One good thing for employees’ mental health: Focus on your senses
In this series, we’re speaking to Unity Health Toronto experts about the strategies they use to help their own mental health and recommend to others too.
Chantal Sinclair is a wellness coordinator at Unity Health Toronto.
What’s one good thing employees can do to help deal with stress?
Throughout this pandemic a lot of employees have struggled with stress and burn out. At times it can feel like there’s no time to exhale or recharge. But there are a few things we can do to alleviate stress.
One thing that I practice is an exercise called “Three Good Things,” which the British Medical Journal did a qualitative analysis on in 2017. To do this exercise, you write down three good things that recently happened to you. They can be big or small events, but what matters is that they’re meaningful and authentic to you. Give each event a title and include as many details as possible, including when it happened, who was involved and what your role in the event was. Also include how the event made you feel in the moment and how it made you feel later. Try recording three good things every single day for a few weeks.
The idea of the exercise is to help you focus on positive things to counteract “negativity bias,” which is our human tendency to focus on negative events over positive ones. This type of journaling practice primes us to look for the good things that happen each day.
Another exercise I practice is called “5,4,3,2,1.” This exercise is good at getting you to focus on the moment and interrupt negative or unhealthy thought patterns. To do it, you sit quietly and focus on your senses by noticing:
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can feel
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
The hope is that by slowing down and focusing on your present surroundings, you are shifting your focus away from what is causing you to feel anxious and stopping some of the chatter going on in your mind.
Beyond these exercises, it’s important that employee stress is recognized – their struggle matters and they matter. Have self-compassion and recognize your feelings. Don’t be afraid to share that you’re not doing OK and find the support you need.
-As told to Marlene Leung. This interview has been edited and condensed.