Mental Health in The Workplace

It was eudaimonian writer Regina Sara Ryan who said, “wellness is a choice; a way of life; a process; an efficient channeling of energy; an integration of body, mind, and spirit; and the loving acceptance of yourself.” Self care is the pursuit of the aforementioned wellness and there are a number of ways to achieve this in the office and at home.

Low energy levels, headaches, an upset stomach, aches, pains and muscle tension, a rapid heartbeat, insomnia, and loss of sexual desire or low libido – these are all indicators that you may be stressed and headed towards a burnout. With all the expectations, demands and pressures presented in the workplace on a daily basis, it is vital that you have an effective way of identifying and dealing with stress in order to preserve your mental health.

A recent study led by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that, globally, 1 trillion USD is lost annually due to stress-related lost productivity. This proves that exhausted bodies cannot operate at their optimum. And employers have started to notice. South African Labour Law stipulates that employees are given 14 sick-leave days a year or 6 weeks spread over three years, but only a few progressive companies have adapted that policy to include mental-health days.

Curing the common cold, treating a gastric bug, and even recovering from medical procedures like a tonsil removal or laser eye surgery all qualify as reasons to apply for sick leave. Until recently, because of the stigma previously associated with mental illnesses and similar stress-related conditions, anxiety attacks, bouts of depression, manic episodes, aggressive Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and the like were neither spoken about or considered reasons to apply for sick leave. World Mental Health Day was observed on Wednesday, 10 October 2018, and is a day geared towards mental health education and awareness. First celebrated in 1992, it is an acknowledgment that mental health isn’t anything to be ashamed of, mocked or berated. In support of this cause, we are finding that more employers are showing compassion towards their employees by giving staff paid time off for weekly psychologist appointments, as well as placing meditation/rest rooms in the office.


Liyema staff in yoga session

“A present team is a better performing team,” Liyema Consulting MD and founder, Ayanda Mzondeki, says.

“We have yoga session every second week. We alternate them with pilates some days, and other days we have high impact exercises. We also had some mindfulness workshops for a bit last year where we were taught to just be present and aware of everything around us. The workshops also covered practising gratitude,” Ayanda explains.

Understanding the value of preserving the mental health of her team, Ayanda starts every Friday and Monday meeting with a TED talk that will motivate and inspire her staff members.Society is slowly coming to appreciate the importance of self-care, and how it has the potential to heal the body physically. This comes after decades of glorifying the practise of overworking oneself. By the time you retire, you will have spent the equivalent of 3000 days working. Is it not worth it to ensure the environment you are working in is conducive to your productivity? Here are a few ways you can introduce self-care into your professional and personal life:


Research your company’s self-care policy

You’d be surprised to learn that your place of work has wellness benefits that you can take advantage of. Workshops that help employers deal with stress management, time management, and mindfulness might be available if you enquire. If there aren’t any, consider speaking to your superior about organising seminars by explaining how good mental health will improve the company’s bottom-line.



If ever you feel like you are struggling, you need to communicate it. Daunting though it may be, telling your superior that you are having a tough time will only work in your favour because they might show compassion if you aren’t as productive as you normally are due to stress. You will only feel more overwhelmed if you try deal with stress or mental illness on your own when there are colleagues who can help or point you in the direction of someone better equipped to assist you.

Change your scenery
Inject restorative habits into your everyday life like going for a 15 minute walk at lunchtime. The act of leaving the space that makes you tense will remind you that you enjoy a rewarding life outside of work. The physical benefits of a little exercise is you’ll improve your cardiorespiratory function, stimulate blood flow and circulation, and a little fresh air will feed your brain with enough oxygen to keep you engaged until hometime.

If you can, rework your office space. Change the position of your chair, add an indoor plant to desk decorations, swap tables with a coworker – your mind and body will appreciate a new perspective of a space you’ve gotten used to.



Author Abhijit Naskar warns us to, “live with technology, not through technology,” because too much of anything is bad. A 2017 survey called #StatusOfMind found that social media users experienced erratic sleeping patterns, cyber bullying, anxiety, depression, loneliness, poor body image and Fear of Missing Out (FoMO).
If you have self-control, implementing a ‘no phone (social media, instant messaging, emails etc) after 5pm’ rule will give you a much needed break from the demands of being online. The hours you would’ve spent scrolling through your timeline or binging on Insta-stories can be channeled into something more fulfilling.  



An effective way of working through the stresses of the day is by spending 30 minutes with a punching bag. Follow that high intensity cardio with a yoga or meditation session to calm yourself down. What you’re telling your physical body is that you care about it enough to invest in making it fit and strong, while your mind us taking a break. 

Liyema staff in yoga session

Treat yo’self

Self care looks different for everyone. A health fanatic who preps their meals for the entire week, might indulge in take out every once in a while. If you have your local Chinese restaurant on speed dial, consider making an active effort to cook a meal for yourself. Making a decision to be intentional about what you are nourishing your body with will make it feel cared for. Go for a massage, read a book, get your nails done, spend an evening soaking in a bubble bath surrounded by candles. The psychology behind self-care is that you are consciously giving yourself adequate attention: physically, mentally and emotionally.


Your wellness and mental health affect you and those who care about you. Never feel scared or ashamed to ask for help if you are feeling the pressure. If you are worried that your loved ones aren’t qualified to assist, call The South African Hotlines for Mental Health (SADAG) on 011 234 4837 or The South African Depression And Anxiety Group on 0800 12 13 14.