Recently, a small group of us working in human resources came together to address each other's challenges and celebrate success. This is an informal, self-directed group of HR practitioners who met a few years ago during a conference. When we met, we realized the commonalities of our struggles. Speaking of these struggles and hearing the advice of others, we learned how helpful it would be to have regular conversations. Immediately, we decided to meet periodically and infuse each gathering with positive, results-based energy. Gradually, we became each other’s “go-to” sounding boards. This has proven extremely helpful during the pandemic when everything is uncertain, and that the HR professionals are constantly firefighting and pivoting, having someone who can truly understand you and offering that social and professional support is critical.
This triggered my questions: Is everyone as lucky as me? When the going gets rough, who takes care of your psychological well-being?
Mental health is an important topic as we gradually uncover the effects of the past two years. HR professionals typically take on the role of workplace well-being advocates and are often the first point of contact when employee issues arise. Standard wellness practices include:
● Employee Family Assistance Program (EFAP)
● Enhanced counselling benefits coverage
● Employee Resource Groups (ERG)
● Awareness and resiliency training
● Series of programs such as work and life balance, flexible arrangements, (virtual) fun activities, etc.
However, for those of us who work in HR and for those who are at the forefront of resolving issues that are often confidential in nature, we can feel vulnerable when the standard practices may not help us. How should we take care of our own mental health?
Given my own experience, I summarized four optimal practices below.
1. Making self-reflection a habit.
According to the World Health Organization, “Mental health is fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living and enjoy life.1” For working professionals, the first step of maintaining health is becoming consciously aware of triggers and signs of fragility. Since becoming an entrepreneur, I have developed a habit of leaving 15 tranquil minutes for self-reflection every evening. It allows me to carefully review my thoughts, feelings and actions of the day and helps me with personal growth and restoration of inner balance. Notably, I am learning to allocate some downtime, even if it means a quick walk around the block when I have reached my maximum mental capacity.
2. Setting proper boundaries.
Very often, I hear professionals with a great passion for their work saying, “Yes, I will do that for you”, or “No problem, leave it with me.” It satisfies the needs of the person asking for support, but lengthens the already extended to-do list for the professionals. Yesterday I had a conversation with a lady who constantly works long hours and shows signs of burnout. I asked her to take five minutes to put together a list of tasks she had completed the week before. It was not until the moment when we reviewed the list together that she realized how many tasks were added to her plate at the last minute, and how many directions she was pulled in that were outside of the position she was hired to do. Make no mistake, we are not talking about someone who is lax or who needs to be pushed to finish the job. This is an over-achiever who strives to do more and blurred her boundaries by taking on what others asked her to do. The more she took on, the more others put on her plate. “When was the last time you said ‘no’ to someone?” was the question of the day for her.
3. Focusing on priorities.
In my previous blog “NEW YEAR, OLD RESOLUTION. Focus on your priorities in 2022”, I emphasized that when everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. Setting the right boundaries for ourselves not only helps us manage demand, but it also makes us focus on our priorities. Because of the nature of my work, I am constantly engaged in many networking and volunteer activities. After analyzing the time I spent on various things in the previous year, I identified the targeted activities to continue to participate in given my availability and priorities for the year. It took a certain amount of mental preparation to turn down things that I was passionate about and involved in. Interestingly, after my calendar opened up a bit more, I actually became more productive and content.
4. Creating your own support circle.
We want to be heard. We want to feel a sense of belonging with people who we trust and who can provide guidance or comfort. Our support circle can be formed by family, friends, people who we meet through volunteering and other activities. In the workplace, I find having mentors or people who have walked in our shoes as trusted allies to be helpful. By sharing our thoughts and hearing advice, we do not feel alone, and we are able to solve problems from a different perspective.
By age 40, half of Canadians have a mental illness, which accounts for 70% of all disability-related costs.2 Mental balance means different things to different people. Although organizations strive to create a healthy and positive environment, we should be the ones who take care of ourselves by recognizing and defining our limits, and rejuvenating ourselves through what works the best for us.
1 Mental health: strengthening our response. Retrieved from:
2 CAMH’s Mental Health Playbook for Business Leaders. Retrieved from: https://www.camh.ca/-/media/files/wmh-pbook-130120-pdf.pdf
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