I recently attended a wellbeing workshop provided by Rick and Donovan at the First Aid and CPR Training company, and would like to share what I learnt. We all intuitively know that physical and mental wellbeing are closely tied to one another, and often referred to as the mind-body connection. The link between our physical state and our emotional state is well known and understood. When we feel physically fine, we can better handle the emotional ups and downs of our days. However, if we lack sleep, or hydration, or exercise, this can affect our mood considerably. The reverse is also true, but less well understood. Poor emotional wellbeing can contribute to physical illness. Stress, anxiety, and other emotions can lead to high blood pressure, ulcers, headaches, insomnia etc.
If we accept that the above is fundamentally true, why do we treat physical wellbeing substantially differently than we treat mental wellbeing? Ask yourself the following question. If a friend asked you for advice on how to improve their physical wellbeing, how would you respond? I believe that most of us could quickly come up with a list. Eat healthier foods, avoid sugar and alcohol, get more exercise, and a good nights sleep. But what if a friend asked how they could improve their mental wellbeing, I think most of us might struggle to give an answer. Think of these comparisons.
If you suffer a physical injury at work or at play, we have the benefits of a fully funded recovery program at our disposal, which in the construction industry alone accounts for $158 million annually. The country spends only a tiny fraction on mental wellbeing, and the demand is overwhelming the limited resources that are available. We have thousands of people (health and safety reps, managers, advisors) who are paid to prevent workplace accidents and avoid physical injuries. What percentage of their time is devoted to avoiding mental accidents and injuries?
Physical Education is taught in schools from an early age, and most children are actively encouraged to play sport by their parents, teachers, and peer group. But how many emotional wellbeing lessons did you get at school, or mental wellbeing teams did you join? Currently I cannot I drive 5km without seeing a new 24 hour gym in every location possible, but I see very few 24 hour mental wellbeing centres opening up, where you can come along and build up your “emotional muscles”.
Fortunately the tide is beginning to change, and organisations are becoming much more aware of mental wellbeing and how to help individuals in the workplace. There are five fundamental mental exercises we all can do to improve our daily lives, build resilience, and lower the risk of developing mental health problems.
- Connect: Work on building and strengthening our relationships with others. Talk less and listen more
- Give: Carry out small acts of kindness, without seeking reward for your actions
- Be Active: Become more physically active, do what you can, and enjoy what you do
- Take notice: Pay attention to the present moment, both your thoughts and feelings, and be aware of your emotional state and how to regulate it.
- Keep learning: Embrace new opportunities and challenges.
All of us have the ability to better understand and develop our emotional muscles, and the best time and place to start is here and now.
If you would like to take a step in this journey, come along to the Charter workshop on the 17th, where Mates in Construction will help you to better connect with others in the workplace, and Chris from CHASNZ will help you to be active for longer.
Paul Duggan, General Manager