Physical exhaustion, long hours, and high-pressure deadlines are factors that could lead those in the industry to be more at risk for mental health struggles.
In fact, the construction industry was found to have the second-highest suicide rate among major occupations in the United States, according to one study conducted by the Center for Disease Control.
Having worked in the world of construction for two decades, Nexgeneral Construction’s president Phil Kliewer has seen first hand how important it is to care for his mental health. He has outlined three ways he encourages his team (including himself!) to proactively keep their minds healthy.
“The best thing I have done for my mental health is sleep,” says Phil.
While 12-hour days on a jobsite are often a reality for many construction workers, fighting to get at least 7 hours of sleep on average can have a remarkable impact on your mood and overall health. Quality and sufficient sleep is linked to improved decision making, problem solving skills and emotional regulation.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, the following steps can be taken to improve sleep. If implementing the whole list seems impossible, just pick one to practice this week!
- Establish a calming bedtime routine that lets you unwind and sends tells your brain that it’s time to sleep.
- Create a restful environment. (Dark, cool, and quiet bedrooms are generally ideal!)
- Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.
- Try apps designed to help with sleep problems, such as Pzizz, Sleepio or Sleepstation.
- Avoid using phone or tablet screens in the evening.
- If you can’t sleep, do something relaxing like listening to music or reading until you feel sleepy. If you’re worried, write out what’s on your mind.
Monitor for burnout.
Burnout is “physical, emotional or mental exhaustion, accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance and negative attitudes towards oneself and others” according to the ADA Dictionary of Psychology.
In 2021, 52% of workers were feeling burnt out.
If you are fatigued, apathetic about work, struggling to concentrate, irritable with team members, changing your diet and sleep patterns, or experiencing tension headaches, you may be approaching burnout. Burnout can be prevented by:
- Seeking out social support (meeting with friends or a therapist)
- Getting more sleep
- Taking time off from work regularly
- Doing more of what you love daily
- Research found that surgeons who spent even 15-20 minutes a day doing a hobby or recreational activity they enjoyed were less likely to experience burnout
If you are experiencing signs of burnout, pay attention to them. It can take years to recover from burnout, and pausing to talk to a medical professional (doctor or therapist) about how your feeling now is likely the most productive, healthy thing you can do in the long run.
Surround yourself with a supportive team.
While you can’t always choose the people you work with, you can choose the company you work for. Ensure your employer values your work-life balance, family time, and health. Take the time to think about your life’s goals and priorities. Ask yourself if your boss and company culture helps you achieve those goals and protect your priorities.
If not, take steps to ensure your work situation changes. Your friends, family, well-being, and mental health are worth it.
Also, think about what you can do to be the kind of supportive leader and team member you want to have. Check in on your team!
Additional mental health resources for construction workers: