8 ways to care for your mental health

If you pay attention to the news, especially sports news, you know that, for professional athletes, open talk about mental health challenges is no longer taboo.

Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps has been speaking up about managing his depression and anxiety. So has basketball star DeMar DeRozan, who famously tweeted about his own struggles. Later, DeRozan went on to star in an Apple TV+ series focused on the importance of mental health and well-being. His efforts even helped prompt the NBA to require teams to have a full-time mental health professional on staff.

This heightened awareness leads to an important question for you: How are you feeling? If your life is stressing you out or the shorter days make you blue, there’s no need to stick it out and act tough. What can you do? Schwarz Partners HR Generalist Sarah Leverton has some ideas for you. Here are eight things to think about in the leadup to the darkest, most hectic part of the year.

1. Be aware of how you feel.

When you’re feeling your best, you can bring it — at work and at home. But when you’re not feeling your best, you just can’t. So many things in life can make you feel overwhelmed: The lingering effects of COVID, a demanding job, relationships and family. “Some days, everyday life can feel like a lot to take on,” Sarah said. “Being aware of how you feel is the first step toward feeling better.”

“Often, when people talk about mental health issues, they say, ‘Stay positive. Every day’s a great day,’” Sarah said. “But that’s not true. Every day is not a great day. Sometimes you have a bad day or a bad week. That’s why instead of saying ‘Be positive’ I say ‘Be aware.’ Focus on how you feel and take care of yourself first. You have value, and you play an integral role in your life at both work and home. If something is missing, you can’t be your best. That’s why you need to talk about it and get help.”

2. Know the symptoms.

Symptoms for mental health issues like depression and anxiety can be both physical and mental, Sarah said. On the physical side, you may get too much or too little sleep or eat too much or not enough, or you may feel lethargic. On the mental side you may feel confused or have trouble concentrating and making decisions. Here’s a full list of symptoms. Being aware of them makes it easier to spot them in yourself and others.

3. Watch for extremes.

In her role as an HR generalist, Sarah works with leaders across Schwarz Partners companies. “We encourage managers to be out on the floor, talking to their teams and making those connections,” said Sarah, who also watches out for “bookend behaviors.” By that she means extremes such as working all the time or taking a lot of time off. Or you could be sleeping all the time or not getting enough sleep. “You might have a good day or a bad day, but when you experience extremes, and patterns of extremes, it’s often a sign that something’s wrong,” she said.

4. Keep an eye on your teammates.

The better you know your team and co-workers, the more you can do to help them, and the more they can do to help you, Sarah said. She shared this example: “I’m outgoing; I’m usually the loudest person in the room. So if I started to withdraw, that would be a sign for me.” Sarah recommends observing people and thinking about those kinds of trends. “When you know your people, you can identify if someone isn’t feeling right,” she said. “We’re not one size fits all.”

5. Understand the risks.

Mental health problems, even mild depression or anxiety, have special implications in a manufacturing environment. Manufacturing work requires both physical and mental alertness. When people are distracted by mental health issues, it doesn’t just impact performance and productivity, it can contribute to safety issues — and injuries. “At Schwarz Partners, we have lots of safety initiatives in place,” Sarah said. “But there are still risks. If you’re working with machines, there’s no room for drowsiness and microsleep. You have to be alert.”

6. Talk to your doctor.

If you’ve been experiencing the symptoms mentioned here, bring it up with your primary care physician, Sarah suggested. “Your doctor may not ask about it, but you can.” Before your appointment, take notes on how you’ve been feeling so you don’t forget to ask. You may even want to bring a friend or loved one with you to your appointment for support. Describe how you’ve been feeling and ask about a potential treatment plan, which might include medication or referral to a specialist. Ask about scheduling follow-up appointments so you and your doctor can monitor your progress together.

7. Build a personal village.

Don’t stop there! It’s also important to identify and cultivate a group of people you can lean on when you’re struggling, Sarah said. It could include your doctor, a therapist and/or close friends and family members. “You need people in your life who you can count on,” she said. “It needs to be OK to say to them, ‘I’m really struggling with this, and I need to be able to talk to you about it.’ When you’re in chaos and stress, it can be hard to find that kind of support, but if you build your village ahead of time, you’ll know who you can come home to.”

8. Get free help.

Did you know that, as a Schwarz Partners employee, you and your loved ones have access to confidential counseling? Through our employee assistance program, EmployeeConnect Plus, you can talk to a counselor about stress, anxiety, depression, relationship problems, marital conflicts and pressures related to your job, parenting, grief, loss or substance abuse. Access this confidential resource 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 855-327-4463, or by visiting www.GuidanceResources.com (Web ID = Lincoln). To access the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, call, text or chat 988.

Still not sure about prioritizing your mental health? Take some advice tennis star Venus Williams shared with People.com: “A lot of it is just taking out what other people think,” she said. “When you let go of that, you’re free.”

This information is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis and can’t take the place of seeing a mental health professional. If you think you’re depressed, talk with your doctor or a mental health professional immediately.