Your Mental Health is Important and Should Be Celebrated
May 20, 2021 by LSW Admin
We need to normalize discussions about mental health. This has been one of our key takeaways from the last 15 months. It is not a topic limited to extreme diagnoses or times of undue hardship. It has a place in the lives of everyday people, dealing with everyday things, frequently in the workplace and often comes with a sense of shame.
Shara Wokal, LSW’s CFO and head of HR, makes this point in plain terms. “Mental health is simply about health. Health of the individual, health of the professional, health of the family. It all ties together, and that is why we care. There’s nothing shameful about taking care of yourself.”
At LSW, prior to the pandemic, we spoke a lot about building work-life balance into our schedules. Happy, healthy employees make for a happier, healthier workplace. This line of thinking, and the theory behind it, is also deeply woven into the firm’s design process; we prioritize human comfort and connection to nature in all our projects.
But talking about the proven mental health benefits of biophilic design and creating internal pathways for employees to seek help when it’s needed are different. From a cultural standpoint, LSW’s leadership has been very intentional about its open-door policy.
To give our teams more options, we've been fortunate to work with the Vancouver Wellness Studio (VWS). Over the last 13 months, Kendall Hagensen and her team have been providing everything from sessions about stress management, sleep, and nutrition, to yoga classes, acupuncture clinics, and individualized trauma counseling.
One of the biggest benefits to working with VWS has been learning about how stress, trauma and anxiety are connected to all systems in the body. This impacts the way we make decisions and how we process information - which is pretty important to any typical workday.
From all standpoints, it’s important that people understand the importance of requesting and receiving help when needed - whether that means time away from screens, a session with a counselor, or just a conversation with someone they trust.
The pandemic has been rough - and for many, it's far from over. Even those who’ve prospered and stayed healthy have had to answer the darker voices in their heads, working through loneliness, fear, and fatigue.
This last year has required an unprecedented amount of vulnerability, understanding, and compassion. At the same time, it’s also allowed us to see the difference a friendly face or concerned message can make - and why it’s so important that we take care of ourselves and each other.
As things start to look up and we prepare to embrace a sense of normalcy that has been missing for the last year, we want to hold tight to things we’ve learned. It feels important that we emerge from the pandemic better than we were before.
“One thing we already see happening is another transition that is/will be difficult on people's nervous systems. As more opens up and people are invited and expected to participate in larger gatherings, go back to work in-person, and get back to busy life, it becomes another shock to the system,” writes Kendall Hageson, discussing signs to watch out for. “People might experience heightened anxiety, fear, fatigue and other signs of trauma, stress and burnout. The goal here is to get ahead of it as much as possible! Take more time for rest, increase your self-care practices, and speak up and seek additional support!”
One of LSW’s core goals is to be a place where humble, hungry, smart people can do their most meaningful and life-giving work. To create and maintain an environment where this is possible and encouraged, we have to offer teams the freedom to bring their whole selves to the table. There isn’t a clean, easy, or straightforward way to do this, other than being open, willing to listen, and providing flexibility or help when needed.
We asked Kendall for some ways employers can hold space for their teams, as expectations rise over the coming months. “My encouragement to employers is to continue to check in with colleagues and employees, and to continue looking for ways to bring trauma-informed education and experiences into the workplace. The transition to having employees come back to work in-person or going back to ‘the way things were’ as far as roles or having larger teams working together creates a huge opportunity and decision point for employers. If done from a trauma-informed lens, teams can experience a well-supported, positive transition!”
To loop back to the heart of the matter, we need to normalize discussions about mental health. As we’ve learned, our health is something to celebrate and protect. Taking care of ourselves is important, common, and necessary for everyone: individuals, families, and communities.