It’s awkward right?
You’re having a conversation with a colleague, a friend or your partner and they share with you that things are not going well.
They’re worried, tired beyond tired, unsure they can keep going for much longer and feeling very depressed.
How do you respond?
Do you nod wisely and say “that sounds tough” before changing the subject?
Do you raise your hands in horror and say “OMG, you’re not going to do anything STUPID are you?”
Do you sit in panic wondering “what’s the right thing to do here?”
That awkwardness comes from not knowing the right thing to do or say – because hey, you’re not a trained therapist, you’re worried you might say the wrong thing and make them feel worse, or if you’re being really honest with yourself you don’t want to get involved. This isn’t something you want to get drawn into, you’re happy to refer on but please spare me the gory details that are making me feel uncomfortable.
I get it.
In conversations with CEO’s and leaders during 2020, I’ve heard their concern for wanting to be seen for doing the right thing by their employees.
They’ve also told me they are worried because they see the high-stress levels and fatigue taking a toll, putting people at risk of anxiety, depression or burnout.
Dealing with the so-called soft stuff, those tricky human emotions, moods and feelings suddenly feels hard.
But health and safety is much more than providing discounted gym memberships, having access to an EAP or listening to a meditation app.
It’s about having the right conversations to discover what’s really happening.
It’s about making the time to sit and listen to another person sharing their pain, fears and worries.
It’s not about coming up with your solution but showing that you’ve heard, and you are there to offer support.
It’s also about understanding what helps keep people well. Sure, bonuses are great along with access to childcare and free lunches, but what fires people up to make them feel excited, energised and looking forward to being at work? What can you be doing to provide an environment that feels safe and provides a sense of belonging?
We’re becoming increasingly worn out.
You may have enjoyed your break over the Christmas and New Year period, but did you come back to work, already tired before you started? 2020 was a basket case, but we’re not done with the pandemic yet.
HR leaders and business owners are telling me the prevailing mood is now of greater resignation, sullen acceptance and ongoing fatigue.
We’re not fine, even if we like to pretend we are.
Coping is a short-term strategy. It’s not enough for dealing with pandemic fatigue, increasing levels of burnout and loss of mental wellbeing.
Which is why it is essential for leaders to explore and discover:
How do you have a conversation with someone you’re worried about?
What is an appropriate level of interaction to take with an employee who is asking for help?
How do you overcome the disillusion, grief and disconnection being experienced especially for those who have endured the longest periods of lockdown?
We have learned so much over the last 12 months.
We are a great deal more resilient, adaptive and optimistic than we give ourselves credit for. Despite every horror, frustration, loss and fear, we’re still here. Still cautiously optimistic things will get better.
We’ve learned much about ourselves and what’s really important. We’ve discovered too that work isn’t necessarily top of that list.
We’ve remembered that doing those things that provide us with joy, that allow us to savour the moment and be still are what allows us to reconnect with feeling calm, inner contentment and courage.
That it is our individual acts and collective wisdom that bring about positive change, greater kindness and tolerance.
That as humans we often do too much, take on too many commitments and push ourselves beyond our biological limits, which is contributing to the high level of chronic stress, mental and physical illness and burnout.
Having the right conversation includes:
- Being willing to LISTEN deeply and to be comfortable with silence
- Being willing to recognise and accept how we truly FEEL
- Being willing to ASK for help and not be a lone ranger
- Being willing to unlearn and RELEARN those new skills and behaviours that support and energise
- Being willing to LET GO of tightly held assumptions that may be holding you back
- Seeking to BUILD capability, adaptability and flexibility
- Seeking to FOCUS on building connection, self-care and making wellbeing the norm
- Tapping into PURPOSE, realistic optimism and hope
The right conversation is the one that shifts you out of your comfort zone and into the unknown. There are no easy answers and that’s OK.
The right conversation gets easier with practice creating insight into what’s really going on, rather than being told what others want you to hear. It’s an opportunity to seek more alternatives to existing challenges, to explore what’s possible and be less risk adverse.
Are you having the right conversations to move you and those around you to a happier, healthier New Normal?
Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) is now available for purchase
If psychological safety, resilience and mental wellbeing is something you’d like to find out more about, please contact me to set up a time for a chat.