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How to tackle mental health and wellbeing for you and your team

Untangling mental health at work

All Black legend & mental health advocate Sir John Kirwan reached the very pinnacle of his sport - rugby union - and was one of the most recognised sports players of his era, but he was also struggling with a serious mental health crisis.  His journey  has led him to become the face of mental health in New Zealand, fronting and many campaigns to raise awareness on mental health. This year he also launched Memtemia, a wellbeing app for workplaces in Australia.

With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, JK and the team at Mentemia have been inundated, on how best to navigate wellbeing in these unique times. So between JKs lived experience and Dr Fiona Crichton’s health psychology background, they have been advising on the best ways we can tackle mental health. And it may come as no surprise, but with all the nuances around leading teams, remote and hybrid working models as a result of the pandemic, there is still one truth - it all starts with you and preventing burnout in yourself.

So first up are some key pointers on how you can look after yourself, before some further tips on looking after your team, and fostering a culture of wellbeing. It all starts with looking after yourself - preventing burnout. You can’t look after your team if you’re not looking after yourself.

12 tips to wellbeing now

• Focus on the things you can control
• Look for silver linings
• Acknowledge your feelings
• Keep to a routine
• Do things you enjoy
• Breathe
• Live in the now
• Take care of your body
• Stay connected
• Take time out from the news
• Avoid ‘I should’ statements
• Be kind to yourself 

And here’s some key bitesize tips to help you lead your teams, and foster a culture of wellbeing for yourself, and your people.

1. Lead by example and prioritise your wellbeing 

You may be working at home, but don’t let home be all about work. Keep work from leaching into evenings or weekends. Take breaks and get fresh air. Eat well, keep active, and do some things you enjoy.

If and when you are back in the office, make sure to communicate and model your own wellbeing plan, as that gives your team permission to ensure they look after and invest in themselves. You can’t look after your team if you’re not looking after yourself.

2. Be flexible

Expect things to be bumpy and for there to be glitches. Whether it’s setting up technology infrastructure at home or managing childcare – there will be challenges for each member of the team.

When in the office make sure to discuss any challenges facing each team member in one-on-ones. Be accommodating and brain storm workable solutions together.

3. Create achievable wins

Set small, meaningful goals that can be achieved quickly. Quick wins boost confidence and set the stage for more success. They also provide a sense of accomplishment and control, and they provide a reason to celebrate.

Set small, meaningful goals that can be achieved quickly

4. Check-in regularly

Stay connected with the team. Regular check-ins offer reassurance as well as the opportunity to raise concerns. Take advantage of technology. Instant messaging and video conferencing provide an effective way to collaborate and can reduce feelings of isolation.

Maintain regular lines of communication to quickly identify what is working well and what needs to change.

5. Communicate the plan

Have clear rules: Wellbeing, health & safety of remote workers. Information security & privacy.

Have clear rules: Assume nothing. Logistics, processes and systems, hygiene & cleaning measures, proximity, hot-desking, close spaces, co-worker space, visiting customers. Everyone needs to feel safe and secure.

6. Promote fun

Look at virtual ways to enhance fun and connection within the team. Create a designated place within your group-chat application for casual conversation. Use video chat to have a group lunch, or an afterwork get together.

Plan for a bit of fun & laughter. It is a great way to release tension & build stronger teamwork. Teams that enjoy working together are generally happier (and more productive)

7. Encourage self-care

Ensure your team is aware of the importance of self-care right now. Talk about the ways you are looking after your own wellbeing. Encourage each team member to have their own wellbeing plan. And ask how you can best support them to make self-care a top priority.

Add mental wellbeing to your health and safety. Use wellbeing strategies onsite e.g. stretching, deep breathing before meetings, walking meetings, fresh fruit deliveries. Encourage each team member to have their own wellbeing plan.

Building a daily mental health plan 

For JK he ensures his daily mental health plan contains a range of things he can tap into from the following 6 pillars to ensure he thrives. Here’s some more on the 6 pillars to wellbeing to help you and your people. 

Doing just one thing from each pillar every day is a way to look after your future self. Over time you should feel more positive, resilient, and able to get the most out of life. They may be small daily actions but they can lead to big improvements in wellbeing.

Pillar One: Chill


Chill is all about reducing stress. It’s the things you do to calm your mind, relax your body, and switch off your fight or flight response. Did you know that you can’t be relaxed and stressed at the same time? Chilling tells your fight or flight response it’s safe to relax.

Pillar Two: Do


Do is all about learning. It’s the things you do to keep your brain active and stay creative. Did you know that when you set a goal of learning something new it helps to take small steps and notice progress along the way. This strengthens brain networks that expect positive outcomes, so you’ll feel more optimistic and better about yourself.

Pillar Three: Connect


Connect is all about connecting with and helping others. It’s the things you do to strengthen relationships, socialise, give back, and volunteer. Did you know that connecting boosts “feel good” brain chemicals oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. Acts of kindness and helping others is associated with feeling happier and more satisfied with life.

Pillar Four: Move


Move is all about keeping physically active. It’s the things you do to move your body in a way that feels good. Did you know that keeping active improves physical health, but it’s also a way to raise your spirits. If you’re not used to doing lots of exercise, just moving a little bit can be enough to lift your mood.

Pillar Five: Celebrate


Celebrate is all about taking time to celebrate and appreciate YOU. It’s the things you do to notice the positive, to be kind to yourself, and to feel good about yourself. Did you know that evidence indicates that taking time to think kind thoughts about yourself leads to greater happiness and being better equipped to cope with stressful situations.

Pillar Six: Enjoy


Enjoy is all about having things to look forward to. It’s the things you do for pleasure and fun, and to practice self-care. Did you know that making time for pleasure, fun and laughter can help boost “feel good” brain chemicals, serotonin and endorphins. This can help you feel more upbeat for the rest of the day and more resilient in the face of stress.

We hope you find all these tips useful as you navigate this new normal!

Thank you!

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