So here we are… Congratulations everyone for making it through 2020… a year that many want to erase completely or start over. If I’m totally honest, I don’t want to do 2020 again, but at the same, I am grateful for everything that I learned (I’d say the same about my school career!).
I’m also grateful that, although the pandemic is still with us, at least we know how to deal with things now – unlike last year, when its arrival knocked most of us right off our feet.
The other day someone asked me what I think might be the most difficult thing people are struggling with at the moment. As I am not long back from living in a bubble with family in Kommetjie and have therefore been quite out of touch with people in general, I really am not sure. However, I suspect whatever it might be, it probably involves some heightened levels of anxiety… about the second wave, about work, about children going back to school, about finances, about the alcohol ban, and I am sure the list can go on and on.
I think that, as we approached the end of 2020, there was a feeling of relief and optimism. People were looking forward to taking a break from work, even if they were not travelling, and enjoying some weeks of free time – lie-ins, eating out, self-pampering, and other forms of relaxation. Now we have started a new year and so far, at least from a pandemic point-of-view, the news has not been good. The previously-experienced relief and optimism have vanished, being replaced with something more like, “Not another year of this!”. Do you relate?
Under certain circumstances, anxiety is a normal human reaction. Think, for example, of writing an exam, doing a presentation to your senior executives, going for a job interview, or sitting your driving test. It is important to note that anxiety in these circumstances is short-lived – once the event has passed, the anxiety subsides and all is well again in body and mind.
The problem with anxiety is when it becomes chronic, or long-term, such as many people are currently experiencing. For many, the experience of anxiety has now been heightened for several months, with no clear end being in sight. This is when intervention warrants consideration.
When it comes to anxiety intervention, many people don’t see the point as nothing can change about the catalyst of the anxiety. While that may be correct there is so much that we can do to help reduce the anxiety in an indirect way – with this being something that many people don’t realise.
People can become crippled by anxiety and sometimes a helping hand is needed in order to get them going again. This is called anxiety management.
I think most people will agree that mental health got a lot of airtime during 2020 and I, for one, am glad about this – throughout history mental health has almost been a forbidden topic of conversation (…or is that mental illness?). Despite the increased chatter, how many organisations’ have actually been doing anything about it? I applaud you if you are one of the ones that have, but I fear many have not.
Mental health during a year like 2020 will have been a real struggle for millions of people, and I am fairly confident that a large percentage will have done their utmost best to conceal such struggles. Why? Well, for one, when it comes to the workplace, there is still a significant stigma attached to mental health challenges – sparking the fear of being discarded, should any demonstrations of ‘weakness’ be shown. Another reason is that, when everyone is going through the same thing, no-one wants to bother anyone else with their issues, and many want to be strong for their significant others – choosing, instead, to struggle in silence. Yes, not only is cancer a silent killer, but mental illness is too.
If you are an employer or a manager, and are waiting for your people to request assistance, I can assure you that you are likely to wait a very long time… possibly forever.
Pro-activity is the order of the day, allowing you to deal effectively with what may be lingering (potentially harmfully) just out of your sight.
So, how might I be of assistance to you, your team, and your organization?
I offer a number of workplace mental health workshops and webinars, but today I am asking you what you need in this new year of 2021. Be honest about how much you can provide for the emotional wellbeing of both yourself and your team, where you and your team’s most vulnerable spots might be, and what else you can do to ensure resilience, sustainability, engagement, and growth among your personnel.
Short of climbing up a billboard to rescue a worker hanging by a string (anyone seen Better Call Saul? The prequel to Breaking Bad), I want you to know that I really want to be – and can be – of assistance to you with the mental health management matters in your workplace.
Get in touch and we can have a chat. Workplace mental health management is essential, especially at this time, and you don’t need to nor should you be expected to do this alone – to date in my career I have not yet seen “Manage team’s mental health” in any manager, supervisor or team leader job description.
Take care everyone. Lesley