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Written by Malusi Ndlovu, Director: Large Enterprise Market at Old Mutual Corporate

‘You are your best thing.’ This quote by American essayist Toni Morrison is an important starting point for me in understanding mental wellbeing. If I am not well, I can’t be there for others or be useful in my areas of responsibilities.

‘Secondly, balance is important. I divide my wellness thinking into four aspects – spiritual, relationships/emotional, mental sharpness and physical wellbeing. When I pay attention to all of them and have deliberate practices to maintain them, my wellbeing is optimised. I am very deliberate in assessing my state across all four and taking steps to improve them.

‘Some very simple rituals I have built into my day are:

· Taking a 30-minute walk. I am fortunate to live in an estate with good natural landscapes and trees where I can walk without being disturbed.

· Staying off social media other than to catch news updates for a few minutes a day.

· Monitoring my mental state deliberately at a specific time each day. If you’re not aware of it, there’s more risk of burnout.

‘Finally, know that it is OK not to be OK. As long as you acknowledge it. Breathe and keep moving.

It’s time to overcome the stigma attached to mental health challenges

Kulani Shiluvane, founder and chief solutionist at Shiluvah

‘Running a small business means I’m guilty of being so busy with work and making sure that everyone on our team is taken care of that I often forget, and sometimes ignore, myself. In the long run, it just makes you ineffective in your job. On top of that, since the pandemic started, my anxiety levels are higher than usual with everything that is going on and the effect it has on every area of our lives.

‘Because of the constant pressure I’m under, I make a point of acknowledging that my mental health needs attention too. I have surrounded myself with people, both in my personal and professional life, who can support and help me. I ask for help when I need it.

‘I’ve learnt how important it is not to hide your struggle with stress, anxiety, depression or any other mental challenge because you fear being stigmatised. I know it’s not always easy to overcome this fear, but it’s important to find help and do the necessary work to take care of your mental wellbeing. Do not be scared to talk about your struggles and ask for support. We need to move away from stigmatisation to providing support.

‘As business leaders, it’s our responsibility to create workplaces that are conducive to supporting those dealing with mental health issues, as well as workplaces that make it easy and safe for employees to disclose their challenges.’

If you’re bordering on burnout, make yourself a priority

Andy Dippenaar, co-founder of creative agency Pump Brand Ideas

‘Burnout presents itself in so many ways and in the creative industry, it’s a huge barrier to productivity. Recognising the signs of burnout is often difficult – but a critical first step. People often shrug it off as having a few bad days or writer’s block, like I did.

‘Remember, you’re not a machine. Take it from me, you need to make yourself a priority. Learn to say no, know that it is okay to ask for help and share the workload, and prioritise time management.

‘Make a real effort to recharge, rest and recover as and when you need to. Although it can be overwhelming, I have found that aside from embracing a regimen of self-care – eating well, sleeping well, hydrating, exercising – learning to manage my time made a big difference to my mental wellbeing. You quite literally have to plan each day carefully and in detail. Why? Because it helps make every task more manageable and gives you a greater sense of control.

‘I’ve learnt not to make excuses for the way I feel. Ask for help and don’t be afraid to talk to someone, whether it’s a trusted friend, family member or a professional. Be open-minded about the responsible use of medication. Greater self-awareness is also a very positive step, trying to be more mindful and present in your own life.’

Mental health fluctuates

Edna Reis, psychologist and founder and chief wellbeing officer of Active Wellness

‘Although I haven’t personally struggled with burnout or depression, my work involves helping people cope with mental health issues and promoting wellbeing at work. Because of this, I have to lead by example, which I do by making a point to use the advice I give my clients or patients myself. I meditate, I do yoga and I surround myself with a supportive group of people.

‘Your mental health isn’t always the same. It can fluctuate as circumstances change and you move through different stages of your life. If you are doing everything you can to take care of it and still struggle, ask for help. There is no shame in seeking help from a mental health professional.

‘If employees believe that disclosing challenges will lead to discrimination, they are unlikely to get the help they need. Many people who struggle with mental health, even if temporary, keep it hidden because they are afraid of the response they might get.

‘We need to create workplace cultures where people can be themselves, which will in turn make it easier to have open conversations about mental health challenges without fear. And this makes it easier for them to reach out for help when they need it most.’

Disclaimer: This information is intended as a guideline only. Consult your doctor or a registered medical practitioner for professional advice.

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