As the South African economy reawakens after lockdown, many companies have addressed the vital issue of our physical safety. However, we also need to talk about mental health and what better time to do this than in a month when we mark World Mental Health Day? Declared by the United Nations, 10 October was an international day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma.
Lockdown has been hard for every person, in different ways. We have been constantly reacting to stressful situations. One way of addressing mental health is by using mindfulness. Mindfulness is about paying attention to our thoughts and feelings in the present moment. It is about intentionally paying attention to each moment, being fully engaged in whatever is happening around you and within you.
This technique helps our minds to focus on the here and now, rather than the future or the past, and allows us to become calmer and kinder towards ourselves and those around us. The aim of mindfulness is to attune ourselves to our physical sensations, emotions and thoughts, so we’re able to better focus on the present.
So, where do you begin when it comes to mindfulness and the wider issue of mental health? At Schneider Electric, we practice a three-step routine, which begins with understanding – this helps encourage self-awareness of a person’s well-being. The second step is recognising, which allows us to acknowledge existing biases about mental health. The final step is taking action, by learning new strategies to improve personal and collective mental health and building an inclusive environment.
Beyond mindfulness, I would also encourage managers and HR leaders to take some extra mental health efforts:
- Check-in with your people. Many of us are working remotely, and we’re missing the social connection.
- Get a sense for how your colleagues are doing. What are they saying, and what are they not saying? How is their energy, their attitude? See what support they might need.
- Listen without distractions and give them your full attention. Give your colleagues the opportunity to be honest and open about how they are and how they feel, both mentally and physically.
- Acknowledge your feelings and the feelings of others. By recognising and appreciating these emotions, you’ll empower yourself and others, make yourself and them feel better, and we will all be able to treat each other with more kindness and compassion.
Give yourself and others time to respond. Many people find it hard to talk about emotions. The initial process of mindfulness may feel frustrating – give others the time and space to speak about their thoughts and feelings.
By Siphumelele Nhlapo, Human Resources Director for Schneider Electric Anglophone Cluster