The dark days of winter are here, a time when many of us feel down. January’s Mental Wellness Month offers an opportunity to reflect on how we’re supporting mental health and well-being — whether it’s our own or our employees'.
But what is mental wellness? The World Health Organization defines it as "a state of well-being in which an individual realizes their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to their community.”
Tips for Supporting Employees
A McKinsey & Co. survey found 65% of employers believe they support mental health, but just over half of employees feel supported. There is clearly a gap between what employers believe they are doing and how employees view their mental wellness supports in the workplace.
Often when talking about mental wellness, the advice centers on spending more time with loved ones, expressing gratitude daily, and engaging in self-care. Some of these tasks can be difficult when employees don't feel supported in the workplace. Employers can take the initiative to support employees with access to healthcare professionals, a culture of peer-to-peer empathy and support, establishing clear daily boundaries between work time and personal time, and providing tools to help employees track their own mental wellness efforts.
Invest in Your Mental Wellness
Because the fast-paced nature of technological work can be stressful, SHARE wants to start the month off right with some tips from CNET to help members de-stress and refocus.
- Make relaxation part of your daily routine. E.g., read a book (ideas to follow), watch TV, or see a show
- Value each social interaction by being present, listening, and responding
- Be sure to get adequate sleep
- Eat nutritious meals every meal and hydrate
- Set an exercise routine and stick to it
- Monitor and adjust your social media intake
- Start a journal and spill that stress onto the page
The Global Mental Wellness Institute suggests that building mental wellness requires people to cultivate not only their own activity and creativity, but also their connections and sense of meaning. For instance, through group physical activity, stress can fall away while you're building connections with family, friends, or colleagues. Volunteering in the community or mentoring others also can bolster mental wellness by providing a sense of accomplishment and purpose outside of the workplace.
When we care for ourselves with the support of family, friends, colleagues, and our employers, we become more productive and engaged when we are in the workplace.
Books to Guide You Through the Dark Days
Get started on your mental wellness checklist with a good book (or press play on your audiobook app while doing something else). Here are a few options to help you gain a new perspective on mental wellness and some options that will whisk you away to new worlds.
- “The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living” by Russ Harris. “Are you, like millions of Americans, caught in the happiness trap? Russ Harris explains that the way most of us go about trying to find happiness ends up making us miserable, driving the epidemics of stress, anxiety, and depression.”
- “Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World” by J. Mark G. Williams and Danny Penman. “From one of the leading thinkers on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, a pioneering set of simple practices to dissolve anxiety, stress, exhaustion, and unhappiness.”
- “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” by Lori Gottlieb. “From a New York Times best-selling author, psychotherapist, and national advice columnist, a hilarious, thought-provoking, and surprising book that takes us behind the scenes of a therapist's world — where her patients are looking for answers (and so is she).”
- “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” by Gabrielle Zevin. The Goodreads 2022 readers’ choice winner, this book is about “two friends--often in love, but never lovers” who “come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.”
- “Greenwood” by Michael Cristie is an intricately woven book that highlights members of the same family in different eras — 1934, 1974, 2008, and 2034 — as the world’s trees slowly disappear.
- "Call Me Spes" by Sara Cahill Marron, a poetic journey like Dante's “'Inferno” in which an operating system falls for its user, all translated through the operating system’s code.
- “The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World” by Jonathan Freedland. “In a book that is part thrilling adventure, part exploration of some of the darkest secrets of the Holocaust, award-winning journalist and best-selling novelist Jonathan Freedland uncovers the extraordinary story of the first Jew to break out of Auschwitz, a man who was determined to warn the world — and pass on a truth too few were willing to hear.”
- “Wise Gals: The Spies Who Built the CIA and Changed the Future of Espionage” by Nathalia Holt. “The never-before-told story of a small cadre of influential female spies in the precarious early days of the CIA — women who helped create the template for cutting-edge espionage (and blazed new paths for equality in the workplace) in the treacherous post-WWII era.”
- “Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change” by Ellen Pao. “Reset is a rallying cry — the story of a whistleblower who aims to empower everyone struggling to be heard, in Silicon Valley and beyond.”