October 2022 Leader Letter

Nurturing Mental Health

Cultivate the wellness of your mind—then pass it on to those who look up to you.

By Renée Covino

Nurturing Mental Health

How are you? Really—how are you? And how are the individuals on your team (or your club members) doing?

As reported in Harvard Business Review, 76% of employees—across all levels of organizations, including leaders and executives—had symptoms of a mental health condition in 2021. (This was research from Mind Share Partners' 2021 Mental Health at Work Report in partnership with Qualtrics and ServiceNow.)

In recognition of World Mental Health Day (October 10), take the time to raise awareness of/support mental health issues for yourself, as a leader, and for those you work with—at Toastmasters or otherwise. Let your efforts to nurture wellness trickle down and out. You can start by:

Practicing emotional awareness: Check in with yourself early in the day to get a gauge on your energy level and how you are feeling. Are you happy, sad, stressed, anxious, or some other emotion that varies from the norm? Simply acknowledging it can have a positive impact on your ability to function that day, as well as on your overall well-being.

Being vulnerable: Talking about a challenge can be therapeutic for the one sharing it and for those on the receiving end. This is true for a work-related obstacle as well as a mental health one (and sometimes they go together). Open up to your team as a leader and a human. Be honest about a mental/emotional struggle or simply share how you are feeling that day. This will help others know first-hand (rather than making erroneous assumptions) that something is “off” for you that day. It will also set the stage for others to feel comfortable talking with you or other club/team members about their mental health-related challenges.

Sharing what you do for yourself: Don't just talk the mental health talk—walk it, literally! Share that you're taking a walk in the middle of the day, running to a therapy appointment, or prioritizing a “mental health day”/staycation. Then set the example of how to put yourself first by letting your team know you won't be answering emails, texts, or chats until the next day—and stick to it.

Asking and listening: Regularly check in with team/club members (through scheduled one–on–one meetings, if possible) and ask the “how are you?” question with eye contact and genuine concern. Make sure it is not just a flat greeting in passing. Then—listen—intently. Wait for the full response. If they have the courage to reveal a mental health issue, ask them how you can help or what support they need, just as you would if they brought up a work–related issue.

Making a habit of gratitude: Get your brain (and the brains of those around you) out of the negativity overdrive that we all fall prey to; instead, practice gratitude. Meetings and debrief sessions should have more positive conversation than not. Stop the downward spiral of negativity because it can easily lead to feelings of hopelessness. Begin a meeting or conversation by highlighting something or someone you are currently grateful for. You can invite others to do the same, allowing them the opportunity for spontaneous gratitude, not forced. The feel–good vibes that come from practicing gratitude will have the added bonus of encouraging others to practice it on their own.

Additional Resources:

The Healing Power of Humor

Self-Care Is Part of the Program

Mind Matters

How Volunteering Improves Your Health