Positive mental health.
What does it all mean? Why is it so important now? Should I be worried?
Well, in order to decide whether you should be worried about your mental/emotional health and wellbeing or not, you need to first understand what ‘it’ is. So let’s get back to the first part of this.
What is meant by “Wellbeing”?
Firstly, it’s not a post-Covid phenomenon. People’s wellbeing has been noted in the written context as far back as 1613 as explained by the Oxford English Dictionary with its definition:
"The state of being or doing well in life; happy, healthy, or prosperous condition; moral or physical welfare (of a person or community)."
(Oxford University, 1989)
However, just like how remote working was heard of but not actively encouraged, so too was wellbeing; it was there, we kind of knew about it but it wasn’t really something we needed to work at. And just like how remote working is now the norm, wellbeing is starting to be prominent in everyday life too.
6 common misconceptions about wellbeing
The thing is, there still seems to be a major misunderstanding about wellbeing. Here are a few statements that have been said to me when I have wellbeing conversations with people in the workplace:
“It’s ok, we have EAP services so we’re covered.”
“My team are all fine in that space – they would tell me if they weren’t.”
“We haven’t got time to add that into our day as well as all the catch up of work we have already.”
“We leave our worries at the door when we go into work so we don’t need to spend any time or money on that stuff here.”
“We have to consider privacy and data protection – we can’t be seen to interfere with our workers' personal stuff.”
“We don’t need to consider that in our industry.”
So, here is how I explain wellbeing in a single sentence:
“It is about keeping yourself well physically, nutritionally, emotionally and spiritually so that you can be as strong in your space as you can be for the times when life throws a curveball at you.”
(Yvonne Rosney - YMR Coaching & Development)
So how do I respond to the above statements?
EAP (Employee Assistance Programs)
These are amazing and are so needed. Many of these services are or are perceived to be, for when someone is already suffering and needs some help such as counselling. I would never state that this is not a valued service, it totally is, however it is at one end of the spectrum (the end where someone is suffering a lot and is struggling to cope). It is under immense pressure (as are the counselling services through the NHS for those who don’t have or haven’t availed of EAP services via their workplace) before Covid came to town, so you can imagine how much more pressure there is now because of the anxieties and uncertainties since Coronavirus entered our lives. This is adding to wait times for people who need help now.
Being considerate of your own mental wellbeing before you potentially end up in that horrible place of not coping, feeling under too much pressure and unable to see the joy in life is about being kind to yourself... and others. It means you are in a stronger place to learn new techniques to maintain your positive attitude, remember tips that will help you when you do have a “wobble” (and ensure it only stays as a wobble), and allows your mind to find space to reflect on your experiences so that you can learn and develop from them... being pro-active rather than re-active.
You are also being kind to others because you will have been blessed to be able to support yourself better in trying times thereby leaving space available for those who unfortunately either haven’t had the experience of learning positive mental wellbeing or are currently really struggling with what life has put in their way and therefore requiring the reactive, counselling help towards recovery. This will help to cut waiting times for those who have been caught in the trap of fear, anxiety and worry because that help really can make the difference – I can personally vouch for it.
Other people don't always know
People do not, I repeat: do not always let on when they are struggling – and by the time they are “struggling” they are already on the road to requiring reactive help if they haven’t been exposed to understanding what looking after your wellbeing means. And for many, even if they do hint at some worries, it is only the tip of the iceberg that is exposed – the rest is hidden and is much bigger underneath. It is unfortunate but it is the truth that there is still very much a stigma around people saying “I’m not coping”. It’s as if it is a sign of weakness. I challenge this thought: It is more a sign of strength, courage and self-love to be able to say “I’m not coping”. You are your own best friend. Act it. If you don’t feel you are your own best friend, then working on positive wellbeing will help you become that person.
“We haven’t got time...”
Baloney! This suggests to me straight away that the person who I’m talking to does not fully understand what is meant by wellbeing. There will be a million things that are already happening in their daily life that will mean they are being mindful of their wellbeing. However, if you don’t know this then you cannot acknowledge it and celebrate it and put it in your little tool bag of “tricks and tips of maintaining my positive mental wellbeing”. Education is key here, not only to celebrate what is already happening (thereby not taking more of your time at all!) but also to learn the benefits of those little bits that you are doing to see how to further implement and save even more time going forward.
Leaving your worries at the door
Oh please, can you come back to the 21st century?! This was one of the biggest lies/expectations that was put to the working force “back in the day”. You couldn’t just unclip it from your trousers as you walked in through the door and collect it again with your coat on the way out! – You may have thought you were but, alas, no. Instead, you suppressed it deep down, slapped on a fake smile, skipped around the place like you were on cloud nine when in reality you felt like a dead weight was in your stomach, you constantly fought back tears or anger and at some points struggled to even feel presentable at work. Positive mental wellbeing = 0; express lane to needing counselling = 1.
Privacy and data protection concerns
Whilst understandable, these are misaligned. It is not a pre-requisite that in order to be seen to be helping staff with wellbeing a department must all sit around in a circle, holding hands and congratulating each other on telling their most sacred feeling that they hold deep within their soul. What I ask of businesses to show support and concern in this area is to be open to their staff that they are wanting to create elements of wellbeing, ask for insights, offer opportunities in the wellbeing space, and add the care and wellbeing of their workforce as part of their vision and mission statements of the company so that they can be part of the boardroom goals and commitments. Valued staff = valued organisation. And EVERYONE loves to hear about an organisation that values its people.
“It's not relevant to us”
As for this, well it is and it isn’t. True, maintaining positive mental wellbeing is a personal requirement and one that each individual has to desire. However, no matter what industry you may be in, think of this: what person will give you their best work?
A) the person who turns up for the paycheck and can then get back out of there, or
B) the person who feels valued by their company, feels good about themselves and wants to spread that good vibe to others?
I know who I’d want on my Team when times get tough.
So why is wellbeing so important now?
Well, it’s always been important to me – It’s always seemed obvious to me. Surely helping people grow and maintain their wellbeing is far more cost-effective and easy for all when people are generally in “a good space” than the cost of sickness, covering of the work, payment of the EAP services or other help offered, and the prolonged length of time “getting back to normal” takes versus handling “a wobble”.
But like a lot of things in life, unfortunately, most people have to feel the pain before they can realise the alternative benefits – both personally and as a corporate. And I get it. I was one of those people. Having lived through that though, I very much want to help people be in a place where they are willing to trust themselves that maintaining positive wellbeing is much better than needing to prove its worth by feeling the pain of personal struggle. Just like you have people who prefer to maintain their physical health by proactively exercising versus those who have been told they have to by their doctor because their body is struggling. Same end result but very different roads to get there.
But Coronavirus (for its faults) has actually provided us all with a sweeping slap across the face to wake us up to how we must feed our psyche and continually develop our resilience, uncertainty and fear – the three core ingredients to major change – something each and every single one of us can attest to experiencing. Some of us have fared better than others.
When and how should we be more proactive about our wellbeing?
So today is a good day to start. Should you be worried about it? – Nah, just do something proactive and be kind to yourself. And don’t think your world has to change to accommodate it – that’s not the right way to look at it.
Maybe you’ll start writing a journal every day.
Maybe you’ll go walking three times a week.
Maybe you’ll commit to a fruit smoothie every day.
Maybe you’ll give 10 minutes a day of complete and utter downtime with zero interruptions.
Maybe you’ll promise yourself you will do one random act of kindness per week
...the options are endless.
Perhaps you’ll speak to your HR or boss and ask them to consider putting in a proactive program, not just a reactive one. Ask them to contact me if they don’t know what that would look like. It would give me great joy to hear that another company really does care about its employees.
Or maybe you are that next leader to "do things differently"? - Now I am ALL about that!! Get in touch and let's talk.
© YMR Coaching & Development
Yvonne has qualifications in Coaching, Positive Psychology and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and believes in continual personal development. She is currently based in the UK and also has life and work experience in Ireland, New Zealand and Australia. She helps with mindset wellbeing and change which includes significant relocations. She is contactable for client availability, public speaking events and media enquiries here: https://www.ymrcoaching.com/helpful-links