Mental Health & Ergonomics
The National Safety Council observes May as a time to focus on mental health awareness, but it is such a major issue that we are highlighting it again now as we head into the winter.
And we want to draw the connections between Ergonomics and Mental Health.
Since the COVID19 pandemic most people have experienced stress, isolation, and uncertainty that have impacted their mental wellbeing. Although this is certainly not a new topic, we are hearing more about the impact of dealing with these mental health challenges and hopefully better understanding them. But no one is really talking about or writing about the connections between Mental Health and Physical Health.
With winter, symptoms can be exacerbated for a variety of reasons including:
- Reduced sunlight exposure
- Reduced time spent outdoors
- Reduced motivation for exercise
- Increased isolation
- Holiday-related over-eating
- Holiday-related poor quality eating (too much sugar especially)
- Holiday challenges around family strife or missing a lost loved one
These same “reasons” have an impact on how we feel physically – including pain.
According to Mental Health America, mental health refers to your emotional and social well-being and impacts how you think, feel, and behave. It plays a role in how you connect with others, make decisions, handle stress, and how you feel physically.
For many, many individuals, mental or emotional stress shows up physically in the body as overly-tense muscles. Overly tense muscles don’t get sufficient blood flow. This, in turn, increases muscle fatigue and achiness. If this goes on long enough, it can cross over into “pain”.
When you have muscle fatigue and achiness over a period of time – even more than just a couple of days – it has a negative impact on your mental health. And it’s worse if it has crossed over to “pain”. Now you’re frustrated and “bummed out”. You further reduce your physical movement to avoid the discomfort or pain. Maybe guilt rises because you can’t live up to your family obligations such as chores or playing with the kids.
This reduction in physical movement further exacerbates the mental health issues, and the cycle continues…. For many, self-medication begins. And we all know where that leads.
So, the ergonomics work we do to make people more physically comfortable at work and reduce their fatigue, aches, and pains is also a mental health intervention because it can mitigate or break the cycle. And it also makes people feel seen and valued which goes a long way toward feeling better emotionally.
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