Uncertainty and unpredictability have been constants throughout the duration of the pandemic, as has the need to resiliently navigate transitions.
In this webinar, participants gained insights into change processes and their impact on workplace mental health. Strategies for managing hybrid working models and combating stress were also explored.
In this workshop, you will:
- Better understand the process of transitions and its impact on workplace mental health
- Learn strategies for exercising work-life balance when engaging in remote/hybrid work
- Learn principles for positive mental health and what individuals can do to deal with uncertainty
Jordan Mowbray: Good afternoon, everybody. So I want to start this session by acknowledging that a number of us are on the traditional territory of many nations across Turtle Islands. We broadcast from Toronto, the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, the Wendat peoples, which is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Metis people. So my name is Jordan Mowbray. I'm a Regional Manager for Business Markets at RBC, and I'm excited to be here with you all today. Before we get started, I want to touch on a couple housekeeping items. So the session is going to be recorded and will be made available on support business.bot.com after the session. If you're having issues with your stream, click on the click here to refresh stream button under the video player to view the alternate stream. And if you're having technical issues, please click on the help button on the lower right corner of the webcast page.
Your help request will be emailed back to the email address that you provide. And to ask questions, click on the questions tab and submit your question. You may ask a question at any time during the webcast and the moderator receive the questions and will be going through as many as we can later on the call. So to start off, I'm honored to be part of an event that will be touching on the importance of mental health and how to successfully navigate change. We've all experienced our fair share of change in the past couple years. Our regular routines have been disrupted. How we manage our day has transformed. Our outfit choices have changed during the pandemic. For me, for example, this is probably one of a handful of times I've worn dress shirt over the past couple years. All jokes aside, though, adjusting to a new way of life takes time and taking care of our emotional needs and mental health during a time of transition is essential.
In addition to this, a sudden shift to remote work has completely transformed traditional career networking, mentoring, and how we all interact with each other. Today, we will explore how to effectively manage these transitions because how we manage them has a powerful impact on our health and our long-term success. On that note, so I'd like to mention that RBC is a proud founding partner of the Young Professionals Network at the Toronto Board of Trade. And I, myself am a proud committee member of this great network. For those not involved, I would highly recommend it. It's a great group and it gives you an opportunity to become involved with networking events and professional development opportunities. I'm also thankful to be part of an organization that prioritizes the wellbeing of their employees. In fact, RBC was just named one of Canada's top a hundred employers because of their emphasis on wellness and wellbeing.
So without further ado, let's get started. So I'm excited to introduce our speaker today, Nancy Hood, the Program Manager at Mental Health Works, who will be facilitating the workshop today entitled, Wellness Check: Dealing with Transitions and Managing Stress. So Nancy's a registered social worker and certified psychological health and safety advisor. Over the last 15 years, much of Nancy's career has been dedicated to creating and delivering programs to support Ontarians living with mental health challenges. As the co-creator of The New Mentality, Nancy's successfully engaged youth from across Ontario to raise awareness about mental health, while advocating for improved mental health services as a unified group with a strong and valid voice. Now, as a Program Manager for Mental Health Works, Nancy strives to be a strong supporter, advocate and champion for healthy workplaces built in partnership with all members. Nancy's introduction will not be fully complete without introducing her guide dog, Neesa, a beautiful redheaded golden who has been at Nancy's side for the last five years, doing what she loves to do most, guiding and making people smile. And on that note, Nancy, over to you.
Nancy Hood: Awesome. Thank you, Jordan. And good afternoon, everyone. It is a true pleasure to be part of today's event. Thank you to RBC, the Toronto Board of Trade. I'm really excited to be here speaking to the Young Professionals Network. So thank you all for this invitation. And thank you Jordan for that lovely introduction. Neesa and I... And I hope you can see her in the screenshot. We're delighted to be here with you. I always like having Neesa these presentations because she is my guide dog. So if I was with you in person, she'd be right there laying at my feet. And instead she's resting very comfortably on our spare bed. However, she won't be saying much. So it'll just be me today. But again, delighted to be here with you. And as Jordan mentioned, today we're going to be talking about the important subject of transitions, which has been a focal point for many of our lives and also managing stress, which I don't know anyone, two years into the pandemic who hasn't dealt with some sort of stress, whose life has been shifted in some way.
So we're going to be looking at how to cope with stress. Because the truth is folks, stress isn't unique to the pandemic. Stress is actually something that we can anticipate happening in our lives. So in anticipating that, how do we better cope with it? And I do come here today on behalf of Mental Health Works, which is a social enterprise of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario division. And at Mental Health Works, we strive to do three things. We strive to raise awareness about mental health, help people come up with coping strategies on how to respond and also collaborate so that they're able to build healthy workplaces.
And for those of you who are coming onto today's webcast from post-secondary, you're not forgotten. Part of my career path was working in post-secondary and helping undergraduate students embrace this concept of wellness and introduce wellness into their lives. So excited to be speaking to you all as well and tying this all together. So without further ado, we don't have much time today, but I do have a lot of stuff to cover and I hope to add some tips and tricks into your toolbox to better help you cope with stress. So on that note, next slide please.
So anytime we enter into a conversation together, it's important to know what we're going to be talking about. So we're going to be looking at examining transitions, and the impact of transitions on our mental health. Spoiler alert, we all have mental health. Just like we all have physical health, we have mental health. We need to be paying attention to that and how change impacts our mental health. We're going to be learning about strategies around how to exercise wellness and maintain resilience in our lives to better cope with stress. And finally, we're going to be looking at some tips around positive psychology and how we can integrate principles of positive psychology to help us deal with uncertainty. Because if there's one thing that's certain, it's that uncertainty will creep into our lives and sometimes we don't have full control over things. So how can we deal with those stressful situations? What could we be doing for ourselves? Next slide please.
But today when we talk about our health and living a healthy lifestyle, what we're really talking about is this concept of quality of life. What's involved with quality of life is this concept of wellbeing. And wellbeing, it's not a phenomenon, it's actually means looking at what it means to feel good in terms of our mood. What it means to function effectively, be productive, complete the things that we set out to get done, complete the goals that we set out for ourselves. So the National Wellness Institute suggests that there are six dimensions of wellness. And they introduced these dimensions in terms of a wellness wheel. And the core principle behind this wheel is that we have to be able to find balance. Another way they describe this wheel is in terms of a lifestyle pie.
Now, I don't know about you folks, I love pie. And so when I think about pie, I think about all the pieces of a pie. And they don't all need to be symmetrical and the exact same size, but the idea behind a lifestyle pie in this wellness wheel is that we have to be paying attention to all of these dimensions if we want to be on a path towards health and wellness.
So these pieces are interconnected and when one's missing, we're off kilter. And so we want to make sure we're paying attention to all the different dimensions. So physical wellbeing, this is the one we're most familiar with. Physical wellbeing has to do with diet, sleep, exercise, popularized terms and topics that we're used to talking about, reading about, listening to podcasts about. With diet, sleep, exercise, having those healthy habits, they give us energy. Energy to start our days effectively and to end them effectively.
So they are important components to wellbeing, for sure. So is social wellbeing. We haven't felt the importance of social wellbeing more so than the last few years with the pandemic where, there have been physical restrictions put in for our safety where we haven't been able to have those social connections in the same way. But social connections are really important to maintaining our mental health, for the quality of relationships that we have with other people. They could be our classmates, our coworkers, our loved ones. It involves communicating effectively. It involves being able to lean on those people in times of stress, both our own, and perhaps being a support for them as well.
Then there's emotional wellbeing. And the emotional wellbeing involves recognizing our emotions, the good, the bad, the ugly, not just being in a space where with those comfortable, happy emotions, but naming all of the emotions. And the Canadian Mental Health Association last May had a great campaign called, Name it, Don't Numb it. Regardless of the emotions that we're having, naming it, having that courage to say what's going on for us. And there's our intellectual wellbeing. And this is about exercising our minds. You students know this better than anyone, but exercising our minds, growing with new topics, new interests, new subject matter. It's really tapping into that, making us more creative, being able to be better problem solvers. It's about that sense of curiosity and not only about it, but actually fulfilling that sense of curiosity.
Occupational wellbeing. This has to do with our work and our work can be defined in many ways. It can be our paid work. So what we do to help pay our bills and bring home income. It could be our work in the community and what we do in terms of volunteering. It could also be our work related to school, completing those courses. I know a lot of you maybe are on break week in Ontario. Some of you, your break week is next week, but certainly you're in a busy time right now. And that occupational stress is felt at different times when there's different pressures put on us. And finally, your spiritual wellbeing. And spiritual wellbeing is about finding this inner sense of peace. And for some folks that has to do with religion and for other folks, it has to do with aligning our values with what we're doing in our life.
So as you can see, when we think of wellness and wellbeing, we think beyond those popular topics, like I talked about, it's not just about diet, sleep, exercise. What are we doing for our connections? For our emotions? For our intelligence? For our spirituality? For our occupation? So as I said before folks, stress is inevitable and what we really need to be paying attention to is what positive elements can be introducing into our lives so that we're better able to cope with strengths and deal with our mental health? Next slide. When we talk about mental health, mental health is not simply the absence of mental illness. It's not that if you don't have a diagnosis of mental illness, you're mentally healthy. But the important thing for us to know is that everyone has mental health. If there's one silver lining that the pandemic has introduced, and I say this as a mental health advocate, but mean it from the bottom of my heart, it's that mental health has finally been given the attention it deserves because there is no health without mental health.
So mental health, it's a spectrum just like our physical health. So everyone has some level of mental health all of the time. It can change from day to day. It can change from year to year, depends on the events that are introduced into our lives. So the diagram that's visible on your screen right now, there's two axes. And the one I want us to pay attention to today is that vertical axis, the line going up and down, pulling us from positive mental health to poor mental health. So let's talk about positive mental health because there's some misconceptions around that term.
Positive mental health doesn't mean that someone's happy go lucky all the time, wearing rose colored glasses, always feeling those warm and fuzzy emotions. What positive mental health is, it's about having those skills, those abilities to cope with the stressors of life. And I can't emphasize that word, cope, enough because again, stress is inevitable. I'm going to say it a couple of times today. Because stressors are outside factors that come into our lives, we don't have control over them. What we do have control is how we deal with them. The other component to positive mental health is that ability to regulate our emotions accept them for all that they are, as I talked about earlier.
So mental health is something that changes throughout our lives and under changing circumstances. It's influenced by a range of factors. One of those obvious factors that sometimes we're afraid to say out loud, but is the truth is work. Work introduces stress. We have responsibilities and associated with those responsibilities is stress. And we have to be open to that idea. There are factors that can influence mental health include our social status, our economic status. It includes the social determinants of health, where we live, where we grow, where we choose to raise our families, has to do with our lifestyle and has to do with our health.
So what is this thing of stress? And we get pulled from a place of positive mental health to that bottom, which is also called poor mental health. And I want to make it clear, when we talk about poor mental health, what we're really talking about is that sense of blah, the blahs. I don't know if anybody follows social media, but in April of 2020, there was an article released that talked about languishing. And people were finally like, "Yes, languishing, this is exactly what I'm feeling." And pardon me, the article was actually released in 2021. The language thing comes from this model. It's that idea that you're not thriving and at your best, you're not necessarily depressed, you're more like the meh. And meh is what we talk about when we're talking about this idea of poor mental health. And if we're not paying attention to the impact of stress, it can lead to mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression. So we want to raise awareness and have that self-awareness around what's going on for us when we're dealing with stress. So let's look at stress in terms of COVID. Next slide please.
So during the pandemic, our brains internalize the effects of stress. The energy that we once had to be productive and stay motivated, it switched to keeping ourselves safe, to being able to cope with keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe. So for the last two years, we've been burdened by stress. And what stress does is, it changes the makeup of our brains. So the energy that we once had for our executive function, for learning, for memory, it's been altered.
So generally speaking, our brains are running on fuels. Stress mode is built for survival. It's that fight, flight or freeze response. There's a stressor, I'm either going to stay and deal with it, or I'm going to run away to safety. There's also our relaxed brain. And our relaxed brain is where stressors and [chloral 00:17:19] balls are coming into our lives, but we're not really noticing it. Doesn't evoke that threat response and we're able to cope. When we're in this relaxed mode, we're in what's called our window of tolerance. So we can still have those healthy relationships. We can still effectively do our work and everything's okay. We can deal with the stress. But when we're outside our window of tolerance, which is what COVID did for us, things changed. And we enter into one of two states.
Our nervous system either entered into hypo arousal or hyper arousal. We're talking about hypo arousal. It's like we hit a wall. We're exhaust. It's this feeling of hopelessness. I can't do it. I can't get through it. Hyper arousal is the opposite. It's that go, go, go. It's the irritability. It's the inability to sleep. It's the consistent feelings of anxiety that are hard to shake off.
So, I bring up this example because the stress associated with COVID is something that we can all relate. While our experiences were different, each of us had to deal and cope in some way. The thing about stress is that it has a bad rap. Not all stress is negative. There are actually examples of good stress. Next slide please.
So putting COVID aside, let's think about our unbelievably busy weeks because we've all had them. Maybe some of you are just coming off of an unbelievable busy week and happy that it was a long weekend. But think about your unbelievable busy week, the way that you cope with stress is your attitude towards coming into the weekend. Are you coming into the weekend with a sense of accomplishment, like looking back and being impressed at all that you've accomplished? Or are you looking ahead to the week ahead thinking there's only two days and then this is all going to start again? That's a difference between positive stress and negative stress and the impact that it has on our mood and our wellbeing. So positive stress, another word for it is eustress. It's exciting. You feel confident, you feel adequate. You feel like... I like to spread this and say to my students all the time, "You got this."
It helps us to stay motivated. It helps us to work towards goals. Eustress, positive stress, it also helps us to be creative. Think outside the box. So think about the time when you were thrown a last minute project at work or a last minute assignment as a student, chances are, you didn't see it coming. It's like, "Oh my gosh, how am I going to do this? I only have two days that I have to turn this around," and you got it done. That's an example of eustress. Your body kicked into that fight, flight response and you got it done. That creativity emerged, that motivation emerged. What stress does, when it's positive stress, is it builds resilience.
Stress trains us to deal with similar situations. The first time a situation emerges, it may seem like a huge mountain that's difficult to overcome. But the second time a similar situation comes up, it's that again, we got this feeling. We've done this before. We know what to do. And our relaxed brains in some ways can start to take effect. So to keep us in this space of creating our brains, of fostering resilience, we want to challenge ourselves to learn something new every day.
We want to set challenging and realistic goals related to being a student, related to owning our own business, related to being a professional in our work-life. So good stress. Good stress can turn negative and it can turn negative when our physical and our emotional resources exceed the demands that are placed upon us. So more is being asked of us than we have to give, than we have to turn to. If not payed attention to, it can lead to anxiety. It can lead to depression. Next slide, please.
We all have feelings of nervousness sometimes. These are normal responses to unpredictable situations. Unfamiliar situations. Think about the last time you had a test coming up, you're waiting for tests results maybe, you had to pay a bill or even a job interview. Chances are, you were nervous on one or all of those occasions. And nervous feelings are actually good for us because they give us an awareness of what we can do to protect ourselves if there's danger. Nerves are completely normal, leading up to a situation. Feelings of nervousness that don't disrupt your life are also normal. The challenge becomes when the situation arises, but the feelings of nervousness don't go away afterwards.
And another component to that is when the nervous feeling show up as dread. Sometimes sense of drive can cause someone to avoid certain things. It can impact our daily functioning. And so what we want to be mindful of is, when those feelings of nervousness and anxiety, when they're creeping into our lives for a period of time. And usually we say for two to three weeks where we're not able to carry out our normal activities, where that sense of fear, that sense of dread is taking over. And in that case, it may be a sign that we want to reach out for help and support. And we'll talk a little bit about that at the end. Dealing with transitions is something that can bring about feelings of stress or feelings of anxiety. Next slide please. So what do we know about transitions? Transitions are difficult. They are hard. Change is hard. Can impose feelings of fear and they can be associated with that worry of what's going to happen.
Especially when they're imposed on us, they're that much more challenging. When we don't have a sense of control over the change or how the change is going to impact us. Transitions, truth be told folks, they're a predictable part of way. So it's to our benefit to be able to understand transitions and how they can impact our mental health. Some of you may be familiar with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's model on grief, and she talked about the five stages of grief. And over time, the business world has taken those five stages and turned them into seven. And didn't talk about stages, but instead talked about a change curve. And what this change curve is designed to do is this, designed to convey levels of emotion.
And one of the key differentiatings between the five stages of grief and the change curve, is that we don't necessarily go through the change curve in a linear fashion. Not going to go from shock to denial, to frustration and depression all the way through seamlessly. You may find yourself going back and forth and that's completely fine. The time for concern is if we get stuck in one of these stages in particular, if we're stuck in anger or depression. So let's talk a little bit about the stages so we can better understand this.
So shock. So the initial reaction to learning an announcement that something's going to happen. So this denial, the sudden feeling of the change won't impact me. And some may say, "Shock and denial, why live there? This is going to happen to us. We have to deal with it." But shock and denial are two important components to the change curve because what they do is they give our brain permission to take a pause and take in the information as it is ready to. Because again, part of embracing change is that readiness. And so for someone that's in shock or denial, they just might not be ready. So think about March 2020, rewind when this whole pandemic started and things were shutting down. I don't know about you folks, but I know for myself and a lot of people in my social circle, we kept thinking, this won't last.
This won't be a long time. There's just going to be a couple cases, no big deal. My workplace will open up in no time. My school will go back to normal and it didn't. We needed some of that time to process though what do we really look like? We could see what was happening in other countries, but we needed to be in our own bubble and live in that shock and denial before we were to embrace what was going on. Frustration. As things becomes more apparent, we become more irritable. We may become more angry. We may look to see if someone could blame for it. Again, if we think back to 2020, it could have been the time when there was a lockdown. I'm tired of being home. I want to go to the gym. I want to go to a restaurant. I want to go out and see people. I want to see people beyond my household.
So there's this stage of depression. And I want to be very careful here because when we talk about depression in this model, we are not talking about diagnosed clinical depression. Okay? That has to be done by a medical professional. What we're talking about here in terms of depression is the sense of loss, loss of control, loss of how things used to be prior to the pandemic, for example, but it's a sense of loss.
And whether or not we like it, the change is going to happen. Then there's an experiment here, an experimentation, it's this idea of bargaining. So we start to think, how is the change going to impact me? How can I make this work for me? What can I do? We start playing around with ideas in our minds, maybe even acting out ideas to see how they can work for us. And for those of you who've been working remote, you certainly experience experimentation back in 2020 and even maybe since, if you've had to back and forth. Finally is decisions. And that's where we come to terms with the event. We feel more motivated. I like it? Maybe. Do we like it? Maybe not, but it doesn't matter because what we're doing is coming to terms with it and we're okay with how things are unfolding. And then there's this sense of integration, and what was once unacceptable, where we were in the shock and denial, it's now something that motivates us. It's something that adds fuel to our fire.
So now the restrictions are being lifted, we may find ourselves in this change curve where we have to start thinking, what is it going to be like when I go back to school to shared classrooms? What is it going to be like when I go back to shared workspace? What is it going to really mean to work in a hybrid model? Because we're all working remote. Next slide please.
So when we're turning to shared spaces, this is something a lot of people are worried about, right? Because yes, we're all vaccinated and that gives us some recoup but we haven't been in these big shared spaces with hundreds of people or our teams in close proximity in a really long time. So there are things that you can do as employees and that employers can do as well. And when I say employees, think of yourselves, if you're in a student role, think of what you can do as a student, as I offer some of these suggestions. So what you can do as a person, start the conversation, focus on effects. What's going to make work more conducive for you? What might you need in order to be able to really integrate back in a way that feels safe? Reach out to managers if needed, to explore effective accommodations.
Even though things are lifting, we still have lived through a pandemic. We're not rewinding and pretending like the last two years didn't happen. Be graceful with yourself and others. Allow mistakes to happen. That's really big, the important component to dealing with stress because we don't have control over everything. We need to understand not everything's going to go perfectly and it's going to be okay. Understand that for others in providing permission, for mistakes to happen, but also for ourselves and exercising some self compassion. And we'll talk about that in a little bit.
Finally, what we can do for ourselves is breathe. Take a breath. When we're stressed, our amygdala is what's working. It is the fight, flight or squeeze response. How can we get out? How can we get us? What can we do?` Where can we go next? And sometimes the best resource is at our fingertips or within us, I should say is to breathe. And when I'm talking about breathing, I want you to remember some important numbers, 4, 4, 7. Breathe in for four, hold for four and breathe out for seven.
Because what that does is that's calming breathing. And that's bringing us back to a place where we can better deal with our emotions. Workplaces need employees, where they're at, consider how new policies are going to affect people coming back to work. Create that space for processing and communicate, communicate, communicate. Any time a change is going to happen, a transition is going to happen, there is no such thing as over communicating. Because what happens is if we go into this place of silence, people's stress responses start to come into play and they start to think about things that may happen. Next slide please.
So before the pandemic, the common objection to work was this idea that people might be disengaged from their work, or they might not be as productive. But actually, the pandemic show that the opposite is true. The opposite is true in that people are actually working more and this can be for a variety of reasons. People wanting to keep their jobs, wanting to make sure they're being noticed, that their work is being done. Their boss knows they're working. And so, as workplaces are thinking about going back to work, they're thinking about a hybrid model.
And as I talked about before, a hybrid model is a transition in and of itself because it's not what we're doing right now. It's not what we're doing in our post-secondary world. In a lot of cases, for those of us working from home, it's not what we're doing in the home world. Because right now everyone's on the same page. We're all working from home. We're all in that same space, have that same access to our supervisors, to our colleagues. But when we're talking about entering a hybrid model, there's a bit more worry that comes in. And people are worried about something called FOMO, fear of missing out.
But according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, hybrid work is actually something that people desire. They still want to see this happen. They don't want to go back full-time. But in seeing this happen, we have to kind of weigh the pros and cons and think about what people need to take into consideration. How are we going to manage folks' expectations, their stressors and their anxieties? How are we going to keep in mind, things like similarity bias? Things that are around us and closer to us, they're often taken to account a lot more readily. And distance bias, kind of out of sight out of mind, but how do we make sure that people who are working from home and policies that we created still feel like they're very much present and we're reminded that they're present? So these are unique challenges that people need to take into consideration.
So when we're in here, we're talking about what employers can do. These are valid worries that we as individuals have. So how can we control our worries and our stressors? One of the things we can do is we can challenge negative thoughts. So what we're looking to do when we're challenging our negative thoughts and we're challenging our worries is, we're looking to reframe. We don't want to pretend, but what we want to do is look at things from a different angle. So we want to look at what is the evidence? Ask ourselves where is the proof? Because our brains have a way of spinning things so that our feelings take over, but we have to sometimes say, "Hold on, feelings, slow down. What are the facts? How is worrying about this helping me right now?
Again, when we're in this place of stress, we often worry about the future and things that are ahead. So slowing ourselves down, asking, how is this worrying helping me right now? And almost putting a time limit on how much we'll allow ourselves to breathe. So we're framing, it's a skill that's linked to exercising resilience. Next slide, please
Resilience, this means coping well with problems. It means overcoming adversity. Resilience, it helps us to look at a situation with a healthy lens. It's again, tied closely with cognitive reframing. It also allows us to think about how we can take action, where changes can be made, what is in our control. And it helps us to better understand of how we can let go of things that can't be changed because, sometimes that's one of the hardest things to do. So resilience doesn't mean that someone won't experience distress. And resilience isn't something that you either have, or you don't have. Resilience needs to be thought of as a muscle. Just like we work hard to exercise our physical muscles, we also need to work hard at exercising our resilience muscle. Again, that exposure to new things, trying new things, stepping outside our comfort zone. Resilience has an important function in our work-life. Next slide please. Resilience is associated with greater job satisfaction, is associated with greater organizational commitments and employee engagement keeps people where they're at.
It contributes as well to improve self-esteem. Improve self-esteem as professionals. Improve self-esteem as students. And it helps us again, to understand our control or lack of control over events. Resilience also plays a role in this idea of finding balance. Next slide, please. So work-like balance. We talk about it a lot. It's a term that's out there quite a bit, but what does it mean? And it means this idea of achieving equilibrium in all facets of our life. So those domains that I talked about earlier. And it's not only achieving it, but it's being able to sustain it. So work-life balance is something we create. It's something that we have a power to do within ourselves. It's also something that we need to evaluate because our life circumstances do change and it requires making tough voices sometimes. It requires putting up boundaries. Requires prioritizing. It requires thinking about what we're sacrificing and thinking about what we're losing and making those informed decisions that feel best for ourselves. So what's important to know about work-life balance is that improving situation, it takes time and it takes effort and it takes again, evaluation. Next slide, please.
I'm going to run through a few quick tips when we're talking about stress related to those domains we talked about earlier. So the first one is around basic hygiene. So physical, diet, sleep, exercise, excuse me the physical wellbeing component. What we can do for ourselves. The best thing we can do for ourselves is be simple in our approaches. If we're not sleeping well, eating well, exercising right now, we're not going to start doing that all on the same day. So we need to be able to set up realistic goals for ourselves, small steps to get us to that place where we're exercising more healthcare habit.
We want to maintain routines that are simple and we want to maintain routines, not when we're anticipating change. So not when we're going to be returning to work or the classroom in a month or two, but today, early set ourselves up for success for when the change happens. We also want to stay away from substances that can contribute to stress, caffeine. I love caffeine. I love my coffee in the morning. You'd probably tell about my level of enthusiasm, but not always a good idea when there's times of stress. So when we're feeling stressed, looking at our caffeine intake, looking at our intake of alcohol and other substances that may contribute to enhancing feelings of anxiety or stress. Next slide please.
So in times of stress, our social networks are important for us to draw. And it's very important that when we draw on our social networks in times of the stress, we be very honest with ourselves and our social networks in terms of what we need. But not only what we need from people, but what they can expect from us because sometimes we can't be that perfect parent, that perfect colleague, that perfect student, whatever it may be, because we are in a time of stress. So being realistic with what those expectations are. We also want to be able to choose our company wisely. The truth is folks, there are people sometimes who draw on our energy more than others. And in times when we're in stress, we might not have a lot of that energy to give. So where can we be putting up those healthy, safe boundaries for ourselves? Next slide, please. Attending to our emotional wellbeing, this involves being present. And this is where we really want to practice things like self-compassion, like gratitude.
When we're talking about self-compassion, being kind to ourselves, the kindness that we so readily afford to others, taking that time to do it for ourselves, being conscious and aware to do it for ourselves. So using should statements is something we need to avoid because what should statements introduce are feelings of guilt and criticism. We want to be able to allow ourselves to feel our feelings and being present is that awareness, that non-judgmental attitude towards self, towards experience. The other thing we want to do in being present is practicing gratitude. And practicing gratitude is something that's known to increase our mental health. So an example of practicing gratitude is writing down three things that you're grateful for everyday. And not only what you're grateful for, but the why you're grateful for it. The why is so important. And the why helps to train our brains so that we'll do those activities again.
And on that note folks, I am aware of the time. So I'm going to politely end it there. I do want to let you know about a resource that we offer through the Canadian Mental Association. It is known as, Bounce Back. And I will send out information to the Toronto Board of Trade and Young Professionals Networks so that you can have this resource. But it is an excellent resource rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy, but it's not therapy. It's actually more of a coaching service and allows folks to help combat challenges around stress and anxiety and depression. So I'll send out more information about that and I'll throw it back to you, Jordan.
Jordan Mowbray: Great. Thank you. Thank you so much for that Nancy. So what we'll do is... So first of all, thank you everybody for sending over questions. We got quite a few, so that's perfect. We'll go through a few of them right now. So what I'll do is, I'll read out the Nancy, feel free to respond. We can go through a few of them and then we'll close up.
Nancy Hood: Sounds great.
Jordan Mowbray: So first question is, in such a fast paced work environment set against the pandemic, we all feel the strain of life and stress at work. At what point should we be alarmed that this is not a normal anxiety and seek professional help?
Nancy Hood: Great question. And going back to what I shared earlier, it's when it starts to impede daily functioning. So when those symptoms of anxiety, the worry, the dread, the fear, the inability to carry your task. When that's present for two to three weeks, that's a sign that one should reach out for help. And for those, there are many different programs available. One of them is Bounced Back and as I said, it's a free service and I will be sharing information at the end. But for anyone linked to universities or colleges, you do have access to counseling services on campus. And for those of you with employers, maybe your employer has an employee assistance program. And if not, there are other community resources which you can access that might be free as well.
Jordan Mowbray: Thanks Nancy. So what could be done to get rid of mental exhaustion when work is overwhelming? Do you have any tips?
Nancy Hood: Great question. Mental exhaustion, that depleting the physical, the emotional energy, and that's really around setting barriers... Boundaries, not barriers but boundaries for ourselves. So one of the things, again, we talk about is, what are those healthy boundaries? How can we be mindful in our workday? And what does our workday look like? Because that has become a lot more gray for folks since working from home. We take breaks differently. We may start earlier. We may work longer hours, but as much as we can help having those healthy habits of a structured workday, as much as we would have in going into the office without guilt working 9:00 to 5:00, or 7.5 or seven hours, whatever it may be without guilt is important. Create structure for yourself and not only creating that structure, but holding yourself accountable to it is important.
Jordan Mowbray: Perfect. And this one ties in a little bit to that question, but I think it's a good one to ask. How do we keep work-life and personal-life separate in our minds?
Nancy Hood: Wow!
Jordan Mowbray: Great question.
Nancy Hood: Yeah. Great question. And a lot of it actually has to do with where we're accessing our information about work, because the truth is folks, we have a lot available at our fingertips. Emails, our phones, being in our watches, doing whatever you're set up with. So it's that permission to say, I'm going to turn off my email from my phone and I'm going to feel okay about that. It's that ability to step away Friday afternoon, not checking email until Monday morning without guilt. And those practices take habits. So if it's something that we do now, don't expect that that could be your goal and overnight you're going to do it. No. Maybe you say to yourself, two evenings a week, I'm going to challenge myself not to check my email. I'm going to turn off my, my phone email on the weekends and not get the notifications.
So whatever it may be, we really have to challenge ourselves to how much are we letting work into our personal lives, when we're supposed to be taking that personal care. And also with personalized because sometimes bleed into work. So how can we say to ourselves, "I'm in this mind space right now." Putting away our worries is a great way to do that. So having a mindfulness exercise, you might introduce before starting a work day. Writing things down that you're are going to give yourself permission to worry about after work, but for now you're releasing them through your brain. It sort of sounds silly but when we get things down on paper, it's allowing our brains permission to not think about the same thing over and over. We're going to go back to it later. There's a reminder for us. So, that's a great practice to introduce this fall.
Jordan Mowbray: Awesome. Thanks Nancy. So on that note, and we'll close it up for today. So just wanted to say a few things. So first of all, incredible session today. I think I speak for all of us that these types of conversations are essential. Honestly. Thank you, Nancy, for all your honesty and your insights, and thank you to everyone who joined us today. So we wish you all the best and hope to see you again soon.