Our Journey for Mental Health in the Workplace During COVID-19

At Sigma, working from home during COVID-19 has reinforced the importance of our team’s mental health. We asked Lisa and Shannon, two Sigma team members, some questions around their experience during COVID-19. We hope some of these stories and strategies help you and your team!

How have you been intentional about your mental health and overall wellbeing during COVID?

Shannon: Mental health has been a very important focus for me these past few months, trying to power through a bad day was no longer an option as everything started to slow down. I found that exploring new hobbies such as art and exercise to be a good focus that helped clear my mind, as well as becoming more open about how I was feeling on days that weren’t good. People around me were often having the same challenges, and we worked together to find a routine that suited us.

Lisa: It was important for me to recognize right off the bat that this was a big change, and I had to be extra self-aware of my thoughts and mental well-being. Self-awareness was the first step for ensuring mental stability. I tried to recognize some of those thoughts that can lead to emotions like anger, sadness, and depression.

Once I was aware of the negative thought patterns, I was able to determine what actions I could take to change my mood. I have found over the years that taking action on anything has been the most beneficial thing to interrupt negative thought patterns, so I set intentions to take action when I recognized a negative thought pattern. The actions that I find most helpful are listening to motivational podcasts or videos, and physical fitness.

What has been your biggest success during this time in terms of your well-being?

Shannon:  My biggest success would be creating new habits that I want to bring with me as we get back to the new normal, I have found that exercising and eating healthier has helped with my physical and mental well being.  Yoga, meditation and reading will be some activities that I will continue to practice each day. 

Lisa: The main action that helps my mental health is doing physical activity. I have spent at minimum, 35 minutes, 6 days a week doing physical activity since the beginning of COVID, and as a result have lost weight, but also have felt more mentally clear than I have in a long time. I have also felt an increase in confidence. It wasn’t seeing the number on the scale, or the weight I was lifting, but keeping the promise and commitment I had made to myself to get healthy, mentally and physically. The action of doing the activity allowed me to feel a sense of accomplishment and to move me past a negative thought loop.

What piece of advice would you give a leader and/or employee about prioritizing mental health?

Shannon: We say this all the time – you must at the employee as a whole person. I feel at Sigma that my challenges at home and at work are looked upon with equal importance. I would suggest a leader allows their employees to confide in them and accommodate where they can when things get rough, as well as take time to celebrate and recognize all wins in their employees’ lives, big or small. 

Lisa: Everyone talks about a “stigma” around mental health, so one thing you can do as a leader is show that you are vulnerable too. You can show your team that it’s okay to have a bad day, and to take that time to heal. But you don’t stay there. You do what works best for you to fill up your cup. You change your state and you get back at it. That makes it feel somehow more okay that as an employee, you might be having a tough time, and as a leader, you might be able to share some strategies that helped you.

It’s also really helpful to do mental health check in’s – for us, these are online forms that are submitted only to our direct superior. It’s a way for an employee to let their boss or manager know when something is not right, and if they need to sidebar and have a one-to-one conversation with that person. However, I would only recommend this if you are willing to put in the time to check the reports, and have a one-to-one with an employee. Nikki is always very prompt at following up with me if I ever score lower than a 3, and if I ask for a one-to-one, she makes time for me. If she didn’t, I wouldn’t feel as recognized, and as appreciated as I do.

Watch our free webinar about mental health at the workplace now!

We hope that you have found some of this feedback helpful! A friendly reminder: this is not medical advice, and if you are experiencing severe mental health challenges, CMHA has a ton of great resources and tools. We have 8 more strategies that you can check out in our most recent webinar which you can access here!

Author of this post:
Lisa Karjala
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