Mental Health Awareness Week – Mental Toughness, Work/Life Balance and Returning to Work

Mental Health Awareness - Leadership and mental toughness

This week marks ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ and while we shouldn’t really need an event to raise awareness of the stigma that exists around mental health issues, it has never been more relevant. At this time, many people are struggling with their mental health for a variety of reasons. Employees and managers may be overwhelmed and people need to look after their colleagues’ and their own mental health as much as possible.

The CIPD People Managers’ Guide to Mental Health (In collaboration with MIND) is an excellent resource that sets out good practice and guidelines to help managers understand and overcome the challenges of mental health problems in the workplace.

Mental Toughness and Resilience

There are key leadership skills that can help you and your team be more resilient to the challenges we face and develop mental toughness. The term ‘Mental Toughness’ conjures up images of the stiff upper lip, to just ‘get on with it’ and to not show any weakness.

However this is not the case, resilience and mental toughness are skills that can be learned through pragmatic training of the mind. By looking after your well being, managing stress, understanding your emotional reactions and challenging your beliefs, you can develop the tools required to face challenges and be more resilient to what life and work throws at you.

There are many ways that you can improve your mental resilience. The 4Cs model of mental toughness is the most widely used model for defining and measuring mental toughness. It comprises four components: confidence, control, commitment and challenge.

Getting the basics right is also essential, such as eating and sleeping well, exercising regularly, managing stress, meditation, self care and problem solving (when possible).

Below is a video from one of our 20Twenty coaches, mental toughness and performance coach Andy Mccann who has coached world class sports performers and military personnel.

Andy McCann at the 20Twenty Business Growth Programme

Watch this video on YouTube.

We’ve compiled a reading list on mental resilience and mindset suggested by some of our 20Twenty Team members to help you develop these skills further:

1.  The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management, Prof Steve Peters

2.  Developing Mental Toughness: Improving Performance Wellbeing and Positive Behaviour in Others, Peter Clough and Doug Strycharczyk

3.  Emotional Resilience -- How To Safeguard Your Mental Health, Dr Harry Barry

4.  What Businesses Can Learn from Sport Psychology: Ten Lessons for Peak Professional Performance, Martin Turner and Jamie Barker

The Work/Life Blur

The stresses of balancing working from home with a new routine and competing priorities can be difficult to deal with during lockdown. Many people are trying to work from home while homeschooling, looking after relatives and are more isolated from friends and family. As the line becomes increasingly blurred between work and home, it’s important to take some steps to prevent overload and stress:

  1. Stick to a routine -- Without routine it’s easier to fall into a more chaotic lifestyle. While it’s good to make the most of the working from home benefits and have a more flexible schedule; it’s still important to get dressed, exercise and take regular breaks as you would during in a normal working day.
  2. Switch off -- It’s tempting to work all hours when the line between work and home is more blurred, but this can negatively affect mental health. Try to draw a line between work and home and make a concerted effort to switch off in the evenings and weekends. Also, take annual leave when it’s needed.
  3. Be kind to yourself -- Remember that you’re in a crisis, trying to work from home, or go to work. You won’t always get it right and you may well feel stressed and overwhelmed. These are normal human emotions at these times. We have all had to adapt to unprecedented circumstances so if things don’t go well, give yourself plenty of leeway, and don’t strive for perfection.

Here’s an interesting blog from COOP about how to make working from home work for you. If you’re balancing working from home with looking after and home schooling children, here’s a useful article from CMI.

Mental Health and returning to work: advice for managers and employers

Research suggest that the pandemic (and measures taken by government to control it such as lockdown and social distancing) will have a significant impact upon the mental health of employees. It is very possible that these mental health implications will be felt for many months and even years. As early as two weeks into lockdown, employees were reporting a range of health effects including negative impacts on mental health and overall well-being.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19): Mental health and returning to the workplace guide outlines considerations and advice for employers, people professionals and people managers on how employee mental health can be supported as lockdown ends and there is a phased return to the workplace.

It’s OK not to be OK

Finally, whether you’re a leader or not, working from home or not, it may be that you’re struggling to cope right now. if you’re not OK then reach out to a line manager and try and explain your situation, many organisations have systems in place to support mental health issues. There’s also a range of support out there and people you can speak to. The first step really is reaching out to get help. If you can’t do this in work, it can be anyone you feel comfortable confiding in. Remember that mental health affects everyone!

Useful Links:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Mental health and returning to the workplace

The CIPD People Managers’ Guide to Mental Health

MIND -- Coronavirus: supporting yourself and your team.

Samaritans

NHS mental well being support during COVID 19 


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