Our favourite speaker from Friday’s Inspire Speakers Showcase was Aaron Williams – CEO and co-founder of Mindstar, an organisation dedicated to maximising mental health in the workplace.
As Aaron explained in his talk, mental health is different from mental illness, for while the latter is typically concerned with depression and anxiety, the former is all about maintaining mental fitness; building resilience and being able to contribute to your community.
Each demographic is being mentally affected by COVID-19, Aaron argued, which is why it is imperative for organisations and individuals to integrate mental wellness exercises into their operations and daily routines.
Here are eight practical tips he provided to maximise mental wellbeing during COVID-19.
1. Establish healthy rituals – It’s tempting to sleep, work, eat dinner and watch Netflix in the same set of pyjamas, but Aaron thinks it’s best to stick to the rituals of a normal workday. “Get up, have a shower and get dressed like you’re going to work”, he suggests.
“You don’t have to wear your work clothes, but wear ‘working’ clothes, and, after you’re done, get out of them, have a shower and change into ‘home’ clothes. You need to stick to the rituals of your day.”
2. Take regular breaks – A lot of people aren’t doing this, and instead are taking back-to-back calls and burning out quickly. Aaron suggests getting outside, breathing in fresh air and exercising throughout the day to stay mentally well.
3. Get creative – Mindstar works with a lot of organisations, and what they’ve found during this time is that people are missing their workmates. Why not schedule a Google Hangout once a day at 10 am so that the whole team can have a coffee together? Aaron recommends that you keep the conversation casual and ask how each other is going. The work talk can wait for another call.
4. Integrate a buffer – Work stresses shouldn’t be carried over into family time, but this can be hard to avoid when the two of them are in the same building. Aaron’s solution? The introduction of a buffer between work life and home life. Aaron used his wife as an example, who finishes work, listens to a 10-minute podcast and then leaves the work-day behind. He also cited a CEO who finishes work, has a shower to symbolically wash the day away, and then puts his ‘dad’ clothes on to commence his family time.
5. Get your mobile out of your room – According to Aaron, the morning is the most important time as it sets the tone for the day. This is why phones should be placed in another room until you’ve had the chance to wake up. “As soon as we swipe off our alarms, we check our emails, see we’ve got 13,000 that have come through overnight, and straight away we’re in our offices,” he said. “Don’t do it, don’t fill your head with that the first ten seconds you’re awake.”
6. Morning mantra – Aaron credits the Dalai Lama for this next tip, which is to repeat the same three lines every morning straight after you wake up. The first is “I have woken up, I am alive”, because it will remind you that life is a blessing, and that one day you will not wake up. The second is “I have a beautiful life,” because we all do, living in a prosperous country with ample food and opportunities. The third is “I am not going to waste this day,” which is important so that you can feel in control of your life and ensure that your days do not all blend together.
7. Have a cold morning shower – Aaron admits that not many people take him up on this one, but, starting the day with a freezing cold shower reportedly has many psychological benefits. Aaron can attest to this, and even though his kids think he’s insane, he has a cold shower every morning, and after much screaming, his mind is cleared, and he hops out feeling alive and ready to start the day.
8. Focus on what brings you joy – To be mentally healthy, it’s important not to sweat the small stuff and to focus on being happy. One of the best ways to do this is to ‘schedule joy’ – whether this is done by pencilling a catch-up with your friends on Zoom or reading a book for ten minutes every night. Aaron suggests that one of the best ways to ascertain what makes you happy is to ask yourself what brought you true joy as a seven-year-old.
“We lose that true hope that we had, as life piles stuff on top of us over the years,” he said.
“We lose those simple things, so, just have a reflection on that.”
Time to invest in a pair of roller blades!