Behavioral Health Q&A - September 2020

September 17, 2020 

By: Lisa Desai 

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Welcome to the newest edition of the Behavioral Health Q&A Column! VPPPA has partnered with experts at MindWise Innovations to present a monthly Q&A article addressing questions that members might be hesitant to ask about. These columns will address your questions about mental health, substance abuse, brain injuries, family issues and more. We will be posting a new column on the third Thursday of each month. To submit your own question for the experts click here. 

Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

During a recent mtg with Safety professionals in construction our Mindwise team was reviewing information to share with on-site team members regarding mental health and substance misuse for an upcoming safety week. Toward the end of the meeting, one of the safety leaders who had been working in construction for 20 years, asked about how leaders could support one another: ‘We know that in our jobs, when the phone rings it’s a coin flip that it’s bad news, that there’s been an incident”. This question is critical. For managers and leaders in any industry, particularly one as demanding as construction, peer support and self-care are critical for overall wellbeing and job functioning. 

Too often self-care is just not seen as a guy thing. But self-care doesn’t have to be soft and fluffy - although of course it can be small moments of luxury - it’s really about paying attention to one’s needs be it physical, emotional and mental.

In construction and related fields, things like tight deadlines, physical demands of the job, and a fast pace can add stress to both the body and the mind.  While we easily notice aches and pains in the body, it is equally as important to acknowledge feelings of anxiety, mental fatigue, problems focusing, and irritability as these can also be signs that you need a break. A break can be 10-15 minutes, or longer if there’s time. Taking a walk, talking with a friend or coworker, listening to music are all quick ways to take care of yourself. 

We know that loneliness has increased during the pandemic. It is easy to feel disconnected and lonely even when we are surrounded by people and especially when we are busy at work. Grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend or coworker, sharing a quick lunch or just checking-in creates connection and provides that peer support. 

For those in leadership positions, like the aforementioned Safety professional, it’s important to check-in with one another after critical incidents and offer words of support. Having a psychologically informed behavioral health (BH) protocol to deal with high risk incidents is just as important as having a physical safety protocol. 

If your organization does not have a BH protocol in place, start with conversations and check-ins regarding how you and your team members are taking care of yourselves.  Share ideas about what has been effective, or not, in personally managing post-incident stress. Mental overload takes a toll on our bodies as well.  So, after work and on weekends try to engage in one activity to bring some separation between work and home. Enjoying the company of friends and family after work and truly unplugging are keys to remaining physically and mentally healthy.