From Stigma to Acceptance
Words like depression, anxiety, and mental health have in the past stirred deep stigmas within our society; considered a taboo topic within the workplace. Recently many companies have realized the importance of their employees’ mental wellness and have been voicing their opinions to the public. By decreasing the stigma around these words and allowing their employees to feel safe enough to ask for help, productivity increases and morale improves greatly. Let us look at some ways to bring up mental wellness at work, while also focusing on ways to stay centered and “zen” throughout the work week.
Having the Conversation as an Employer
Staff productivity stems from a well balanced work environment. A good way to establish a safe work space is by having a staff meeting about honesty among team members. Allow the team to know that you (their superior) and fellow team members are approachable. Half the battle with mental wellness is asking for help. If an employee feels safe enough to open the conversation you’ll be able to help them come to a solution faster.
What if I don’t know anything about mental wellness?
Educating yourself and your team team is vital! We know your workload may already be substantial. Yet making the time to understand mental wellness will help your team to grow exponentially.
- Employees are people – They have stress outside of work. Staying mindful of their humanity helps when starting conversations. It isn’t necessary to know intimate details about staff’s personal life. Yet showing interest in their personal wellbeing creates trust. Making room for all the team members to be able to have these “tough” conversations.
- Workplace initiatives – Encourage your employees to get involved with the mental wellness initiative in the workplace. “Despite the prevalence of workplace wellness efforts, only one-third of American workers say they regularly participate in the health promotion programs provided by their employer. Additionally, less than half of working Americans say the climate in their organization supports employee well-being.” More information from American Psychology Association in this survey.
- Sending informative emails – Sending regular emails to the team that encourage healthy lifestyle activities (working out, healthy recipes, hobbies, etc), local counselors/therapists, and insurance references. Also, organizing company outings and fun events are also great starting points. Here’s a helpful link.
- Staff “Development meetings“ – This could be one quick meeting a month where team members share both their work objectives and personal goals. These types of development meetings give you insight on how your staff is doing on a professional and personal level. Are they inspired? Are they bored? Are they willing to share and be open to suggestions? These meetings are a good way to remain accountable as a team. For example, Ruben Digital has created a “goals” channel on Slack to keep each other motivated!
- Quick “Check-ins“ – At the start of a regular meeting, ask members to state (in a few words) their current mindset. By them acknowledging where they are in the moment, they become physically and mentally aware of themselves. This tool helps everyone to tap into the present and remain there during the meeting. For example, Michelle always begins our Thursday staff meetings with a two word check-in to get an idea of where everyone is at.
- Lead by example – Your efforts will not go unnoticed. When you dedicate time to the well being of your staff they will value your insight more. Our awesome founder Nate showed his incredible care for his staff by paying for all of us to attend Pathways, a personal growth seminar. This allowed all of us to work on ourselves as individuals, and grow together as a team.
Having the conversation as an Employee
If you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, anxious and even depressed, it is most likely negatively affecting your work…and it’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. According to ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America ) “72 percent of people who have daily stress and anxiety say it interferes with their lives at least moderately”. Hence, you are not alone in these feelings. Approaching a supervisor or team member can increase your anxiety, but remember that they are human too. Most likely your employer will also have some idea on what it feels like to be stressed and anxious. They may not have enough knowledge on some of the mental issues your are dealing with, so try to remain patient and honest. We encourage you to take a leap of faith and reach out to someone about what you’re going through.
- Start with an email – Request a scheduled time to discuss your thoughts/concerns with your employer, or a trustworthy team member. Write out what you’d like to discuss, how it’s affecting you, and what kind of support you think you need (before going into the conversation).
What if I don’t know enough about Mental Wellness to help others?
- Being a good listener goes a long way – Sometimes just listening to a fellow employee gives them the courage to open up to others. Saying “I don’t know but I’m willing to learn” is tremendously helpful and supportive.
- Ask for help – Contact HR and request info on mental wellness. Educate yourself take the time to read up on the topic. Here’s a good link: Learning about Anxiety, Depression at work.
Ways to combat Anxiety at work:
Everyone responds to stress in their own way. If you were to look around the office you could most likely spot obvious signs of stress within all your co-workers. Amanda from accounting chewing on her pen while staring at her computer screen. Tom from marketing rubbing his temples and squinting as if his brain is splitting open. Stress and anxiety are common with any occupation. Some would say it comes along with the pressure of “wanting to do a good job” or fear of being replaceable; this can be true for both the employee or the employer. During a staff meeting, our Director of PR & Social Media, Hannah, shared with the team that she was feeling overwhelmed thus it was affecting her attitude during the meeting. This was a brave and inspiring move, opening the doors for everyone else to share their feelings as well.
Helpful ways to combat anxiety at work
Acknowledge your feelings – Instead of ignoring your feelings, acknowledge them. When we try to push them away they usually become more intense. Generally if you are feeling anxious, your mind is trying to alert you of something you might be overlooking. Take a second to center yourself and ask yourself “Why am I feeling this way?“ For example, Hannah shares her experience: I can tell when I feel anxious & stressed at the office when my chest gets tight and my breath is very short. When I notice how my body is feeling, I usually take a short break to smell my calming essential oils and take deep breaths until I feel relief.
Breathe…Center…and remember to smile – Soothing deep breaths can help to slow your heart rate down significantly, reducing that “ panicky“ feeling. Try taking at least three deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Close your eyes if you feel it would help. Don’t worry about looking odd. You’re taking a moment for self care, and most likely it will create a ripple effect encouraging your team to do the same for themselves. Allow your body to feel comfortable. Count each breath as you go. Breathe in positivity and breathe out stress. For example, at the Ruben Digital office we love listening to guided meditation videos on YouTube together! Everyone gets comfortable, we turn our phones on silent, and close our eyes. It’s a great way to start the day centered. Here is a breathing meditation video we enjoyed in our office.
- Listen to Music – Pop your earbuds in and let your creative vibes start flowing. Listening to music can boost your spirits. Lighten the mood by playing music that reminds you of joyful events. You may also enjoy music that doesn’t have lyrics. Sometimes lyrics can be distracting. Download instrumentals of your favorite tunes. Here’s a link for some ideas: soothing music.
- Take a Break – Running yourself into the ground isn’t an effective way to get projects done. Sometimes the best thing we can do is step away from for a few minutes. Come back to the task with fresh eyes and attitude. We aren’t saying leave your job for an hour break. We mean more like 3-5 minutes. While you’re on your break try out the breathing technique to recenter yourself.
- Self Care – Spending 15-45 minutes a day working out can increase the endorphins in your body. You can make time to work out before or after work. Figure out which time of day is best for you – it will make a big difference!
- Eating Better – You really are what you eat. Be more attentive to the things you’re consuming. After you eat, take note of how you feel emotionally & physically afterwards. Bring healthy snacks that energize you. And you may want to CHILL on the coffee! Caffeine can increase your heart rate if consumed in large amounts. When your system crashes from the sugar and caffeine, you are left feeling cranky, drained and you guessed…it more anxious! Try downsizing from a venti to a tall or switch over to tea. Some teas have high levels of caffeine so be sure to read the labels before brewing. Nate is ALL about tea and is constantly offering a cup to our team and clients.
Does this seem like a lot of work to stay stress-free?
Making a safe work environment is beneficial for everyone. Allowing people the freedom to show vulnerability builds trust. Ultimately TRUST is key in all relationships, work or personal. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day – and your self care practice won’t be either. You can’t expect yourself to be perfect and start using all these techniques tomorrow. Instead, try one or two a week and build from there. Brian Huges said it best,“To successfully promote mental wellness in the workplace, employers need to utilize viable solutions that benefit everyone involved. An informed approach helps boost employee satisfaction, retention, and productivity while protecting the company’s legal and financial interests….”