De-Stressing as the Starting Point for Mental Health
This year’s World Mental Health Day focused on the theme of suicide prevention, and while I was tempted to reach out across my fellow leaders across MMB for their views on this very important issue, I thought I’d start with something a little more widely-relatable: de-stressing.
A healthy amount of stress is important for us to do our best work, but we all need a way of keeping pressures manageable. For me, it’s exercise, cooking, photography, traveling, and asking for help — this has the added benefit of reinforcing camaraderie and improving the quality of my work. For my colleagues, the activities vary from doing hard workouts, spending time with family, or simply remembering to smile more often.
De-stressing is vital for good mental health, and I believe it is an easy starting point for companies looking to do something about their employees’ well-being — everybody can relate to the need to de-stress. However, de-stressing is an active process; we must set our minds to put any of our stress triggers out of sight to properly unwind. Therefore, employees can neglect to manage growing pressures on their psyches, which can then lead to a host of health conditions such as headaches, fatigue, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
Standard healthcare insurance policies can provide coverage for treating the physical illnesses resulting from chronic stress or poor mental health, but so much could have been done to prevent these health problems. Friends, family, and colleagues who notice the signs of burnout can bring it to the attention of the employee. Companies can design flexible benefits programs that support the preferred de-stressing activities of their employees. Maintaining good mental health is the responsibility of the individual, but we all have the power to create the environments and structures that support each other’s well-being.
I cannot assume that everyone is taking an active approach to maintaining their mental health — a quick online search will reveal a host of studies and surveys indicating that there are many of us struggling to manage stress or stay mentally healthy. While most of us know we must find time and opportunities to de-stress, there will be situations that press us to prioritize our work responsibilities or the needs of others to the detriment of our well-being. These are the times where the employee’s support systems become crucial, and companies with well-designed and well-communicated benefit programs will stand out for providing the much-needed resources and respite.
We all recognize mental health’s importance to physical well-being, but few organizations can truly say they are behaving as if that is the case. Looking at the insurance industry, we still have much room for improvement in terms of providing adequate coverage for mental healthcare costs. It will take time for our systems and organizations to close this gap, but I am confident that with growing awareness of mental health’s importance, we can expect innovations and solutions in this space. It becomes all the more impressive to employees and talents, then, for an organization to be readily investing in their people’s well-being and taking a serious approach to supporting their mental health needs.