It has been ten months since “break down” number 1 of 2018, and It has also been ten months since I last wrote a piece on this subject – and with it being 10th October or World Mental Health Day, I thought there was no better time to write a follow-up!
It has been a tough ten months for me with lots of personal changes, new pressures and that brings with it new anxieties and new things to worry about. I have always been a worrier. I worry about the fact that I am not worrying about anything at times. My head, on a regular basis, is a jumble sale of thoughts I just can’t get rid of. On the face of it nobody knows the battles I face on an almost daily basis, the strength it takes some days to simply get out of bed and face the day – but I do it. Each day I do it because I know I am supported. Supported by my Partner, my friends and my family and I am I am fully supported at work – and that can make all the difference!
I must say I was completely overwhelmed and blown away by the response to my last piece “Mental Health and The Legal Profession”. I received personal emails, comments and LinkedIn messages from people I did not know sharing their own experiences with me along with sharing with me how their own companies were implementing strategies to deal with mental health in the workplace. Some of the responses are really worth sharing and I think employers should take note of things being done that do not cost a thing!
“The thing that has helped me out most, in my current work, is the flexible start and finish times (albeit with fixed core hours). This has allowed me to build exercise into my mornings and evenings despite not being a natural morning person - I can cycle in happily for 1 hour without worrying about not being at my desk on the dot of 9. Also, my line manager and department manager are hawk-eyed when it comes to identifying overwork and stress - they're always on me to take care of myself first and foremost. Small tweaks to work culture can help enormously and it doesn't cost a penny in resources or facilities”
This message really did stand out for me. I am lucky enough to work for G2 Legal, a company that understands the importance of offering a flexible and supportive working culture which in turn impacts positively on mental health. I recently made adjustments to my working pattern (still maintaining my core working hours) but this again has had a positive impact on my own mental well-being. I am now able to separate the two – ultimately by having the opportunity to work more flexibly it has enabled me to spend more time on my own well-being consequently making me more productive in the office. Re-iterating the comment above, it takes just small tweaks to the working culture that can help enormously and it does not cost a penny in resources or facilities!
Another comment which stuck out was:
“A legal firm local to me who have a set of bricks on every desk where the person can express their current mood/stress level so that others may take this into consideration when interacting. My firm are very supportive and patient with me as I am sometimes incapable of functioning let alone being productive. I am being supported and will progress.”
It is really great to see how things are developing within the workplace and especially in a profession such as the Legal one which brings with it its own stereotypes. Five years ago I would never have written anything like this through fear of appearing weak. However, the huge movements being made with mental health first aiders, flexible working allowing you to build exercise into your day along with a better understanding of “mental health” on the whole is allowing people to feel comfortable enough to speak out.
Some employers still have a long way to go to assist people with their mental health and the sad fact is some law firms maintain a very traditional way of working which unfortunately will never change. If that is the case it is down to YOU to be kind to yourself and find a working environment that meets your needs!
Always be kind to yourself and as a side note – when you start to ask yourself “why me?”, “why do I suffer” try to remember that your illness does not define you… your strength and courage does.