Taking care of ourselves so we can better take care of others - Canadian Government Executive
HRLeadershipPublic Sector
January 31, 2018

Taking care of ourselves so we can better take care of others

As public servants, we work so hard every day to serve Canadians but if we are not taking care of ourselves how can we possibly give our best?

Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day – an annual initiative that began in 2010, where millions of Canadians engage in an open discussion about mental illness, offering new ideas and hope for those who struggle – mental illness touches us all in one way or another. Our mental health is affected by countless factors from our daily lives, including the stress of balancing work with our health and relationships.

Earlier this month the results of the APEX 2017 Executive Work and Health Survey were published. The percentage of executives with mental health conditions has almost doubled since the last survey in 2012 (from 11 per cent to 21 per cent). As well, 15 per cent of Executives were diagnosed and treated for depression and anxiety disorders in the 12-month period prior to the administration of the survey and fewer sought counselling for personal or work-related reasons (15 per cent vs. 21 per cent in 2012), despite an increase in mental health diagnosis.

Nearly half of executives reported feeling used up at the end of the workday at least once a week in the past year, while one-third feel emotionally drained by their work or feel tired when they get up in the morning to face another day in the same frequency. Around three in ten indicate feeling less enthusiastic about work at least once a week in the past year, followed by one quarter who feel burnt out after work to the same degree.

Our psychological work environment has a significant impact on our health and stress levels. Executives are more likely to report better health outcomes and the achievement of organizational goals in jobs with reasonable demands, decision-making latitude, high intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, good social supports, and adequate resources.

It is essential that Managers and Executives take care of themselves so that they can better take care of their teams. As public servants, we work so hard every day to serve Canadians but if we are not taking care of ourselves how can we possibly give our best? It’s as basic as the analogy of the oxygen mask – when you are in an airplane and the oxygen masks drop down, you are directed to put the mask on yourself first before assisting others. If you pass out from lack of oxygen while attempting to put the mask on someone else, both of you suffer – however, if you look after yourself first you will have the strength to help others.

If our leaders are not mentally healthy and performing optimally how can they fully support their teams and encourage mental health and wellbeing for their employees? Mental Health and Wellness has been a priority of the Clerk for a few years, we need to ensure our leaders are also putting themselves into the equation.

Below is a list of resources that I have found useful over the past few years, today on Bell Let’s Talk Day take a moment to explore them and put some of the mentally healthy tools into practice for you and your team:

1) We are entering an era of an epidemic of overwhelm. A time when too many people’s mental resources are being stretched through multitasking, fragmented attention and information overload. The “Healthy Mind Platter” developed by Dr. David Rock and Dr. Dan Siegel contains seven essential activities necessary for optimum mental health in our daily lives.

2) Assessing our mental health is not as simple as measuring our physical health; there are no scales or endurance tests that rate mental fitness. But with the help of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Meter, we can reflect on our unique strengths and identify areas where our level of mental fitness can be improved.

3) Canadian Mental Health Association launched Not Myself Today, a workplace mental health initiative that helps organizations build greater awareness, reduce stigma, and foster safe and supportive cultures. Not Myself Today® is an evidence-informed, practical solution to help employers transform mental health at work.

4) The Elephant in the Room is a national anti-stigma campaign designed to address the stigma associated with mental Illness. When you see their little blue elephant in the workplace, you know it’s a safe place to speak about any mental health issues you or your colleagues may be having. You will be treated with respect and dignity and you will find the support and understanding from a colleague who cares.

5) Statistics Canada created a “Mental Health Passport” that offers information and tools to help employees identify and reflect on areas of their lives they may wish to improve, as well as encouraging a healthy lifestyle and positive mental health habits. The “Mental Health in the Workplace – Manager’s Guide” was created as a result of an innovative interdepartmental partnership and is another excellent resource.

Respecting ourselves and others, keeping an open mind, and showing empathy and authenticity all go a long way towards promoting workplace well-being and health. Take a moment to download the Bell Let’s Talk Toolkit and start learning, reflecting and engaging with others on all issues relating to mental health. Don’t just practice good habits and talk about Mental Health on Bell Let’s Talk day – we need to take care of ourselves and each other every day.

 

Jodi LeBlanc is a public servant, collaborator, intrapreneur, writer, speaker, coach and is based in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

Note: This article was originally written in 2014 “Taking Care of Ourselves First” and has been recently updated and adapted.

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