Nurturing Employees' Mental Health During the Pandemic

Thursday, December 3, 2020
Jürgen Unützer

Jürgen Unützer

Chair of UW Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
University of Washington


As the chair of the University of Washington's Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences department, Dr.Unützer oversees 1,000 people in his department in addition to the thousands of students, medical professionals, and other academic professionals that Dr.Unützer interacts with as part of his profession

Dr.Unützer's talk on Thursday morning emphasized the importance of resilience and the tools to build and develop resilience during this time. He used a graph demonstrating a wave pattern as a metaphor and demonstration of how stressors affect our daily lives. We experience stressors in waves as our mental state, feelings, emotions, and moods adapt and change in stages, similar to a wave. Dr.Unützer highlighted the importance of resilience for finding ways to "swim" through the wave. Resilience is something that you can work on and strengthen over time. Building up your resilience means finding tools and tactics to help navigate not just the current wave, but also the view of the unending upcoming waves.

As an executive or a CEO, it is important to take care of your individual health as well as your employees. When it comes to helping your employees, it can be as simple as validating the struggles that they are experiencing and asking what you can do to help your employees succeed. In times of stress, it can feel like many things are building up to an unmanageable level. Dr.Unützer emphasized the importance of focusing on only the things that are in your control and then segmenting small and accomplishable tasks to finish first, which will free up emotional capacity, focus, space, and time for the larger tasks at hand.

Dr.Unützer also pointed out the "three A's" to promote resilience:

  1. Assessing: Check in on yourself, ask yourself "how am I doing?" Are your feelings positive or negative? Taking the time to recognize what you are feeling is incredibly important to taking steps to build resiliency.
  2. Accepting: Only focus on the problems that you can control. This is one of the hardest things for us to do but acknowledging that difficulty is part of acceptance. Acceptance also encompasses self-care. Despite this becoming a buzzword in recent months, self-care real means having self-compassion, tolerance, and patience.
  3. Adapting: Find habits and build routines that will have a positive effect on your mood and help alleviate stress. These activities are different for everyone but building routines such as exercising, connecting with people, a daily schedule. The main thing to avoid is withdrawing and isolating yourself.

The pandemic has created an environment where discussing mental health has become more normalized. As an employer, it's an opportunity to allow the space for your employees to speak openly about their struggles and work with them to mitigate mental health issues related to the workplace.

Click the link to view the full talk with Dr.Unützer and stay tuned for information on our upcoming speakers!

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