As Intel celebrates World Mental Health Day, it’s important for us to openly discuss and support our employee’s mental wellness in the same way we talk about and prioritize physical wellness.
To continue the conversation, we asked experts to respond to common questions about mental wellness and balancing work and life. Dr. Emilie Karlin, PhD, and Dr. Dave Fischer, PsyD, are both behavioral health providers with Premise Health and provide services at Intel’s Health for Life Centers in Oregon and Arizona. Premise Health’s mission is to help people get, stay, and be well.
Why is mental wellness important?
Mental health impacts how you function in every single area of your life—your physical health, your relationships, and your ability to perform at work, as well as participate in hobbies and other things you enjoy. It impacts how well you cope with life’s inevitable ups and downs and affects your energy levels and sleep. Putting time, energy, and effort into your mental wellness is just as important as your physical health.
What are some ways to take a quick break throughout the day to practice mental wellness, i.e. building a mental wellness toolbox?
You can protect your mental wellness on a daily basis by doing the following: exercising, maintaining a healthy diet, staying hydrated, and staying socially connected. Some of these activities can also be part of the strategies you use to help yourself feel better when you’re not at your best. Other mental wellness boosting activities include exercise, listening to music, being in nature, journaling or drawing, creative activities, taking a shower, relaxation or breathing exercises, spending time with pets, and spending time with friends and family. It’s a good idea to have as many things as possible in your wellness toolbox; some things may work better than others for different types of situations or work well one day and not as well the next. It’s also important to add to and update your toolbox over time.
What advice do you have for parents or caretakers who are juggling work and family responsibilities simultaneously?
- Communication is key. If you have a partner, make sure you are communicating frequently with regards to what each of you needs, and how to balance everyone’s needs. It may be possible to come up with some creative solutions, such as one of you starting the workday early in the morning, and the other finishing later in the evening.It’s also important to communicate with your manager and your team. Let everyone know if there are any limitations to your schedule, as well as any back up or assistance you might need. The earlier you communicate any potential changes or issues, the better.
- Build a list of priorities or a schedule. It’s important to spend some time establishing a list of priorities at both home and work, and determining which are essential, which can be delayed, and which might be able to be dropped.Create a schedule and routine that you follow as closely as possible, while also knowing there will inevitably be exceptions and emergencies. You may want to consider building mealtimes, chores, and time to be outside and exercise into the schedule.Make plans knowing that there is the possibility, or even the probability, that your plans will need to change, and be open to the idea that change is not necessarily a bad thing.
- Ask for help. Consider outsourcing anything you can—this is a good time to practice asking for help.
If someone else in my life is struggling, how can I help support them? How should I approach the conversation?
In general, start by expressing your concern and support. Ask questions and listen to their responses. Some potential questions might include, “I’ve been worried about you—can we talk about what’s going on?” or “It seems like you’re going through a difficult time—what can I do to help?” Don’t judge, and don’t downplay the problem.
Offer to help with tasks or errands or go with them. Continue to invite them to activities and events, even if they say no. Treat them with respect, compassion, and empathy. Make yourself available to talk again; often the initial conversation is just a starting place. Don’t turn what you heard into gossip; if someone has chosen to share the information with you, it is a privilege and a sign of great trust, and that information should be treated with respect.
How do I talk about mental wellness with my family, partner, or coworkers?
- Plan a time to talk. If you’d like to talk about your own mental wellness challenges with someone important in your life, make sure to find a time that is good to talk—probably not as they are getting ready to start a meeting, or in the last 5 minutes of your lunch break.
- Make a list of talking points. You might find it’s helpful to make a list of bullet points to make sure you remember everything you want to tell the person, as you might be nervous and leave some things out.
- Communicate your needs. Be honest about what you are going through, and be clear about what you want or need from the other person—do you just want them to know because they are important to you and you want to be honest with them? What kind of support do you need from them? Be prepared that this conversation might feel awkward—we’re sometimes not used to asking for help.
- Be prepared for their reaction. Also be aware that the person may not respond the way you want them to—they may minimize what you’re experiencing or downplay it, which may be because they are uncomfortable or scared for you. Remember that help is out there.
We care about each other and our community, and to support each other throughout the ups and downs. As quoted above, “putting time, energy, and effort into your mental wellness is just as important as your physical health.” Share how you are practicing mental wellness in the comments below.