Erin Hallett on Good Mental Health

Good Mental Health at Work with Erin Hallett

In episode seven of Relationships at Work, I hang out with Erin Hallett, the Director of Alumni and External Engagement at Cambridge Judge Business School and advocate for better mental health in the workplace.

A few reasons Erin is awesome – she’s a Wellbeing Ambassador for Let’s Improve Workplace Wellbeing, an HR community in the UK, role model with InsideOut Leaderboard, mental health action group that shares a list of senior leaders who are open about their experience with mental ill-health, and was a highly commended nominee for the 2018 Provost’s Awards for Excellence in Health and Safety, a

Check out all the episodes of Relationships at Work.

Connect with Erin Hallett on her platforms:

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Defining “mental health”
  • The impact of COVID-19
  • Stigmas around mental health that still exist
  • How we can show up at work to support others mental health
  • Prioritizing your own mental health at work
  • The worst thing you can do to address mental health

“Everyone feels like they don’t have enough time. But that’s just not good enough. Right now. No one is above giving somebody one minute, five minutes, 30 minutes, especially leaders.”

Erin Hallett

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW

Russel Lolacher
And on the show, we have Erin Hallett. And let’s start by talking about why she’s awesome. She’s the director of Alumni and external engagement at Cambridge Judge Business School. But that is not why she’s here. She is an advocate for better mental health at work. She’s a well being ambassador for Let’s improve workplace well being, which is an HR community in the UK, which is actually where I’m gonna be talking to her from right now. And she’s a role model with Inside Out leader board, which is a mental health action group that shares a list of senior leaders who are open about their experiences with mental illness, which Aaron very much is. And she’s frequently asked to write articles about said topic. So I’m thrilled to have her here. And I’m a bit of a nerd for Aaron too, because we went to university together years and years ago. So I’m thrilled to reach out and get to talk to her again.

Erin Hallett
It’s a nice alumni connection, considering what I do for a living now, really well

Russel Lolacher
Actually, that’s nice. You like click connecting the linkages. Nicely played, well done.

Erin Hallett
The alumni, the alumni connection is strong, the network exists, no matter where you are in the world as

Russel Lolacher
A way to sell external engagement. Just go, you know, what you could do in 20 years, you could do a podcast with somebody keep those connections. So for this episode, I was excited to talk about it, because it’s such an interesting realm, especially as it’s morphed and changed. Round profile, I think is the biggest part of it with mental health. So I want to start by talking, when we talk about mental health at work. What are we even talking about when we talk about mental health at work?

Erin Hallett
That is such a good question, because I do think people get confused between mental health and mental illness. So the way I’ve started to think about it, and this is through, you know, so many conversations with people over the years is, everyone has mental health. It’s a continuum, like your physical health. And some days you’ll feel better, some days, you’ll feel worse. And some of us unfortunately, will experience mental ill health much in the way some people experience diabetes, or Alzheimer’s or cancer, or any other serious illness, like mental ill health. But mental health has a thing and how we think about it in terms of how we interact at work, and personally, is something we all have, and we all need to work towards having good mental health or positive mental health. And again, that’s a continuum and whatever that means to you as an individual and within your wider community, especially at work. So I think that’s one really important distinction.

Russel Lolacher
So it is such a personalized thing, because what is good mental health for somebody is not great mental health for somebody else. And bad mental health is a completely different animal, are there. And I’m going to dig into that a little bit later about what that actually could look like or signs you could look for. But first, I want to get your perspective and your experience about how the perception of mental health in the workplace has changed. Certainly, it’s not something I mean, I’m not that old, you’re not that old. But when you started your careers, we certainly weren’t talking about mental health as a thing that was identified with was talked about. How have you seen it change?

Erin Hallett
Well, I think the biggest change is obvious. I’m sick of talking about it. But let’s be honest, COVID has been a great equalizer for everyone. So I think people who may not have mental illness have experienced varying degrees of mental health, good and bad over the last 20 ish months. Because, you know, for some of us being isolated has been a good thing, or some level of isolation has been a good thing. And for other of us, it’s been a really, really tough go depending on your circumstances. So I think that’s one thing I think what you touched on a bit earlier is, you know, the profile of people speaking out about mental health is becoming, you know, so much bigger. So seeing people like here, the big thing in the UK, of course, was Prince William, Prince Harry, our football or soccer stars coming out and talking about it. Seen a lot of celebrities, I think in the US talking about it. I think Lady Gaga talked about it for a long time it was in her documentary. So I think that’s one thing. And I just think there are organizations and people looking at it from a more holistic point of view. So it’s not being so pigeonholed into one thing, like you’re either sick, or you’re well, it’s becoming much more about what you eat, how you sleep, how you exercise, how you engage with you know, your personal and your professional lives, like all of those things are starting to add up. So that lens to the conversation and then I think truthfully, one thing I’ve been so surprised about in the UK He said, The, the charity, there’s so many mental health charities. And what they add to that conversation, you know, at the workplace is incredible, like the resources, they’re pumping out the free resources is amazing. And truthfully, that’s not something I really saw in Canada before I left six years ago. So I think that’s playing a big role in how we talk about it at work, you know, there’s mental health we have, I think Bell and Canada has a time for talk day, right? In the UK, we have like a tea break day. And we’re supposed to come together and talk about our mental health over tea. So they’re trying to normalize it here. And I think that’s really good.

Russel Lolacher
There’s a part of me a little little jaded part of me that feels like a lot of organizations are realizing they can be more productive if their staff aren’t, you know, burned out. If they’re, if they’re actually treating their mental health. Well, their almighty dollar will still get to be generated better and better. But truthfully, I don’t give a shit. However, the the impetus for why it is, as long as we’re treating people more like humans, as opposed to digits of clocking in and clocking out, and pretending work life balance is an actual thing, that impact work, that work doesn’t impact life. So regardless of what the impetus or the influence is, and why it’s changed over time, I’ll take it. I’m good. I’ll take it. So I’m glad you mentioned the pandemic. It’s certainly done well, from a awareness. Yeah, it’s hard to say the pandemic has done well. No, but you’re right. It feels weird to say, but it is a major global event is going to have well, hopefully good and bad in the sense that yes, of course, it’s brought awareness, but it’s also, you know, brought people to their knees when it comes to stress and overwhelm and unknown. How have you seen it be so impactful? I mean, obviously, it’s put a big spotlight for organizations to pay attention to mental health. But I mean, we still have to get out of this thing.

Erin Hallett
We still have to get out of it. And I think I mean, this is perfect for what we’re talking about, because I think one of the biggest impact has been on your relationships, all those things that we took for granted, both at work and at home, aren’t there necessarily in the same way anymore, and all the social cues and niceties whatever you want to call it that we relied upon, aren’t there. So, you know, for me, one of the biggest changes was at work, I could walk into the office and sense the mood of my team or the organization, what was going on that day, right? I could look at them and be like, Oh, you’re sitting a little hunched over, you have bags under your eyes, maybe you’re not sleeping? Well, maybe you didn’t get your walk this morning, or whatever it is people love to do to help them. But suddenly, when we all change to this remote environments, because we’re not supposed to say working from home, we’re supposed to say working remotely, that went away. So I think organizations and managers good managers had to dig a lot deeper. So for me right away, one of the things I recognized was you it’s not enough, and it should never be enough just to ask somebody, how are you? You have to ask, How did you sleep last night? Are you doing? Like, are you getting out for an hour a day? What are you doing to take care of yourself? What can I do to help you because it’s so easy to ask someone how they are and to brush that off. But if you don’t dig deeper, especially in a workplace, you can miss so much like tiny little bits of information that do contribute to that person’s holistic health. But also going back to what you just said, you know, burnout is the worst case scenario. It’s how in an organization, we manage those ups and downs and make space for people, to talk about them, bring them home, whole selves to work, and really understand that one blip, doesn’t crash their career or their professional reputation. And people will still respect them, and have faith in their abilities. Because I think that is where a lot of the fear is coming from. And I think COVID really made that worse because people weren’t seen anymore. And there’s that presenteeism aspect as well, right? Like, we all have been in the office with people who are like just sitting there like putting in their time and but they’re not really there. We’ve all managed those people. We’ve all worked with those people. And that became even harder join COVID People who just disappear. Sometimes we are those people. Yeah. Oh, definitely.

Russel Lolacher
It’s almost in the virtual world, too. It’s sort of like there’s just such a force for people to have their cameras on. Yeah, and the virtual world. And some people will like, Oh, my camera’s not working today. Truthfully, because they’re just not ready to provide that extra layer of presence because they’re dealing with their own shit. There are a lot going on. also find it funny, not funny. Haha, funny, interesting that managers, air quotes, supervisors, air quotes are now being asked to be leaders. And they are just not ready. You’re asking them to add this human element to this role they already had. It’s not about the check marks of a manager or a supervisor going, you did your job, you didn’t do your job, it’s now that is a person that you have to engage with and understand and empathize and be compassionate for rather than just a producer of a project or a program or a thing. So I love that you’re sort of like, we need better leaders, whether you’re ready to be or not. Yeah,

Erin Hallett
But I think there’s such a gap with that, because exactly what you said, I, when I started my career, often the people I was reporting into were people who, as you just said, were good at their job, could deliver X project on time are, may have been the most skilled in their class, or whatever. But they’re, and I know, this is such an overused term, but empathetic leadership, emotional intelligence, those things were not in the picture. And I think we’re at a critical point right now, where we’re hopefully starting to see that die out. And also the lack of tolerance for that. And I think one way you can start to see it is you’re seeing a lot more employees speak up about bullying, and harassment. And those are often from people who are really good at their execution of their job, but do not know how to be in a room do not know how to lead, as you said, a team and to, I mean, again, another term situational leadership to look at the individual and that situation, and do what is best for them in that moment, and not have a wide brush approach. For me, that is one of the most critical things and I think for organizations are seriously falling down is they’re promoting people, without giving them the emotional intelligence training support, they need to be good leaders, you can’t expect someone necessarily some people have it, some people don’t. But it’s, you can’t just throw somebody into that situation and say, okay, lead this team of 10, five 330, and deal with all the complex things that are going on without giving them the support. And that support needs to start from the moment they’re inducted into your organization, here’s what’s available to you, to learn how to lead with compassion, to develop your emotional intelligence. And if you don’t, you will not be promoted, because those are not the leaders we want within their organization. And that is something I so want to see every organization adopt, because there cannot be this higher up hierarchical bullying culture from the top down that is so prevalent in so many big organizations. And I’m not speaking about my organization, I’m very lucky to work where I work, but I’ve seen it over the years.

Russel Lolacher
I love that you mentioned it in onboarding because it so highlights that a culture is believing in it. It’s one of the first things new employees get to see as opposed to oh, right on the executive has put an email out this month. Oh, crap. Let’s put a bullet in there about mental health. Okay, moving on.

Erin Hallett
Yep, checkbox, right. It’s not acceptable. Exercise, it has to be. I mean, really bottom up and top down. Like the role modeling piece, I think is really critical. You have to have leaders who are willing to speak out, whether it’s about their own experience, are willing to engage in an emotionally compassionate way with people not saying you have to have mental health challenges to be a good leader. That’s ridiculous. But you do have to be able to have those conversations and be empathetic and flexible. Another overused word and leadership. But it is it is seriously I mean, all joking aside, it is true. Those are things that people make people want to work with you and, you know, achieve things with you.

Russel Lolacher
The world still isn’t perfect, though. And there’s still a lot of stigmas that come around mental health. What are some of the biggest?

Erin Hallett
Well, I think for me, and I’m going to speak a little personally here. For me, the reason I hit it for so long was because I, I mean, let’s be honest, I’m super a type, I’m super career focused, and I did not want anyone to think I wasn’t capable of doing whatever job I was in. So it’s easier to push that side down at me. And that was a pretty, you know, that was mid point in my career. So for someone coming up, much lower, it’s even more stressful. You don’t want to show any weakness, or anything that makes you look like you’re not going to get promoted. You also, I think there’s an outsider mentality around it too. You don’t want to be an outsider, even though the statistics at least in the UK, so one in four people will experience a mental health issue in the workplace. So, you know, I’ve worked with 15 people, so that’s like a third of them or even more Right, like, but I think it is really about being the person with the mental health issue and seeing how that impacts your career. I, even in my current role, when I was filling out the employee forums a few months ago, I was like, Oh, do I check that box? Like, do I check the mental health box. But ultimately, I did, because I want to be a good role model. But also, you need to give people the opportunity to help you, you need to give your organization, your managers, your leaders, your colleagues, everyone the opportunity to support you. And I think the flip side is that it’s scary. But you need to give people a chance to prove they can be those people, before you make a decision that they’re not going to be. Right. It’s not fair. Otherwise, like, you need to be a little vulnerable. There’s great strength and vulnerability. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised the last six or seven years, like really surprised how so people have embraced this part of me that I tried so hard to keep hidden. I mean, I tried to keep it so hidden, I ended up in hospitals, so But once I started talking about it and saying, Actually, today’s not a good day, find accommodations, for me still excellent at my job, I can still lead a team. But I’m doing it from a place of honesty, which is better for me better for my organization and better for my team.

Russel Lolacher
Right. And it’s the relatability that allows other people to feel like they have permission to also not have a great day and understand that workday is not their biggest priority, but they’re still going to show up, and they’re still going to work. And they’re still going to do everything they need to do. But I might not be the most energetic and joyful person that I am usually today, if that is your type of personality. As a leader, I want to I want to split this discussion into sort of two now that we kind of started a good baseline is relationship the relationship people have with others at work, and also the relationship they have with themselves, and how they can know mitigation is the right word, it might be more of approaches. So let’s start first in the leadership realm, because we’ve already kind of shit all over how bad leaders can be. Positive, let’s

Erin Hallett
There’s so many good leaders I’ve worked with.

Russel Lolacher
Absolutely. So as a leader, a colleague, a human being, how can we show up at work to support others around mental health?

Erin Hallett
I think being open to a degree you’re comfortable with about your, your life, it doesn’t have to be about your mental health, but your personal life, it could be, oh, I wanted to go for a walk this morning. And I didn’t have the motivation to get out. That gives people permission to be a little more real. I think that’s one thing we can do is try to have those real moments of conversation. Like I said, it doesn’t always have to be all about mental health, there’s just so many little things that we can do to create that culture of connection, I guess, at work that brings us all together. I think that’s one of the things I I think if you are somebody who’s comfortable role modeling is the biggest thing you can do and making sure people know where to go for help in your organization. And again, not in an intrusive, because everyone is so like, private in this country compared to Canadians. My experiences, you know, it’s been a little bit I’ve had to tone back the Canadian sometimes. But you know, making sure people know where to go for help, I think is another thing that people leaders organizations can really do to help bring that out.

Russel Lolacher
Is there anything as being a good advocate for good mental health? What should you be listening for? Or trying to pay attention to when it comes to your team or colleagues around their mental health and just sort of maybe I should be a little bit more receptive, empathetic today? Like what should they be paying attention to?

Erin Hallett
I think it’s hard like I met like, it’s been hard for me the last few months because I don’t know this team very well. And I mostly know them online. So picking up their verbal and body body language cues has been a lot more challenging. So I think it is about asking leading questions about you know, sometimes surprising people with leading questions, and then offering a bit like, oh, I had a terrible sleep last night. How did you sleep? You know, things like that. I do think and I know it’s different for everything. But I do think there are some tenements that support positive mental well-being like sleep, exercise, even if it’s fresh air for 10 minutes a day. Human Interaction is another one you know not. Did you do exercise Except when your work sheet, but finding those spontaneous moments, which is really hard right now, to have a chat online, where you just talk about, I don’t know what you watched on Netflix last night, I think that’s another really good way. I think looking, you know, you said something about cameras on or off, I think if you have a person on your team who’s normally all in, and suddenly they’re off, that’s a good time to check. Non responsiveness in terms of emails, and we use teams here, like, that’s another thing I look for someone’s usually really on it. Sometimes I send a WhatsApp message with like, something I know, they may like just to, you know, have a little bit. So it’s just trying to, it’s almost like you’re negotiating and having a dance, and how you deal with it, especially now, again, when you’re in the office, it’s so much easier. I think, I’m not the only one, I’m sure has been in a situation where you’ve gone into the office and someone said, How are you doing, you burst into tears, because you’ve just been like holding it in for so long. But that’s so much easier to hide in this, you know, you just turn off your camera and burst into tears and come back on. So I think I think there’s those things you can do. And I think you have to make space for those conversations. And also, you talked about, you know, finding those, like, you know, HR putting the token, whatever in an email. But I do think sometimes sharing those, what’s the word I’m looking for? It’s such activity days, but like taking a moment to say, oh, Today is World Mental Health Day, let’s all take a pause and talk about something. So I know, as a team last year at my former role, it was kindness was the theme for Mental Health Day, which was awesome. Turn the middle of COVID. Like how can we be kind. And what we did to mark that occasion as a team is we got together and we talked about kind things that had happened to us during COVID. So even taking a moment to reflect in the chaos can sometimes really be a good reset, because we’re not necessarily talking about someone who’s mentally ill. We’re just talking about maintaining, you know, a nice happy level where you want to be like, yeah, so you don’t get burnt out. It’s not all like black and white doom and gloom.

Russel Lolacher
It’s funny that you mentioned sort of that it’s not always about mental health. But exactly it is always about mental health at the same. Yeah. Not to make it more confusing for some people. So what are some missteps you’re aware of that people can have in the workplace culture where it could be exasperating people’s mental health or ignoring it dismissing? What are some missteps you’ve seen or heard about?

Erin Hallett
Oh, that’s I think everyone is super sensitive, generally right now, in terms of how we use language. And that also comes back to mental health. So I think one of the biggest things is saying things like, Oh, you’re acting crazy today are so instead of acting crazy today, or that’s a schizophrenic way to behave, are making jokes about not eating. There’s so many things that even for me, 10 years ago, I probably would have said, like that. And now I think I really have to think and again, that comes back to training and education much in the same way we’re talking about, you know, other things that relate to equality and diversity and how we speak about gender and everything in that regard. Right. We’re all a lot more careful and educated right now. But similarly to the gender issue with mental health. I think there’s nothing wrong with and I think, not so much as a misstep, but saying to somebody, I don’t understand. Can you help me understand? So I think one of the best things you can do is like, admit that if you’re talking to somebody, and the other, I’m jumping everywhere. I’m so sorry. I’m super passionate about this subject. I think one of the biggest missteps and this is like actually critical, it’s thinking you can fix someone’s problem. You can, you know, to feel that, like, if you’re having a bad day, if someone says to you, oh, just walk it out, you’re like, No, go away. That’s not going to work for me, if I had so many people tell me to take a deep breath as like, I can barely like take a shallow breath right now, much less a deep breath. So I think one of the best things you should not do is try to fix it for that person. Being with that person with their situation, and just physically being there emotionally being there is the best thing you can do. Not being like, oh, have you tried this, or my experiences this, recognizing that it’s different for everybody. And sometimes not saying anything is the best thing at all. Like sometimes just even sitting in silence on a zoom call, or somebody has their own is one of the most powerful things you can do. See equivalent of, you know, sitting with your good friend in a coffee shop and not saying a word because they just need that human connection.

Russel Lolacher
Where does privacy come into all this?

Erin Hallett
What do you mean privacy?

Russel Lolacher
Well, some people. Privacy, what’s privacy? I mean, people are very private about the what they’re going through, or there is some organizations have some privacy legislation, and so forth about what’s revealed and what’s not revealed about individuals. So if someone’s choosing to be quite private about their experience, how do you approach that?

Erin Hallett
Well, you honour it, I think the best thing is, like for me, yeah, it works for me to be super open, I’m not worried what people think, to be perfectly honest, I don’t care if an organization doesn’t want to hire me, because I talked about this, because I’m only going to workplaces that, like love all this about me and are happy for me to do things like talk to you and support not, but I’ve been working for over 20 years, I’m really comfortable, I’ve had a lot of therapy, someone who’s in their early 20s. And starting out, they might just need somebody to talk to, and the best thing you can do is keep their confidence. And, you know, make small adjustments that aren’t obvious to the rest of the world. But also let that person that colleague, whatever you want to call them, I hate calling them colleagues, because it seems to me a bit too humanizing, but let that person know you’re on their side, and they can come to you with anything. I think what really surprised me when I started to talk about my experiences, how many people started doing that? It was humbling, it was really incredible. But it was also really sad, because there were so many people I ended up running into that had never been able to talk to anyone before. At work, like they may have talked to their spouse or their partner, whoever their family, but being able to share that burden privately with somebody you work with. That’s huge to feel like you’ve got someone on your side, at work, even if you’re not public about it, it’s still a win. And that confidence. And that openness, even though it’s private, it translates into the culture wider, like that person becomes a better teammate, they’re happier at work, there’s less presenteeism, there’s, you know, they’re more engaged. Loyalty, all those wonderful things start to happen, like a psychological safety, maybe it’s not being talked about, like everyone’s enough to sit in a circle and wave their feelings around with a piece of sage. But knowing they have that psychological safety, lets them empowers them. And that’s so important.

Russel Lolacher
So last question, I want to ask about the colleague/coworker side of things, is say I’m someone who is not comfortable, I am still a new. I’m a learning leader. I am a manager supervisor, where it has always been about checkboxes. But now I understand that this is important, I understand that I should be there with mental health with my team. But I don’t have that relationship with them yet. Nor have I exhibited behavior that I ever get a shit before. So now that but I want to do better. So what are the first sort of steps I can take to champion a healthier mental, mental health environment?

Erin Hallett
So I think training is a great thing, just much in the same way I’ve had to do, shouldn’t have to, well, not we’ve had to do unconscious bias training, had to do training about terrorism. So all these things that are suddenly coming into the cultural space and becoming norms, or doing training. So I think managers at any level have to do some training about mental health, whether that’s resources, how to have difficult conversations in that context. If someone comes to them with something really serious, like in terms of, you know, talking about suicide, you know, where to signpost, that person, and when that line of confidentiality, gets out the door, right? Like those are important. I think there’s other subtle things managers can do, like sharing a little more about their own lives, again, not necessarily from the mental health perspective, but just being genuinely more open. I think LinkedIn, as you and I both know, is a powerful tool for leaders to engage with people who are talking about those subjects talking about mental health at work, sharing those posts saying yes, I believe in this leadership style. I think those are all things leaders can do to help raise their profile in that space. And I I know that sounds a bit political, but I do think it comes back to role modeling, and just being you know, somebody a leader who is intelligent and empathetic, and they’re for their team.

Russel Lolacher
All the things you want in a leader.

Erin Hallett
It is all the things you want in a leader and not starting every meeting with “Okay, what did you do today?” Being like, “Hey, did you watch the latest episode of CHEER because it was amazing. Like, so good.” “Are you watching the Sex in the City reboot? It’s horrible.” But you know, having those conversations like those, those conversations are important. And everyone feels like they don’t have enough time. But that’s just not good enough. Right now. No one is above giving somebody one minute, five minutes, 30 minutes, especially leaders. That’s why you lead. You lead to create this incredible team that feels safe and wants to be loyal and, you know, wants to come to work and like work life balance. Yeah, I agree with you. It’s like, whatever, you know, some days you have it, some days you don’t. But that’s the team you want, right? And that’s the leader you want to be for that team.

Russel Lolacher
Nobody is too important that they can’t offer time.

Erin Hallett
Exactly.

Russel Lolacher
I don’t care. I don’t care where you are in the hierarchy. But yeah, absolutely need to

Erin Hallett
And also time for yourself. The flip side of that is, as a good leader, you have to find those moments for yourself. Like I always say to my team, you know what? Yeah, I do. I do yoga, if I’m home at lunch, I am worth five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes and asking them to think about it from that perspective, you are always worth that time. And that person is always worth that time. But it has to be a two way relationship both for yourself and for people you’re dealing with

Russel Lolacher
Perfect transition into the relationship with yourself. And you can prioritize mental health for yourself. How do you do that? Is it about carving out time for movements? What are some ways we can prioritize that for ourselves?

Erin Hallett
Well, I think it’s about really realizing it’s not a one size fits all approach. What works for you one day isn’t going to work the next day, some days, you may want to go for a walk other days, you may want to stay in bed. And I think there is I wrote about this a bit this week, I think there’s so much external pressure from things like dry January, or Blue Monday, our Strava or god knows what else is there. Like don’t eat this, don’t drink this walk this much run this much. And I think it does create a lot of like, it’s kind of passive aggressive, I feel like it gets you down. Because if you don’t do it, you’re like, Oh, I’m a terrible person, and my physical and mental health are going to go to shit, right? Like, and that’s absolutely not true. I think what’s important as an individual is to find things that you genuinely enjoy, and you aren’t doing for the sake of not can be, you know, knitting, like, who cares what it is, and it might be knitting for six months, then you might be like, actually, I do want to run a marathon. Good for you. But it’s not the same for everyone. And I think recognizing that within yourself. And recognizing that and other people is really important and not trying to push stuff on other people. And then the biggest lesson I learned in training COVID was, I am really worth that five or 10 minutes. So even if I am so stressed out, if I’m working on my shoulders are like up around my ears, and I’m like, sweating out of every you know, poured my body. Actually, I’m worth 10 minutes of doing whatever it is that makes me happy. You know, and I have to start prioritizing that. Because otherwise, I start to spiral and then things like sleep and diet. And again, diets. I don’t really like to talk about that that much. Because I don’t believe in diet, I believe, you know, eat what makes you feel good. Treat yourself when you want life is too damn short to, you know, not treat yourself with kindness. And finally, and this is something I heard in therapy a couple years ago, and it’s really, really stayed with me, because at the time I was talking to myself, like, quite cruelly like, I was treating myself like crap all the time. And I was saying really mean stuff in my head. And the person I was working with said, you would never talk this way to somebody you work with, you would never talk this way to your best friend, your family. So talk that way to yourself. Treat yourself with that same respect and kindness, and even telling you this right now I’m getting shivers because it really, it stuck with me and I don’t always remember it. But wow, when I do that it’s powerful. Like, that is some of the best advice I’ve ever happened. I would never talk to almost anyone the way I was talking to myself back then I would never judge them or, you know, punish them, essentially, for things they had done or hadn’t or didn’t, didn’t do. You know.

Russel Lolacher
So you mentioned earlier that you I don’t want to go into the specific story, but I do want to highlight what happens if you don’t prioritize mental health for yourself. Yeah. You ended up in the hospital because you were, as you said, spiraling to a point where it got so bad. What I don’t think people realize is the bad mental health and ignoring your mental health can show physically and emotionally in how your body reacts to that. How do you explain how bad it can get to other people if you don’t prioritize this stuff?

Erin Hallett
I’m going to date myself quite badly here. So I remember I don’t know how many other people remember. But there is a thing many, many years ago where Tom Cruise jumped around on Oprah’s couch. Do you remember this? Yes. And he was like,

Russel Lolacher
I’m only 27. And I remember.

Erin Hallett
Oh, yeah, well, I’m 22. And I remember it’s amazing. To me. And he was like, mental health, you know, you just think your way out of it. And at the time, I was like, damn, Tom Cruise. You’re right. No one has an excuse to feel that poorly. And then when I got to the point where my brain was telling me stuff like, Hey, you’re not paying attention to me, you’re really tired. You’re not eating? Well, you’re working too hard, you know, asking for help. And I, my body expressed it in which is actually really communist. It felt like I was having a heart attack can breathe. You hear this? quite regularly, people have panic attacks. So that’s how I ended up in hospital and going through all the testing to prove I didn’t have a heart attack. And yes, you have a very bad anxiety. Okay, obviously, that’s what it was. But for me, it’s, it’s very hard to intellectually understand that until you experience it, like I never would have believed, like, I was fully convinced I am having a heart attack, there’s no way my brain, and my body can be so misaligned that my brain is like, hey, let’s pretend you’re having a heart attack. And while you’re on it, like, let’s have stomach upset, let’s, you know, throw up on the street. Like, let’s do all these crazy things. We’ve had a headache for weeks. No, that’s physical and dying of something physical. Tell me Give me a physical diagnosis, because that would have been easier, emotionally initially to handle. You know, because weak people can’t manage their mental health. I don’t want to be weak. I want to be like Tom Cruise, jumping on the couch. I always say to people, it’s kind of like, when people are like, Oh, my back is so sorry, I can’t move and you’re like, come on, to suck it up, get off the couch, or, you know, go go walk it off. Until you experience yourself, it’s very hard to understand. For me, it’s always like, every time it happens, it still happens in varying degrees sometimes, like, I’ve stopped paying attention. This is my body giving me the warning sign. It’s wild, it’s a wild ride. And never fails to surprise me or make me so humbled. It’s the most humbling experience.

Russel Lolacher
If someone’s listening to this right now, and they want to know, okay, what tangibly? What are two things I can do right now, to prioritize my own mental health? What would you suggest to them?

Erin Hallett
Make time for yourself in a way that is meaningful for you. And I’m not talking weeks or days, I’m making that a habit of two minutes, five minutes, whatever you can fit, everyone is busy. A lot of people have so many commitments that are beyond my wildest dreams, but finding those moments, really important. And then I know what I said about breath earlier. But I do believe sometimes taking a five second breath is one of the most beneficial resetting things you can do. And I’m going to be cheeky and add a third one, find your person, find a person that you can be your whole self with, whether that’s at work in your personal life, but to someone, find a person you need to be be able to be your whole self with at least one person because it’s when you keep things inside, that it gets gets hard. The noise gets too much. That’s my at least that’s been my experience.

Russel Lolacher
The question I was going to ask next, I think has been answered in our conversation, which is what’s the number one thing you shouldn’t do? In regards to your mental health? And from listening to air and it’s ignoring it? Yeah. Has to be the worst thing you can do is pretending that mental health is not only not important, but also that we don’t all have to deal with it or address it or look at it or examine it, but because it is there for everyone, whether you want to admit it to yourself or not. Yeah,

Erin Hallett
I agree. I don’t think I think ignoring is one of the worst things you can do. But also thinking the other thing I think it’s really important. It’s not thinking it’s weakness. It’s no different than having a headache, catching a cold, breaking your leg. It’s really just, you know, we treat all those things. We give so much compassion generally to people who are dealing with physical illnesses. And we need to extend that same compassion to ourselves and to others who are dealing with mental health challenges whether it is like a serious illness like a diagnosed illness. just even a bad day, there’s nothing wrong with having a bad day. There’s nothing wrong with having a little bit of a headache. It’s fine. But we be compassionate.

The Final Two

Russel Lolacher
I want to end it with the two questions, I always want to ask each of my guests. So the first question is, it’s either best or worst your decision on which story you want to tell. But what is the best or worst employee experience you’ve ever had?

Erin Hallett
I’m going to relate it back to mental health since that’s what we’re talking about, of course, obviously. So I make a chunk of talking about this. But when I was in the hospital, after I had, I had my panic attack at my former work, and I was in the hospital waiting to be discharged. And I had to message my event team. And I made the decision in that moment to say, actually, I’m not, I’m not physically sick, I’m struggling with my mental health, I need to take a 24 hour reset, I need to, you know, I just need some space to get to feel well again. And I hadn’t worked with this team for very long and one of them who I’m still very close with now messaged me back and she said, Well, how about I come and bring you a toothbrush? And not was such like the perfect minute moment of kindness I needed, right then to feel like someone understood that they respected what was going on, and that they still valued my place in the team, as their colleague and Officer Leader. It just normalized everything in that moment. And I’ll never, ever forget that as long as I live like I think it was one of the most wonderful things that happened to me in my career.

Russel Lolacher
I love that absolutely. Love that story. And the last question, Erin, what’s one simple action that people can do right now to improve relationships at work?

Erin Hallett
Bring your whole self to work.

Russel Lolacher
Love it. Thank you, Erin Hallett for being on the podcast.

 

 

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