Every year in England, a quarter of the population experiences mental health problems. From anxiety to PTSD, these once-taboo issues are becoming a commonplace part of life, including in the workforce. Fortunately, as the number of cases of mental illness rise, so too does our understanding of how to live with them.
The latest workplace mental health revolution is soft skills. Though not a new range of techniques - far from it! - these interpersonal skills are vital for helping you and those around you cope better with everyday life. Last year, we took a look at why soft skills have become so in-demand when it comes to recruiting, and in this blog you’ll learn more about the most crucial ones to perfect your working life.
Self-awareness isn’t something that always comes naturally. It can often be hard to identify your emotions, when you’re acting irrationally, and where you can improve. But for those struggling with their mental health, it’s a crucial soft skill to develop. By working on your self-awareness, you can become more in touch with your workplace triggers and develop better coping mechanisms for when you feel yourself starting to struggle.
To develop better self-awareness, start journaling daily (or as often as you can). Write in a flow of consciousness about your day, going through events that happened, how you reacted to them, and how you could have reacted differently. Many people find yoga and meditation to be powerful tools for self-reflection, too, giving you the mental space to understand yourself better.
2. Being Accountable
When you’re suffering from a mental illness, it may feel like the easiest solution when something goes wrong is to pass the blame, but that isn’t the case. Not holding yourself accountable for your actions leads to a cycle of blame-shifting, stress, and refusing to confront your reality, all of which aren’t positive for your mental health.
Instead, hold yourself accountable for your actions and face them head-on. If you missed a meeting, apologise rather than making excuses. If you made a mistake on a piece of work, let your manager know as soon as you can. This may seem daunting at first, but it’ll save you a lot of stress and anxiety in the long term! It’ll also reduce the chance of workplace conflict or disciplinary action, keeping your role at work stable and straightforward.
3. Empathy and Emotional Intelligence
Empathy is beneficial for everyone. When people can understand the feelings of others and how different events may affect them, everybody’s mental health improves. In the workplace, empathy and emotional intelligence can help you:
Create lasting relationships
Speak openly and clearly about your mental health
Avoid workplace conflict
When meeting others with mental health problems, you’ll be better ready to support them, too. As trusted mental health facility, White River Manor, rightly says “Trauma, including one-time, multiple or long-lasting repetitive events, will affect everyone differently.” With empathy, you’re far more capable of understanding the root causes of people’s emotions and supporting them when they’re in need.
4. Actively Listening
When having conversations with others in the workplace, it’s vital for both parties’ mental health that you listen. This is especially true if someone is talking to you about their mental health. In these cases, try to implement the 80:20 rule, where you listen for 80% of the time and talk for no more than 20%. When you do talk, ask them follow-up questions based on what they’re talking about, helping lead the conversation forward and showing them that you’re listening.
In terms of your own mental health, active listening is also vital for building strong relationships. Listen to others, connect with them, and in turn, they’ll listen to you. For your well-being, work friendships can do wonders!
5. Mindfulness and Stress Management
Being mindful is a fantastic way to reduce stress. Rather than thinking of what to do next or focusing on a minor error from a past task, you’re in the moment, with all of your attention on the here and now. When at work, try to stay mindful to reduce your stress.
It’s also been shown that mindfulness can improve your cognitive resilience and emotional balance. When confronted with a difficult circumstance or event, it’ll help you deal with it without spiralling.
6. Communication and Collaboration
In every workplace, communication and collaboration are crucial soft skills. By being able to work effectively with others, you’ll reduce stress, improve relationships, and feel more fulfilled, all of which are highly beneficial for your mental health.
Communication is also vital for speaking out about mental illness. When you need support, you’ll be better equipped to talk to your managers, ensuring they understand what you’re going through and how they can help. To improve your communication skills and stop fear from holding you back, make sure you:
Make eye contact
Speak clearly and concisely
You can also plan what you’re going to say for important conversations. Making some notes before you meet is a good way to keep you on track and ensure you don’t miss anything out.
It is important to note that some people, including neurodiverse people, do struggle with communication skills such as eye contact, and to be understanding and aware of this when communicating with colleagues.
Mental health affects every workplace around the world. Whether you’re suffering from a mental illness or want to be better equipped to help others, developing the essential soft skills listed here is a must. Hopefully, this article has given you a good place to start, but be sure to keep learning, keep improving, and make the world a happier place!
This blog was kindly written for us by Gemma Williams. Gemma works remotely from as many coffee shops as she can find. She has gained experience in a number of HR roles but now turns her focus toward growing her personal brand and connecting with leading experts in the industry. Connect with her on Twitter: @GemmaWilliamsHR.