FIVE WAYS TO STRENGTHEN YOUR MENTAL RESILIENCE IN THE WORKPLACE
Although self-care has arguably become less of a taboo in recent years, we still don’t invest enough time in our wellbeing. This is particularly true of our mental health, which perhaps due to its abstract nature, doesn’t get nearly the same airtime as physical wellbeing. For whatever reason, we don’t allow ourselves to be self-aware when it comes to matters of the heart, not really. But all around the world, the conversation is starting to take centre stage as we’re realising that, if we are ever to be there for anyone else – to make a difference to someone in the world – we must be there for ourselves first. Easier said than done. But by starting with these five considerations, you will have overcome your greatest hurdle: allowing yourself to invest in your mental wellbeing.
CHECK IN WITH YOURSELF DAILY
It’s never convenient, so our gut reaction is to sweep actual mental distress under the rug – something to deal with when we have more time – like remembering to phone someone back. But ignoring the signs for serious mental distress will only delay what could result in a more severe mental breakdown.
As Pippa Shaper, co-founder of The Resilience Factory – a programme designed to help you build authentic mental resilience – suggests: “If you can do only one thing, do a daily check in with yourself.” By establishing a routine, you start recognising patterns in your day-to-day life that may be damaging your ability to deal with the challenges you face in your life.
When you find a quiet moment in your day and keep a journal – writing down your thought processes – you start to see what is changing in your life. “Do a body scan,” Pippa advises, “Check in with the different parts of your body, then be mindful of how you express yourself. Write down: ‘Right now, I’m feeling anxious, exhausted, nervous…’ But whatever emotion you’re feeling, know that it doesn’t define you. Feelings come and go.”
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Is there a “best time” to do a daily check in? “We like to say as soon as you wake up in the morning.” Pippa says, “Morning anxieties are never as bad as the anxieties we accumulate over the course of the day. If you can, check in with yourself again at the end of the day, but also try to identify three good things that happened that day.” By keeping a “worry journal”, it’s almost like you’re releasing your anxieties – letting them go – allowing you to work through your challenges without avoiding them, but rather, facing them head on in manageable portions.
DON’T CHANGE OTHERS, CHANGE YOURSELF
Knowing how to react to a toxic situation, whether it’s our workplace environment or an unhealthy relationship, can be a great cause for anxiety. Every environment is unique, and much of how a challenge resolves itself lies outside of your control. “Toxicity shows up in different ways everywhere,” says Gabi Lowe, who founded The Resilience Factory with Pippa, and who spoke to Jan Hendrik in the JAN Innovation Academy course, Mental Resilience in the Workplace. “The important thing to remember is that we might not be able to change others, but we can change ourselves. When only one person is grounded, it will change the entire atmosphere in the room.”
So, by changing the way you engage with your colleagues – even though you might not be the source of the problem – you might change the way they engage with you and others. Take the lead of the situation, and see how it plays out.
DON’T BE A VICTIM
Deciding to take control of the situation, however, it’s easy to feel like you’re swimming upstream. But remember that you are taking control back by removing yourself from the situation temporarily and learning to set healthy emotional boundaries, which is often the biggest source of anxiety in such a situation. You’re refusing to be a victim.
As Pippa advises, “You’re essentially saying to yourself, ‘I can change how I respond,’ which is the healthiest approach to a situation where you can’t control the outcome. And it doesn’t have to be confrontational. If nothing changes, reach out to someone who has more power to change the situation and explain what you’ve done to change things, but keep the channels of communication open at all times.”
LEARN TO SET BOUNDARIES
This can often be one of the most difficult challenges to overcome, and can be a great source of anxiety, in and out of the workplace. But as Pippa puts it, “The responsibility of setting boundaries comes down to us, and it can be so simple.”
Working from home has been a great contributing factor in a blurring of the lines between our work and personal lives. “Commuting provided us with a buffer zone,” says Pippa, “It allowed us to be in our own space. Many of us have lost that in recent years, but my advice would be to invent a ritual that claims back that time we spent commuting. Meditate, go for a walk with your partner, use that time to reconnect with yourself. If you’ve got an office – at home or at work – do your work there, and leave it there. Multitasking often means you’re not doing anything properly. Working from home should never mean you’re always working.”
Each situation is unique, and these suggestions may not provide a cure to your personal circumstances. Participating in a mental resilience programme, such as that offered by The Resilience Factory, will equip you with the tools to change your life. If you have more serious concerns about your mental wellbeing, you should consult your doctor or healthcare professional without delay.