Loud and proud about mental health
The first week of May is designated every year for the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Week. This national event is geared at encouraging people to talk and think about all aspects of mental health. Local events are happening across the country under the Get Loud theme.
CMHA provides a description of mental health that states it is about more than just not having mental illness. It’s about overall well-being. They go on to state that “People who live with a mental illness can and do thrive, just as people without a mental illness may experience poor mental health.”
Good mental health is something that we can all achieve even when we aren’t well or are experiencing mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety disorder.
These past several months I have been travelling to various locations to collaborate with colleagues and experts for projects related to workplace mental health. How lucky I was to have this work take me to Toronto, Burlington, Waterdown, Vancouver and Halifax!
Even more so, how fortunate I was to be working with others who value and support all aspects of positive workplace mental health.
At the start of the assignment I shared with my colleagues that while my commitment to the project’s success was there, I wasn’t at 100 per cent. These intense writing blitzes usually require me to be at about 150 per cent so I thought I should come clean: I was experiencing burnout due to a number of work and personal hurdles that together, were upsetting the balance in all aspects of my life.
I’d done my research (I always do my research), and was aware that something was different for me. I was experiencing a heightened sense of frustration and was questioning the motives of others. I was also feeling an overall and persistent sense of loss, irritability and fatigue. This wasn’t normal for me, and I’d felt this way for a while. While burnout isn’t considered a mental illness, it can lead to a number of serious health issues if unaddressed.
I felt safe sharing this with my colleagues and they honoured me by ensuring that our time together, although busy, was safe and healthy for everyone.
It really was just a matter of me speaking up. I stated my needs out loud and advocated for what I needed to get through the pace of the work for the next few months. I also had to adopt some strategies to ensure I was able to hold it together while delivering the quality of the work my clients have come to expect:
- I was vigilant about taking healthy breaks.
- I would focus on one task at a time and speak up when I needed more time to complete something.
- My colleagues and I discussed in advance the signals I would use, or what they should watch for, if I was feeling overwhelmed.
- I clarified expectations and spoke up if I felt some were unreasonable.
- Together, we set priorities and decided in advance what could “go” if we couldn’t get it all done.
- We organized the work in manageable chunks.
- We celebrated our successes.
- We shared feedback to reaffirm everyone’s value in the process.
Fortunately, the quality of the work didn’t suffer and I will be proud to share it with you when it goes “live” over the next several months. Even better, I have come through the other side of burnout and am regaining my energy, enthusiasm and passion for work and life.
Mental Health Resources
On that note, I just wanted to acknowledge Mental Health Week by sharing links to free resources, courtesy of the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace, that are available to individuals who may be experiencing mental health issues or those who support them at work or home.
I also hope you will take some time during the week to do a check-in on your own mental health. Think about it the same way you do your physical health. What have you done today to address your own well-being? Maybe it’s just something simple like getting up from your desk or work or wherever you are and taking a walk outside. The David Suzuki Foundation highly recommends this and you can join me in taking the 30×30 Nature Challenge.
Perhaps it’s by talking to someone about your feelings if you aren’t yourself like me a few months ago. I believe that we all benefit by sharing the stories in our journey to become truly well. The individual’s in the free video resource Working Through ItTM share their stories and strategies for reclaiming well-being off work, at work and returning to work.
If you’re having difficulties at work that might be affecting your mental health, Getting help at work provides some ideas to help you move forward.
Self Assessment Tools provides a number of tools and resources to help you assess your own mental health or that of someone you support.
You can also connect to a number of organizations with expertise in the areas of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues at www.workplacestrategiesformentalhealth.com/Depression-Anxiety-and-Other-Conditions. Scroll down the page to Family Resources for links to a variety of resources to support caregivers for those experiencing mental health issues:
Right by You – Supporting teen mental health.
I hope these tools can help you take steps to support your own mental health.