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February 13, 2018

Let's Talk (about mental health)

Briana Sim
founder & COO / people advocate / office singer

The other week was Bell Let’s Talk Day, an awareness campaign around mental health issues that encourages conversation. The campaign focused on five ways to end the stigma and start a discussion: language matters - you can make a difference with your words; educate yourself - learn how to communicate with someone experiencing mental health issues; be kind - kindness can open up a conversation and let someone know you’re there for them; listen and ask - be there and ask how you can help; and talk about it - break the silence and be open to a conversation.

I find it very fitting that a mental health awareness campaign takes place in February. Living in Vancouver during these weeks and weeks of grey and rain, when natural intake of Vitamin D is very limited, makes a lot of us feel down, irritable, or anxious.

Last week I took a "mental wellness day" because I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was feeling stressed, anxious, negative, and sad. I knew that I needed to recharge and deal with my thoughts and feelings. There are times when I can pull myself out of this mood, and other times when it really sticks with me. This time of year is especially hard because the lack of sun really affects me.

My partner and I are growing a company together, and there are definitely growing painswe've been experiencing the past few months. We have tight client deadlines and conflicting priorities, and that can be really stressful. It can also be really stressful for our team, and we recognize that. We know that the hard work we all put in now will get us closer to helping the company succeed and reach its goals, but having our team look after themselves is even more important to us.

Last week we gathered the team to have a check-in to see how everyone was feeling. I said that this time of year is tough for many people, as many of us are feeling stressed and anxious. These feelings affect our mental health, so I encouraged the team to find positive ways to deal with these feelings, and to try to be extra kind and forgiving to their teammates. I also shared that I had taken a mental wellness day, and I encouraged them to do the same when needed - to recharge, meditate, find things to appreciate - whatever works for them.

When I feel stressed, I try to take a step back, and look at my situation from a different, healthier point of view. I try to find something I can appreciate in the thing that is causing me stress - the company, a person, or a situation. For instance, our company may be causing me stress, but that’s because Radical is growing, and ultimately that is a good thing. By finding something I can appreciate, my mindset starts to change to a more positive one. Positivity encourages more positivity. The reverse is also true: negativity encourages more negativity. Another way I combat stress and negativity is to talk to someone about what I'm feeling. It really helps me to feel more connected and positive.

At our team check-in, I encouraged the team to share the healthy ways that they deal with stress and anxiety, and say something positive about our team.

We came up with the following “de-stress” list:

  • Spend time with a pet
  • Tell your family or friends about your day
  • Talk to a friend or family member about a situation you’re dealing with
  • Listen to music or audio book
  • Go rock climbing
  • Play video games or board games
  • Get active to change your perspective
  • Phone or hang out with a friend
  • Sleep!
  • Tell jokes or lighten the mood with humour
  • Do a high intensity workout
  • Practice yoga
  • Cook
  • Think about why you chose to be in a certain situation (city, job, relationship)
  • Meditate
  • See a counselor

We also had some great, encouraging comments for the team and overall workplace:

  • We get to be ourselves here
  • I feel comfortable being myself
  • We are all unique
  • We can be vulnerable
  • It feels like a family here
  • The team is supportive and kind
  • Everyone is really welcoming

It’s important to note that if you experience stress, anxiety, negativity or sadness, there’s no shame in seeking professional help from a counselor or therapist. It is especially important if you have prolonged periods of feeling unwell. It is great to have an impartial person to talk things through with, and who has the training to provide some insight and guidance. Sometimes it takes trying a session with a few people to find the right fit, and some counselors offer a 15 minute trial where you can meet each other and see if the dynamic works.

If you are in crisis, please go to your local hospital or call 911 immediately.

Technology. People. Purpose.

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