5 Ways to Protect Your Mental Health in a Toxic Work Environment

By: Denise Servin, M. Ed., LPC Intern

Sometimes we take for granted our work environment, but now more than ever we should start looking at how the office affects our mental health. How do you feel when you walk in to work? Does being surrounded by your colleagues make you feel energized and ready to start the day? Or are you ready for the day to be over before it even begins? If your answer is the second choice, you may be experiencing the side-effects of working in a toxic environment. How do you know it’s not just a bad day? Maybe it’s just this one situation. Maybe it won’t happen again. What is a “toxic work environment”?

A toxic work environment is one that leaves you feeling unappreciated, unheard, and unsupported. It’s an environment where competition is valued above relationships and trust between coworkers is not something that exists.

Signs that you’re in an unhealthy work environment:

  • There are always two different answers to the question: what you say in the meeting and what you say after the meeting to the 1 or 2 coworkers you feel comfortable being honest with.
  • Your boss doesn’t keep their word. Decisions often change based on current mood or office gossip and who is willing to share it.
  • Your performance evaluations are based on how others see you rather than your actual performance.

Now that you know what you’re working with, what can you do? How can you protect your mental health while you move through this all-too-common experience?

Here are five ways to protect your mental health in a toxic work environment:

Stay out of the gossip!

Gossip can be fun. Sometimes you just want to chat with a coworker and it happens before you even realize it. Do what you can to respectfully remove yourself from these conversations. You might have to stop talking to some people beyond what’s necessary to do your job. When you’re already in a nasty environment, a firm “no gossip” policy is the best way to show your coworkers that you can be trusted.

Create friendships with those you can trust!

It’s difficult to know who you can trust sometimes. And you don’t always get it right. But, you need good, healthy relationships at work. It’s important to have a shoulder to cry on or someone who can make you laugh in the difficult moments. Also, it’s great if they can be open and honest with constructive feedback when you need it. But, that’s just the icing on the cake in great work relationship. Don’t forget to do the same for them!

Take time for self-care in the office if you can!

You don’t always have the time or opportunity to practice self-care at work, right? This can be as quick and easy as repeating positive affirmations in the mirror while you wash your hands. It helps! You can always find lists of positive affirmations online – even some related specifically to work. If you have a little more time (and a quiet place), try a 5 minute meditation to clear your mind of the negativity. Having a positive mindset at work won’t solve all of your problems. But, it definitely helps.

Trainings, webinars, and books…oh my!

This is more appropriate to do outside of the office. But, if you can make it work in the office (and you’re not breaking any rules) go for it! Try to do something every day, or at least once a week, that will get you closer to applying for that promotion or a job at that dream company. You can also check out free online trainings or professional groups on your favorite social media platforms.

Speak up for yourself!

It’s important that you let your boss/supervisor know how you feel. It’s true that some things can’t be changed. At least not overnight. But, you never know until you ask. At the very least, you should be able to do your job comfortably. If someone or something is adding unnecessary stress to your workday, say something. If you do not feel safe doing this, look into anonymous reporting systems within the company. They exist for a reason.

If you have tried some or all of these tips and nothing has changed, it may be time for you to move on if you’re able. At some point in your professional life, you’re going to experience work-related stress. That’s the nature of work. But, if you are truly unhappy and what you’re going through at work is hurting your mental or physical health, it’s okay to ask for help. It’s not something you should have to deal with alone.

Therapy can give you tools to create a healthy work environment

If therapy is an option for you, it may be time to give it a try. You might think that you have to have a “real problem” or be suffering from severe mental illness for therapy to help you. This is simply not true. Your therapist can help you process your feelings about work and teach you coping skills for stress and anxiety. You can also receive emotional support and resources in therapy to help you in the process of a job or career change. If you are struggling with stress or anxiety related to work and would like some help, please give us a call at the Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch. We would love to help you rediscover your peace and power in the workplace.

Begin Counseling in West Houston, TX

If you are ready to talk to one of the therapists at The Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch can help! We provide counseling and mental health services. To begin counseling in Katy, TX follow these three steps:

Other Therapy Services We Offer

Here at The Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch, we offer counseling services for people of all ages in areas including counseling for kids, counseling for young adults, teen counseling, couples counseling, eating disorder treatment, men’s issues, women’s issues, anxiety treatment, depression therapy, trauma counseling, family therapy, and group counseling. Our therapists strive to post blogs regularly. We provide helpful information on a variety of mental health topics. To learn more about our therapists and counseling services, please reach out to the Counseling Center today!


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