DUCK! Mental Health Conversation Ahead
Updated: Feb 22
Editor's Note: I haven't posted since the beginning of November 2019. I found the craziness around me was leaning into my personal space and my work. Now I'm back at it. This blog speaks to clearing my mind. I hope it helps to clear yours!
Right now, almost every working person is looking like the beautiful swan atop the water. We appear to glide across the pond of work/life imbalance while furiously peddling our feet underneath the surface because we are headed toward a rocky waterfall that only our eyes can see. There’s the pandemic, political divisiveness, calls for equality, and employers who continuously tread on personal time and filing it under ‘employee engagement’. With the continuous back-pedaling so we don’t tumble down the waterfall, we rarely take the time to check our mental health pulse and prioritize our well-being.
So right now – in this very moment – ask yourself, ‘How am I feeling’?
Are you happily creating strategic plans that include a matrix mix of social media, marketing, and media relations? Or are you on the verge of a virtual mental breakdown due to endless online meetings, virtual school un-realistic deadlines, and tirelessness between the blurred lines of work and life? We are running like crazy on the one hand and handling business on the other hand. Most of us end up with our duck feathers scattered in the air!
The reality is that 30 million Americans were furloughed or released from their jobs in the past year and almost 100 percent of us had to juggle more balls than a clown. A recent LinkedIn News Workforce Confidence Index survey of 22,000 professionals
in the US showed that stress levels are highest among those in marketing (81%). That percentage is seven tick marks higher than healthcare. Long story short – our job sector has some stressed out people! One of which could be us.
According to the survey, a breakdown of the top five sectors and stress levels are as follows*
Marketing - 81%
Healthcare & Community & Social Service - 74%
Administrative, Arts & Design, Sales - 70%
Media & Communications - 69%
Human Resources & Finance - 68%
Stress can create emotional, health, physical, behavioral, and cognitive implications that impact work and home life. Some of those symptoms include:
· Becoming easily agitated
· Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
· Feeling overwhelmed
· Low energy
· Poor judgement
· Changes in appetite
Uncertainty coupled with the national climate and a pandemic can cause stress levels to be unreal and unnoticeable. When you notice that you are the one in need of a little grace, don’t apologize. Don’t let the job get the best of you. There are ways to help shift the work environment around so your duck peddling days can be put behind you. Here are seven tips to help you do just that:
1. Talk to your boss or a trusted colleague/friend. Hopefully you have a good working relationship with your superior. Take a few moments to let them know what you are feeling and how it is impacting your work. Not that you are asking for fewer assignments (maybe you are???), but you may be asking for grace if you have missed deadlines or just don’t seem present in the moment. A good boss will help you set boundaries and mentor you professionally to work through feelings of inadequate work.
2. Mix it up. Have you been working on a never-ending assignment? Or what was formerly a quick task is now mentally taxing? Mix it up a bit and think of ways to make the assignment fun. Add some graphics to extend your point. Research data points that catch the eye of the data guru. Share an infographic and talk through your points. Volunteer to job shadow or mentor a new employee. I took on a mix-it-up project by going to our local archives and researching 1950's and 1960's photos of high schools and students before desegregation. I used the photos for a video montage showcasing the history of our school system for Black History Month.
3. Embrace checklists. Yep, to-do lists are part of the ‘in’ crowd. When you feel yourself drowning, it may seem like tasks and projects are never-ending. Take those tasks by the pen handle (or keyboard keys) and write them down. Check them off once they are completed. You will feel more prepared by seeing the tasks at hand and then more gratified by actually accomplishing those tasks. Check!
4. Take a day off. Yes, you have a lot on your plate. Yes, you need to fold that load of clothes. It will be there when you return and maybe you can manage it with a clearer mind. See #1. A good conversation with your boss and work colleagues should allow you the space needed to take a mental day or two of rest and get back to center.
5. Establish a schedule. Remember when you used to commute to work and listen to the radio or your favorite Sirius XM Radio station? Then you got to shut your computer down and leave it closed until the next day? You can still do that! Set expectations and boundaries by scheduling your day even if you are working from home. Get up, get dressed, and go for a drive around town for ten minutes listening to your favorite station and connecting to the outside world. When you get back home, open the computer to start your work day. When your designated 5:00 hits, shut the computer down and go do something, anything to signal the end of your workday. Also, see #1 again.
6. Exercise. My mind just quickly veered to Richard Simmons in those colorful tights! You can throw on some of your own colorful tights and take a walk on your city trail, plan an adventure hike, or grab a helmet and bike around the neighborhood. This physical exercise can be an excellent way to also de-stress your mind.
7. Check your employer’s EAP (Employee Assistance Program). Need a little more hands-on help? Check your employer’s EAP benefits. They may have free counseling sessions you can take advantage of when looking for a listening ear outside of the household. If not, look for local counseling agencies that can point you in the direction of no-to-low-cost options. Your Primary Care Physician may also have some great recommendations.
I am grateful for the many webinars and online panel discussions that provide tips on recognizing and managing stress. I've attended a few over the past several months. These times can be tough and it’s okay to look for ways to make it not so tough. Leave a reply about the tips that work for you! Hopefully the tips and linked articles provided some insight for you to move from backpedaling to truly becoming the swan of the pond!
*The LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index survey was administered November 16, 2020 to January 15, 2021. In any high stress related instance, it is always best to consult your physician.