Backing Away from Burnout on World Mental Health Day

People often forget that mental health is just as important to discuss and manage as your physical health. We all have to look after our mental health and work at it.  

Mental health issues do not discriminate and so it doesn’t matter if you’re on the board of directors or on a paper round, challenges to our mental wellbeing are likely to affect every single one of us and we all deal with things in our own individual way.

As a creative agency, life in the fast lane can bring about all manner of excitements and energies. We can often be a million miles an hour multi-tasking our way to the gym at lunch time; via a photography shoot or a client meeting and then back at our desk to work through the day to day churn.  And in a society where we are always on the go and where work no longer starts at 9 and finishes at 5; it’s not surprising that most of us feel overwhelmed from time to time.  Most days are packed, highly verbal and peppered with deadlines and as World Mental Health day descends on us we’ve been thinking about how to back away from burnout at Savvy.

It’s an easy assumption to make that your colleagues (and the world around you) are better at dealing with stress and stressors than you are; and somehow that means you’re more fragile. Wrong. We’re all just different. Everyone deals with workloads, stress and life balance differently.

Over the years, I’ve learnt a lot about mental health; advocated its de-stigmatisation in the workplace; committed to a lot of personal mental health mechanisms (everything from Mindfulness to CBT and back again); spoken to people in the workplace about their own experiences with their mental health and finally; educated myself about me.

Sounds odd at first when you hear that; but understanding yourself and your stressors is the first real step you can take to gaining control over positive mental health. Followed by healthy lifestyle balance and then mental health strategies that work for you.

So let’s start at the top.

Self & Stress Awareness

By the time we feel stressed it’s often too late to back away from the impact it’s about to have on you. It took me a long time to properly understand my psychological and physiological responses to stress and that firstly; they would pass and secondly were out of my immediate control. But in learning why it was I was feeling stressed or reacting to certain triggers I could start to take preventative measures in managing my day-to-day stress and began to feel in control again.

Also it was refreshing to remember that moderate stress is actually our bodies way of responding to demand – we’re built to feel this way. The key really is understanding the triggers that make you feel out of control and what impact it can have on yourself and those around you if you don’t manage it properly. Our healthcare provider Bupa offers a fantastic direct access approach which includes a telephone assessment and a referral to a private mental health practitioner within hours. Using a channel like this, you can start really understanding yourself and how you can ride the rapidity of agency life.

Healthy Lifestyle Balance

Life balance and self-care is something that we seem to talk about a lot. It’s the hybrid of looking after your physical self through positive living practices and making sure you establish healthy boundaries in between your professional and personal life. The former simply makes you feel better and the latter ensures you exercise respect with yourself.

Yes, we have fruit baskets and yoga (we also have prosecco and pizza too….. it’s all about balance) but this concept runs deeper than that. It’s about establishing a sense of mutuality in our working practices and actually living our wellbeing initiatives.

In true Savvy spirit our Global Team set a Team Charter this year which embodies the Savvy commitment to creating boundaries and healthy working practices. The entire team drafted their charter together and agreed that:

  • No single person can do everything
  • We will seek out opportunities to learn
  • We will not be limited by what we can do, we will think about what we could do
  • We celebrate our successes, and share updates proudly
  • We are not afraid to stop
  • Work hard, play harder

And you can’t say fairer than that.

Mental Health Strategies for You

These are your sanctuaries which create a sense of calm and renewed energy throughout your day. Again, everyone is different so what works for you might not for someone else. However, things like taking a walk by the river in the middle of the day or ensuring you have regular breaks away from screens are widely reported as having calming effects on most. Nature can be hard to beat.

Some find practicing mindfulness through apps such as Headspace or simply listening to soothing music can give those windows of calm that we all could do with mid-afternoon.

Here are some Savvy stories on what works for the team:

Catherine says “it’s hard sometimes to switch off and for me it’s not about mindfulness it’s about playing candy crush and having a glass of wine in front of the telly after work and making sure I don’t have my phone near my bed when I’m going to sleep. At different stages in my career I’ve had to try different strategies but I think it’s always good to have a work mentor you can talk to not just about your career but about your worries and concerns that you can share”

Jo says “walking always works for me but if I am static I count backwards from 100. Sometimes you only get as far as 90 and your brain has remapped itself”

Alastair says – “I tend to focus on the things I can control on a day to day basis; ask for help when I need it and most importantly, play the guitar for some downtime.”

Liisa says “buy yourself some time. If something asked of you is a trigger to you, answer by saying you’ll think something over and recognise that how you feel now might not be how you feel in an hour.”

Annie says – “I go to the gym because it means I don’t have to think about anything else but just focus on my workout.”

Taj says – “I compartmentalise my tasks for the day and use wellbeing activities such as taking regular times out and using tranquillity candles – I never used to do wellbeing activities but I’ve found they really do help me.”

The key is to find the one that works for you. You’ll know as soon as you find it, believe me.

Final Thought

In two weeks I’ll be attending a Mental Health First Aid Course run by the MHFA. The course is designed to give attendees a deeper understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect people’s wellbeing and practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues in others. This is again demonstrative of Savvy’s commitment to raising the importance of positive mental health and putting it on an even keel with physical health.

At Savvy we champion the wonder of diversity and want our team to be happy, healthy and proud to bring their whole selves to work; every single exciting agency day.