Last week I had great pleasure in attending another Pimento meet up with guests Sarah Jane Khalid, Chartered Counselling Psychologist, Executive & Life Coach, Mind Body Mode along with the fabulous Michelle Morgan ambassador for Mental Health First Aid England and Founder of Pjoys: pyjamas with purpose. Both shared important and valuable messages around how best to manage and build our resilience and how to support others.

Resilience: the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly.

Sarah talked us through four steps to think about:

Step one 

Acceptance:  it’s important to acknowledge the adversity you’re facing – ‘if we resist, it persists’. Sarah recommended we appreciate the process we find ourselves in, acknowledge that bad things do happen but where possible try to see the opportunity in the stresses we’re facing. 

Step two

Be selective with attention: focus on that that you can change, diminish the negative and tune into the positive. By doing this we can strengthen our neural pathways supporting our mental health.   Appreciate everything, especially the ordinary and set an intention to be in gratitude.

Her suggestions for positive steps included:  

  • Keeping a gratitude Journal 
  • Practising gratefulness through sending letters or postcards to friends and family 
  • Talking with someone even via Zoom or FaceTime etc. to keep connected 

Step three

Helping or harming: look at your coping strategies and be honest with yourself – is what you are doing helping or harming you? Become more aware of what you do when you feel anything negative. In my case I would say I reach for the chocolate, browse for too long on Facebook and watch back to back Netflix  – what’s your crutch? 

Step four

Our social relationships: research shows that the more positive relationships you have and maintain in your life the less likely you are to suffer from depression.  Friends can help us shine a light on problems and give us new perspectives. Humans are social beings and so we need one another and whilst it is very challenging during Covid times, we do have technology to lean on. Making calls, emailing, sending letters and socially distanced meetups where possible all support us in our mental fitness.

Sarah concluded: whilst the above steps seem straight forward enough it’s both the commitment and willingness to put these into action that are required for increased resilience. 

A Pimento member commented “The Chartered Institute of Personal Development recently shared that the most headhunted C-suite role in 2020, was Chief Well-being Officer, with a strategic mission to ensure employee well-being.”  Times are a changing.

Michelle Morgan was similarly aligned with Sarah and reinforced the idea that remembering small joys and sharing how you’re feeling are critical to maintaining good mental health. She concurred that accepting and embracing that that we can’t control actually frees us up. Her top tips included:

  • Don’t seek perfection. 
  • Pause and breathe. 
  • Welcome diversity and difference.
  • Trust your gut instinct.

Michelle spoke powerfully from her personal experience and described what mental health means to her: it’s how we feel, think and behave, how stress affects us and how we view ourselves and our future.

With a delightful infographic she described her stress dispenser model with a tap that would release stress when we’re coping well, however if our dispenser fills up with too much stress and our coping strategies (the tap) are not working well, we can reach an emotional snapping point. Indicators include disrupted sleep, comfort eating, becoming more introverted, talking less to friends and family and having big reactions to normally small/inconsequential triggers. 

A key message Michelle was keen to convey and has been a trailblazer for, is the idea that we need to talk about mental health even if it feels awkward. Describing the awkward pause when the topic comes up, she counselled us to own our ‘own awkward’, leave the space for someone – be it your friend, a family member or co-worker – to be able to say their truth about their mental health. 

From my perspective I find it really heartening that the importance of mental health and well-being is now firmly top of agenda for many business leaders. Mental fitness and resilience will continue to play a major part in how we grow and retain talent.

Another hour well spent with Pimento.

Annabel Dunstan, Founder and CEO, Question & Retain