The world of work isn鈥檛 exactly known for being stress-free. Looming deadlines, demanding bosses, and difficult coworkers can make anyone鈥檚 job a challenge. Sometimes it鈥檚 all we can do to power through until 5pm, let alone feel mentally and emotionally fabulous at the end of the day. The last thing any of us wants is to add to our own workplace stress with behaviors that negatively affect our mental health. Yet 鈥 often unwittingly 鈥 we engage in practices that do more harm than good in the workplace. Without a mindful approach, we can unintentionally sabotage our own productivity, become embittered against others around us, and forfeit our happiness at what (ideally) should bring us joy: our life鈥檚 work.

While it鈥檚 tough to admit we may be the cause of some of our own work woes, a little self-examination never hurt. Recognizing toxic behaviors is the first step toward personal change: the kind that could mean increased job satisfaction and a surprising boost to your mental health. Here are five ways you might be bringing yourself down at work 鈥 and how to fix the situation if you are.

A woman contemplates a chart hanging on a wall

1. Perfectionism: Feel the need to read an email eight times before you can send it off? Can鈥檛 leave a project until every detail is locked in just right? You might be falling prey to harmful workplace perfectionism. While it鈥檚 not wrong to want to give your best at work, a perfectionistic attitude has serious mental health consequences in the long term. Research has associated an inability to show imperfection to others (and even, sometimes, an inability to admit fault) with depression and anxiety. Holding yourself to unattainable standards at work puts you on the emotional hamster wheel of keeping up perfect appearances 鈥 an impossible task that only makes you miserable.

Strategies to break free from perfectionism include adopting a big-picture perspective (as in, 鈥淲ill this matter in five years?鈥), practicing radical self-acceptance and, of course, counseling.

2. Comparison: Someone less qualified gets the promotion. The pretty young thing in the cubicle next to you arrives to work Instagram-perfect, while you barely got yourself dressed after a hectic morning with the kids. The age of social media already has us tethered to unhealthy (and often unrealistic) comparison to others, leaving us wondering why everyone else鈥檚 lives seem better than ours. We don鈥檛 have to bring this negative mindset to work too.

Studies show that comparing our status, recognition, or physical appearance to that of others (in this case, coworkers) sets us up for depression. 鈥淭he activity of comparing one鈥檚 self with others is a major trigger for a plummet in self esteem,鈥 explains Dr. Jane Bolton, PsyD of Psychology Today. Instead of worrying about coworkers鈥 behavior, accolades, or looks, try to focus on doing your own work to the best of your ability. You鈥檒l likely experience a twofold benefit: better performance and a mental un-burdening from the feeling you don鈥檛 measure up.

Three coworkers chat during a break

3. Not Taking Breaks: Powering through the day without breaks may appear selfless (鈥淟ook how hard I鈥檓 working!鈥), but in reality, doing so actually depletes productivity and can lead to burnout. After all, you鈥檙e a human being, not a robot. Your body and mind need time and space to recharge.

Many experts believe the optimal duration of concentrated work is 90 minutes, with brief mind-clearing breaks in between. Find out your company鈥檚 official policy on breaks to take full advantage. Then, for your mental health, make sure you use them wisely by walking, stretching, chatting with a friend, or snacking on something healthy, rather than sitting in a corner on your phone.

4. Gossip: In the moment, a bit of juicy gossip 鈥 especially about a boss or coworker you鈥檙e not fond of 鈥 can feel like a sweet relief. Despite the temporary endorphin release, however, gossip won鈥檛 boost your happiness in the long term, on the job or anywhere else. Rather, it fosters a negative workplace environment that lowers morale and introduces unnecessary drama. Plus, the ugly truth about gossip is that indulging in it with coworkers likely means you鈥檒l become a target yourself.

When tongues are wagging, you have several options. Avoid the gossiper altogether (if possible), change the subject, or respond with a positive statement about the person in question. Or if you don鈥檛 mind confrontation, call your coworkers out on their gossip. Whatever you do, taking the high road keeps your mental health safe from this damaging habit.

5. Not Advocating for Yourself: Ask and ye shall receive, the saying goes 鈥 鈥渁sk鈥 being the operative word. In most workplaces, it鈥檚 up to you to be your own advocate. No one else is apt to pipe up when you鈥檝e been treated unfairly or aren鈥檛 getting the raise you deserve. Keeping mum about your own best interests day after day can subtly drain your well-being. Feelings of anger, resentment, and hopelessness eventually build to a breaking point.

Rather than get steamrolled by injustice, be your own mental health hero: Advocate for yourself! If your current schedule isn鈥檛 working with your childcare situation, for example, try asking for different hours. Set that meeting with your boss to discuss salary, and aim high when you do. (One study showed not asking for a specific amount in a salary negotiation resulted in receiving an average of 32 percent less.) And don鈥檛 be afraid to speak up for others too. Your solidarity will help create a culture of mental health for everyone in your workplace.

How do you handle workplace stress? Tweet us at @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)