Mental Health Awareness
Dates to Remember
3 October: Mental Illness Awareness Week
10 October: World Mental Health Day
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
At the core of this reset, and hopefully one of the global learnings is the renewed focus on mental health. We have known for a long time that the public health crisis of the future would be mental health and the pandemic has simply accelerated this. Finally, the mental health conversation has become a focus, and individuals, families and businesses are talking about mental health as a very normal part of daily conversation. Many individuals who have never had any mental health challenges are now experiencing depression, anxiety, burnout, crisis fatigue, addiction, and cabin fever.
Those that have struggled with these issues through their lifetimes are now almost certainly experiencing them more intensely. We know without a doubt that the stress of the last two years has contributed to levels of burnout that have not been seen before. Employees are genuinely struggling to balance the increased demands of work, the new remote and virtual culture, the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic, the political, social and financial insecurity resulting from the pandemic and the demands of their personal lives.
The only remedy to this can be a firm and lasting focus on mental health as an absolute priority. If individuals are going to find genuine wellness through this time, they will have to make mental wellness a priority in their lifestyles and cultivate a resilience routine that gives them the ability to sustain the absurd level of demand being placed upon them.
As individuals, we need to embrace the idea of proactive mental health and create a resilience routine that increases our capacity to cope with stress and other mental health challenges. This means doing a lifestyle audit and reviewing each life area and identifying demands that we need to reduce or remove, and at the same time becoming deliberate about how we can increase resources in each area.
The basic principle of stress is that we will experience stress when the demands placed upon us exceed our available resources.
So, it is logical to reduce the demands and increase the resources. Further, one of the core factors for resilience is to have a genuinely balanced life, so if we apply the basic principle of stress management to each life area we are creating a real focus on mental health in our day to day lives and significantly increasing our resilience.
Everyone will have a lifestyle audit that looks very different, but some general suggestions might help to identify the opportunities in your own lifestyle. Take each area of your life (Physical, Emotional, Social, Spiritual, Professional, Intellectual, Family, Financial, Personal) and list what you can reduce / remove and what you can increase. For example in the physical part of your life, you could reduce junk food and sitting and increase both sleep and exercise.
As families, we can extend this understanding of stress and resilience into our daily lives at home. We can put the mental health conversation firmly into the spotlight by creating opportunities for meaningful, daily dialogue and routine check-ins. A simple dinner routine of eating at a table, turning off the TV and giving everybody an opportunity to process the best and worst of their day will allow a family to keep track of each other’s mental health. Increase language that allows children to label their anxiety and depression, allow and even encourage questions regarding the pandemic and other challenges and take children’s concerns very seriously. Understand the vital importance of consistency, availability and attachment for a family and include a resilience routine as a priority for the family as well.
As leaders in a business, you can extend a culture of building resilience into the workplace. Encourage employees to set boundaries and effectively manage workload. Encourage moving lunches and healthy food choices. Set wellness challenges. Have regular individual and team check-ins. There are endless opportunities to practically extend the mental health conversation into the workplace. We know that the successful employees and businesses of the future will be those that are able to maximise their resilience and adaptability. And this means changing the narrative in the workplace. Perhaps a good starting point is to become very aware of individuals’ well-being at work. If individuals are struggling let’s engage them with Ask Nelson. Make talking to Ask Nelson an expectation in terms of stress management at work. Sometimes people need some perspective and help in identifying the nature of their challenges. It can be difficult to see your own chaos when you are in the middle of it. An informal or even formal referral lets employees know that you see their challenges and acknowledge their crisis. It gives permission to them to prioritise their wellbeing and mental health. It affords them an opportunity to address the real issues and not just amend the offending behaviour. And perhaps most importantly it lets them know that it is ok not to be ok. Sometimes we all need encouragement to get the help we need.