Once Madalyn Parker decided to ask for sick leave. She wrote an email to her boss, and he totally approved her decision. Madalyn shared her boss’ encouraging response via Twitter, which caused quite a stir. Why did it happen and what was the big deal about it? The thing is, Madalyn asked for sick leave to take care of her mental health.

Soon Madalyn’s boss, Ben Congleton, posted an article, where he sounded genuinely surprised with the fact that people perceived his response as something unusual. “It’s 2017. I cannot believe that it is still controversial to speak about mental health in the workplace, — Ben wrote, — When an athlete is injured, they sit on the bench and recover. Let’s get rid of the idea that somehow the brain is different”.

That eloquent story happened almost two years ago. Have things changed since then? We have become more aware of mental health’s importance, that’s true. Some companies became more tolerant of mental health issues, but their number is still not so big.

For the majority of us, work is one of the most significant parts of our lives. It influences us in both positive and negative ways. Everything that we go through in the office — from strict deadlines to plain bullying — changes the way we feel.

Tetiana Vovk, a social psychologist, provides the following statistics: 31% of employees search for a new job to decrease stress levels, and 46% are looking in order to increase their overall satisfaction with their jobs. “Since we were children, we’ve been told to take care of our physical health — to brush our teeth and to do exercises. But somehow, no one told us about emotional hygiene. Think about it, every office has an emergency kit with pills or bandages. But is there a mental health kit? And do we know how to use it?”

There are several signs that can signal deteriorating mental health. “Among them, one can name accelerating irritability, lack of attention, sensitivity to criticism,” Tetiana lists. “People on the verge of emotional burnout usually start isolating themselves from their teams, run late to work or, on the contrary, stay late in the office, they get tired faster than before, and frequently ask for sick leaves”.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way of solving this problem and a week or two on a sunny beach will hardly help. As Tetiana says, emotionally tired people tend to take loads of days off but they are not recovering because they keep worrying about deadlines and their growing inefficiency.

Resilience

One of the ways to support your emotional well-being is to develop resilience. “Resilience is our ability to restore the initial form after it has been changed,” Tetiana explains. “For instance, when you cope with some crisis at work or in your personal life, you allow yourself to metaphorically sink down to the emotional bottom, feel all your emotions to the fullest, and get back to your normal state. This process of returning and recovering is called resilience”.

Resilience is not a new term, but it started to gain momentum just recently. Before that, we only knew about stress resistance. Unlike resilience, stress resistance means that a person simply skips the emotional part, and quickly adjusts to any situation, without diving deep into a state of stress. Resilience, on contrary, is a long-term process, which allows you to realize your feelings, accept them and learn to live with them. For sure, in order to succeed in some professions, we need to be stress-resistant rather than resilient. For instance, hardly any of you would appreciate if your surgeon would drop their scalpels and started sinking to an emotional bottom during intense operations. But if living through hard moments is inevitable, it’s good to be resilient enough to make your way out.

There are several ways to respond to stress and to recover faster. Apart from basic recommendations, like healthy sleep, nutrition, and exercises, you would need positive thinking and social support, a.k.a. your friends and family who’d hug you and listen to you when it’s needed. Tetiana also recommends celebrating your victories (even the little ones) and completing lists of activities and things that help you recover, stay present in the moment and recharge your batteries (like, avocado bowls, Anderson’s movies or bicycle rides).

Mindfulness

Anastasia Khyzhniak, an HR consultant at Beetroot, offers another way of sustaining emotional hygiene. “I have been practicing mindfulness for almost a year now and I find it very efficient. It helps me realize myself here and now, comprehend my emotions and stop squeezing them into any frames. You can practice mindfulness by yourself or by using various apps, like Headspace. Thanks to this practice you’ll be able to learn awareness, breathing techniques and presence at all the moments of your life”.

Reflection

If mindfulness is not your thing, think of Pacman. “Seriously, Pacman,” says Volodymyr Vovk, HR-consultant at Beetroot and medical psychologist, — We all are very similar to him. We move forward and consume pieces of information as we go. If you dig deeper and imagine Pacman’s stomach, you’ll see tons of information there, which were processed with our mind and stored in long-term memory. In order to deal with all this chaos, try to practice reflection”.

Reflection can become a powerful tool in supporting mental health. It helps to decrease the number of unfinished gestalts and to enhance the productivity of our minds. Besides, reflection is irreplaceable in the process of resilience — with its help you’ll be able to get out of the emotional hole and recover much faster.

“Reflection is quite simple, actually,” Vova explains. “First, you need to choose one memory. Then there goes a reduction stage — you break this memory down into particles (what did you feel back then, what did you do, how did you react). You analyze each of the particles and think of the ways to change your attitude towards it to make it more comfortable for you. When you’re done with analyzing you put those particles back together into a single whole memory. However, after reflecting, this memory will be perceived differently”.

We never forget things that we felt or experienced in the past. Everything that happens to us, is stored and turned into emotional and informational baggage in Pacman’s enormous stomach. With the help of reflection, you’ll be able to re-evaluate past events and help yourself become more flexible and adaptable for the future trials.

Whatever you choose, reflection, mindfulness or a decent amount of sleep, don’t forget about the importance of mental health. Take care of yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel that you can’t cope with emotional pressure.

This march Ukraine will host the first conference dedicated to mental health and emotional wellness in business. At this conference, you will be able to get a better understanding of mental health in organizations, check out successful case studies of Ukrainian companies and practically apply some tools, which can improve emotional wellness at work.