Let’s Talk About Mental Health: Staying Active

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Mental health issues can impact anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background.

In honor Mental Health Awareness Month (May), GovCIO has initiated a new, ongoing, employee interview series to help foster a more open dialogue about mental health in the workplace. As a part of this series, members of the GovCIO team are reflecting on some of the most prevalent mental health topics today, along with tips for managing stress and anxiety.

Spotlight on Staying Active with Doanh Le

GovCIO’s Business Analyst, Doanh Le, discusses how exercising has improved her mental health and WFH lifestyle.

I recently graduated from university and began my career at GovCIO with great excitement. I invested in a new desk, a better keyboard, a wide monitor, and countless decorations to create a pleasant work environment. However, none of these things proved functional when I found myself facing what I now refer to as the “work-from-home slump.” Just eight months ago, I used to walk 10,000 steps a day, attending classes and meeting friends. Suddenly, I found myself sitting at home all day, alone, with an average daily step count of a mere 2,000, no lunches with co-workers or quick chats by the coffee machine.

I quickly realized that while the flexibility of working from home has its advantages, it can also negatively impact both physical and mental well-being. As someone in their 20s, I came to understand the significance of exercising – it is more than just staying in shape. It also means preventing burnout, fostering a healthy mindset, and improving my professional performance.

"Walking helps improve blood circulation to the brain and releases endorphins and dopamine, which in turn reduce stress levels and improve mood."

Doanh Le
Business Analyst

If I was going to spend 8 hours in front of a computer screen, I knew I had to make those hours active. So, I decided to make my first significant investment: a walking pad. A walking pad is an under-desk treadmill that allows you to walk while you work. While walking pads are a perfect combination with standing desks, you can also simply use a laptop rising stand. Every morning, I kick-start my day by stepping onto the walking pad and walking while checking and responding to emails. Initially, it was just a quick 15-minute walk, but gradually, I increased the duration to 30 then 50 minutes.

However, it’s during the dreaded afternoon slump that my walking pad truly shines. We all experience that “2pm effect” when our brains feel tired, and we struggle to push through the remaining hours of the workday. When that happens, I hop back onto the walking pad. Walking helps improve blood circulation to the brain and releases endorphins and dopamine, which in turn reduce stress levels and improve mood. This means I can boost my energy levels and tackle my afternoon meetings with the same efficiency as my morning ones. The walking pad not only helps me achieve my step goals but also keeps me physically and mentally active during work hours.

Did You Know?

# of minutes you should be exercising daily
1 in 4
Adults do not exercise as much as they should
# of Americans meeting physical activity guidelines set by the CDC

Creating boundaries between work and personal life is crucial for establishing a healthy work-life balance. This can be particularly challenging when working from home. To address this, I make it a point to leave my house after my workday ends.

While I love going to the gym, there is limited interactions with other people. Therefore, I decided to try out a team sport and discovered pickleball. Pickleball is a mix of ping pong and tennis, and it is accessible to all age groups. The sport is gaining popularity nationwide. Engaging in pickleball not only improves my physical fitness but also has a tremendous impact on my mental well-being. It provides me with an opportunity to interact with new people, make friends, engage in small talk, and participate in friendly competitions.

Incorporating regular exercise into your work-from-home routine is vital for maintaining good mental health. When you set and achieve fitness goals, you experience a sense of accomplishment and build confidence. Feeling good about your physical abilities can translate into increased self-confidence in your professional life as well. I urge you to prioritize your well-being and maintain an active lifestyle to support your mental health while navigating the challenges of remote work.