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How mental health is key to a stronger workplace and a better you

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which is great, but this is a topic we should acknowledge every day of the year. These are some of the reasons why mental health is becoming the new social imperative, especially for businesses, and some practical steps we can take to preserve it.

Over the last few years, mental health has become a hot topic for both employees and employers alike. Depression is one of the biggest issues in society and a leading cause of disability. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that one in every four people suffers from a mental condition at some point in their life. This statistic is alarming! Mental health has become “the invisible disability” and, sadly enough, three quarters of its victims don’t seek the help they need.

Fortunately, workplace wellness programs are now part of the corporate checklist for many companies. These programs support and help employees reduce and manage stress. Such benefits also provide much needed preventative care by helping employers take early action while saving costs on employee healthcare.

The pandemic certainly did not help our collective mental health. As COVID-19 rapidly spread around the world, many of us were suddenly forced to live in isolation, cope with the loss of a job or loved one, not to mention deal with financial stress and physical and mental exhaustion. Now that the pandemic has subsided, we find that many people are still experiencing anxiety in everyday tasks. Sometimes we even have to ask ourselves if we’ll ever feel “normal” again.

But how does mental health affect company performance?

According to a recent publication by Harvard Medical School, research indicates that mental health may affect how you think, how you solve problems, your ability to relate to others, not to mention our day-to-day activities. The connection between mental health and business performance is also very significant. Employee mental health issues can negatively affect engagement at work, communication, performance, and productivity.

A company’s most valuable asset is its people. Many organizations are now taking a more holistic look at employee benefits in terms of work-life balance, personal recognition, more time off, and other mental and social well-being markers. The demand for mental health support is increasing as well.

With the world of information at our fingertips, there are many helpful resources and tools just a click away. These include books, seminars, classes, organized meeting groups – all with so many options to meet our mental health needs.

So, how can we maintain good mental health? Here are some proven and effective ways to get the endorphins flowing and to stay positive.

Stay physically active

We have all heard about the importance of exercise. Taking care of your body is essential. By participating in regular physical activities like running, walking, or strength training; getting the right amount of rest; and eating a proper and balanced diet, we significantly reduce stress and maintain a healthy mind-body balance.

Recharge your mind

Whenever you feel that you are mentally exhausted, take time for personal renewal. Learn to re-create yourself, recharge, meditate, or pursue a leisure activity. We are all wired to respond positively when we can slow down, breathe, and discover what is most important in life. Taking a break to recharge our mind is essential to keep ourselves balanced physically and psychologically. A lot of companies encourage their employees to take time off throughout the year and while some still resort to the “use it or lose it” vacation policy, the upside is that having a mentally rested employee increases their productivity, innovation, and positivity.

Healthy relationships

Prioritize the people in your life who lift you up. If you hang out with the wrong people because of proximity or convenience while your best friend lives on the other part of town, then you may need to make it a priority to spend more time together. Having that connectedness with the people whose company you enjoy will only help to improve your well-being.

Learn something new

Challenge yourself and learn something new, either a hobby or a new activity. Keeping your mental engagement and achieving little or big milestones will also boost your ability to concentrate better at work. You’ll also feel better about yourself. You can discover all kinds of activities from puzzles to learning a new language to a new professional skill set—the sky’s the limit!

Be grateful

This is one of my favorite practices. Gratitude is an easy, simple, and often dismissed quality. Add a couple minutes to your routine and establish a trigger for being thankful for your blessings. The word gratitude comes from medieval Latin gratus, which means “pleasing” or “thankful.”  Expressing appreciation periodically for what you have will only improve your mental health.

As busy as life is, and as well-trained as we have become at multi-tasking and prioritizing events in our lives, it is important to take a step back and practice more mindfulness and stress-relieving practices. I personally am getting better at prioritizing my yoga practices. I’m excited for an upcoming yoga retreat where I’ll be in sync with nature and the sound of my breathing while exploring new meditation exercises.

I encourage you to plan your next stress-relieving escape; it can be as simple as going to the movies, picking up the phone and calling your best friend, or taking the dog for a walk and observing the beautiful spring colors. Our happiness depends so much upon the choices we make and the steps we take to reject physically and psychologically damaging influences. The most we can do is to intentionally stay in touch with our better selves by looking at the positives – and especially those things that bring us fulfillment, serenity, and well-being.

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