Today (October 10) is World Mental Health Day.
I am so proud of this generation of young leaders who have prioritized the mental health of themselves and their teammates and continue to challenge businesses across the country to focus on addressing efforts to protect and improve employees’ mental health.
Mental health in my generation was a taboo and scary topic. I remember as a young woman hearing the story about Rosemary Kennedy (John F. Kennedy’s sister), who herself as a young woman of twenty-three suffered from violent mood swings and seizures. In a desperate attempt to help, her parents made the decision to arrange a prefrontal lobotomy, a procedure that unfortunately left her permanently incapacitated and rendered her unable to speak intelligently. The stigma attached to mental illness caused many, including the Kennedy’s, to hide family members who experienced these challenges and to take extreme, often horrific measures to help. Mental illness and mental health became a topic only discussed in whispers for many, many years.
Today mental health can no longer be a taboo subject. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. People working remote became more isolated than ever before, which I believe has been a contributing factor to some of these stats.
Mental health is a state of mind. When you’re feeling mentally healthy, your actions, feelings and overall relationships are in a much better place. You know to relax when stressed and enjoy downtime to rejuvenate and recharge. The everyday pressures of life are something that you are able to cope with and move on.
So many factors impact mental health. Physical activity, your overall health, your work life and your home life all are part of what make up you and your mental being. If anything feels out of whack, it can have an impact on your overall well-being.
So, what are some things you can do to stay mentally fit? I share with you the things I personally do to keep my life in harmony – maybe some of these will help.
Compartmentalize: Sometimes this is easier said than done – but I have learned over the years that problems at home can stay at home and not come to work with me and vice versa. It helps me to focus and be present in the moment.
Staying Active: Endorphins are amazing! Moving is good not only for the body, but also the mind. Going for a walk can boost your mood – nothing like getting fresh air and enjoying nature to feel grateful. I am also a firm believer, if you look good, you feel good – and staying physically active helps with both.
Eating Healthy: Now don’t get me wrong, I love foods that maybe are not the best food I could eat too (chocolate for instance). But, have you ever had a really big, high caloric meal and just feel like a slug after you are finished? Of course, we all have, which proves the point that if we focus on “as a general rule” eating food that is high in nutritional value, we will feel better.
Sleep: This is my worst enemy, I won’t lie. Getting a good night sleep is so good for all of us. I don’t know about you, but when I am tired, I’m incredibly crabby! If we want to stay strong mentally, rest is a very important ingredient to making sure we stay sharp and focused.
Put Away the Electronics: If you are like most leaders in business, we look at our phones all the way up until we close our eyes at bedtime. It is proven that the blue light from phones, tablets, etc. makes it harder to fall asleep. Do you leave the TV on right before bedtime? Depending on the show or message, this too can impact your much needed sleep. Watching the news is the worst! Give yourself some quiet time prior to launching into dreamland and I assure you your rest will be so much better.
Quiet Time: I recently read the book Breath by James Nestor that was fascinating about the simple act of taking quiet time to breathe correctly. It really hit home because I had a mediation leader once tell me that my breathing was too shallow. She said to me, “your life is so busy, you even breathe fast,” which I never realized until I actually made a concentrated effort to breathe deeply – and what a change!
Relationships: This one encompasses a lot. What I will tell you simply is this – surround yourself with people who believe in you and have your back. Once you find your tribe, relationships will create joy, not steal it!
Workplace Wellness isn’t just about physical health and taking sick days, it is also the willingness to offer the opportunity to take a break and do what is necessary to recharge your mind, body and soul. Be mindful of those around you and take care of each other. Life is what you make it – so why not make it extraordinary, not ordinary!