What is mental-wellbeing? What are the signs of poor mental-wellbeing? How can you improve your mental well-being? These are all important questions, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The series of blogs to come will help answer these questions. These questions are now more important than ever, given One in two Australians report feeling more lonely since the pandemic began. Loneliness was a problem experienced by many before the pandemic, so these are alarming numbers,. To make things simple, the analogy of a plant will be used to show you the importance of the three questions above and how they are interconnected. First, think of mental wellbeing as the roots of the plant. Like mental wellbeing, a plant has many roots that form its foundation. These roots can be hidden, much like the personal concerns and worries that an employee experiences before the problem becomes apparent to others. Unhealthy plant roots that stem from a lack of care (food, water and sun) will manifest through observable signs of flower decay or wilting. This are the observable cues present in employees experiencing poor mental wellbeing such as presenteeism, withdrawal and mood changes. It’s important to understand these cues as employees themselves may be naive to the signs. There’re many ways to improve your state of mental wellbeing. By taking the right steps in looking after your plant (watering it, providing it with the right amount of nutrients and sun), the flower will blossom again. In the process, you will be able to see the inside of the flower again – just like a person’s favourable characteristics become visible when you’re mentally healthy.
What is mental-wellbeing
To understand in more detail what mental-wellbeing is, a series of blogs will be published. These blogs will expand on the emotional and social components of well-being. They will detail factors that are often present in people that have a healthy mental-wellbeing state. These factors include;
- Reaching your potential as a person: Sometimes it feels impossible to reach your potential. Self-reflection, setting SMART objectives, asking others questions and doing something you enjoy are four ways to finally reach this state of self-actualisation.
- Being productive at work: For many of you, working from home has become the new norm. Some distractions can be dealt with by simply removing devices or social media from your work environment. However, some distractions may be unavoidable. For example, your kids may be attending school from home. If so, finding the right home-office space, staying organised and taking regular breaks can help enhance your productivity levels when working from home.
- Developing and maintaining healthy relationships: Loneliness is becoming more apparent since the COVID-19 lockdown began. Creating and maintaining healthy relationships is now more important than ever. Listening and surrounding yourself with positive people are two key elements of developing healthy relationships. To build upon these relationships, respect, honesty and reciprocity need to be demonstrated by both people in the relationship.
- Making a contribution to your community: Participating in your community has many personal and social benefits. There’s an endless number of ways that you can get involved including finding a hobby group, formal and informal volunteering and making a meaningful contribution to a community through your professional job.
Hopefully the above blogs will help you reflect on your own mental-wellbeing. They’ll help you identify:
- What aspects of your life give you fulfillment and purpose
- What areas your not feeling satisfied about
- How you can improve these areas to boost your mental well-being
Signs of poor mental well-being
Signs of poor mental well-being are likely to be noticed when one or more of the five core mental well-being areas aren’t fulfilled. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms below, it doesn’t mean you have a mental illness. More than often, it could indicate that there are some things in your life that need changing in order to improve your mental well-being. The following common warning signs of poor mental well-being include;
- Presenteeism and misconduct in the workplace: Presenteeism is costly for both employees and employers. Uncharacteristic errors, disengagement and a lack of motivation from employees are three signs that presenteeism is an issue in the workplace. General and serious misconduct is another key issue that often stems from poor employee wellbeing.
- Changes in sleep patterns: You may be experiencing trouble going to sleep or waking up too early. A lack of sleep will not only make you feel worse for wear, but will negatively impact on all facets of your work and personal life.
- Changes in mood: You may notice your own mood has nose dived towards feelings of sadness and depression. On the other hand, you may be the observer of another employee’s mood changes. Whether you’re the one experiencing the mood changes or not, detecting them early can be important for addressing any possible mental wellbeing concerns.
- Feeling withdrawn: Detecting employee withdrawal will be easier to detect in outgoing personality types, compared to reserved individuals. However, any sign that they aren’t engaging in the workplace like their normal self should be taken notice of, especially if it persists for a week or more.
- Feeling more worried and anxious: Experiencing anxiety is normal for all human beings. Think of our primate relatives from millions of years ago – anxiety was necessary to keep them alert to potential threats to their survival. The same applies to us humans in today’s world. However, anxiety that exceeds a normal threshold is unhealthy, and can have minor or serious negative consequences on your life.
Improving mental well-being
Identifying solutions for poor mental well-being can be difficult, especially without the right guidance. The following tips will demonstrate common and well-researched ways of improving your mental well-being;
- Set aside time for family and friends: Spending quality time on a weekly basis with friends and family can greatly improve mental-wellbeing. Social interaction has countless mental and even physical health benefits. It’s the experiences you have with this core group of people that you’ll cherish forever.
- Speak openly about personal struggles to someone you trust: This can be family and friends, or even seeking the services of a counsellor or psychologist. There is nothing worse than bottling emotions and holding on to your stress. Think of the human brain as a soda bottle. A shaken soda bottle will eventually fizzle and explode. Same with stress. As stress builds up internally, we reach a stage of breaking point. Therefore, it’s important to speak to someone before reaching this breaking point.
- Exercise: Physical and mental health are interconnected. As little as 30 minutes of exercise a day can greatly improve mental health. Exercise releases good brain chemicals like serotonin and endorphins. Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean bench-pressing 100kg at the gym or doing manic sprints along the beach. It can be as simple as going for walks or doing some office yoga. The key element of walks is to vary your route of exercise. Cognitive processing of new scenery allows for brain stimulation, which is always beneficial for maintaining good mental health.
- Eat well: Staying mentally healthy also results from a healthy and balanced diet. It’s important that your body is getting the nutrients it needs to fuel a healthy brain and body. Make sure enough fruit and vegetables become part of your diet at home. Check out some great healthy meal ideas here.
- Do something you enjoy: Find a hobby that gives you pleasure and satisfaction. Whether that’s taking time out to play a musical instrument, going to the gym or playing football on the weekend; it’s important that you do something which makes you happy. Like exercise, this releases good brain chemicals that improve your mental health.
- Pet time: Since lockdown, many of you have either spent more time with your pets, or become new pet mums and dads. Having a furry friend to take care of can provide a meaningful way of acquiring more responsibility. It can also be a great remedy for anyone experiencing paw mental wellbeing.
The three categories of blogs should provide you with a better understanding of what mental well-being is, how you can tell whether your mental well-being is unbalanced and what changes you can make to feel mentally healthier. Looking for more? Take a look at our workplace wellness bundle below.