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Let’s Talk Wellness

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Have you considered taking a mental health day recently? Have you taken time out for yourself?

If the past year has done nothing else, it has proven that an individual’s overall wellbeing is more important than ever – from the drastic changes in our normal work routines to hard looks at our society as a whole.

While some may be quick to point that suicide rates have increased during the pandemic, the mental health crisis among working professionals started long before COVID-19 lockdowns. TIME Magazine reported in 2019 that depression among millennials is at an all-time high, and that employees increasingly focus on their job as a contributing factor to their poor mental health.

Medical professionals – including doctors, nurses, and emergency responders – rank among the top 10 professions experiencing high rates of depression, suicide, and burnout. Contributing factors continue to be verbally abusive patients, lack of access to new technology, and lack of social support – in addition to long shifts, overwork, and too few support staff. EMT’s also struggle as they make less than average wages despite their training and often have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Over the past 30 years, suicide rates among veterinarians have been on the increase. In recent years, cyber-bullying and the stress of exploding student loan debt, along with euthanizing beloved pets owners cannot afford to treat and the easy access to the drugs to do so, have all contributed to this rise.

Advocates continue to write about mental health of lawyers. The “Type A personality” that makes them good at practicing law can make it especially hard for attorneys to slow down and ask for help. A 2016 study by Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs surveyed nearly 13,000 licensed, employed attorneys and found that 28% were experiencing depression, 19% were experiencing anxiety, and 23% were experiencing stress.

Across industries, social media managers are exposed to a state of constant connectedness and exposure to the 24/7 news cycle. For those who spend any amount of time working in social media, we’ve had to evaluate our tone and messaging, always at risk of cyber-bullying and blow-back from those who fundamentally disagree with each post or share. On an average day, social media managers ranked their mental health at a 6.35 out of 10. During COVID-19, social media managers ranked their mental health at 4.63.

The now-normal virtual meeting adds an additional layer of stress and anxiety. With our reliance on Zoom and other video conferencing tools comes the fears:  Virtual background or actual room in my house? How is the lighting? Is this a clean view? Can everyone see and hear me? What if my screen share doesn’t work? What if the whole meeting crashes? By now, hopefully, everyone is understanding that certain technological issues are out of our collective control.

Speaking of virtual meetings, it can be especially hard for those who work from home to step away from their “office” and not feel they have to be online after-hours. Experts suggest structuring your workspace and your work day to maximize productivity and reduce stress.

So, what can you do?

Have internal conversations

Talk about mental health and employee wellbeing outside of one-on-one meetings. Make it part of your overall communications strategy; talk about it in internal newsletters, on social media, and in print. The more you talk openly about it, the less “taboo” mental health and wellness will seem to employees – and colleagues. If you are working remotely, keep in touch with team members. Be “virtual support” to each other and stay in touch rather than feeling isolated.

Be clear with your social media manager that you do not expect them to be “on” 24/7/365. Be fair to your tech team when there are unexpected issues. Workshops and wellness programs are both great options if your organization is large enough to support them.

Have external conversations – like this one.

Talk with someone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a substance abuse issue, depression, PTSD, or related issues, you can call or text the Tennessee Redline at 1-800-889-9789 for a 24/7/365 referral to resources. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, provides 24/7, free, confidential support.

What else can you do?

Embrace a work-life balance. Everyone needs one.

Practice disconnecting; choose a stop time. For example, don’t check your emails past 7 p.m.

Turn off your phone; or at least, turn off those notifications on your social apps. It is not unreasonable to expect a full night’s sleep. You shouldn’t be expected to answer a Facebook inquiry at 2 a.m.

Check your diet:  When you eat better you feel better. While fast food is convenient on a busy schedule, it’s not the best choice for physical OR mental health.

Take a walk. Fresh air is proven to help digest food more effectively, improve blood pressure and heart rate, and strengthen the immune system.

And finally, don’t be afraid to say ‘no.’ Entrepreneur Magazine pointed out the power of saying no, specifically to maintain your work-life balance. “No” is a powerful word when used to put yourself first, and to maintain a day that prioritizes those things that bring value to your business in order to give yourself personal time for those important things waiting at home.