“There is no such thing as try” I first heard this on a cold winter morning in Kasauli, during a two day retreat. I can still hear Aakash, my mental wellness coach say it to me with her gentle smile … “You either will. Or you won’t.”
A few years later in another conversation with her, on a sunny afternoon in Goa, she caught me again as I tried to slip in a “try”… “Ah. Ah. Ah…no such thing as try” she reminded me, “You either will. Or you won’t..”
So as I stand at the doorstep of 2020. I say,
“I will … I will do my bit to make mental health a priority in the PR community.”
Let’s begin investing in mental wellness #MentalCheque.
Year after year Public Relations finds itself listed as one of the top 10 most stressful jobs in the world. Closer to home, in what I think is the first study of mental health and well-being in the Indian PR business, conducted by Archana Muthappa, we now have a baseline study that will help us understand the scale and dimension of the problem.
While I am all for a data and insight drive approach to tackling any situation, I am also reminded of a comment a made to me a few months ago by a colleague, he said, “boss I can get you the data and I will, but why wait for the numbers to come in, we know that there is so much we can do, let’s begin.”
I believe we are at a crucial juncture when it comes to mental health in Public Relations. We must get more data. We must plan at scale to make meaningful change. But we must also begin to do what each of us can. Immediately. As the year comes to a close, I urge you to factor into your plans for 2020 some ways in which you can individually make a difference. I love the ‘each one reach one idea’. We can and do touch each other’s lives in so many ways. Let’s find a way to spare some time and energy to make mental health a priority.
Public Relations is largely about creativity, relationships and big bold ideas. It is also about number crunching and data driven, insight based work. Clearly left brain and right brain thinking need to come together to create the magic of impactful communication. However, a quick mental health check tells us the grey clouds are starting to gather when it comes to the grey matter that drives our community.
Self-care. Organisational care. Community care. These are the spheres of mental health care I believe we can work on. In the clenched fist of the mind is where we all exist. The difference between surviving and thriving lies somewhere between the rainbow of illness and wellness. On one hand there is preventive care, creating awareness, breaking the stigma in the workplace and at the other end of the spectrum there is therapy, counselling and professional medical assistance.
So the question is where do we begin? How does each one of us reach one?
I believe we begin by asking the right questions. How am I? How is my team? How is our fraternity? Honest reflection. Followed by…What can I do? What can we do? To ensure that mental health and well-being gets due importance?
I was introduced to the power of my mind, by a lovely lady who still speaks to me though she is no longer with us. Aakash Dharmaraj, I have so much to thank you for and all those who brought me to your doorstep.
Self-care is what she introduced me to. “What did you do last week, that you really wanted to do ?” Is a question she asked me in one of my early sessions with her. Not able to come up with a convincing answer, she changed the question. “What is the one thing you really want to do, that you are not doing?”
“I would love to play tennis again. But I don’t have the time…” she stopped me there. “From next week you will play tennis”. It was as simple as that. I have not looked back. I believe we all owe it to ourselves to take those few hours every week and focus on doing what we love. That way we are easier to love. We start loving what we do. Take the time. Make the time, to do something you love.
Have some fun. Check in with yourself. I like to think of it as a Fun-damental health cheque. A regular investment in yourself, like a SIP (Systematic Investment Plan) that pays dividend in the long run. It’s good for you. Your company. And your community.
But in order to get into this rhythm sometimes you need a good financial advisor to help with your Mental Whealth. I found that in Aakash who set me on this path. Since then there are many other mental health coaches that have helped me. More on that later. The point I want to make is – ask yourself – do you have someone in your life right now who is playing the role of being your mental health coach? If not I urge you to find one.
Mentor, advisor, therapist, coach, best friend, guru, guide, teacher. Mental health practitioners and professionals come in many shades of the rainbow. Find the hue that works for you. Take the time to take care of yourself. Make the investment.
Hold the hand of fear. The journey into yourself is scary and you need to take the first steps and be courageous. Write yourself a mental cheque. Invest in mental health, it’s the best investment you will ever make.