If you’ve read our previous blogs then you will already be aware that we have discussed how mental health is a factor that can both influence and be influenced by all areas of our lives.
More recently, mental health is a topic that is definitely being more discussed. There is now more of an acceptance and acknowledgement of it, but are we this open about it in the workplace, or just our private lives?
You may have heard people referring to the current state of mental health as a mental health crisis. However, in the last 20 years the amount of people diagnosed with a mental health condition has remained 1 in 4 people. This demonstrates that mental health conditions aren’t necessarily growing in society, however, it also shows that they aren’t getting better with the rise in awareness and break down of stigma.
This can somewhat question whether we are really in a mental health crisis…
We have to look at this in a much boarder way; if mental health is more discussed and accepted, then why has it remained at 1 in 4 for 20 years? Surely if we have improved our awareness then we would have seen a decrease in the numbers of people suffering?
There are likely to be a number of contributing factors to what has continued the numbers of people suffering that we are seeing. What we want to focus on for this blog is what we can be doing in businesses for our colleagues’ mental health. Although a lot of areas can be influential, work is a very big part of everyone’s lives.
So, what can we be doing to improve things for our colleagues?
To answer this, we’re going to be looking at emotional literacy, also known as emotional intelligence. The reason we want to focus on emotional literacy is because improved emotional literacy provides people with an increased ability to cope and manage with the relatable emotions that come with poor mental health.
A common concern amongst businesses is to ensure there is a clear indication between ‘Manager’ or ‘Well-being Champion’ and ‘Therapist’ or ‘Counsellor’. This is absolutely right and an emotional literacy can help ease that concern.
Emotional literacy is the term used which refers to our ability to understand, recognise, express and regulate emotions as well as understand the emotions of others. Emotional literacy is split up into 5 crucial components: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. We’ll go through and break this down a bit;
Self-awareness is essentially how aware you are of your own emotions. It is the ability to recognise how you are feeling and be aware of yourself in the sense of what are your strengths and your limitations. Self-awareness allows us to actively acknowledge our actions and consider how these actions are influencing others.
Self-regulation is what allows us to manage our emotions. A strong level of self-regulation allows us to regulate and restrict emotions that may be impulsive or unnecessary for the situation we are in.
Motivation is an important aspect that can drive every part of our lives, it is hard to do anything without motivation to do so. Being able to be self-motivated allows us not only to work towards goals but to enjoy doing it more.
Empathy is the ability to identify as well as understand another’s emotions. It is the skills of being able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes and really understand how they will be feeling.
These are the skills and abilities we have to be able to interact with others. Strong social skills mean that we are not only comfortable speaking to others but that we are strong communicators.
Developing all of these skills helps us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. These skills are all vital in developing relationships, being a strong leader and managing emotions. Focusing on developing our emotional literacy, and the emotional literacy of others, improves how people cope with the emotions of mental health and poor well-being. It is because of this that by developing a positive education across organisations of how we develop and manage our emotional literacy, we can help people cope with their struggles in a positive way.
To improve our emotional literacy, we need to put an emphasis on 5 behavioural changes in the factors of well-being. We need to develop the skills of:
- Focusing our minds, allowing us to recognise and understand how we are feeling.
- Maintaining physical activity, releasing the dopamine that we need and keeping in a healthy physical state.
- Building and maintaining relationships with others.
- Supporting others by helping them without expecting anything in return.
- Building knowledge to reflect and learn about ourselves as well as others.
Without emotional literacy skills, we are known as emotionally illiterate.
When someone is emotionally illiterate, they are likely to struggle with identifying and expressing their feelings. We might hear phrases such as;
“I don’t know how I feel”
“I don’t know how to help myself”
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me”
This is one of the reasons why emotional literacy principles forms the basis of our work developing effective strategies, training programmes and support for corporate clients, it’s the basis of our IMPROVE Programme. Encouraging people to learn and develop their emotional literacy can help improve the way they are managing their mental health. If we can encourage our colleagues to develop this then we are assisting them to recognise how they are feeling and getting them closer to regulating these feelings by knowing what they need to help themselves.
As well as assisting colleagues to help themselves in these areas, we can develop our own emotional literacy, making us more equipped to support them too. We can recognise how they are feeling quicker, we can communicate more effectively about it and we are motivated to make an active change. For those who are in leadership roles, it’s important to recognise the importance of nurturing teamwork and empathy. Creating an environment of strong teamwork and an empathetic understanding can reduce the risk of people suffering in silence.
Emotional literacy skills can always be developed. Particularly as people are so diverse, it is good to keep reminding yourself of this and understand how we all work in different ways and have different needs. Using emotional literacy, it becomes simple to begin looking at what emphasis we can have as leaders whether we lead a company, a team, group or support for ourselves.
For example, introverted people may prefer to keep themselves to themselves, be quite quiet and may be quite analytical. These can be fantastic strengths but looking at emotional literacy, it may be that the social skills area is an area to focus on as keeping quiet and to themselves may quite easily turn to isolation.
We will not only benefit from understanding ourselves better, but we can understand our colleagues and help support them more effectively.
If you’re looking at your well-being strategy, it may be worthwhile downloading our Free Guide or our Corporate Brochure to help guide you through these effective pointers.
If you’d like to discuss how we can help you, please feel free to contact us for a free consultation.