28th October, 2021
With Mental Health Awareness Month coming to a close for 2021, now’s the time to put mindfulness practices in place and drive positive conversations around mental health.
For employees, good mental health practices mean better attendance and performance at work — another good reason why initiatives like Mental Health Awareness Month are critical in getting the conversation started.
It’s also the reason MYOB continues to partner with Smiling Mind, a non-profit in the mental health space offering free meditations and learnings on mindfulness.
A recent survey from MYOB found more than half of all small business operators said running their business has directly impacted feelings of anxiety or depression.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a further 65 percent of operators said thinking about their business disrupts sleep.
If you or anyone you know could benefit from better mental health outcomes, whether in or outside of work, this article offers some insights into how other business owners are approaching various facets of the subject.
Dr Addie Wootten, chief executive of Smiling Mind, has plenty of insight into how business operators and organisations can introduce mindfulness into the workplace.
“The earlier that we can start to develop proactive mental health habits, the better our overall mental health will be and the less likely those symptoms will get really difficult to manage,” said Wootten in a SmartCompany article that shared and dispelled three common myths regarding mindfulness.
“There are executives at the biggest organisations that practice mindfulness, as well as people working on farms, in banks, and running their family business,” she said.
Adam Valastro, entrepreneur and founder of Travelling Tradies, has experienced first-hand how mindfulness practices assist him in his work life, and he’s been able to harness it to help others as well.
“Mindfulness to me is awareness of yourself, your surroundings, your morals and your peers,” he said. “It’s understanding how to be present in the moment as well as navigating the chatter in the mind that can throw us off balance.”
Valastro says that being clear on goals or guiding values is an important part of being mindful, especially for business owners. For him, it’s about defining purpose.
“My purpose is the fuel in my tank that gets me out of bed in the morning and keeps me going when things get tough.
“Every day there are different struggles that we all face, and for me, waking up every day, doing something I love from what I have intentionally created gives me constant joy.”
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Having awareness of our mental health is an important first step. It enables action if we feel that we aren’t travelling as well as we’d like. It can be the catalyst for us to talk to a trusted friend or to seek professional support or simply for more self care.
If you want to continue the conversation as we approach the end of 2021, here are some other topics to consider.
The World Health Organisation defines stress as the ‘reaction people may have when presented with demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope’.
When stress is intense and goes on for some time, it can lead to mental and physical ill health, including burnout — a condition feared by business owners and employees alike.
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. If you want to prepare for conversations about burnout, Smiling Mind have a great resource on how to avoid it available on their blog.
Decades of psychological literature points to relationships as the most important factor for life satisfaction and emotional wellbeing.
Mindfulness helps us to get better at noticing all the things coming at us (demands, situations, people, information, news and so on) so that we can choose our response, rather than simply reacting on autopilot.
The ability to respond more mindfully can support and nurture the important relationships in our lives.
Cultivating a feeling of appreciation for the important people in our lives helps generate gratitude, which has been shown to improve life satisfaction and psychological wellbeing.
Smiling Mind’s blog contains a section on the benefits that cultivating gratitude brings, and you can also direct staff to the ‘Cultivating Gratitude’ meditation from the Smiling Mind Small Business Program.
Now more than ever we need to be cultivating an attitude of warmth, friendliness and kindness toward ourselves and others.
Acknowledging that, as humans, we all suffer, is an attitude that helps reduce our own and others suffering through greater understanding, empathy and support. It involves a fundamental shift from “I” to “We”.
Defined by the American Psychological Association as the process of ‘adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress’.
More colloquially known as “bouncing back” or “the ability to bend and not break”, resilience is a defining trait for successful business operators, and a key concept to discuss when it comes to maintaining mental health.
Australian V8 Supercar driver Emily Duggan knows a thing or two about being resilient in the face of adversity — both in her day-to-day life and in managing her business.
“In racing, there are so many highs and lows, possibly more lows than highs due to the chasing of sponsorship, a part failure in a race, mistakes on track or missed opportunities,” said Duggan.
“Resilience is built off the back of wanting something passionately and continuing to chase it after each and every knock back and disappointment.”
For Duggan, resilience often means embracing and absorbing the positive things that happen in life so that you’ve something to hold on to when faced with challenges.
“As resilience comes from your mind, it’s important to relish in the highs of each achievement,” she said. “The more you give yourself praise in these times of highs you will remember what you have already achieved when you are in that moment of a low.”
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Myth 1: Being resilient means we don’t experience difficulty or distress.
The reality: Strong and difficult emotions are usually a normal and natural response to any difficult or challenging life events.
Myth 2: Resilience is something you either have or don’t have.
The reality: Resilience involves behaviours and ways of interacting with our thoughts and emotions that can be learned and developed.
Mindfulness as a foundation for resilience
Mindfulness forms the foundation of resilience by giving us a greater ability to notice our thoughts more objectively (especially unhelpful thinking), to tune in to how we are feeling, and to notice how our thoughts and emotions are influencing our behaviour.
This is referred to in psychology circles as ‘psychological flexibility’.
Psychological flexibility is the ability to maintain contact with the present moment and act in accordance with one’s values, even in the presence of distressing or unwanted inner experiences (like thoughts, emotions, sensations).
With ongoing change in the business environment, addressing mental health for business owners is as important as ever.
As MYOB’s chief employee experience officer, Helen Lea, put it in a recent webinar on the topic, tackling your approach to mental health now could be the most important thing you do ahead of 2022.
“Now perhaps more than ever it’s crucial that those of us running small businesses … understand the tools that are available to help us proactively manage mental health,” said Lea.
Hear from Dr Addie Wootten, chief executive of Smiling Mind alongside Bruce Billson, ASBFEO, and a number of small business owners on the practical steps you can take to address mental health in the workplace in MYOB’s one-hour, FREE panel presentation: ‘Making mental health your business: Coping skills for resilient SMEs’.