Why do we urgently need to speak and act about mental health and how to build resilience

May 5, 2021 10:34 am

By Eva Jané-Llopis, Director, Health SDGs and Social Innovation, ESADE Business School

Last year we witnessed a turning point: it brought mental illness into the open and underscored that mental health and resilience are critical resources for life that we need to nurture and never again take for granted. During 2020, COVID and global lockdowns precipitated as much as a trebling of cases of depression and anxiety , not only for frontline workers, but for everyone, with youngest adults especially affected.

A recent survey indicates that behavioral health is among the top workforce health concerns with 9 out of 10 employers surveyed noting that COVID-19 is affecting their workforce behavioral health and/or productivity, and with 60% stating they are starting or will continue and expand the behavioural health services as part of their COVID-19 pandemic-related benefits .

What can be done about it? Nurture Resilience

And that is the good news. Mental health can be nurtured and for those suffering mental health problems much can be done to ameliorate the burden. And at the centre is Resilience. Resilience is about “how well we can deal with, and bounce back from the difficulties of life”. It is not about how we endure (or how tough we are) but about our attitude in front of adversities and how we can recharge. And much can be done to improve them.

-At organizational level. ‘The 2018 CIPD report, where 86% of employers in the UK observed presenteeism in their organizations, underlined that is critical that companies nurture their corporate culture and the well-being of their employees with a management strategy that empowers employees in the workplace , emphasising that “gym membership and ping-pong tables are not gonig to cut it”.

-At individual level. During COVID lockdown a proliferation of resources emerged to help cope with the devastating impacts of uncertainty, recommending, if feeling down, to: ensure social contact with friends and family; get at least 8 hours of sleep; eat healthy and maintain routines; take notice and savour a good thought or moment at least once a day; support others and “give”, as acts of kindness improve mental and physical wellbeing; and, be physically active and practice exercise (even the effect of moderate activity is tremendous, as it releases endorphins in our brain increasing wellbeing and helping against stress).

Wellbeing and Resilience at the centre of strategy

The COVID second, third, fourth waves have shown continued increasing levels of depression and anxiety predicting that the impact will continue to be serious because of the cumulative effects. It is up to us all in our different roles, as employer, manager, family member or individual, to nurture our resilience and mental health, reach out for help to if we need to, and continue the conversations to normalise and break the many taboos and stigma around mental health problems.

Alumni Specialised in Health and Well-Being Share Recommendations

Sonia Úbeda (PMM 11) is the founder of Embrace & Lead, where she helps organisations develop conscious leadership and corporate well-being through specific training activities adapted to each organisation’s needs. Sonia helps people train all four types of energy – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual (values and meaning) – through three programmes, Mindfulness and Conscious Leadership for Organisations (MLC)©, which trains the mind and emotions to lead with greater well-being and awareness; Lead From Your Well-Being, a more complete programme covering body, mind, emotions and spirit; and (coming soon) Energetic Leadership©, which focuses on raising levels of energy, awareness and impact on teams.

“We help managers, team members and anyone else to implement this work in their agendas through a specific, well-designed method, placing individual responsibility on every member of the organisation and assigning corporate responsibility for the implementation of strategies and programmes of this sort,” explained Sonia.

And why is this important? More than a year after the state of emergency was declared, “the level of fatigue is high at the moment and cases of anxiety and depression have increased significantly,” she added. “We therefore need a strong shared vision of what needs to be created, a commitment to personal and team well-being, and a personal and company-wide strategy for ensuring constant renewal and maintaining high levels of energy and productivity, from upper management to the entire organisation.”

Arantxa Pascual (Lic&MBA 02), co-founder of BeBalance, decided to create the centre together with Júlia Antolin in order to share with companies her experience and knowledge about better physical and mental well-being. “At BeBalance, we merge the knowledge we have gained from our personal experience, both physically and mentally, in the business world through our passion for yoga, the human anatomy and holistic well-being,” she explained. “Our strategy is to guide committed companies in this journey.” In order to provide the best service, Arantxa and Júlia conduct various types of on-site sessions: relaxation, vitality, strengthening the immune system, etc. “Poor posture, lack of body awareness and lack of familiarity with tools for better emotional management can cause people to experience physical and mental consequences that can lead to tension, cramps, back pain (cervical, lumbar, dorsal), and even more serious conditions,” she noted. “All of this has a direct impact on your professional performance and, of course, your personal life.”

Learning how to attain better physical and mental well-being through awareness, better self-knowledge, breathing techniques, physical exercises, etc., improves your capacity for concentration, creativity, interpersonal relationships and even your relationship with yourself. “In short, you improve your personal and professional performance, which directly affects your productivity and makes you feel happier.”

Workplace well-being is extremely relevant today. So much so that Carmen Pérez (Marketing Management ‘04), founder of Mindfulness for Businesses, believes it should be considered the most important investment area for HR departments. “A study by the British consulting firm E-days shows that problems related to employees’ mental health – problems that have been brought to the fore by the pandemic – are among the main challenges for HR departments in 2021,” she commented. “Ensuring the health and well-being of employees and strengthening their attachment and commitment to the company’s mission, despite working remotely, are the goals we want to achieve.”

To do this, Carmen recommends the following:
– Make working hours more flexible, both for in-person work and for telework, and compensate employees on the basis of results rather than the number of hours worked.
– Introduce measures to facilitate work-life balance.
– Explore new ways of increasing employee engagement.
– Equip team leaders with effective resources to support and engage their team members, both remotely and in person.
– Devise new ways to reward employees and improve their benefits.

On a personal level, there are many other things you can and should do in order to practise responsible self-care, including having a structure and boundaries between work and personal time, getting up in the morning at the usual time and going through your normal routine, exercising, eating healthy, staying hydrated and incorporating breathing, relaxation and mindfulness exercises.