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Celebrate World Mental Health Day (Oct. 10) with a Focus on Personal and Professional Wellness

There is an old proverb that states “May you live in interesting times”. Well, 2020 has probably packed more “interesting” elements than most of us can handle, from a global pandemic and wildfires in California, to racial injustice and a very contentious political landscape. It’s a lot. Probably too much for many.

October 10th is World Mental Health Day and a good reminder that we all need to take care of ourselves, our families, our co-workers and our neighbors. For many of us, our daily routines have been flipped upside down. More people are working remotely, oftentimes with young children attempting remote learning sessions in the background. Between economic stress, social isolation and loss of community, it is important to keep mental health a priority. Dedicating a few minutes each day towards mental health is important. From utilizing meditation apps, engaging in an activity that reduces stress, and/or maintaining relationships remotely, our mental health improves when we can stabilize some of the uneasiness we all currently feel.

At an organizational level, we must understand how our employees may be affected not just on a personal level, but as a member of our team. How has our organization been affected and are we considering mental health as part of our response to the current climate?

Here are some simple steps an organization can take to in response to the increase stressors, isolation and losses our employees may be experiencing:

  • Accommodating a more flexible work schedule.

  • Flexibility within reason, is a great way to show staff that you are invested in their well-being.

  • Flexibility also ensures you will have less unanticipated staff absences

  • Adding “Mental Health Days” to holiday or PTO provides employees time to meet unanticipated obligations or to just have a day to re-group.

  • Conducting more “check-ins” to see how the pandemic is affecting the staff.

  • Checking in more regularly with your employees not only helps you understand and possibly assist in alleviating roadblocks/stressors they may have, but it also provides the opportunity to show support for your employees during this difficult time.

  • Consider using a one-word check-in exercise: try asking your colleagues for one word at the beginning of a meeting that describes their current mood. This enables people to pause and identify where they are at given moment, and more importantly enables us to meet people where they are. Ultimately, it provides a moment to center the team and allows everyone to be present for the meeting.

  • Consciously practice empathy.

  • The current climate has made everyone pretty tense and short-tempered. Try to consciously practice empathy, whether with a challenging client, colleague or the counter person at Starbucks. Focus on gratitude, as the science shows it changes neural pathways and immediately shifts your energy and that of others around you.

  • Take time to celebrate small victories together.

  • With all the environmental “noise” and negativity, it is really important to celebrate small victories on a regular basis. It could be a project delivered ahead of schedule; a nice thank-you note received from a client; or even more personal elements like work anniversaries or birthdays.

Let’s use World Mental Health Day to remind us all to include mental health as a focus not only during times of extreme change and stress, but as a core part of how we address employee wellness in our workplace.

PS -- If you have a favorite non-profit that focuses on providing mental health support, please consider donating today to commemorate World Mental Health Day. If you are looking for a good non-profit to support, here are a couple of organizations doing good work in our communities:

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