What is Good Mental Health?Feb 15, 2018
ZwavelStream Team | Mental Health LeadersFeb 15, 2018
When talking about environment, reference is being made to where an individual finds themselves, like at work or at home. Environment is significant when considering mental health problems, because it can be a major source of stress and anxiety.
Since most people have homes, jobs, and relationships, it’s not so much that these environments are stressful, but rather how that stress is managed (or not managed) by each individual.
The important thing about environmental stressors, is that they are chronic, which basically means they’re not something an individual can rid themselves of in a bid to maintain good mental health. The responsibility lies with each individual to adequately adapt to changes and events within their environment, and properly manage any stress that it may cause.
Environmental stress negatively affects mental health when an individual is unable to adapt, and lacks the coping mechanisms required for dealing with stress in a healthy way.
The COVID pandemic has had a huge impact on most of our human activity, economy and our medical healthcare system. To date, it still challenges our global public healthcare systems. Living through a worldwide pandemic will certainly be accompanied by negative psychological effects.
Physiological stress, fear, severe financial losses and the current state of healthcare will ruthlessly disrupt society and those around us. These environmental stressors can be managed by adopting a few simple coping techniques.
The Home Environment
In an article by Professor Michael Rutter, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the Institute of Psychiatry at London’s SGDP Research Centre, it states that there are three main areas of risk associated with the effects of stress in the home environment – family conflict, family dynamics (how parents and children affect each other), and genetics.
Professor Rutter is a mental health specialist who has made notable contributions to the mental health society through his extensive research on the topic, and provides eye-opening truths about what exactly in the home environment impacts mental health.
For instance, studies showed that family conflict and discord within a family unit could be more detrimental to mental health than divorce breaking up a family.
It is the same reasoning that places impaired parenting above losing a parent as a more stressful situation, negatively impacting the mental wellbeing of a child. And as parents hold a significant influence over the mental state of their children, so too do children over their parents. Studies have found that a difficult child can affect the entire dynamic of a family, and greatly influences mental wellbeing. The third, and possibly most surprising, finding Professor Rutter presents, is the one of genetic influence on an individual’s mental state. It is argued that a person is either genetically vulnerable or resilient in the face of environmental stress.
This can be seen in the way the same stressful situations end up affecting two people differently. One might fold with the inability to manage the stress, succumbing to symptoms of depression and anxiety, and another might manage the stress in a healthy way, coming out stronger and more confident for having dealt with and lived through the situation.
The Work Environment
During those 40 - 50 hours, the physical environment plays an important role in mood, productivity, concentration, and even general physical health. Studies have shown that employees in good working conditions tend to be more effective than employees of the same caliber, but in poorer conditions.
Everything about the physical conditions should be taken into account, even the basic layout and design of the office floor. Research has shown that although open-plan offices are currently the trend, and a sign of younger, more forward-thinking companies, the setup has negative effects on the concentration of employees. It also reduces their creativity, productivity, and job satisfaction.
This is because of an open office being ideal for unplanned social interactions that distract employees from work, which eventually leads to increased stress levels. So even though private offices and cubicles are considered old-form, the traditional setup has been proven to reduce distraction and halt underperformance, thereby reducing levels of stress and dissatisfaction at work.
Aside from office space layout, art influences people’s moods as well. Peaceful landscapes and nature scenes have a positive emotional impact on employees, working to relieve stress. The amount of light in the workplace is important as well. Offices with more natural light through windows have employees who sleep considerably better than those who work in dark spaces.
What employees have been experiencing
COVID has irreparably changed everything remotely familiar about the 21st century. The massive changes we all had to undertake has led to the rise in levels of loneliness, depression, anxiety and harmful substance use. Everyone’s mental health has been affected across the board. New research was conducted by Afriforte, WorkWell Research Unit and SADAG (South African Depression and anxiety group) to better understand the effects of COVID on our society and in the workplace.
The latest research conducted indicated that 46% of participants are at risk of developing Pre-TSD (Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder). The term Pre-T originated from research conducted on Danish soldiers. They were exceptionally well trained for warfare however when they were confronted with the realities of war their demeanours changed. So much so that a lot of them got wounded due to the evident irrational behavioural changes they were undergoing.
Much like those Danish soldiers, we too have had an overwhelming experience during the extended lockdown period. One that shaped the very way we have been approaching mental health. For the first time, employers and employees have noticed the impact our mental health has on our ability to function at work.
Taking action against PRE-TSD in the workplace environment
In a recent survey conducted about employees concerns for the future, the survey reported that 17% was a “little bit concerned”, 32% were “quite concerned”, 30% were “very concerned” and 19% were “extremely concerned”. The researchers say that the survey was not an opinion-based valuation but rather a “measured experiences with academic rigour” using a psychometric testing approach.
How you manage everyday work stress is the difference in how you ultimately cope at work. A good place to start would be by adopting positive habits that reduce stress triggers.
Let’s discuss some of them below:
Make it a habit to appreciate your inner resilience
In life, we endure numerous obstacles which prepare us for the road ahead. When we take the time to think back on them we realize that we have come a long way. When you’re feeling shaky make it a habit to revisit stressful events from the past, which will serve as a reminder of your inner strength.
Increase your well-being intentionally
Consider taking breaks to soothe yourself. We suggest adding positive activities to your routine that distracts you from the situation at hand. By doing something that you’ve once enjoyed will improve your well-being and inner resilience during a crisis.
Connect with those around you and share
Humans thrive on social support. Experiencing a sense of community eases us in the fact that we are not alone. Confide in others about what your experience is like. Participating in virtual group wellness activities during times like these might not be a bad idea.
Take note of your narrative
Our negative thoughts and words directly impact our mental health state. Stay away from self-blaming and criticizing yourself. A positive mind-set will significantly improve your mental health state during this time.
Break free from overthinking
Overthinking is the thorn in our flesh. It’s a mental habit where you repeatedly think about the “what if’s and the why’s” Overthinking will only leave you feeling stuck. If you’re someone that struggles with mental loops, now it the time to take the exit.
Studies have been made that prove the close relationship between the weather and people’s mood. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs during the colder seasons of autumn and winter. In the warmer months, all symptoms of the disorder seem to go away. The other side of this coin is that, although sunlight lifts the mood, too much heat and humidity can lead to increased stress levels, and might even bring on episodes of aggression.
Changes in wind in certain locations, like North Africa and Israel have been attributed to rising levels of depression and anxiety. The common factor in these weather influences – sunshine, temperature, and wind – is barometric pressure, where lower pressure negatively impacts mental health. Extreme forms of weather – natural disasters – are particularly traumatic and stressful events, leading to post-traumatic stress disorder, and increased levels of anxiety, fear, and depression.
Social conditions as part of an individual’s environment that impacts mental health are made up of direct actions as well as the perceived intentions of people. Things like overcrowding, crime, noise levels, and basic living conditions all affect a person’s mental state. In cities where crime is more prevalent, people experience raised levels of stress, anxiety, and fear compared to those living in peaceful environments.
Without a doubt this year has been tough. We are all exhausted and mentally fatigued. Stressing about what the future holds will leave you feeling panicked and anxious. Create a sense of possibility by cultivating a strong sense of purpose and use it to figure out what the next step going forward is.
Taking things day by day and adopting healthier mental health habits will go a long way in getting through the crisis. If you feel that you can no longer cope and you need some help, get in touch with Zwavelstream clinic. We are here for you.