These days over 65% of employees feel scared, embarrassed, or unable to speak to their employee about mental health concerns; so it comes as no surprise that this year’s theme for Mental Health Day was in fact mental health in the workplace.  As women particularly suffer from crises of confidence, and worse, where work is concerned with one in ten stating that it's actually stopped them from considering a return to work after a break, we've turned to Dubai-based life and careers coach, Shazia Hussein, for some advice on how to tackle stress through kindness...

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"We talk about general health, fitness and wellbeing pretty regularly these days, however whenever the term mental health comes into play, many peoples initial thought is of someone being taken away in a straitjacket. Ironically though 1 in 4 of us are affected by some form of mental health issue yearly… does this seem like such a surprising statistic when some terms related to mental health are anxiety, stress, & emotional? These are feelings we all feel from time to time so why is mental health still such a taboo topic & why do we feel the need to convince ourselves & others that we are a – ok?

As well as the stifling work pressures, social media has entered our lives, whilst opening us up to more wonderful inspiration & opportunities, but also more scrutiny. The gap between the lives that many of us actually lead, & the lifestyles that are now broadcast frequently & we aspire to have, is bigger than ever before. This has even created a modern anxiety; FOMO or Fear of Missing Out Syndrome! As if we needed another anxiety to add to the pile… 

With modern life packed with a variety of pressures, perhaps it is a natural occurrence that anxiety and depression are on the rise. Such is the scale, that it is a fortunate person who’s not affected by a mental health issue at some point in their lives. 

In fact, recent research states that 50% of employees with workplace anxiety say it interferes with co-workers relationships – whether this was avoiding social situations or staying quiet in meetings. OVER 50% stated work itself has triggered symptoms of their disorder. With that in mind, we can all make small tweaks in our habits to help those around us so with this year’s theme of mental health in the workplace in mind, let’s take a look at how we can bring some additional acts of kindness, empathy, & compassion to the office:

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1.      Give someone a compliment

Yes this may seem small & trivial, but something as simple as complementing someone’s shirt color & how it suits them, or commenting on their smile or fragrance, could brighten up their mood & make them feel good about themselves. 

2.      Be nice to “the others” – be inclusive

Work teams & cliques are natural & I’m not suggesting that everyone has to be BFF’s, this wouldn’t feel natural or particularly genuine. I am saying we should always create an environment where people feel included, part of group conversations, & event invites. Facilitating inclusion is an incredibly kind act that can greatly benefit someone’s self-esteem & happiness not only when feeling low, but overall. 

3.      Point out people’s strengths over their weaknesses in front of others

See where you can find opportunities to acknowledge people for their strengths and celebrate their wins with them – what a fabulous & simple way to boost a colleague’s morale!

4.      Ask if someone is ok & grab them up an extra coffee if you think they need a little pick me up

Be that little bit more aware if a colleague appears a little more blue or negative than normal, a simple email or message checking in could work a wonder for them. If they don’t want to talk about anything, at least you have recognized that maybe they’re not ok & picking them up a tea of coffee would always be welcomed & is a lovely, thoughtful gesture to show you care! 

5.      Listen More, express your perspective, & be vulnerable

Did you know most of us speak at least twice as much as we listen? It can be really easy for us to get caught up in explaining something that we don’t clock what the other person might be thinking or feeling. Take some time to really listen if someone wants to talk, put down your phone & listen actively asking questions. Try and imagine exactly what they could be going through & let your emotions guide you with some kind relatable responses. We have a natural fear to be vulnerable at the best of times but especially during working hours, however vulnerability actually helps us connect with others, because it communicates that we are human, along with weaknesses, hurts, & various other emotions.  

6.      Don’t make assumptions

There’s a reason why making assumptions is dangerous to empathy - the understanding you draw when making an assumption to a problem someone is facing is rarely a great match, resulting in a forced or no connection. A tip would be not to try & empathize until you fully understand the other’s situation, perhaps ask more questions so that any connection you build comes from a place of genuine understanding.

7.      Help a colleague with a tight deadline

Have you ever been around a colleague who is literally stumbling and flustered up against a strict deadline that absolutely cannot be missed? Asking what you can do to help, if anything, can take the pressure off a stressful situation & after all, many hands make light work! Even if their task is not your area of specialty, there is always a small if not tiny way to lend a hand. 

8.      Encourage conscious communication

This is such a crucial & life- changing element in every way. The important thing is to do something – it doesn’t have to be perfect but communicating in some way, shape or form can make a world of a difference to someone who is having a rough time. Effective & honest communication is not an easy skill to master, but is the key to a more fulfilled & positive life in more ways than one.   Together, we can help by challenging disapproving attitudes to mental health issues whenever we encounter them by remembering & including anyone who may be lonely, low, or stressed, & by easing the burden of their pressure with greater understanding & empathy.

Daily kindness is important as it can have the power to change lives, even to save them."

Do you agree with Shazia's points above or have any more to add?  Leave your comments and thoughts below and she can be contacted directly for Life & Career Coach services right here.

*This article was first published through Shazia's LinkedIn page.