Taking Care of Ourselves First

This week marks “Mental Health Week” – an annual national event that promotes practical ways for individuals to maintain and improve their mental health and support their recovery from mental illness. Mental health is more than the absence of mental illness; it’s a state of well-being. Approximately 7 million Canadians – 20 percent of the population – live with mental illness.

Based on the APEX Executive Work and Health Survey Findings, the percentage of executives with mental health conditions has almost doubled and the psychological stress scores are higher than those of 75 percent of the Canadian adult population. As well, 20.6 percent of executives sought professional counseling and 11 percent were diagnosed and treated for depression and anxiety disorders in the 12-month period prior to the administration of the survey.

Our psychological work environment has a significant impact on our health and stress levels. Executives are more likely to report better health outcomes and the achievement of organizational goals in jobs with reasonable demands, decision-making latitude, high intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, good social supports, and adequate resources.

We are entering an era of an epidemic of overwhelm. A time when too many people’s mental resources are being stretched through multitasking, fragmented attention and information overload. The “Healthy Mind Platter”developed by Dr. David Rock and Dr. Dan Siegelcontains seven essential activities necessary for optimum mental health in our daily lives.

Assessing our mental health is not as simple as measuring our physical health; there are no scales or endurance tests that rate mental fitness. But with the help of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Meter, we can reflect on our unique strengths and identify areas where our level of mental fitness can be improved.

We need to take care of ourselves first – as employees, we are the Government of Canada’s most valuable assets. We work so hard every day to serve Canadians but if we are not taking care of ourselves how can we possibly give our best?  It’s like the analogy of when you are in an airplane and the oxygen masks drop down, you are directed to put the mask on yourself first before assisting others. If you pass out from lack of oxygen while attempting to put the mask on someone else, both of you suffer – however, if you look after yourself first you will have the strength to help others.

Statistics Canada created a “Mental Health Passport” that offers information and tools to help employees identify and reflect on areas of their lives they may wish to improve, as well as encouraging a healthy lifestyle and positive mental health habits. The “Mental Health in the Workplace – Manager’s Guide” was created as a result of an innovative interdepartmental partnership and is another excellent resource.

Respecting ourselves and others, keeping an open mind, and showing empathy and authenticity all go a long way towards promoting workplace well-being and health. Take a moment to download the Mental Health Week promotional and educational materialand start learning, talking, reflecting and engaging with others on all issues relating to mental health. Don’t just practice good habits during Mental Health Week – we need to take care of ourselves each and every day.


Jodi LeBlanc Jodi LeBlanc is a Values and Ethics Advisor with Veterans Affairs Canada in Prince Edward Island. She is a collaborator/innovator for numerous public service initiatives and national networks and is a member of CGE’s editorial advisory board. You can connect with her via @jodilynne3 or http://ca.linkedin.com/in/jodileblanc

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