Fostering Well-Being in Times of Mental Fatigue – The Authentic Way

Brenda is a project manager at a large financial services company. For the past year, she has been leading a team tasked with developing a new product line on a tight deadline. She’s been working 60-70 hours/week, constantly juggling demands from her team, executive, and her clients. She has had to make numerous high-stake decisions under immense pressure. And she is a parent of three school age children.

She now feels completely drained, both mentally and physically. She’s having trouble concentrating and remembering key details. Simple tasks that were once easy now seem overwhelming. She’s getting cynical and detached from her work. She’s getting irritable with both her team and her family and lashes out at them over minor issues. Her sleep has been almost non-existent, and she relies on caffeine and energy drinks to get her through the day. And she’s on prescription muscle relaxants and pain medication for her headaches.

She’s starting to dread going into the office each morning and has considered quitting her job entirely, despite having worked so hard on this project. While this is likely an extreme case of chronic overwork, I hear versions of this story from many people these days.

What’s going on, and what can we do about it?

With fatigue and burnout, we see symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, impaired judgement and decision-making, increased forgetfulness, irritability, decreased motivation, increased mistakes, headaches, cynicism, changes in sleep patterns (e.g. insomnia), and increased absenteeism. I suggest five strategies for dealing with it:

  1.  Recognize. It takes courage to step up and be accountable. However, don’t confuse courage with the temptation of martyrdom. It takes humility – a true evaluation of conditions as they are – to truly be strong. Honestly acknowledge if you have gone from a healthy sense of tiredness that you recover from on the weekend, to real exhaustion. There’s no shame in recognizing that you are burned out. It can happen to anyone who is conscientious and loses touch with their values. Remember: self-centered, lazy sloths don’t get exhausted.
  2. Reach Out. Carrying other’s responsibilities often comes with accountable people. However, it’s not sustainable. The lone-warrior model of leadership is, in the words of Ronald Heifetz, heroic suicide. Each of us have blind spots that require the vision of others. Reach out for help from a guide.
  3. Relate. This may sound strange, but you can make friends with your exhaustion. It’s not your enemy. It’s here to teach you. If you stop long enough to get your bearings – away from the demands of the world – you can befriend your exhaustion and ask it, like you would a friend, what advice it would give you. Write down the guidance you get. It’s possible to create a relationship with, and learn from, your exhaustion.
  4. Reflect. Exhaustion means you have lost connection with your values by allowing yourself to be suffocated by the expectations of others. Getting your bearings includes reconnecting with your values. Make a list of things that are important to you. Now arrange the items in descending order of their importance. Notice where you’ve placed inner peace, well-being, or whatever you want to call it. How important is this to you? What comes before it on the list? Many responsible people don’t make themselves a priority. The way you see yourself is reflected in how you treat yourself.
  5. Renew. You don’t have to change yourself. Living authentically means simply coming home to yourself. It’s that simple and it’s that complex. The healing journey isn’t an overnight venture, but it does start with a single step. Ask yourself, “What do I need to STOP, START, and CONTINUE doing to live a life that is aligned with what truly matters to me?” “What one small decision would make all the difference?” Reflect on how you can make yourself a priority – so that your caring and commitment to others comes from overflow, not emptiness. What agreements will you make? What actions are needed? What support do you require?

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week

The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week this year is “My Story,” highlighting that we are all unique with valuable stories of the human experience.

Every one of us has been impacted by our own or a close friend or family member’s mental health challenge. Mental health affects us all. Let’s continue to work together to reduce the barriers for seeking mental health support. And let’s share our diverse stories to emphasize the crucial need for universal mental health care.

If you are in the Cochrane area, join Wayfinders Wellness Society for our open house and BBQ on our ranch this Thursday from 11-2. We are partnering with the town of Cochrane for this event. Register for this and other events this week in the Cochrane community at: https://lnkd.in/gCVpGM8a

To learn more about what we offer at Wayfinders check out our website:
wayfinderswellness.ca

How To Be Authentic About Mental Health In The Workplace

According to a recent HBR article, up to 80% of people will experience a diagnosable mental health condition over the course of their lifetime, whether they know it or not and almost 60% of employees have never spoken to anyone at work about it. It means that the effects of the stigma still loom large.

I have worked with my own depression and anxiety most of my life. While I can’t offer a prescription, I hope my experience can shed some light on this vitally important topic.

A few things I’ve learned on my journey:

  1. It’s okay not to be okay. Having inhuman expectations of always being “on our game” actually perpetuates mental health challenges.
  2. Admit when you need help. Help might mean a supportive ear in the office or a conversation with an outside professional. Having the courage to ask for help is a strength, not a weakness.
  3. Don’t let labels define you. I don’t believe there is such a thing as a depressed or anxious person. There are only people who have to deal with depression or anxiety.
  4. Compassion is critical to healing. Judgement perpetuates the problem. The only thing worse than anxiety is getting anxious about being anxious. With some help, courage, and a lens of self-acceptance, you’ll get through whatever you are dealing with.
  5. Uncover the gifts. Every blessing comes with a curse and every curse comes with a blessing. Working with mental health challenges means discovering the treasures in the darkness.
  6. Have a strength building system. Just as a physical fitness program is good for your health, so is a personalized mental fitness program. Mine includes a community of support, regular exercise, daily meditation and walks outside, and paying careful attention to what I eat.
  7. Don’t compromise work expectations. While there are times when you need to step away from your job to get renewed perspective and support, it’s good for our mental health to step up to the plate and do our best in our jobs. It good to be challenged in an encouraging, supportive environment. Good work is good for our well-being.

October 10 is World Mental Health Day

While many people have a physical fitness program, my friend, Jay Lamont, Partner at L2 Health Management, reminds us of the importance of having a mental fitness program. At some point in our lives, we will face a crisis, a loss, or a tragedy. What are we doing to prepare ourselves? How do we get “mentally fit” so we can face reality with greater courage and compassion?

Here are the five pillars of my own mental fitness program. I’ve developed these over many years of having to face depression and anxiety. I’ve learned that self-care isn’t always comfortable, and self-sacrifice is different that self-development. In order to be there for others, our first responsibility is to be there for ourselves.

  1. Daily Quiet Time – A time each morning for meditation and prayer to connect with my inner voice and strengthen me spiritually, so I can do my best to remain mindful, present, and centred throughout the day.
  2. Community – Confidants with whom I can share what’s going on inside me in order to sustain self-awareness, support, and accountability to live in alignment with my values.
  3. Exercise – Daily, non-harming training increases my strength, endurance, stability, and mobility.
  4. Nutrition – Careful attention to what I eat; knowing my unique constitution: what sustains me and what depletes me.
  5. Purpose and Contribution – A cause that gets me out of bed in the morning and inspires me to make a difference in the world.

I hope this might inspire you to develop and maintain a mental fitness program that is right for you.

How To Help A Team Member Who’s Experiencing Anxiety

Recognizing when a colleague or employee is struggling with mental health challenges can be vital to making sure they get the support they need in a timely manner. Helping them to work through anxiety in a caring way is also better for productivity. Employees who feel respected and supported are more likely to thrive in their roles.

Here are a few tips to recognize and support a colleague who may be struggling. If working remotely, all the more reason to be in touch and aware of what’s going on.

  1. Accept that anxiety can be a part of a good life. There’s nothing “wrong” with you if you are experiencing anxiety. It simply means that you have lost some perspective and are trying to control an uncontrollable situation in order to feel safe. People experiencing anxiety need our support, not our judgement. When we’re anxious, we don’t need to get anxious about being anxious.
  2. Notice changes in behavior. Unusual behaviors like irritability, impatience, withdrawal, emotional outbursts, and fatigue can be indicators that a colleague is facing a challenge and needs support. Be aware that challenges like depression, grief, and trauma can accompany or present as anxiety.
  3. Start a conversation. Mental health challenges create opportunities for connection. If you notice that your co-worker’s behavior has changed, start a conversation with phrases like “How are you feeling?” “Are you doing okay?” “You don’t seem yourself these days. Do you want to talk about what’s going on?” Or “How are things going today?” These questions open the door to support your colleague in the best way possible and offer resources when appropriate. Respect that timing is a factor and stay open for a response if/when they are ready. Of course, this is contingent on your relationship before the onset of their anxiety.
  4. Create a safe space for your colleague to share their feelings with you. Remember, anxiety, like all emotions, can’t be “fixed;” only supported. Create a safe, supportive, respectful space so they will open up to you at an appropriate time. Holding the space for them without rescuing or fixing is enough. You are their friend, not their therapist. After you have listened, you can explore whatever resources they may need and ways to help access them.
  5. Negotiate expectations and agreements. Letting people off the hook when they are anxious does not help them in the long run. Having expectations is generally helpful. Self-respect comes from being needed, not being rescued, and from showing up. However, expectations may need to be lowered and renegotiated. What is non-negotiable is lowering your standards of accountability and integrity. Follow through and keep the promises you make to each other. We all feel better when we do that.

It is my privilege to serve on the Board of the Wayfinders Wellness Organization.

This is a registered non-profit organization, whose goal is to build a safe space for military and first responders who have suffered PTSD. This community includes First Responders, Military, Veterans, and their families. We are peers helping each other navigate mental wellness.

Wayfinders connects people to the resources that will work best for their individual needs. We are all passionate about breaking down the stigma of talking about mental health and strive to build a strong community full of support.

Becoming mentally resilient and processing trauma in a healthy way are the keys to avoiding mental health injury. The Wayfinder model is intended to raise awareness and talk about mental health so we can help people find healing. With many paths to wellness, our goal is to bring together a variety of service providers in one place to make healing accessible. Through our combined experiences, we know what has worked and want to share how to access resources because we know that living with an occupational stress injury is difficult.

The Wayfinders ranch house is available for emergency responders, military and their families. They can book the space for small groups to come together and process their trauma with their peers in a safe environment, away from the public and work. This separation from the daily environment allows processing of trauma in a healthy way.

Our ranch house is nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, along the banks of the Jumping Pound Creek at the historic Wineglass Ranch in Cochrane Alberta in Western Canada. With access to nature, music workshops, healing horses, and a community of positivity and wellness, there are many resources on site and others that can be arranged.

I encourage you to join our Wayfinder community and become a sponsor, a partner, a service provider or a member in need.

Connect with us. To learn about our work and upcoming programs, go to: https://lnkd.in/gcNNTN_r or follow our social media https://lnkd.in/g–MYebd

Be resilient! Be well!