World Mental Health Day this year is October 10. It’s an important day to focus on education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma.
But for me, it’s my focus every day.
I work in the Human Capital and Diversity team in London and as a Mental Health Ally (MHA) and the Well-being Lead in the U.K. I’m fortunate to be at the very heart of changes that will help strengthen Accenture’s culture as a truly human company.
My personal awakening and call for help We all face and overcome difficult situations at work and in our personal lives. For some, coping with “dark days” comes more naturally, while for others, help is needed.
Looking for help and being able to ask for it is not always easy.
But it truly is the first step.
I initially signed up to be a Mental Health Ally because I wanted to help others. I didn’t realize at the time that I was struggling myself. In a short period of time, I went through a series of life-changing events. A breakup, home relocation, job change and a death in my family.
I will be forever grateful to my fellow MHA friend for persuading me to call the Employee Assistance Line. That was the actual turning point in my personal life and, as a result, in my Accenture career.
What it means to be a Mental Health Ally As an Accenture Mental Health Ally, I’m proud to be a visible and trusted person for colleagues to approach and talk with in a safe and open environment. I wear a special, branded lanyard as a sign people can come to me with questions or if they need advice.
Allies can also help provide information about where and how to get assistance—for themselves or for others.
Earlier this year, I had the unique opportunity to take part in the pilot program for a mental wellness course. It was a very interactive workshop with a combination of group and individual activities. Everyone in the room was engaged and eager to learn more about the scientific side of mental health and how to help build resilience within yourself and others.
I learned that I tend to ruminate when I get stressed. Ruminating means repetitively going over a dark thought or a problem, and it can be all-consuming and very hard to shake off.
Personally, I try to combat these thoughts with breathing exercises, yoga and distractions. As soon as you notice you are ruminating, you focus on something else, no matter what it is (it could be the three different colored Post-it notes in front of you) to get yourself out of the loop. It really works!
There are several other coping strategies that work well for me.
My personal five mental health strategies:
Have a well-defined work routine. Structure is something that makes you grounded. Coming to the office every day and seeing my colleagues is something I can’t overestimate in contributing to a healthy outlook.
Take time to unwind during the day. Take lunch breaks, go on short walks outside of the office, drink a cup of coffee before completing the next task. These short but important moments are equally as important as hard work. Because the more we care about ourselves, the better we feel and the more we can give to others.
Practice yoga and calming breathing techniques. This is something that can really help calm and soothe the body and mind. Once you master them, you only need a quiet place to practice for a few minutes. And it can make a positive difference.
Make to-do lists. I always have a to-do list on the go and a notebook on my bedside table so I can write down any of those last-minute tasks or jobs that pop into my head. This really helps with my anxiety levels and rumination.
Engage in social time. Getting to know your colleagues in a friendly and attentive way not only builds strong work relationships, it also helps you notice when things may be off. The way we all keep an eye out for one another is one of the things I love about working at Accenture.
Be a good listener. Be open. Be empathetic.
We can all be a Mental Health Ally.
The theme for World Mental Health Day this year is suicide prevention. This is such an important topic, and we can all encourage people to reach out to teammates, co-workers, friends and family who may be struggling more than usual.
This can be a difficult and complicated subject. Yet the consequences of leaving someone in need alone may be much worse than having a challenging conversation.
Education is one of the best ways to start breaking down barriers. I’m proud that Accenture will host many mental-health webcasts for our people around the world this month. Nearly half a million people in our company will have an opportunity to become ambassadors on the subject—and perhaps spread that learning beyond.
Take care of yourself every day. Do work that makes a difference. Find your fit with Accenture.
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