How can women protect their mental health at work?

More women than men experience workplace stress, and it affects them more profoundly. Salary benchmarking site, Emolument, found that 57% of women experience work burnout, for instance, compared to only 48% of men.

Research by Cigna, featuring 13,000 people from a wide array of countries (including the US, India, and Saudi Arabia) came to similar results. Factors such as heavy workloads, the pay gap, and poor working environment all contribute to heightened stress among women.

If you are experiencing work-related stress, what steps can you as an individual take to stop it from harming your health?

Seeking professional help

If you have moderate to severe anxiety, depression, or other workplace-related conditions, seeking professional help is an important way to learn the techniques you need to break out of a rut. Your therapist may recommend a gold standard therapy like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which focuses on the connection between your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

The aim of this therapy is to find more positive ways of dealing with problems like stress. This may be done by reframing your thoughts and emotions, or by making behavioral changes that can impact the way you view a situation. As you feel more in control mentally, you can focus on key life decisions you may need to make in order to ensure you enjoy a good work-life balance.

Seeking legal recourse 

Work-related stress is a trigger for many mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and even PTSD. If you have a case for work-related PTSD or other mental issues, then you may be able to claim compensation and indeed, this may be necessary in order for you to make positive changes in your life. You may decide to leave the company, or stay and fight for better working conditions.

In either case, receiving due compensation will not only cover your expenses during this time of transition but also give you confidence and the benefit of feeling vindicated.

You will have the onus of proving specific facts (for instance, that you have been exposed to a traumatic event and that this event has brought about changes in your personality and emotional responses). A specialized legal team will be able to advise you if you have a case to pursue.

Setting boundaries

You have a right to ask for specific, written information regarding relevant goals, roles, and procedures in your company. You also have the right to perform your tasks within a set schedule. Make sure that you are not being given so much work that you cannot leave work on time or have a good work-life balance.

Schedule a talk with your manager if you feel overworked, bringing a detailed list of everything you are expected to accomplish within a set time.

If your work is, by nature, demanding, then make sure that any overtime is compensated by extra vacation days or by greater flexibility in your schedule. Ask your managers for transparency with respect to how they are examining compensation practices and gender pay gaps. Companies should be open with respect to the criteria they employ and the decisions they make regarding pay.

It is sometimes hard to believe that across the globe, the pay gap is still an important source of stress for so many women. If you find yourself overburdened because of workplace stress, start by healing yourself through therapy and stress reduction methods. Seek legal help if you are entitled to it, and show your managers that you are serious about equality and transparency in the workplace.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema