Aspects of mental health
Four experienced campaigners discuss, from different perspectives and topics, various approaches to managing and improving mental health – for yourself and others.
Spotting signs of stress in your people
People-centric management is the only type of management that I believe should be in place if you’re running a business. You need to focus on the people that you manage, and that means prioritising their wellbeing above all else, because if you have happy people with low stress levels, you’re almost guaranteed to have people that produce their best work and show up every day feeling enthused and motivated.
The problem is that most people often don’t feel comfortable showing vulnerability because for some reason it’s ingrained into society that vulnerability equals weakness, and moreover, it’s especially uncommon for people to show vulnerabilities in front of their work colleagues.
So, as a manager, you need to work around this and be proactive with spotting stressed employees and supporting them through their difficulties. The most obvious way to spot if someone in your business is stressed is to think about how you act when you’re stressed - we’re all humans, and to a certain extent, we all work the same.
If someone is showing up late, getting flustered easily, looking tired, is easily irritated, or generally seems ‘out of it’, they’re most likely stressed and need to be helped.
You then need to support in a way that’s suitable for them, whether that be allowing them to take some time off to gather their thoughts, checking in with them every day to see how they’re feeling, or encouraging them to do useful anti-stress exercises such as journaling or exercise.
Essentially, you need to make reducing their stress levels and improving their wellbeing a priority of yours, and this goes for all employees.
Ally Fekaiki is founder of Juno: the life company
Opening channels of communication
Despite businesses being more connected and technologically advanced than ever before, there are still many employees who feel ‘disengaged’ from their colleagues and their employers. There is a feeling of growing isolation – a sentiment detected in our recent research.
Spotting the signs of an employee struggling with stress is considerably more difficult when working remotely. Therefore, communication between employees and management must be regular and thorough. Courses such as mental health first aid and implementing buddy systems across an organisation also give employees a range of people to turn to and reduces the stigma around stress and mental health.
To encourage this constant dialogue, wellbeing should be a core part of regular line manager meetings and outreach calls should be made to those experiencing a change in circumstances (returning from furlough or sick leave due to COVID-19 for example). Through this, developing issues can be identified early when intervention can be at its most effective.
2021 is not just a big year for business, it must be a massive year for mental health.
Richard Holmes is director of wellbeing at Westfield Health
Learning from a personal experience
As someone who has suffered with anxiety and depression, not only have I learned how to spot the warning signs of a decline in my wellbeing, but also what to do to look after myself during more difficult periods. Here are a few pieces of advice I regularly follow:
- Understand your triggers
My anxiety is triggered by noisy places, such as restaurants, and being tired. By being aware of these things, I can navigate my day in a way reduces any chance of anxiety attack.
- Find your tribe
The more we bottle things up, the harder it becomes deal with. Either confide in someone you trust or look for impartial help from a counsellor or therapist.
- Learn to say no
Being overwhelmed can be really poor for your mental health. Make sure that you allow yourself breathing time in your diary and say no to meetings that take up this crucial downtime. Take 20–30 minutes a day to take a walk or any other activity that brings you joy, allowing yourself to unplug and reset.
- Turn off notifications
Don’t become a slave to your phone. Make sure you set boundaries with clients, family and friends and, most importantly, stick to them. If you say you don’t answer emails or take calls after 4pm, then don’t!
Lucy Cohen is co-founder of online accountancy business Mazuma
Managing your own mental health: ‘A For Acceptance’
A turning point in my own life was when I realised and finally accepted, that we are all fallible and complex human beings and “all” included me. Even as a high- achieving, values-led and hard-working professional, I had a niggling feeling that I just wasn’t good enough. The path acceptance has taken me on continues to be one of the richest learning experiences of my life.
Acceptance is not just about accepting one’s fallible self. It is also the acceptance of our individuality, our honest preferences for the way we live and connect, plus our own unique history. Acceptance also helps us recognise that as individuals, we need individualised approaches for maintaining our mental wellbeing.
Keeping a note of the things that make you feel good or content is helpful. Reading magazine articles or talking to friends can give you new ideas. Top tip: try things for at least three days before forming an opinion. There is a plethora of information and ideas available on wellbeing.
Acceptance also helps manage uncertainty. Although we might not like something if we cannot directly change it, it makes sense to instead put our attention towards something we can. Acceptance is not passivity.
The uncertainty and concern of the coronavirus pandemic have brought many communities together, however, it has also encouraged judgement. Acceptance, and the compassion it fosters, allow us to forgive and understand that people have their own stories, their own pains and that the stories behind behaviours are not always simple. Acceptance of ourselves is not indulgent, but self-kindness, and we all know how it feels when someone is kind to us.
Dr Kate MT (Mtandabari) is an executive coach and consultant