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Rāmere / Friday: Hinengaro

Refresh your mind –  Whāngaia tō hinengaro

Taha hinengaro is your mind, heart, conscience, thoughts, and feelings. Just like your physical health, your hinengaro needs to be nurtured. Hinengaro is what you do to stimulate and refresh your mind so you can better cope with the ups and downs of life.

Why is taha hinengaro an important way to wellbeing?

Taking care of taha hinengaro is important for everyone, regardless of whether or not you’ve experienced mental illness or distress. When your taha hinengaro is strong, you can express your feelings and reach out for support from friends, whānau and hoamahi/colleagues if you need to.

  • Reflect on the challenges you overcame as a team and what what strengths you discovered.
  • Map your daily energy levels – when do you feel most energy? Morning or afternoon? 
  • Try something new or rediscover an old interest (e.g. the guitar!).
  • Share your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust. Expressing our emotions can help us to understand them better, and to feel less alone in what we're going through.
  • Practice gratitude and write down three things you’re grateful for.
  • Read books that talk about feelings and emotions. Buy them online or head to the library!

Can you take a moment to stimulate and refresh your mind today? 

Speaking up about your Mental Health at work

With many of us feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has never been a more important time to speak up and talk about our mental health. No one deserves to feel low, anxious, stressed, or depressed and once you start talking about it, you’ll find support and understand you are not alone in feeling these types of feelings. While it can feel daunting, To ‘name a feeling is to tame a feeling’ and talking with someone you trust about your mental health may be all you need to feel better.

We typically spend most of our time at work and if you are struggling mentally then hiding it or putting on a brave face is mentally exhausting, isolating, and can make you feel worse. If you have been struggling for some time it may have started to impact your work performance or relationships, raising concerns from your teammates or managers. You may have already been diagnosed with a mental health illness and be receiving treatment but are still struggling to tell your workplace.

We are often reluctant to talk about our mental health at work, it can feel too personal or you may be nervous you may be treated differently. You may also fear that it will not stay confidential and these are all normal concerns. However, it is important to remember that the majority of our trusted colleagues or employers will be a fantastic support and will work alongside you to recover. It is also against the law to treat anyone differently in the workplace or discriminate against mental health illness.  

Often once you do speak up at work, you may find it is actually easier to talk to someone that is not a friend or family member as they may offer impartial advice or less judgment. They may also have more skills or knowledge to help provide you with the advice and support you need.

Why should you speak up about your mental health at work:

  • If you have been absent from work, not your usual self, or your work performance has dropped, talking to your designated mental health first aider, your Manager or to your HR team can help them understand your situation. 
  • You’ll gain support to take leave if needed or implement a more flexible working arrangement or reduced workload to help you focus on feeling better. 
  • You’ll gain help to access the free resources and support available to you, either via your GP or EAP provider. Early disclosure of your mental health is the best chance of this happening.
  • Talking about your experiences might encourage others to be more open about mental health at work, as well as help to change people’s attitude 

Preparing to speak up at work:

If you want to talk to a trusted colleague or employer about your mental health, it can help to work through the steps below to help you feel mentally prepared for the conversation. Practicing some sentence starters and what you want to say can also help boost your confidence and feel more comfortable to speak up in a way that feels natural to you. Remember talking about your mental health condition is an individual experience and there is no right or wrong way to do it. 

  • Identify who you want to speak to, either a trusted colleague, your manager or a member of your HR team you feel comfortable talking to. Alternatively, if your organisation has an EAP provider you can contact them directly.  The details for this provider are typically located on your intranet. 
  • Plan a date and time that suits you and the person you are talking to when you know you both will have the time and energy for the conversation. If you feel more comfortable talking about this outside of the workplace, invite this person out for a coffee or catch up out.
  • If you are talking to your Manager or HR team, you may want to take a support person with you. Regardless of whether they come with you to the meeting, it’s a good idea to have someone you can debrief or talk to about it afterward. 
  • Prepare some notes or discussion points to keep the conversation on track and ensure you cover everything you need to. The following points and examples will help you write these. 

Points to consider and speak up about: 

Think about how much detail you want to share with them and how you will describe how you have been feeling. It can help to write down a couple of points to help you explain this to them. 
E.g  “I’m feeling really stressed and not coping too well lately. I often feel overwhelmed and I've had to take a few mental health days. 

If you have a previously diagnosed illness it can help them to understand your condition by explaining your diagnosis, symptoms, medications, and any specific treatment you’ve had or are currently undertaking. 
E.g. “I've been diagnosed with depression and am currently receiving treatment for it. I just feel really low and like I want to hide away at home. I've got less motivation for my usual activities and keep waking up at night. I'm struggling to focus on work right now and I know I've missed a couple of deadlines. 

Think about the level of privacy you want to maintain and how you would like any information shared with your colleagues or Management. Remembering that your privacy is protected by legislation. Do you only want the person you are having the conversation with to know? Are you happy for your manager to speak to your colleagues or other managers? If so, what should they say? Be specific about this and your wishes during your conversation.
E.g. "Can you please tell the team for me, I don't want them thinking I'm slacking off and I know they will be really supportive". 

Think about why you are speaking up and what you want to get out of the conversation. E.g. Common reasons include:

  • You have been struggling and your performance has become an issue.
  • You are on your way to recovery but may need support to manage your condition in future.
  • You need additional support, changes to your role, or time off. 
  • You want to reduce stigma in your workplace. 
  • You are tired of keeping your condition a secret – being open may help people understand your situation.

E.g. “I wanted to talk to you because I’m aware I haven’t been coping very well at work and wanted to explain why. I'd really like your support." 

Think about what support or help you need from your colleague or employer. If speaking to your Manager or Employer, it’s useful to explain how your condition affects you at work – what you find difficult or stressful, and what your manager can do to support you.
E.g. "I tend to feel stressed and overwhelmed when unexpected tasks are thrown on me with tight deadlines. Can I please come to you and negotiate a new deadline if I'm feeling overwhelmed?"

Your manager may ask how they can help, so having a few ideas prepared can be a good starting point. Think about any changes to your role that will help you remain at or return to work. These could include adjustments to your workload, tasks, schedule or hours. If your condition doesn’t affect how you do your job, be sure to make that clear. 
E.g. “I don’t need any extra support right now but can I come back to you if I need to take leave or get some help to meet deadlines?'

If you are speaking to a trusted colleague, they may also ask how they can help so think about whether you want them to talk to your Manager or HR team on your behalf or with you to help you in your role.

During the conversation:

  • Be patient with yourself and be aware that it may be difficult to speak or you may get upset. Keep reminding yourself of why you want to have this conversation to help you continue.
  • Once you've discussed the points you wanted to, make sure you have a clear action plan or next steps confirmed. For example, you may want to talk to them again in the next few days or they may say the will get back to you once they have actioned some of the points above. 
  • Take a few minutes after the conversation to reflect and process what you have discussed before rushing back to work. It may help to go for a quick walk or talk to another friend or family member for a debrief. 

Remember there is no right or wrong way to speak up about your mental health at work and it may take several discussions. The important thing is that you don’t delay the conversation, the sooner you speak up the sooner you can access the support you need and be on the road to recovery. 

Source: Jenny Stewart (Synergy Health)

References: Like Minds, Like Mine