Even before Covid19 reached these shores and shed its viral load among us like kids doling out sweets at a birthday party, mental health was rising fast up the corporate agenda.
And while the full impact of the pandemic is not yet clear, one thing is certain: our mental health is under threat, at home and at work. The good news is that we can do something about it.
Covid19 has highlighted the chink in all our armour: the risks posed to our psychological wellbeing if we don’t take the time to put in place measures to nurture it. There are plenty out there – from mindfulness to yoga – that we can use in our personal lives, if we take the time.
But how do we optimise workplace mental health – our own and that of our colleagues, our team, our leaders?
This is a question that last week we put to some of our speakers on mental health. The occasion was Mental Health Awareness Week, but the truth is that mental health needs our attention – and care – year round. Because one thing that Covid has laid bare is that uncertainty is a fundamental dynamic of modern culture. The virus is just the latest expression of it. Change is here to stay – and we need, literally, to get our heads around it.
So, how do you build robust mental health in a situation where flux is the default setting?
When we’re talking about human nature, we know that constant change, whether incrementally or in big strides like those happening right now, brings its own set of challenges.
It’s not just about adjusting to change when it happens. You have to – or at least want to – stay ahead of it, anticipate it and then, if you’re lucky, ‘ride the wave’ instead of being subsumed by it, only to pop up the other side like a cork, ready to ride the next one. Because as every surfer knows, the waves keep coming.
This is where change really puts it up to us in the mental health stakes. It’s like that schoolyard bully who just comes out of nowhere to give you a smack. You just stand there, a little dazed, while they come right up, taunting you with: ‘So, what are you going to do about it?’
In these short videos, each speaker gives us their take on what to do – and there’s great advice in there.
Neil O’Brien, mental fitness coach, takes the pressure off by telling us to reimagine confidence as a mood rather than see it as an inherent character trait, and then develop our own triggers to generate confidence just when we need it. Watch it here: https://bit.ly/2LEU6mg
No. 2 in our series of 5 comes from former Olympian David Gillick. This is a man who walks the walk, from devising nutritious recipes that boost our brains, to delivering wellness talks in the workplace. No surprise then that in his video he takes a holistic approach to mental health that takes in exercise and that most human of desires, connection to others.
Then there’s Brent Pope, rugby pundit, mental health advocate and, now, aspiring psychotherapist. Brent has been very open about his own struggles with anxiety, and in this video he urges us to ‘keep talking.’
video No. 4 comes from Peter Ryan, para cyclist and motivational speaker, who highlights the ‘mad paradox’ that makes us think we are alone in our problems, when in fact the chances are sky high that someone else has suffered the same thing. More than anything, Peter encourages us to open up about our problems and not suffer alone ‘in silence.’
The final video, from Petra Velzeboer, sums up the spirit of any workplace mental health initiative worth its salt. Simply put, it’s to ensure that any positive changes we make now become the catalyst for an ongoing, evolving process of change management so that cultivating good mental health becomes second nature rather than an afterthought. Because really, we can’t afford it to be anything less.
And the upshot of all this?
If change is to be our default setting then, let the cultivation of good mental health be its conjoined twin.