Tagged "Mental Health"

Managing Workplace Stress & Mental Health

Posted by Amina AlTai on

When I first started my career, I was just like everybody else:  I kept my head down and worked hard.  I'd only sparingly use my vacation days, or hoard them to splurge on a long week away in Southeast Asia or Europe.  But the months, and sometimes years, in between vacations took their toll and work-related stress, deadlines and adulthood became a sure bet for anxiety and burnout.  And as much as I longed for a day at home under the covers to mentally reassemble myself, mental health days weren't something that were supported nor widely talked about. I just kept on trucking... until I could truck no more.    

Over a decade later, I'm no longer shy about the "M" word -- mental health -- and I take breaks often and with pride. Burnout is a very real scenario in our always-on culture and executives are now acknowledging that it is negatively impacting their business’ bottom line in a variety of ways.

At a high level, it increases health costs and impairs productivity—which can have significant implications for our overall economy. According to the Harvard Business School, unmanaged workplace stress accounts for 120,000 deaths annually (!) and 8% of national healthcare spending.  Couple that with the fact that 18.2% of the US adult population suffers from mental illness such as depression, and we have a real issue that needs addressing at the corporate level.  

Despite all of this, many corporations fail to recognize the importance of mental health and its link to performance.  In fact, a recent survey from a UK healthcare company found that 70% of employers didn't believe that stress or anxiety was a valid excuse for time off -- even though 25% of those surveyed had suffered some the same symptoms themselves. Mind-blowing.   

Which begs the question: What can we do to meaningfully address the issues of stress and burnout that result from our “always-on” culture? 

1. Negotiate: If you're starting a new job or getting promoted within in an existing organization, use your negotiating power to ask for more PTO. If your company doesn't offer mental health days, ask for more vacation days or sick days.  The best time to ask for what you want is when you have leverage.  

2. Make work your happy place: Decorate your workspace to reflect the best of your life.  Display pictures of your friends and loved ones.  Put up your vision board.  Bring in an aromatherapy candle.  Do whatever you need (within reason) to make your desk and your space feel like a happy place. 

3. Find quiet space: Offices can be full of ringing telephones, clacking keyboards and heated conversations; if you're sensitive to distractions, it can make your day even more stressful.  If you don't have your own office, book out a conference room from time to time to allow yourself space and time to breathe, meditate and have some alone time.  If work overall feels too hectic, work with your manager on defining your work from home policy.  

4. Take breaks: Productivity experts generally recommend the 90/10 rule—that is a ten minute break for every ninety minutes of focused activity.  In those ten minutes, go for a walk, clear your head or eat some brain-boosting foods to support your wellbeing and output.   

5. Take vacations: Over 50% of the US workforce finishes the year with unused vacation days.  However, all the data suggests that time away from work is beneficial for your mind and for your work productivity.  A recent study of 481 US adults found that those who used their vacation days performed better, were more productive, and more satisfied with their jobs—not to mention happier.  

6. Enlist the support of HR: Many corporations support employee wellness programs these days.  However, if your workplace isn't one of them, talk to your HR manager about the ways you'd like to be supported in your office.  That could be anything from workshops, group fitness classes to an overall policy reform.  You never know what can change can occur until you ask.  

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How to be More Passionate About Your Work

Posted by Julia McVeigh on

When it comes to our professional lives, we’ve been told to “lean in,” aim for the four-hour workweek, focus on “deep work,” and not give a f*ck. We’re encouraged by our employers to achieve on the highest level… but to absolutely prioritize work-life balance first. And we’re tasked with providing for our loved ones (and ourselves!) financially and emotionally. 

We here at Busy Happy Healthy know just how hard living well and working hard can be: We’re a team that sometimes needs to works long hours – including weekends and nights. But we’re also a group that deeply prioritizes health, happiness, and personal fulfillment. Which is why it is so important to try and be passionate about our work – ahead, we have our top three recommendations how to do just that.

Find what you like doing best and push to do more of it

Are you secretly a killer public speaker? Do you have a gift for writing? Are you a numbers whiz? Seek out areas in your job that reinforce your skill sets and try to make them more central to your role. I’ll use myself as an example: I started my career in media, where a lot of my job consisted in crunching numbers and whizzing through spreadsheets. I’m not an incredibly analytical person and I don’t love excel. Rough. 

I soon found, however, that there were other parts of my job that I really liked – such as writing media briefs, drafting client emails (seriously, I liked doing that), and contributing to creative brainstorms. I started asking my boss if I could sit in on more brainstorms, with my role being to send a recap email to all involved about what we discussed. My fellow colleagues loved how thoughtfully I summarized and (sometimes) contributed to the chats. Soon enough, creative and writing projects started pouring my way and that became my “thing.” 

Set goals and celebrate them

Many of us neglect to cheer for ourselves when we accomplish milestones, largely because we don’t even realize that they are milestones! Remedy that by establishing  – and then celebrating – goals. These don’t need to be the big and/or usual professional goals (get promoted, get a bonus, et cetera), but rather smaller, more intimate goals. For example, at the start of my career I used to really struggle with presenting to clients -- I’d become a nervous wreck. About two years in I was on a phone call and suddenly realized: I wasn’t nervous! I’m sure no one noticed but me, but that was an epic accomplishment. I didn’t celebrate it then but I sure as hell am going to celebrate it now: Go me!  

Look to the positives -- or look elsewhere 

Generally speaking, we get down easily. In fact, Psychology Today reports that up to 70% of our “mental chatter” is negative. Given that we, on average, spend 8-9 hours at work – which is more than the amount of time we spend asleep! – plenty of those thoughts are focused on our jobs. 

This is why it’s crucial to bring a persistently positive attitude to our careers. For example, instead of focusing on what you don’t like about your job (quarterly earnings reporting), stay focused on what you do enjoy (your colleagues). If you find it hard to be upbeat about your work at all, then try focusing on the positive things your job does for you -- even if it's as basic as the fact that it provides you and your family with a source of income. (Many of us our blessed to have things like regular paychecks or health insurance, but we often forget about those things in the midst of dreary office to-dos.) And, hey, if there's absolutely nothing positive in your job -- actual work or how it benefits you -- then you heard it here first: Maybe it's time to start passionately pursuing something new. We're rooting for you!

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Why Mono-tasking is the New Multitasking

Posted by Julia McVeigh on

If you’re a hardworking professional, the holy grail of productivity is arguably your ability to multitask. You answer emails while eating lunch; write a presentation while fielding questions on Slack from your boss; conduct research while on a call. Multi-tasking is not merely a “skill,” it’s a highly coveted one: Requested on job descriptions, lauded on resumes, and enforced through cultural norms. 

Since multi-tasking is associated with success, it makes us feel accomplished. But recent research and literature suggest the exact opposite: Multitasking isn’t merely a productivity killer, it has negative consequences for our health and happiness, too.

This past spring, the New York Times’ Verena von Pfetten delved into the topic at length, citing a slew of disheartening studies that debunk the merits of multitasking. One noted that multi-taskers are twice as likely to make errors on an assigned task; another confirmed that they struggle paying attention and are much more easily distracted than their mono-tasking counterparts. This, of course, has serious consequences for our professional lives. It not produces poor work; it makes the act of working less enjoyable. Think about it: Compare the times when you feel frantic and distracted versus those moments when you’re deeply immersed and “in the zone”: One is an agitated state while the other, a pleasurable one. 

This mono-tasking-as-a-means-for-happiness observation can be applied to our personal, everyday lives. In his book Deep Work, mono-tasking evangelist and Georgetown University professor Cal Newport argues that multi-tasking encourages distraction to the point of dysfunction – particularly in the age of smartphones. Because we have a 24/7, always-on tool for multitasking in our hands, we constantly feel compelled to use it. Doing so can hurt our personal relationships (ever try having a serious conversation with someone while she mindlessly scrolls through her phone?) and deplete us to the point where we can’t focus on the things that truly matter to us. This negatively impacts our health – both mental and physical. 

The challenge, then, is to embrace mono-tasking in a world that rewards the opposite.

Sounds hard, but it is possible: To begin, Newport recommends creating planned-ahead blocks in your day that you set aside for undistracted work. Treat these mono-tasking blocks like important one-on-one meetings: You are not available to do anything (emails, calls, texts) during them. You focus on a single task and then take a break. When it comes to personal free time, the obvious distraction perpetuator is your smartphone. Create tech-times where you put your phone out of sight for a solid chunk of time (minimum 30 minutes). Spend those blocks focusing on a single activity, like reading or having a conversation. 

Do less and get more out of life? You heard it here first.


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Weekly Wellness Roundup: June 8, 2016

Posted by Amina AlTai on

It's my mission to put a happy and healthy life within everyones reach.  And to keep myself edified and growing, I read countless wellness articles around the blogosphere every week.  So, I've decided to serve up a weekly dose of my favorite articles so you can enjoy too.  Starting today.  Here goes:

  • International Conference on Youth Mental Well-being to be held at the UN: 


  • Yoga is proven to be beneficial for cancer patients quality of sleep and emotional well-being:


  • A study finds that women are more prone to anxiety than men!


  • Wellness Travel is big deal and hotels are taking note:


  • Dr. Frank Lipman is working with Hyatt to deliver a healthier wellness travel experience:


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