Mental Health Awareness Month: How to Encourage Mental Well-being
Since 1949, May has been recognized across the country as Mental Health Awareness Month.
This year, the importance of the month becomes even more relevant, as we all face new challenges and work in our “new normal.”
Quarantine can have a wide range of effects on an individual’s mental health including increased feelings of stress, fear and loneliness which can lead to anxiety, depression and other problems. Additionally, these feelings can degrade physical health (cardiovascular fitness, immune fitness) through the disruption of recuperative behaviors (sleep, leisure).
Trying to balance all of this added stress while maintaining professionalism at work can be extremely difficult. In line with 2020’s Mental Health Month theme, ‘Tools 2 Thrive,’ we’ve compiled a list of five ways that Highwire is encouraging our employees to thrive in the midst of the pandemic.
- Cut Down on Media Exposure
With the information on the state of the pandemic changing so rapidly, many of us are glued to our screens in search of the most recent updates. Working in public relations, our jobs revolve entirely around what is happening in the news, so while it may not be possible to cut out media entirely, look for ways to refocus on the good happening around us. Consuming too much covid-focused or local news can activate stress responses, leading to serious damage to both physical and mental health. To limit this, Highwire created a separate slack channel for COVID-19 news to give employees the option to choose the amount of exposure they are comfortable with. While it may seem difficult, cutting down on media exposure is vital to keeping stress levels manageable.
- Separate Your Work Life From Your Home Life
Now that our offices and our homes are one and the same, for some, logging off for the day has become a difficult task. What’s more, keeping busy with work is one way we might look to distract ourselves from the larger problems surrounding us. With parents doubling as home-school teachers, and roommates and spouses fighting over “conference rooms,” maintaining boundaries between work and home can be a challenge, but taking the time to create space for each piece of your life can help with your mental well-being. To help keep our balance, Highwire integrated our #TimeBackChallenge to encourage employees to cancel unnecessary meetings, and share what they used that time for instead. Additionally as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, our leadership team is encouraging employees to take a mental health day or two to re-center.
- Take Screen Breaks
For many, working from home means staring at their screen all day supplemented by quick runs to the kitchen or to walk the dog. Without the proper amount of time taken away from computer screens, our brains begin to become mentally exhausted. This is also known commonly as ‘Zoom fatigue’.
Constant video-conferencing can cause our brains to feel overwhelmed by unfamiliar and excess stimuli. This exhausts our brains, creating a strain on our mental health. For this reason, taking the occasional 10-15 minute break from your screen can help keep your mental health in check. To encourage our employees to take brain breaks as needed, we hold weekly mindfulness meetings, allowing employees to unplug and relax.
- Don’t Stop Communicating
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, physical workspaces offer an excuse for communication and connection. In order to stay mentally balanced, humans require a certain level of socialization, and with shelter-in-place restrictions, we need to adjust our communication techniques. Communicating with co-workers, even while working remotely, can help boost social contact levels to increase mental and physical health. To increase socialization, Highwire dropped thought starters into popular slack channels. Examples include: tips for keeping the little ones busy in our ‘Parents’ channel or best quarantine recipes or fails in our “Bon Appetit” channel. In addition to this, certain slack channels have taken to after work video-conferencing happy hours to keep the socialization going. Our health and beauty channel has a weekly “bring your own face mask” happy hour.
- Be Transparent
As with any big problem, this is easier said than done. Instinctually, we feel the need to compartmentalize our work life and our home life in separate categories. But what happens when one starts to affect the other? With many workforces being remote, it is increasingly difficult to gauge your co-workers’ well being. This puts the responsibility on each individual to be transparent about whether they need a hand. To help educate our Highwire family on how to approach mental health struggles during the pandemic, our Diversity & Inclusion committee is holding virtual discussions based on recent studies and articles throughout May. As a sign of support, our leadership team also held a training for Mental Health Awareness Month on how to approach work-related stressors and ask for help.
It’s more important than ever for us to lean on one another, and to support our colleagues when they need it.
At Highwire, we’re proud that we were able to integrate meaningful strategies that improve the overall wellbeing of our employees. What are some “tools to thrive” that you’ve implemented during quarantine? Share with us below!