'It's showing up for yourself each day with small gestures'
Emma Evans shares her experience on managing mental wellbeing.
By Emma Evans on Friday, 2 June 2023
A few weeks back saw another awareness initiative. Mental Health Awareness week - 15-21- was all about recognising mental health and everyone from footballers to the Princess of Wales articulated how they manage their personal anxieties. And rightly so. The fact that our mental wellbeing is recognised in equal, if not greater, measure to our physical wellbeing is heartening. But the fact it is given a week’s airtime feels, less so.
The reality is being mentally well doesn’t just happen and certainly not within a week. Having conversations about how we are all managing our mental health and allocating resources in the workplace to that is vital, and something that holds a lot of importance to me personally. But, in the spirit of ensuring this isn't a one and done chat, I am sharing some thoughts around managing mental wellbeing. For me it takes 1) time, 2) commitment, 3) openness and 4) acceptance. Especially in a professional environment.
I’ve spent an increasing amount of time over the last few years focusing on how mentally resilient I am and those four factors in particular. That’s not to say I didn’t prioritise my mental wellbeing previously, but the pandemic somewhat upended the monopoly board and forced me to stop glossing… acceptance.
That fourth point is the trickiest one for me. Recognising that being ‘fine’ all of the time isn’t really an ideal state. Accepting that my natural glass half full sitch, doesn’t always apply to myself and admitting that a bit of help needn’t come with a bag of judgement are all waves I jump, they just don’t, somehow, feel as big.
Maybe this is linked to openness, in that I now genuinely think about how I answer the question of “how I am feeling” with as much honesty as I can muster and not just what I think the recipient wants to hear… no mean feat in the business of PR. The reality is it ranges from splendid to shite (two of my favourite words) and all the states in between! I am also more open with myself and allow myself to just ‘be’.
There’s a huge temptation in the world of hybrid working to let my mood dictate where I set up shop but sometimes what I think I want (the safety of my hoody and only Magic FM for company) isn’t always what I need (the rhythm of a commute and a structure to my day). And sometimes it genuinely is a hybrid state of mind; in the office and within touching distance of others but ensconced in the safety of a booth. Like me, it's all a work in progress.
Which is where commitment comes in. And the biggest commitment I make every day is to myself. It started with wearing earrings in lockdown every day (a small gesture of showing up to myself) and it now includes quiet time, journaling, reading and, sometimes, a guilt free nap! Each of these are things I make a point of trying to stick to and- importantly- enjoy. I also regularly talk to myself about exercise and soon I'll commit to that too. The point is, I’m accountable to me and the pressure is, weirdly, off!
Time is something we all claim to not having enough of. Phrases like “back-to-back” in reference to meetings and calls are sadly commonplace. But there is always time to be found in the day. For some, that’s blocking out ‘focus time’ or sticking to a lunch time. For other powerhouses it could be starting the day earlier. I hate mornings though and lack focus. So, I am trying to be stricter with my time. Working part-time, especially consultancy side, is a challenge but I am lucky to be somewhere that actively encourages it. My part in that challenge is to embrace it and not always ‘jump in’ on conversation threads. I also need to keep reminding myself- and others- that I am not on a ‘day off’, I don’t work. A subtle but valuable difference.
So, as the light on the awareness week dims, my one plea would be if you tried anything from the plethora of top tips you spotted or heard, and it helped your mental wellbeing, keep going with it. Stick at it, be open to new ideas and accept that what’s working this week might need tweaked next week. Embrace it, you’re totally worth it (TM).