Are You Mentally Aware? A Personal Look at Mental Health Awareness Month
Everyone wants to be a high performer, but many high achievers neglect a vital area that can keep us on top – mental health. We are overly familiar and comfortable with patterns of pushing through, toughing it out, and doing what it takes to get the job done. We tend to be slower to confront the mental health costs of the self-neglect that comes along with pursuing our goals.
As a licensed psychologist, business owner, and leader, I work with individuals and organizational leaders. My lens through the eyes of therapy and executive coaching provides a window into the intersection of the two, often dichotomized, worlds of work and mental health. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s look at how we’re doing, increase our awareness of our own mental health, and learn steps to be more present.
What’s Your Motivation?
Our expectations for our work are either internally or externally motivated, personal, or social, and we need a bit of each to do well. We know what it means to be motivated, to want to do our best, and to succeed. Sometimes we are driven by a personal desire to excel, set goals, and succeed. Other times, we have a desire for others to get their needs met, be satisfied or impressed, and display approval. This experience is common to both employers and employees. However, too much of one or the other can cause a barrage of problems and negatively affect mental health. Sometimes we ignore the signals instead of checking our motivation and charting a new path that includes mental health care.
What is the Impact?
When we push ourselves beyond a reasonable capacity, we risk the dreaded crash and burnout. Long before we reach this point, we have started to go downhill. It is not just about physical exhaustion. Overextending has implications for our mental health as well. When we are stretched beyond healthy limits, our mental health takes a hit which starts a spiral toward unwellness. By the time we recognize the physical impact of stress, our mental health has already begun to suffer. I like to say that when we don’t have sense enough to slow down, our bodies will force us to. Too often, our minds tell us we are pushing too far, but we try to silence it and keep going – at a cost. Our performance in all areas, including relationships and work, declines when we are not mentally healthy. We struggle to be fully aware of the true depth of the impact of ignoring our mental health.
Mental Health or Performance Problem?
Executive coaching is a go-to resource for professionals who want to excel. We are keenly aware of when our output changes and quickly connect with coaches and leaders to help us reset. However, sometimes when leaders are seeking coaching advice, what they need is mental health support. Both are important. If you feel like you are losing yourself, personal relationships, happiness, and contentment, a mental health checkup is needed. An increasing number of leaders have both a therapist and an executive coach. The function of each is different and enhances our personal and professional lives, respectively. Where to Start. These step can increase your awareness of your mental health and assess when it needs your attention.
Healthy Baseline. Your healthy baseline is how you feel and function when you are at your best. You feel the best, perform the best, have the best outlook, and your mind is most clear. Identify the healthy thoughts and behaviors that help get you to that place. This is your goal state. This is how you want to feel most of the time.
Deviations. Be intentional to notice when you are no longer at your healthy baseline. You’re in a lower mood, even in the slightest of ways. This shift may manifest as irritability, withdrawal, worry, physical health challenges, pain, and discomfort, excessive sleeping, substance use to change your mood, high-risk behaviors, etc. When we can identify that we are off our baseline, we can take the necessary steps to return to balance before things get out of hand.
Understanding. Press pause and take a moment to identify what changed. What thoughts, feelings, or behaviors have impacted your mental well-being in an unfavorable way?
Plan. Explore and decide what will help you return to your healthy baseline. What do you need? What needs to change? What is in your control to help you get there? What boundaries need to be established? Who can provide you with support? When, in no more than 7 days, can you make the change?
Be Present. Execute your plan. Take the time to slow down and be with yourself. Be in the moment. Be in the here and now. Give yourself permission to regularly take time to be, who you need to be, for you.
Mental Health and Presence Leadership
The topic of mental health is still finding its way into business and leadership. It is shifting the way we conceptualize and approach work. Present leaders are in lockstep with their team. They allow space for and encourage mental wellness. They take care of their own mental health and model it for their team. Present leaders are consistently aware of the happenings of the people around them, not just the work. Mentally healthy teams produce high-quality, consistent results because they function at levels they are able to maintain over time.
Call to Presence
Make the following commitments to yourself and map a plan to get results.
Prioritize yourself and your well-being.
Be as good to yourself as you are to others.
Press pause and think before you say yes.
Schedule time for yourself without guilt.
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Licensed Psychologist, Executive Coach, Speaker
Dr. Leatrice positions organizations to maximize productivity, master collaboration and teamwork,
and retain high achievers.
“Great Things Happen When You’re Present”
© 2022, Dr. Leatrice R. Brooks