, sleeping well and exercising well, as well as having regular check-ups with a trusted GP. 

Practise mindfulness: Learning to switch off and finding something that recharges you is important. This can include sitting in solitude in a calming place, spending time painting or making music, or even cooking. 

Learn how to manage your thought life: Just like we learn how to budget finances, we need to learn how to be in control of our thoughts. A trained professional or a group class can help you here.

Sandra Argese is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.