Does referring to Mental Health at work create more problems?

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Are we creating more problems than we solve with the constant reference to Mental Health in the workplace and in society? Even the term itself is I think questionable. Mental Health or Emotional Wellbeing, which sounds better to you?

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

This article is not intended to take away anything from the severity of mental ill-health. I’ve been there myself. It is simply to raise your awareness that something has to change if we as a society are going to normalise good and bad days – normal emotional wellbeing. To reduce our expectations of what we think we should feel with normal emotional wellbeing and to stop wearing our issues as labels. As one of my lovely friends says “Labels are for tins.”

Labels are for tins.

Some businesses provide standardised Mental Health training. Oftentimes, however, this can end up being a tick box exercise for some and it doesn’t talk to the individual. It doesn’t say “I know you don’t have a diagnosed mental health condition, however, how are you doing today? Is there something I can help with?” The constant reference to mental (ill) health also adds to the ‘Symptom Pool’.

The Symptom Pool.

The ‘Typing Pool’ is a phrase you’re maybe more familiar in companies from days gone by but what about the ‘Symptom pool’?

In his book ‘Cracked” James Davies explains the research around this frightening phenomenon. In essence, what we focus on and are exposed to frequently we get more of. Add some social compliance (the Bandwagon effect – Solomon Asch) and more and more people suddenly have the same issues. The pool of people’s sufferings grows.

The book goes on to describe how despite no evidence of sociological factors being on a decline and no obvious cause for more people to be experiencing mental ill health, (in fact it showed the opposite), more and more cases of self harm for example, are occurring. The research found that it wasn’t due to more reporting of issues, the issues were simply on the increase. The symptoms are also culture specific.

This is not dissimilar to the ripple effect of someone who is disengaged at work and their behaviour begins to negatively affect others and again feeds negatively into their emotional wellbeing.

So what is the culture like in your company? Do you have simple and yet robust measures in place to look after your team? Do you do any follow through with individuals? Do you even know your individuals? Or do you feel due diligence is done with tick box training?

There are many ways to effectively support your staff with a completely different approach that you may not have considered. So what’s that going to cost me you may ask. For some things surprisingly little. In some cases just a few seconds of your time, like smiling.

Smiling is infectious – unlike Covid-19, it’s the right sort of infectious. You only have to start to think of something funny and you begin to smile. It’s called Paramnesia. The mind doesn’t know if something is real or not. Go ahead, try it right now! That’s it keep going, you can’t help but start to grin and other people will respond in the same way.

The mind doesn’t know if something is real or not.

It’s called Paramnesia. So how can we use this to our advantage? Just faking a smile begins the process of feel-good chemicals surging through us and it really is literally infectious.

Remember the Bandwagon effect? It’s also to do with our Mirror Neurones. Try not yawning yourself as you observe those around you yawning. Impossible! So both yawning and smiling are infectious.

Smiling is infectious.

Another simple tool is to utilise your ‘novelty centre’, the substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area in the brain. Doing things differently, using novelty, keeping things fresh is sometimes all that’s needed to keep our minds fresh and in upbeat, uptime energy.

Photo by A.R.T.Paola on Unsplash

For example, how many ways can you take a drink of water from a glass? If you’re doing this exercise make sure you have plenty of towels to hand! How can you approach what you’re working on? I mean literally approach it. Can you access the room in a different way? Can you start the task in a different way?

When you’re up you can’t be down.

Another simple tip, keeping your head up. Simply looking up, keeping your gaze above the eye-line, is psychologically beneficial. Using our mobile phones is part of daily life for nearly all of us especially as part of our work, and yet this incredibly useful piece of equipment can be adversely affecting your emotional well-being. When you’re up you can’t be down. Whenever possible, use your phone in an upright position, avoid looking down at it.

Reducing sickness, absenteeism, presenteeism, work-surfing, & re-engaging the disengaged, by teaching people to be emotionally and physically healthier through simple techniques is easy and cost-effective to do.

About the author

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I motivate, elevate and empower young people and adults to move forward from the emotional pain of trauma, severe anxiety, low self-esteem, and stress, so they can function better at work and at home, released from being stuck in the ‘Freeze’ mode of life as well as releasing physical pain.