Having good mental health is of imperative importance, both in the workplace and out. More and more employers now are beginning to realise the fact that if their workforce are suffering, it’s going to have a terrible impact on overall productivity, as well as that individual’s personal well-being. Alex Lane, mental health advocate and senior manager at Accenture talks about very personal experiences he has been through, including having a nervous breakdown due to anxiety and depression.
Alex gives HRD Connect his insights, and some key advice to those experiencing similar experiences and how to combat this in the workplace:
- Find the courage to seek help, no matter how scary it can seem initially.
In 2016, I had a nervous breakdown and was signed off work for four months after being diagnosed with anxiety and depression. The start of my recovery was ignited by having a confidential conversation with a trusted colleague about what I was dealing with. This was an enormous relief and motivated me to seek additional professional help. Being able to talk about mental health is powerful to those suffering with its impacts. Listening and empathy are gifts we can all provide to someone else.
- Consider seeking professional medical support.
It’s important to at least explore the options available. I knew that I needed a long-term solution and that I needed help and guidance in getting better. I phoned Accenture’s BUPA Healthy Minds helpline and took up the course of counselling that was immediately offered, which helped me enormously. Counselling provided me with the opportunity to explore the triggers of my emotions and also to arm me with tools to help recognise and manage my thought patterns.
- Learn and experiment with techniques that help calm the mind.
There are many things we can all do to help calm the mind and reduce the levels of cortisol in our bodies. Journaling is a powerful technique for those suffering with endless cycles of thought. Jotting down how you feel, things that are concerning you as well as things you have achieved and/or are grateful for that day, can help to put your mind at rest ahead of an often well needed sleep. Mindfulness practices are also an important activity to explore. Being able to recognise thoughts as simply thoughts and to be able to bring yourself back into the “now” has been extremely rewarding and has improved my levels of attention, presence and focus while also helping to calm my mind and reduce the physical sensations of stress. The science behind mindfulness is very compelling.
- Monitor and look after your physical health.
Mental and physical health are closely intertwined, and mental health issues often manifest themselves in physical ailments like constant fatigue, general illness and lower back pain. It is important to re-prioritise the importance of sleep, exercise and nutrition, all of which play a major part in how we feel physically and emotionally as well as our ability to deal with difficult situations. Take things slowly and commit to one change at a time to help create a positive new habit, and then build from there. I found that creating positive routines around my sleeping, eating, drinking and exercise habits made a significant difference to how I felt in the “bad times” and continue to have a big impact on how I feel today.
- Make mental health a normal topic of conversation.
I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to be open and to talk about your mental health. It helps to remove the stigma and it is critical to effectively managing your mental health. When you look into the statistics on mental health both in the UK and globally, it doesn’t make sense not to be having a conversation about its impact and what we could be doing to help safeguard our mental wellbeing. Organisations must seek to create environments where their people are able to talk and be listened to properly without shame and without the fear of being judged. In my experience, the more you talk about it, the more you realise just how widespread mental health challenges are and the impact they are having on people’s work and home lives.
Alex Lane is a Senior Manager at Accenture, where he has worked for the last ten years. As a part of his role, Alex is a trainer for Accenture’s Mental Health Allies programme, helping to end the stigma around mental health and ensure all employees feel safe to talk about mental health and know where to go if they or their colleagues need support. He is also a member of Accenture’s Truly Human team focusing on organisational culture and employee wellbeing.