These mental health strategies help build resilience

Head of HR outlines the best ways to build greater connection in teams

These mental health strategies help build resilience

The COVID-19 pandemic has dialed up the already present stressors in people’s lives, while also reducing the protective factors for wellbeing.

Moreover, people already disadvantaged before the coronavirus have felt the impacts the most, according to Marlene Tanner, Head of Development, Human Resources, ANZ, AbbVie.

As HR professionals are at the forefront of every organisation’s COVID-19 response, many are facing some of the biggest workforce challenges in their career. So how can leaders prioritise their mental wellbeing to mitigate stress and improve productivity?

Tanner explained that to build resilience and have greater connection with teams, it’s important to focus on self-awareness, empathy, authenticity and emotional self-management.

Firstly, Tanner explained that self-awareness is the foundational skill for developing resilience.

“Whether you are thinking about how to build trust in the team or even the general wellbeing of the team, you need to notice the red flags early on,” said Tanner.

“How much sleep am I getting? How fatigued am I? Am I starting to show irritability in meetings?

“These are the things that through awareness you can think about what might have changed and this will assist in building your resiliency and keep your mental health at a higher level.”

Tanner added that it’s also important to understand emotional triggers.

“If you are slipping down that slippery slope and continually ask for feedback through that process, then some of these red flags may not be obvious.”

If that’s the case, Tanner recommends that someone you trust can open up to you if they notice changes in patterns of behaviour.

READ MORE: CEO opens up about mental health

Engaging our biology and really understanding and connecting with another’s experience will help support the resilience of teams, added Tanner.

Tanner cited American professor Brene Brown who said “empathy is not connecting to the experience, it’s connecting to the emotions that underpin an experience”.

“In order to engage our empathy, it’s important to acknowledge perspective taking and the world as others see it,” said Tanner.

“That’s not easy, but one of the things that really help us is to suspend our judgement and be curious as to why you are hearing what you are hearing people are saying what they are saying.

“Then it’s important to recognise the emotions not only of yourself but the other person and to communicate your understanding of the other’s feelings.”

Tanner said the aforementioned empathy strategies are a neat summary of Brene Brown’s book Dare to Lead and are the critical features which help engage our biology. Consequently, what transpires is a better connectedness with peers and the leadership team.

How do we enhance authenticity? Tanner said that this is linked closely to wellbeing is about being able to describe what’s going on.

It starts from a “position of feeling”. For example, someone might feel frustrated when somebody else arrives late to a meeting or unsupported in what they are trying to achieve.

“Hence, you can say ‘I would like you to do your best to come on time when we have our meetings’,” said Tanner.

“It comes down to the notion around actually stating how you feel and why you are feeling this

“Understanding why you ask people to behave differently is a crucial step towards enhancing your authenticity and for people to feel they really know you and understand you as a leader.”

READ MORE: Richard Branson on mental health

Managing strong emotions
All human beings can be gripped by strong emotions and then we can fight or flight which can mean acting in default ways, said Tanner.

“We might end up being judgmental and become more inquisitive - asking too many questions, or we might become the victim and feel like everything is hopeless.”

Tanner said those default thoughts are really important for us to understand because these are the things that narrow our thinking and limit our interpretation of events. Consequently, rather than narrowing the thought to the situation it becomes something much more permanent.

“People might take a situation personally and see it as their fault and these strong emotions are things that get in the way of trust and building that sense of empathy within our teams,” said Tanner.

Finally, Tanner it’s important to focus on creating a space where you can have those strong wellbeing conversations.

In a nutshell, some strategies to build a healthy mindset and help grow relationships include:

  • Label and define the way you feel
  • Vent to a neutral person you trust
  • Draft communications but don’t send them
  • Take six deep breaths
  • Go for a walk
  • Think about how you’d typically respond, your ‘default’ and what the ‘alternative’ to that might actually look like

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