All across the world, people’s mental health and wellbeing have been severely impacted by Covid-19. Reports of increased levels of anxiety and stress caused by the ongoing health and economic crisis fill our newsfeeds and daily conversations. This is why focusing on our mental health and protecting positive wellbeing is now more important than ever, so we can avert what psychiatrists have called a “looming mental health crisis.”
In Britain, the number of adults with depression has doubled during the pandemic, according to a recent survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The survey found that feeling stressed or anxious was the most common way adults experiencing some form of depression felt their wellbeing was being affected, with almost 85% of respondents stating this.
We are facing a looming mental health crisis in the UK and across the world
Similarly concerning figures have been revealed by numerous studies across the world, with workers reporting more anxiety and stress. In a global study of 2,700 employees across more than ten industries, 75% of respondents said they feel more socially isolated, 67% reported higher stress, 57% felt greater anxiety, and 53% said they felt more emotionally exhausted.
Here in London, a survey conducted by Helix Resilience found that 84% of employees working in the banking sector have struggled with mental health as a result of the nation-wide lockdown.
Dr Billy Boland of the Royal College of Psychiatrists told The Guardian in mid-August, that the ONS survey’s alarming results are “another warning of the looming mental health crisis and the tsunami of referrals we are expecting over the coming months.”
Executives face different challenges and all of them are exacerbated by Covid-19
I’ve written before about how employers must do more to support the mental health of their staff during the Covid-19 pandemic. But let’s not forget the emotional wellbeing of the business leaders and executives. Company leaders face their own particular types of stress and anxiety, and wellbeing coaching can also provide them with the support they need during these uncertain times.
Regardless of the industry, business owners, founders, and managers in senior positions usually shoulder very different responsibilities and face very different challenges, and all of these challenges are exacerbated by Covid-19.
As the traditional workplace has completely changed, and as meetings and collaborative work switched to online platforms, the support provided by meaningful face-to-face interactions has been removed. Feelings of isolation and loneliness are being experienced by countless people around the world, but for those business leaders, these feelings can be particularly acute. You no doubt know the phrase “it’s lonely at the top.” During a pandemic it can be much, much lonelier.
Although executives and team leaders will understandably feel as though they need to devote all their energy to keeping their businesses and organisations afloat during the crisis, if they do not dedicate time and energy to their wellbeing, and the wellbeing of their employees, the looming mental health crisis predicted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists will become a reality.
How can we help others without first helping ourselves?
It may seem like an obvious statement but for so many it is also very easy to forget: how can we help others without first helping ourselves? This is no different for those in leadership roles, and the same question applies to running a company or organisation. How can a business executive lead effectively if their mental health and emotional wellbeing is suffering?
Although mental health in the workplace has been called the big issue for employers in 2020, the mental health and wellbeing of those in executive positions hasn’t yet received the attention it needs. I feel it’s important to address the specific reasons why executives may have difficulty addressing their own emotional struggles.
Those in leadership roles may often feel extremely reluctant to be honest about their mental health or to reveal anything about the true state of their wellbeing. As the captain of a ship, so to speak, there is often deep unwillingness to express any feelings of insecurity or emotional instability.
As the old saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. When one is responsible for the smooth running of a company, and for appearing as a pillar of strength to others — especially during a crisis — being open and vulnerable is often considered too risky.
What are the consequences of business leaders failing to prioritise their own mental health?
When an executive is responsible for the mental health of their employees, it can simply seem too difficult to prioritise one’s own mental health above all else. A recent study conducted by The Kung Group, a management consulting firm in the US, found that business leaders who have paid attention to their staff’s mental wellbeing have actually neglected their own mental health.
The impact of stress and anxiety among executives can vary, just as it can for regular employees. It can result in physical impairment and illness, and mental illness. It can severely affect relationships with colleagues, friends and family.
It can also increase the tendency to turn to alcohol and drugs to ease tension. The Helix Resilience study found that drinking to deal with stress has become more prolific among London workers, spurred on by a disrupted work-life balance and social isolation.
As Jocelyn Kung, CEO of The Kung Group, wrote, “As we accept that this pandemic will continue for the foreseeable future, it’s important for those in positions of power — whose decisions impact the lives and careers of countless others — to carve out time for self-care if they are to sustain their ability to be of service.”
How can a wellbeing coach help executives in need of mental health support?
Receiving the services of a certified wellbeing coach equips business leaders with the skills and tools they need to help them deal with the dramatic changes they are currently experiencing.
As being responsible for their employees’ mental health and wellbeing can significantly
contribute to a leader’s stress and anxiety levels, learning how to manage their own mental health first is the most effective method to overcoming this challenge and better supporting their employees.
A business leader who receives wellbeing coaching will have the skills to reach a clearer understanding of their issues and concerns, and to reframe and re-interpret them. Knowing how to protect one’s mental health and wellbeing safely and positively could be the key to reducing stress for those in any kind of leadership position.
By participating in wellbeing coaching, business leaders would learn the tools, skills, and methods to navigate the Covid-19 crisis more effectively. During these uncertain times, these skills can mean the difference between a stable, supportive, and productive workplace on one hand, or a toxic work culture on the other.
By skillfully listening, questioning, reflecting, encouraging, challenging, and supporting, a wellbeing coach guides their clients to look to the future by helping them design and execute their own solutions to their problems and challenges. When the future is as uncertain as it is now, these abilities are more important than ever.
If a business leader engages with a certified wellbeing coach, they automatically become an advocate for introducing these important wellbeing and positive mental health practices into their work and workplace. The flow-on effect to employees throughout the company could be exactly what they need to operate more harmoniously and productively, and to weather these turbulent times as a stronger, more cohesive, and more supportive organisation.