OPINION: Managers tend to model the behaviour they wish to see in their organisation when it comes to working hard and being honest and punctual, so why not about mental health too, writes Mariet Visser.
More than 30% of adult South Africans suffer from some sort of mental health issue, affecting their ability to think clearly and process their thoughts logically. This in turn can negatively affect their outward behaviours and decision-making, which is especially important in the workplace.
Looking after your mental health starts with learning and applying skills such as mindfulness, as doing so helps create presence within yourself and increases your ability to become more self-aware.
One tool Mariet learnt years ago was the STOP skill, developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The acronym that stands for “stop”, “take a breath”, “observe”, and then “proceed”.
Even if it’s just by getting up from your desk to make a cup of coffee, by pausing momentarily you allow yourself to take a breath, which acts as an anchor to the present moment.
During this short respite, you can see what is happening both inside and outside yourself, as well as assess what you are doing and how you are feeling. Use the information gained during this check-in to either continue your course or change it.
Know the difference between reacting and responding
A healthy mind can make all the difference when it comes to your reactions. Knowing the difference between choosing to react instinctively or impulsively and responding with guided thinking and reasoning is very important.
Knowing and becoming self-aware of your behaviour will give you an honest indication of your reactions, and signal when you should pay closer attention to your mental health and wellness.
Focus on one thing at a time
The agile way of working teaches people to focus on one thing at a time. We are constantly distracted by others and the environment as well as our own thought processes.
Even the smallest of distractions like receiving a text, email or meeting request, and even the mere thought of multitasking, can negatively play on our mental health, creating what is often referred to as scattered brain syndrome or attention-deficit disorder.
This essentially means that distractions make it difficult for us to stay in the present moment, to concentrate or to switch off. Taking small steps like silencing the notifications on your device, journalling your feelings on paper, and making a physical and permanent visual to-do list that you can work through systematically, one item at a time, can really help improve your focus and productivity and reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed and disorganised.
The critical role of an employer
Providing the right support for employees who suffer from mental health issues is important for businesses of all shapes and sizes. There is plenty of research that shows that poor mental health can lead to a whole of host of issues in the workplace, such as decreased productivity, unhealthy working relationships between colleagues, and increased illness-related absenteeism. It can also greatly compromise workplace safety.
Mariet urges all business owners and organisations to implement proactive mental health support by:
Breaking the stigma surrounding mental health
Everyone needs to know that it is okay not to feel okay.
Creating a safe working space
It’s scary to open up, share your feelings, and talk about something that is personal to you, as it makes you feel vulnerable. Employees need to be comfortable talking about their mental health, feel supported, and know how to ask for help, so employers should ensure the working environment allows for this.
Being a mental health advocate
Managers tend to model the behaviour they wish to see in their organisation when it comes to working hard and being honest and punctual, so why not about mental health too? By going first and addressing your own mental health issues, you make it possible for others to take the first step too.
Learning to recognise and acknowledge the needs of your team
Often our real needs hide behind our complaints and frustrations. Listening more closely can be a huge help in identifying the needs and cries for help behind the words.
* Mariet Visser is the co-founder of We Do Change.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.