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Protecting our mental health and wellbeing

Dhiyana Varsani
10 May 2022

Mental illness is both costly and debilitating. Reports show that on average in Australia, 3-4 sick days are taken each month for untreated depression, and $10.9 billion is lost every year in absenteeism, reduced productivity, and compensation claims.

One of the most important facets of business moving forward in this "new normal" is encouraging and addressing employee mental health and wellbeing while working in a hybrid environment.

We recently asked Tahnee Bridson, a leader in mental health advocacy, research, and education, some questions about how we can protect our mental health and how to look after ourselves when we experience burnout...

How can we lessen the stigma around anxiety and mental health?

"We’ve definitely made some great steps towards reducing stigma but unfortunately it still exists… probably more than many are willing to admit. I think from a personal perspective, actually talking about our own struggles helps reduce the stigma and allows others to feel more comfortable doing the same. Of course, that’s much easier said than done and it can be even more difficult in certain lines of work such as healthcare, politics, and emergency services. I myself took many years to feel comfortable opening up about my own battle with anorexia but I’ve also been able to see how doing this has helped colleagues going through similar battles."

How can we protect our mental health while using social media?

"I think of social media as a blessing and a curse. It’s great for keeping in contact with friends and family and sharing life’s adventures but it can also make us feel bad about ourselves. We all need to remember that what we see on social media is only one part of a persons life and we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. This can be really hard to remember in the heat of the moment though when we see content from influencers or celebrities on social media. It might sound really simple, but I honestly find that unfollowing accounts that make you feel bad about yourself is important. For me, I make sure that I don’t follow any content about dieting or exercise because that can be really triggering. Everyone will have different things that can be triggering but its important to recognise this and remove the stimulus."

What is burnout and how does it affect performance at work and on a personal level?'

"Burnout is a form of exhaustion as a result of excessive and prolonged emotional, physical and mental stress and in many cases is related to one’s job. At work we tend to see ‘presenteeism’ where someone is physically at work but not emotionally present. It also leads to reduced productivity, avoidance of meetings or staff interactions, irritability at work, reduced compassion, and dwelling on personal or system failures. Burnout can also impact our personal lives. When we’re burnt out we tend to distance ourselves from family and friends, avoid doing things we enjoy, our sleep can be disrupted and we tend to devalue ourselves and our achievements."

How do you avoid burnout in the workplace?

"I think it’s important to recognise that on a personal level, we all have different coping strategies that we draw on to manage difficult situations. So avoiding burnout on a personal level could vary significantly from person to person. One of the most important things for all of us though is getting adequate rest and time away (mentally and physically) from work. Sometimes this means we actually need to force ourselves to take time off - and I know how hard this can be and how guilty it can make you feel. Many of us tend to feel bad about letting our colleagues down or giving others more work but the truth is that we’re not helping anyone whilst we’re burnt out, least of all ourselves. I actually took some time off myself earlier this year because I could feel myself getting burnt out - it was difficult but it was so important to keep me well. On a systemic level, it can be really difficult because often we don’t have control over workload, especially in high-pressure jobs. In this setting, it’s important we advocate for regular breaks, appropriate working hours, appropriate remuneration, and leave when needed. It’s not always easy to do this but it’s important for your mental health and wellbeing."

Dr. Tahnee Bridson is best known for her work to reduce stigma, improve help-seeking and promote mental well-being as the founder of Hand-n-Hand Peer Support Inc.Tahnee experienced shame and stigma firsthand when she was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa as a university student. She rose through adversity and defied the odds by graduating top of her class. Her personal experiences were the inspiration behind Hand-n-Hand - so that no one would ever need to go through this alone again.

Are you looking to engage a mental health speaker or health motivational speaker for your next event/workshop? Contact us today to explore your options!

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