Many young professionals in finance are focused on progressing their careers and finding a semblance of work-life balance, but may not be thinking about how important having good mental health is. When you work with a healthy mindset, you accomplish much more than if you work overly stressed, depressed, anxious, or burned out. A mental health break or self-care doesn’t need to take long; in fact, sometimes the breaks are most effective when they’re a quick 10-minute reset from the stresses of your daily life.
So what does it mean to really take a mental health break in finance? Perhaps you already have something you do that brings you joy or takes your mind off of work momentarily, helps you de-stress, and refocuses your energy when you go back to work. I focus less on the concrete ideas here and more on how you can check in with yourself, develop a schedule that allows for break time, and consider ways in which you can grow as a person long-term. Even if you do and especially if you don’t have a routine or activity that helps you spend time away from work, taking mental health breaks is important for preventing burnout and growing your career in finance.
Check in with yourself regularly
The best way to practice self-care is to check in with yourself. While this may seem silly, when we’re in the thick of working, we forget that maybe we need a second to pause. Our bodies ignore these cues in order to continue being productive, hit the next deadline, or make space for plans we have in the future outside of work. If you find your eyes feeling heavy or nodding off, give yourself a minute to rest in the bathroom or take a walk outside to refresh yourself. If your mind is racing, your adrenaline feels high, or your palms are sweaty from stress, take a moment in a room to yourself to meditate or talk about what’s stressing you out loud. Don’t ignore the obvious signs that you need to change something in order to get through your day.
Cultivate a schedule that allows for breaks
This is a lot easier said than done. In finance, all jobs are demanding and don’t allow for a lot of flexibility. When I say cultivating your schedule, I mean making a couple small changes to your routine that could make a world of difference. For example, if you have the option to schedule 3 back-to-back calls or take a break in between 2 of them to get water, a snack, and maybe leisurely answer some emails, sometimes it’s wise to pick the second choice! We’re so used to the go-go-go mentality that comes with our jobs that we give away our time in exchange for our mental sanity. Take back some of that time in your role if you can – obviously don’t push it to the point that people ask you why you’re always delaying calls, but having back-to-back calls for days on top of the other work you have to do isn’t very sustainable.
Another way you can cultivate your schedule is around food or coffee. Most people eat lunch at some point during the day, and most people drink some sort of caffeine (even if you don’t, most people like having some sort of beverage). If you like to be social, one way you can take a break is taking a food or beverage break with a colleague. It might seem like you’re “wasting time” away from your desk, but the reality is that no human being can go 18 hours a day at a desk and expect to perform at peak capacity the whole time. Take time for that coffee, dinner, a walk around the perimeter of the office, or sitting somewhere that isn’t near your monitor. While it may momentarily slow down your output, it may do wonders for your productivity during the rest of the day.
Decide how you want to spend those breaks
Do your mental health breaks now entail going to the gym when you have a free hour, eating dinner with a colleague, calling family or a friend, or going outside for a bit? Whatever it is, have a plan for how you want to spend your breaks. Many of us are planners, and while the activity doesn’t need to be the same every day, having a set of activities or routines that reset you mentally and physically is key during long work days in finance so you don’t have to put in extra brainwork to take a break. For me, if I’m having a particularly rough day where I haven’t had time to take a real break, I use my commute home to listen to music I love. When I get home, I talk on the phone with my family for 5 or 10 minutes before doing work again. It helps me feel refreshed, refocused and motivated to take on whatever I need to do.
One of the best decisions I made when starting my career in finance was scheduling weekly therapy on Friday mornings before work. I like to have it at a time when I know no one will bother me. At first, I was hesitant to try it given the stigma around taking care of your mental health when I was growing up and how unaffordable it sounded. I quickly realized that I had been shying away from it for no good reason. Nowadays, access to therapy has increased a lot since before the pandemic. Some therapists can be paid through insurance, and online therapy has become an increasingly popular affordable option for many people. While the stigma may still exist for some people, it’s a lot less; I’ve even had open conversations with my coworkers about them blocking off time to speak with their therapist during the work week.
It could honestly surprise you how good you feel after talking to someone about your day, your stressors, or unpacking how your upbringing influenced the person you are today. The benefits of therapy include building self-esteem, reducing anxiety, strengthening your coping mechanisms, and improving your interactions with your loved ones. It can also help you deal with more serious underlying mental health issues. If you are feeling like you have deeper things you want to talk about, those things can come out gradually as you get to know your therapist better and develop skills around communicating your thoughts and needs.
Are you preparing for the buyside? Schedule a call now with our top coaches or submit your application directly here and we’ll be in touch! Our experienced coaches will work with you to set and achieve your goals and provide support and guidance along the way.
You can also check our various course curriculums for different careers (i.e. investment banking, private equity, VC, etc.) and how our process works.
To receive additional updates, feel free to follow and subscribe to our social media accounts – Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tiktok, Youtube
And be sure to check out our free resources.