Last year the OECD estimated that the cost to the UK economy of mental ill-health was £94bn, with about half of those costs being linked to lower employment and productivity.
One in six are said to be affected by mental ill-health and yet the stigma around it is still so great that many continue to suffer in silence, only exacerbating the problem.
Having suffered from stress and anxiety myself and in working with and managing those in a similar position, I have first-hand experience of how that feels in a workplace environment.
The biggest learning about by own mental health is that it improved exponentially when I did the work to understand who I was and what was important to me and then aligned my life to that.
Below I offer a couple of suggestions of how both individuals and organisations can take steps that may improve wellbeing and mental health. I hope it may be of assistance:
1. Give our heads a hand
A big cause of stress and anxiety relates to feeling out of control. Our brains are great at making up stories about everything that could go wrong, all the terrible things people must think of us and so on. The internal dialogue is often far worse (and more damaging) than the reality.
So what to do about all the internal chatter? As an ex-lawyer, one way I like to look at it is to ask my clients to examine the evidence in any situation causing worry. Write down all the stuff in your head and then split it up into two categories:
1. What would make it into a witness statement (the truth/hard facts); and
2. The other bits your brain is making up.
This creates awareness of what is really going on and can make it easier to choose how to treat the self-talk.
In a work context, employers can improve the situation by communicating effectively and in a timely manner with employees. Direct and honest feedback, open dialogue about any changes and generally trusting employees with information that is important to them, could make a massive difference in the existence of the internal monologue. So much stress at work is caused by worrying what others think; if people were a little more candid in their communications, people wouldn’t have to guess.
2. Align your work to your values
When we do work that aligns with our values, it tends to be more enjoyable and we feel good about it. When the work we do conflicts with our values, this can cause tension which can impact our mental health.
Step one is identifying what your values are. From there you can see how what matters to you is valued by where you work. It may also increase awareness of the ways the work you do is already aligned with your values and even that simple mindset shift can improve how you feel. To the extent that there are discrepancies, are there any changes that can be made to improve the alignment?
In a work context, why not have a team meeting where everyone can discuss what is most important to them and then create a collective set of values that everyone in that team will follow? In addition, if a team feels like they are working towards a collective goal, then an increased sense of belonging and wellbeing may result.
If you give the above a try, I would love to hear how you get on. Are there any other points you would add to the list? If you would like to discuss any of the above further, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org