Helena Senner - guest blogger on Mental Health in the workplace
10th May 2021

More than ever, it’s important to acknowledge that each and every one of us experience Mental Health; sometimes good and at other times poor enough to become a struggle. This range is not isolated to an individual who is unwell but is an everyday part of our human experience and, just as we would take action to protect and boost our physical health, we should always make time to consider our mental Wellbeing. To take that physical analogy one stage further, we can think of our Mental Health as a muscle that benefits and grows with the effort we put into supporting it. As in the gym, what we invest will be rewarded.

From a degree in Psychology, via a pastoral role in a local secondary school, I now work with Young People as a Youth Coach with a focus on Study Skills and general Exam Preparation and I place student Wellbeing at the centre of the techniques I show them. What clients always find remarkable about the messages I deliver is that simple lifestyle choices not only support our Wellbeing but also help our learning and boost our performance and, as such, are just as useful to adults in the workplace.

It is well documented that adequate hydration(1); enough, quality sleep(2) and regular exercise (evidenced in decades of studies) will benefit both our mood and our output and yet are often neglected as some of the building blocks to good Mental Health.

The NHS refers to five essential elements of Wellbeing: connecting with others; physical activity; learning new skills; giving to others and mindfulness. This year, the Mental Health foundation (www.mentalhealth.org.uk) have chosen ‘Nature’ as the theme of their Mental Health Awareness Week and there are choices we can all make in our workplaces that provide synergy between nature and these elements of Wellbeing. For instance, we could consider setting up a colleague-project tending an allotment or, on a smaller scale, growing a herb garden in a window box providing ingredients for staff to take home and use in cooking. We could perhaps look into introducing a fish tank to the workspace that requires sharing care and maintenance. Both these ideas will connect individuals in working on a common task in nature as well as giving back to the work community and providing opportunities to step back from the busy day and be mindful in an activity. Similarly, some American companies have taken their lead from research that shows really positive gains are available from bringing our pets in to work occasionally. With claims of lowering stress levels; improving camaraderie by triggering interactions with colleagues; not to mention the healthy work-life balance this flexibility offers, it may be an approach worth investigating.

Since the restrictions of lockdown, we are more comfortable with the idea of scheduling meetings in the nearest green space (we can further extend the Mental Health benefits if we incorporate a walk to boost the flow of blood to our brain) or we can just take advantage of the open windows and allocate a daily quiet-hour to listen to the birdsong while working. As the summer approaches, rather than automatically book a restaurant or pub for a social event, we can ask ourselves if a cool box of prosecco and beers and a picnic rug at the park might feel like a better get together. Throw in a couple of rounders bats and you may just have ticked all the boxes for a complete Wellbeing package with the green therapy of nature built in!

By committing thought and time to our daily Wellbeing in these suggestions; we will find that our Mental Health grows in strength to support us with difficulties that we may face and that our happiness is bolstered.

Helena Senner is a Study Skills Specialist and online Exam Preparation Programmes can be found at Protective Youth Coaching www.pycharpenden.com or via email pycharpenden@gmail.com 

1. Dr Caroline Edmunds at UEL and Professor Ron Maughan at Loughborough University
2. Professor Matthew Walker at University of California
3. https://appliedpsychologydegree.usc.edu/blog/the-benefits-of-bringing-pets-to-work/



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