Meet Jessica Warren and Niraj Shah from Mind: Unlocked, our new experts in residence for mental health in the workplace. They will share practical, science-based tools to help you manage and support employee mental health at work
Jessica and Niraj founded Mind: Unlocked, which helps people develop their mental performance and wellness through tools and tactics rooted in science and practicality.
Jessica left a hectic finance career as a chartered accountant to share her passion for personal development – tools and concepts that help people feel more happy, healthy and fulfilled and to work out what really matters to them in life.
Lucky to recover from a sudden, serious brain injury at just 30 years old, Niraj became obsessed with learning about health, vitality and the human brain. Noting that meditation and other mental wellness practices made him happier and more effective at work, he started Mind:Unlocked to share these learnings with others.
How can employees look after their mental health on a bad day?
Niraj advises that employees find their ‘reset’ button to help get some perspective: “Take a short break from whatever is causing the bad day, disconnect and either get moving, get outside, or meditate. Spend 15-20 minutes resetting yourself in a way that works best for you and helps you get some perspective. Then, when you come back to whatever it is you need to do, look at it as a fresh start.”
Jessica also notes that paying attention to our thoughts and feelings can pay off in the long run: “Mindfulness and meditation can help us notice our thoughts, emotions and sensations, instead of either fully associating ourselves with them and getting lost in negative spirals or, conversely, suppressing them to come up in unexpected ways later on. Asking yourself what you need to feel happier or calmer is a great way to get to know, recharge and look after yourself.”
What are some ways to improve mental health at work, especially as life is forever changed due to the pandemic?
Mental wellness in the workplace matters – wherever work may be. It’s important to note that employees may need help in finding their work-life balance too, especially as some return to places of work, either full-time or part-time, giving way to another re-adjustment phase.
Niraj says “Once we realize that our mental wellness fundamentally affects every other facet of our lives from our overall sense of wellness, energy, optimism about life, relationships and even the quality of our work, it becomes a lot easier to prioritize doing something deliberate to boost our mental wellness every day. Just 10-20 minutes a day focused on doing something in this area often leads to life-changing benefits. Consistency is the key, and employers can play their part by encouraging that.”
Jessica adds “Observing our thoughts and feelings with less judgement and more self-care can really help in trying times. The world felt more on “auto-pilot” before the pandemic, but many of us now have more time (and perhaps necessity) to notice and try to head towards what brings us more joy, health and purpose. This is different for everyone, but it might mean making big changes – such as where we live or getting our finances in order; or smaller ones – like finding exercises and meditations we enjoy, volunteering opportunities or regularly speaking to a supportive friend or counselor.”
Why mental health and physical health both matter
Promoting positive both mental health in the workplace and physical health is critical. “I think it’s truly fascinating how much they are cyclically interconnected” Jessica comments. “For example, if you sleep or eat less well, you will likely feel more stressed and less mentally resilient; if you feel stressed and less mentally resilient, you might sleep or eat less well! Starting to make small changes in ways you enjoy is key to building up mental and physical health habits that reciprocally improve your overall wellbeing and health. There has historically been far more focus on physical health in wellness, and our mental wellbeing has suffered for it. It’s amazing that Dialogue brings together experts on both sides, as we really need both to be healthy and happy.”
There’s been mounting research to show a big uptick in the levels of employee presenteeism, which were brought on by the pandemic. But don’t let that get your employees into bad habits. Ensure they are taking regular breaks and using their holidays to avoid burnout.
Encourage employees to put on their own oxygen mask first
Both Jessica and Niraj stress the need for good self-care. Jessica says “If we give ourselves more of what we need, this self-care can improve our workplace relationships, too – like the “oxygen-mask-first” analogy. I’m also a believer in practicing gratitude and having a balanced outlook on life – realizing that even in challenging situations, we still have a lot to be thankful for – whether that’s as simple as our breath, our morning tea, a beautiful tree outside or a kind smile. If we really look, we can see the support that is always there for us alongside all the challenges.”
Personalized action plans, practical strategies and financial tips are all available to your employees exclusively on Dialogue to help support mental health in the workplace.
Find out how our Employee Wellness platform can help your staff become happier and healthier at work.