R U OK? is more than a slogan
We've all been there, right?
I've had my ups and downs as many do. One particularly difficult day left me feeling in an almost hopeless state of despair.
I had been experiencing a slow and painful build up of work and personal stress for a number of months and after an altercation with a colleague, it triggered an unfamiliar reaction. For the first time ever, I sat there at my desk - crying. Yes - That's right. Thankfully, no one else was around at the time!
I, like so many of us, had ended up overworking myself to the point of losing control of the small things. I felt like I was spinning plates in the air. The combination of personal life challenges, a toxic work environment, and this prolonged stress was having negative effects on many aspects of my life including my health, and my relationships. Having suffered depression as a teenager, I am always weary of the chances of spiralling into it again.
I drove home with tears running down my face that day. I felt like a huge failure and wondered what i was even doing with my life. I began to think of quitting everything. When i got home, a message popped up on my phone from an old colleague asking me why I didn't have "project management' on my skills list on LinkedIn as they wanted to endorse me for it. I almost laughed and said, "Really? Are you sure? I don't feel very good at my job right now," and they replied, "of course! You are a fantastic project manager...
What happened? Are you OK?"
Just the simple fact that someone cared enough to ask me how i was going, and to really care about the answer, was enough to stop me in my tracks and block the negative thought cycle that often runs through our minds when we feel sad, broken or depressed.
Whether we're going through rough patches or bad days to full blown mental health and psychological issues, these words have power.
R U OK?
I watched a documentary recently about the founder of the R U OK? project, Gavin Larkin who started the campaign because of his father's suicide. What I came to learn was that, Gavin himself went through his own personal ordeal not only being diagnosed with cancer twice, but the fact that his own son at just 11 years of age was diagnosed with brain cancer and died at just 15. His fear was that depression would plague him and his family but instead, he has inspired many including his wife and children to combat it face to face.
The R U OK campaign is not just a slogan to slap onto your Facebook - although it is so important that we raise awareness. It is more than a few words. It is a very strong reminder that we are all humans - we focus so much of our time on performance and tasks and productivity and dare i say, politics. Each of us has a story and we have personal lives that whether we like it or not, play a huge role in our level of satisfaction with work and vice versa.
While you are busy typing away today, or making your hundredth phone call, or going to see a client, remember to take some time out today to ask a friend or colleague if they are OK. It could really save someone's life. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health and if you have to take a break because you have the flue, then you need to take a break if you are depressed or suffering from anxiety and stress.
Some mini de-stress tactics
1. Breathe deeply: This will help you to regain focus and calm your nerves. When we breathe deeply, we decrease our heart rate, reduce muscle tension, increase oxygen in the brain, and lower blood pressure.
2. Smile or laugh: They say laughter is the best medicine. Watch a funny video at lunch time or make a point to smile when a colleague walks past. Studies have shown that smiling can temporarily alleviate small stressors and help you get past negative moods.
3. Go outside for a walk or do stretches at your desk: If you only have two minutes before crunch time, use it effectively and get a bit of workout by doing simple stretches that would help relieve neck and back pain.
4. Finally, find just one thing you can be grateful for: It can be hard to do in the midst of an ordeal, but gratitude is one of the key ways to unlocking your emotional and mental health.
I encourage employers and managers to ensure the mental health of your workers is always considered as a priority in your workplace.
The RCSA is running a FREE webinar on creating a mentally healthy workplace on the 3rd of October, with SuperFriend, sponsored by Prime Super.
*FREE for all RCSA Members including RCSA Corporate Member staff. Just $50.00 for non-members.
written by Nadine Houston at RCSA's request.