Mental Health For Workplace Wellness
The ongoing global pandemic – COVID-19, is immensely escalating challenges all around, far greater than normal times. While the focus naturally has been on managing its physical symptoms, it’s becoming increasingly palpable that there needs to be a stronger call to action to address an increasingly potent, pervasive, and destructive side effect unfurling – mounting distress and its impact on mental wellbeing. Stress, anxiety, depression are presenting in different forms and degrees in the populace across the world. Along with other health conditions, there is likely going to be a spike in psychosomatic illnesses.
Are we preparing well to handle these? Is there anything different we need to do going forward?
Mental health is a serious and persistent concern. Always has been. But unlike its more popular counterpart – physical wellness, it hasn’t enjoyed equal stage in social dialogue and addressing. The mind-body connection can no longer be in doubt or question. Among others, this pandemic will provide further evidence of this symbiosis and how hugely it impacts our quality of life. There is now a greater need for a two-pronged approach – self-care at individual level and collective programming, including corporate. The two are intertwined though they play out on different scales. There is a strong case to go beyond the obvious and existing framework and rework our approach to mental wellness. We need to come up with templates that serve the present and future better.
A few key points worth considering:
- We need to distinguish between specialist (medical) guidance and general Wellness initiatives. Both have a role and need to be implemented appropriately, at the right time, to augment end solutions for the individual and group (Corporate).
- Mental health is a wide domain with several conditions under its ambit. Some can be addressed well by general initiatives, while others will need a deeper approach. An overly simplified or generalized dialogue on ‘mental wellness initiatives’ shouldn’t swallow this fact. Correct diagnosis lies at the core – by those trained and experienced in the nuanced science. Individuals should seek professional help if required, and it would serve Corporates well to tie up with and impanel mental health professionals (psychologists/psychiatrists, etc.) to add teeth to their initiatives.
- That said, regular mental health initiatives as well laid out programs should get due focus in the Corporate Wellness plans. Decide on one or more interventions in sync with work realities (now, of course, work-from-home).
“The experience I have had is that once you start talking about [experiencing a mental health struggle], you realize that actually you’re part of quite a big club.” — Prince Harry
- Appreciate that work stress also exists independently of home stress, even though currently the boundaries may appear blurred. So while breathing, meditation, yoga, visualization, and other powerful practices will be invaluable in restoring calm and must be promoted and offered, one cannot ignore the elephant in the room – stress induced by nature of work itself, possible mismatches in the ability and roles, not enough growth avenues or stress emanating from the hierarchical structure at work with little or no recourse to expressing opinions or problems anonymously without fear of persecution. Corporate entities cannot shift responsibility for lack of redressal to outsourced interventions.
- Practice/implement Physical Wellness initiatives as a self-care strategy and corporate programming. There’s plenty of scope to design these well and meaningfully, in general, and in the context of the ongoing pandemic.
- Physical and mental wellness initiatives need to run in tandem, even if provided by different experts. I’ve said this before. This not only makes better sense, but it would also help address many psychosomatic* issues. (*Psychosomatic ~ of a physical illness or other condition caused or aggravated by a mental factor such as internal conflict or stress; relating to the interaction of mind and body-Oxford Languages). Psychosomatic Illnesses include (and not limited to) skin conditions like eczema/psoriasis, high blood pressure, ulcers, heart disease, muscular spasms, swelling, aches, and pains (esp. when there are no specific external causes to attribute these to). Stress has a sharp knack of finding one’s weak spots and manifesting there. Perceived and actual physical symptoms can be triggered by mental state and movement is very therapeutic. So, Physical and Mental Wellness plans working in tandem can help alleviate these to a large extent.
For us to cope better, emerge stronger, and remain resilient we need to give Mental Health our studied attention and initiate purposeful course correction now. We are only as good as our minds allow us to be.
About Vani Pahwa
Vani B. Pahwa is Health & Wellness Evangelist, and Founder, Body In Motion, who specializes in Functional-Fitness, and Cancer Exercise & Rehabilitation. With almost 2 decades of experience, and certifications from leading internationally-accredited and globally-recognized fitness institutions, Vani is the leading Wellness Expert for Multinational Corporations and is a recognized Speaker and Coach. An Indian Classical Dancer, Vani encompasses her learnings from dance to everyday movement making “exercise and training for life, not just events.” To know more about Vani and her premium wellness services, visit https://www.bodyinmotion.in