Mental Health Awareness in the Construction Industry and Mindfulness in the Workplace
Today we’re here to talk about a very important topic that affects everyone worldwide: Stress. It’s no secret that working as a contractor in the construction trade is a very stressful career choice. In fact, according to a 2020 study, 83% of construction workers have experienced moderate to severe mental health issues. It comes as no surprise that so many of our peers are struggling with these issues; the job comes with its fair share of physical stress, aches, and pains, as well as stressful working conditions, tight deadlines, and plenty of logistical nightmares for supplies.
We understand there is a big stigma around addressing these matters in our field, as we’re often expected to be the pinnacle example of toughness, strength, and resilience. However, It’s time to break the cycle of shame, fear of judgement, and occupational stigma, and create a healthier pattern to reduce rates of suicide, accidental injury due to distraction, and other related issues. It’s extremely important that we care for our minds as much as our bodies, especially since our chosen craft requires us to be alert, aware, and present around plenty of dangerous equipment, tools, and heights.
Since today is National Stress Awareness day, we’re going to share some helpful tips and tricks to de-escalate those stressful feelings, retarget our emotions into healthy outlets, and improve our mental health.
How can we channel our passion for creating, fixing, and building into a healthy habit?
While our day to day business may be a stressful one, we don’t have to give up doing what we love in order to practice good mental health hygeine. Taking the time to create some woodworking projects that bring joy, inspire us to think outside the box, and are created in a no-pressure “just for fun” environment can reap a slew of benefits in our brain.
Woodworking can help build upon and improve our ability to focus. Taking the time to measure carefully, mark and notch the wood for cuts and drilling and gluing, and piecing things together requires a strong attention span. This can help keep our brain busy, and helps increase our focus. Keeping calm means we can concentrate better on the task at hand so we mark straight lines, make even cuts, and place things.
Woodworking can release endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. These mood regulating chemicals can ease our mental health woes and make us feel happier, satisfied, and calm. Exploring our creative outlets through woodworking projects opens us up to new ideas, and completing those projects can give us a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction, which releases those happy brain juices!
Woodworking engages our brains and promotes strong neural pathways. Creating a woodwork or carpentry project requires not just creativity but logic and balance through precise planning, mathematical measurements, passion and focus, and hand-eye coordination. By engaging in these whole-brain activities, we’re expanding our brain’s neuroplasticity, creating positive and lasting effects on our brain’s chemistry.
Woodworking is peaceful and gives you a sense of purpose. Making something with your own two hands is an unparalleled feeling of satisfaction and pride! Taking a class in woodworking to learn a new skill such as furniture making, whittling, lathe and wood turning, can provide industry professionals with new career skills as well as fun, relaxing ways to engage with a wealth of field knowledge. When we’re not on the clock, we can create as slowly and relaxed as we wish, giving us a new way to see our daily habits, and be engaged in positive ways. Filling your home with beautiful pieces you’ve carved and crafted is like nothing else in this world!
Here are some easy mindfulness exercises that you can do from anywhere whether you’re on the road, on the job, or at home.
Mindful Breathing Technique: Focus on your breath. Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 3. Then slowly exhale through your mouth in one long, smooth breath to completely empty your lung. As you begin to repeat the process, you’ll notice stress melting away. This can be done standing up, sitting down, or lying in a comfortable position. Repeat as needed throughout your day when you notice your tension rising.
Simple Grounding Exercise: If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and overstimulated, grounding exercises can help us return to the moment, feel more stable, and connect to our environment. We can increase our awareness and reduce anxiety simply by finding and identifying items and naming them. This exercise can be done aloud or thinking about them to yourself. Look around you and find the following:
5 things you can see
4 things you can feel
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
Repeat as necessary throughout the day and follow up with some meditative breathing.
Body Scan Meditation: When we’re stressed, we can hold a lot of tension and frustration in our body. Our muscles will begin to tighten, our nerves may begin to feel twitchy, and we may notice aches and pains in various places. A quick body scan can bring us back to a sense of self and center our awareness to notice these areas and release the tension as needed. Begin at the top of your head and gently scan down to your neck, shoulders, arms, chest, back, hips, legs, and feet. Spend 20 to 30 seconds on each body part. We are looking to bring awareness to any feelings, sensations, or discomfort. Does the area feel relaxed or tense? Is that body part comfortable or uncomfortable? Do you feel energetic or tired? Focus your mind on any areas of tension, and breathe. Visualize the tension leaving your body, and allow yourself to feel soft, relaxed. Repeat the body scan and notice what feels different. You don’t have to try and change how you feel, as this exercise is about bringing awareness to feelings in the moment.