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CEO Insider

Valuing Positive Mental Health In The Workplace

Andrew Kinder

Mental health is a subject which is rightly being talked about a lot more in our workplaces.   It is a subject which can produce strong views, unfortunately not always positive. Perhaps one reason is that it touches societal norms about what our mental health actually means.

As the workplace can be a ‘macho’ domain it portrays supposedly male characteristics as the right way to behave at work – so this is where we have sayings such as ‘man up’ or ‘just crack on’. It appears that admitting we have concerns is seen as a weakness and something to be avoided at all costs.

It is also probably the case that we all take our health for granted, that is, until we have a health challenge.  But whilst our physical health is more clearly understood and accepted, we do often take our mental health for granted.  Yet our mental health can decline irrespective of our grade, status or socio-economic class.

We are all vulnerable unless we take care – life happens!  This can be cumulative or be of a more sudden onset. It ranges from being impacted by the challenge of being in the ‘sandwich generation’ (with both older and childcare responsibilities) to feeling overwhelmed and isolated.

Given the pressures of our roles, it can be from changes in our personal life such as bereavement, relationship breakdown and conflict or stem from excessive working hours, unrealistic expectations from others and a ‘blame culture’.  All this can lead to crises of confidence with resulting anxious thoughts or low mood such as depression.

Each of us is somewhere on the mental health spectrum and taking care of our psychological and emotional wellbeing is just as important as looking after our physical health such as through good nutrition, exercise and achieving quality sleep.

So, the question is what can we do to look after our mental health?

Before we look at some positive coping strategies for us as individuals, it is worth focusing our attention on what we can do within in our own organisations to promote positive mental health.  The Health and Safety Executive have some great advice on their website about this subject especially related to carrying our organisational audits and making a more supportive workplace culture.  There are also some excellent materials from the CIPD on how to develop a wellbeing culture.

What any successful initiative needs is to have a senior sponsor who can support these initiatives otherwise it can become ‘window dressing’.  The benefits are clearly articulated in recent publications by Business in the Community.

So, returning to us as individuals, there are several key factors that we can adopt to maintain our mental health:

  • Looking after our physical health will help our mental health so eat a well-balanced diet with lots of fresh, unprocessed food and drinking plenty of water.
  • Be careful about how much we are drinking alcohol or using recreational drugs. Although it can produce an initial high it puts pressure on our physical health and lead us to feel low, sluggish and tired.  Also, drugs can be highly addictive and lead to greater quantities being used to achieve the ‘high’.
  • Maintain a good fitness routine by exercising at least three times a week.  This not only produces ‘feel good’ endorphins, but also releases stress and helps us manage strong emotions such as anger or frustration.
  • Identify what relaxes you and incorporate this into your diary.  Some use yoga or mindfulness or just listening to music.  Even a walk in a park or the countryside can be a great way to relax.  Find ways to do this to unwind and use breathing exercises to rebalance your mind.
  • Avoid listening to your negative thoughts.  Negative self-critical thoughts waste your energy and stops you from enjoying life. Take actions to tackle such thoughts and you may need to seek some help from a professional counsellor or coach, or your GP.
  • Develop the habit of gratitude. Identify what you can be thankful of each day.  Make a list of all those things that have been achieved, even if they are small victories.
  • Identify what interests you in terms of a hobby or pastime and prioritise this so you make time for it.  This can help you recharge your battery and gives you productive thinking time.
  • Recognise your limits. Tell yourself that it is ok to seek help from others and that everyone has limits.  Yes, look for stretching targets but be careful to assume that there won’t be any breaking points.  If you suspect your stress levels are too high, it’s probably the right time to get help.
  • Sleep hygiene is key to improving your ability to make good quality decisions, to manage your mood and to avoid feeling overwhelmed.  Analyse how you are sleeping and look to improve it rather than putting up with poor sleep. Implementing the ideas listed above will help you sleep better.

Mental Health is integral to how you feel about your job, how you perform and how you interact with management, colleagues and customers. Employers need to know that employees who have good mental health are more likely to perform well, have good attendance and be fully engaged.

However, it is not just up to individual employees, management needs to support a culture of positive mental health as well. Management provides an important channel for employees to talk about mental health concerns and ask for advice on coping with stress and pressure in the workplace. Your manager will also monitor your work environment, performance and changes jointly agreed upon to support your mental health.

Managers are a conduit between individuals and the organization, looking out for signs of mental health issues and balancing the needs and priorities of all parties to ensure that you ultimately have the support, information and advice you need to stay mentally health in the workplace. So, now it’s over to you.

Have you read?

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These Are The Most Traffic-Congested Cities In The World, 2020.
Workplace Burnout: Cities Around The World With The Most And Least Stressed Out Employees, 2020.
Which countries are most and least prepared to deal with an epidemic or pandemic like the Coronavirus?

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Insider - Valuing Positive Mental Health In The Workplace
Andrew Kinder
Andrew Kinder is an experienced practitioner of over two decades. He works as a psychologist, counsellor, mediator and coach for Optima Health. He has recently co-authored Positive Mental Health: Overcoming Mental Health Problems’ with Dr Shaun Davis. Andrew Kinder is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. He can be found on Linkedin.