June 20, 2024

Every year, millions of Americans feel anxious, depressed or are experiencing other mental health challenges. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As business leaders, we strive to support mental health in the workplace, and beyond. With multiple demands on our time, however, we want to be impactful and efficient. How do we offer the resources and tools our employees deserve without overloading our plates, causing additional strain to our own mental health? Today, we’ll look at several easy by way of some inspiring quotes.

Perfection is the enemy of progress.” – Winston Churchill

The myth of perfection and our inability to obtain it may inherently cause stress, which can negatively impact mental health. If employees feel there is no room to make mistakes, which is part of the human experience, then simple tasks have potential to seem insurmountable. Provide room to make mistakes, learn and grow. Mentor programs and a culture of openness between reporting levels including regular check-ins can help turn mistakes into successes. Normalize that progress over perfection.

…Exercise is the most potent and underrated antidepressant.” – Bill Phillips

As few as 5 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Exercise, nutrition, sleep and other lifestyle factors all play a part in our total health. What can your company do to foster a (mentally) healthier lifestyle for your employees? Consider providing a steady stream of bite-size education each month on the topic, bonus points if the education is easily actionable. For example, you might send out this MyPlate Quiz for personalized healthy eating tips, along with any dietary support your benefits plan may provide. You could also implement walking meetings for in-person employees or send out simple stretches to help reduce back pain. Good physical health habits can translate to improved mental health.

Slow, deep breathing is important…it’s like an anchor in the midst of an emotional storm: the anchor won’t make the storm go away, but it will hold you steady until it passes.” – Dr. Russ Harris

Stress usually doesn’t feel good. Stress can cause our muscles tense up, and our heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar to rise. Slow breathing fires up the parasympathetic nervous system which tells our body it’s safe, it can calm down and relax. Consider trying this exercise as you read along. First, rate your current feelings of stress or anxiety on a scale of 1 through 10, with 10 being the worst. Next, take three deep belly breaths expanding your belly as you inhale through your nose, and letting it relax on the exhale through your mouth. Imagine that you can watch each inhale and exhale with your mind. Finally, rate your stress or anxiety again on the same scale. What changed? Maybe, you started at a 10 and went to an 8. Or maybe your stress level didn’t change, but you feel more grounded. Repeat as often as you need to and see what changes over time. Share this or similar exercises with your employees in a staff meeting or sharing via email or social channels.

Sometimes our first and greatest dare is asking for support.” – Brené Brown

Finding a path forward in your mental health journey may require outside support. Do your employees know what resources they have access to? Do you? You are not expected to act as a mental health expert, but you should be able to point employees to what’s available. This is another place where medical carriers shine, often offering dynamic support beyond talk therapy. Contact your medical carrier directly to find out what they offer. Other avenues include Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Remind employees of what they have available to them throughout the year.

You don’t lead people by what you say to them; you lead them by what they see you do. True leaders are self-leaders.” – Israelmore Ayivor

Policies, resources and tools are the backbone of working towards a mentally healthy workplace. What you do as a business leader, however, may be the key to turning policies into action. So, lead the breathing exercise, share how you took a walk to clear your head or show that you no longer answer emails after business hours. Let employees know that you are there to support them.

Finally, a quote from Noam Shpancer, PhD, “Mental Health is not a destination, but a process. It’s about how you drive, know where you are going.”

© 2024 TriNet Group, Inc. All rights reserved. This communication is for informational purposes only, is not legal, tax or accounting advice, and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance. TriNet is the single-employer sponsor of all its benefit plans, which does not include voluntary benefits that are not ERISA-covered group health insurance plans and enrollment is voluntary. Official plan documents always control and TriNet reserves the right to amend the benefit plans or change the offerings and deadlines. WE DO NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.

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