I do not have a diagnosed mental illness. And I have struggled with mental health related challenges throughout most of my life, particularly in relation to school and work.
Feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Chronic stress. Burnout. Anxiety and panic attacks. Loneliness. Perfectionism. Depression.
I’ve worn and walked in all those shoes, mostly while continuing to perform at high levels and being a productive member of society.
There was a time when I had to walk around my office building several times to quell my anxiety and lower my heartrate enough to be able to go in and face the workday. Months after leaving that job, I got off at that same subway stop to meet a friend for lunch, and even just reliving a part of that former routine made my hands shake and a lump rise in my throat.
There was a time when I was so mentally and psychologically burned out, my physical body stopped working properly. I was plagued by nearly constant stomach pain and body aches, nausea, night terrors, and random undiagnosable injuries. I even ended up in the hospital at two points with severe chest pain, resulting in the indescribably frustrating diagnosis of “stress.”
There was a time when I asked for a leave of absence due to a sickening workplace trauma that rendered me useless. My request was denied because there was “just too much to do and it would have to wait until next month.” I wound up using vacation time to lay in the dark and cry for several days. My mom ultimately had to rescue me (thanks, Mom).
After leaving my job three years ago, I devoted intentional time to healing. Healing from destructive habits, harmful limiting beliefs, and the toxic workplaces that made me feel hurt, violated, and devalued. And in this healing time, I began sharing my stories more openly and without fear of looking weak, being ridiculed, or letting people down. A funny thing happened.
I began realizing that while my pain was personal, my stories were neither unique nor uncommon. In fact, almost everyone I spoke to had their own testimonies of navigating mental health challenges at and/or caused by work.
And it wound up not only being the people I was surrounded by—research shows that more than 75% of workers reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition in 2021. And 84% reported workplace factors that negatively impacted their mental health.
THIS IS UNFATHOMABLE AND UNACCEPTABLE.
Once I realized the prevalence and depth of workplace suffering across industries, hierarchy, and identities, I couldn’t look away and it became clear that whatever I did next had to do something to prevent what happened to me from happening to others. This is a part of Reloveution’s origin story and the fire that keeps us going.
We take Mental Health Awareness Month (May in the United States) very seriously and are grateful for the opportunity to elevate these challenges and support companies in thinking holistically about mental health and employee wellbeing. But we want to be clear that being aware of what your staff and colleagues are feeling and experiencing is only the first baby step towards creating real change.
Reloveution believes that it's time to move beyond awareness and commit to compassionate mental health ACTION in workplaces and beyond. A part of this is realizing that workplace wellness is not merely the absence of illness or mental health challenges, but instead the ACTIVE PRESENCE of wellbeing, emotional resilience, and HEART (humanity, empathy, authenticity, relationships, trust).
The other part is about actually building and sustaining a wellness-rich organization or team. That's where we come in!
Tune into our POWER HOUR on May 24 from 12:00-1:00pm Eastern Time to get our take on mental health action at work. You can sign up here to get more information or the recording.
In the meantime, here are ten strategies to get you started:
Meaningfully check in with human beings several times each week, asking questions about how people truly are and responding with compassion, empathy, and/or support as appropriate. Join our workshop next week to learn about compassionate and courageous communication.
Encourage and accept emotional honesty, recognizing that both pleasant and unpleasant emotions are inevitably part of the human experience and play a role in the way we work.
Model strong boundaries & work-life integration, giving others permission to rest, say “no”, take time off, spend time with loved ones or doing things they love, and advocate for themselves. Book a burnout coaching session for yourself to begin this journey.
Help employees heal from and prevent burnout individually and consider ways to evolve or transform systems and policies that contribute to or exacerbate burnout in your workplace. You might consider implementing our BEAT Burnout Program or our on-demand burnout coaching system.
Pay attention to belonging. When people do not feel like they belong, they are at significantly higher risk of depression. Reach out to learn more about our Belonging Builders Initiative.
Create space for storytelling and truth sharing, giving space for people to come together to share about their authentic experiences, emotions, journeys, and challenges related to mental health and workplace wellbeing. A retreat or offsite is a great place to start.
Commit to curiosity, asking questions, and empathetically listening without judgment.
Openly share information about resources and benefits related to wellbeing and mental health on a person’s first day on the job and continuously thereafter. Don’t make people hunt for it when they’re down or detached!
Foster human connection and relationship building every day, no matter what happens or how much is going on, and even if you are working remotely.
Take meaningful (and not just symbolic) action around areas causing stress and concern (even if they are not causing YOU stress or concern).
If you are ready to take meaningful ACTION around mental health in your workplace and are looking for support along the way, let’s chat!
And if you yourself are struggling or suffering with mental health or wellness in life or work, please know that you're not alone and we're here for you in solidarity, to listen, and to support if we can. We've been there. And we're working hard to change things!