Visualising your Mental Health
Mental health conditions being difficult to understand is often because you can’t see it, unlike a broken arm or leg. In those cases you can see the injury, you can see it healing and if it is healing correctly. From being able to see the healing process, it is easy for a doctor to ascertain when you might be completely healed.
Mental health is not like that. You cannot see it. Only feel it. Something society isn’t great at accepting.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a therapy system to try and teach you methods to look after your mental well-being, something I have used many times and highly recommend. I have some really great habits and had some needed realisations through this process. One thing they often have you do is visualise you mental health as something practical.
For me, it was a bucket. The idea that was each person has a bucket which size would vary depending on the person. The bucket was the representation of what “stresses” a person could hold on to. Some people could hold a lot and others less so. So each “stress” would add water to the bucket. Once the bucket was full and started to overflow, this was often when a breakdown or burnout would occur. For a colleague it was known as their
breaking distance. In both cases, it was often common to discuss how you didn’t know the volume of your bucket or your braking distance until it overflowed or you crashed. Once that had happened it was very clear where the line was for you.
Equally, in the case of the bucket, what is the point of carrying round an empty bucket? You need some water in it to give you the motivation to carry it!!
So it really is a fine balancing act of too much and not enough stress to make the most out of your life.
What we want to prevent, is not being able to understand what you can take until you have broken once. We want to learn to be proactive not reactive. Any discussion about physical safety in our jobs is moving towards being proactive. Great cultures are being developed and risks properly assessed and discussed.
This is what we need to see happen in the mental health part of that conversation.
To extend the earlier metaphor, CBT is what teaches you to apply a tap to your bucket. It allows you to understand what you need to put in place to let some of that stress out of your life and keep that bucket at a reasonable level, i.e. enough to keep you motivated but not so much you become overwhelmed.
Therapy isn’t a swear word, it isn’t an evil thing that you should only embark on once you have an issue, you can use it as a preventative measure. It is a great way to better understand yourself from someone who doesn’t know you and can give an outside perspective. If you wanted to know more about a particular part of your job, you would go on a training course for it. You exercise and eat well to prevent any health issue later in life. Therapy is the training course, exercise routine or diet for your brain.
Taking time to really be with and understand yourself is so important. As a manager it is important to be able to read the signs in other people. Know your team well enough to know when you are asking too much regardless of deadlines that need to be hit as well as knowing when you need to ask for help. Unfortunately, deadlines are not going to get longer in any industry.
‘Time is money’ is a cliché for a reason.
However, bad mental well-being makes people less productive, costing you more time and money. The biggest cost to companies due to mental health issues isn’t days off sick, it is lack of productivity.
Be proactive in your approach to your own and your team’s mental well-being. Start that culture. Participate in the conversation. Remember, if you are suffering, just because you can’t see the healing, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening and we are all here for you.