Emotional Health Intelligence Base
Emotional Health: Base
Please look at Happiness Lab– for an example of the direction we would like to occupy–:
TOPIC 1- Research: how to nurture our emotional health to achieve happiness
“Best practices for nurturing emotional health in order to foster greater happiness”
Include: stats/ trends/ facts per question and citations (at least 2 sources)
DEFINE WHAT IS, WHAT IS INCLUDED
- Clarify what is optimum emotional health and lwhat are its benefits
We’ve heard of emotional health but what really constitutes it, what is optimum emotional health? What are the benefits of optimum emotional health and how does this help us be happy?
Optimum emotional health
Our overall health consists of 5 dimensions:
(1). Emotional health is an integral part of mental health and it governs how one pays attention to, reacts to, and handles various emotions. Optimally, it is about being aware of your emotions, both positive and negative emotions, accepting them, and dealing with them in healthy ways (2). For example, if you are faced with a stressful situation, you can either accept your stress, express your frustration (e.g.: talking to friends/family about it, sighing), and try to come up with ways to reduce your stress (e.g: take time off for yourself, prioritize better, seek medical help). Or you could deny/ignore your stress, and drown it with unhealthy habits, such as overeating/undereating, oversleeping, self-medication, avoid socializing or speaking about your issue (3). The former is an example of optimum emotional health and the latter is an example of poor emotional health. It is also important to note that people with generally good emotional health may still experience emotional health problems sometimes, so taking care of your emotional health is a universal topic (2).
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has an Emotional Wellness Checklist that outlines characteristics of an emotionally healthy person and how those help them (4):
- Resilience: Being able to get back up from difficult situations. This helps one overcome life’s challenges without being consumed by tough times.
- Copes with stress healthily: Has good stress managing skills, such as taking time off for oneself, talking about your stress with friends and family, seeking medical advice, exercising, practicing meditation, and yoga. Healthy stress management is crucial for a happy life.
- Gains good quality sleep: This is vital for your emotional health as quality sleep helps you think clearer and express your emotions better.
- Is mindful: You are aware of your emotions and take the time to understand why you feel them. This can help you see a direction for healing and self-growth.
- Copes with loss healthily: Being able to make it through a grieving process over the death of a loved one, with the support of family and friends. This helps to get through life’s toughest moments in healthy ways.
- Social: Takes the effort to connect with family, friends, and the community. Social connections can improve health and provide support through emotionally challenging moments.
Benefits of optimum emotional health
- Helps you gain success in your relationships, as you can apply your emotion management skills to empathize and connect with others.
- Better coping skills in tough situations, which can help you in your career.
- Helps you gain mindfulness of your emotions and make sense of why you reacted in a certain way. This may pave a path to emotional healing.
- Helps with self-growth and self-love, leading to more contentment in life.
- Helps your overall mental and physical health.
- Gains work-life balance.
Emotional health and being happy (7)
All in all, good emotional health is a key skill to achieve contentment and happiness in life. When you are able to express emotions healthily and cope with difficult points in your life, you enrich your well-being. When you are comfortable with handling the ups and downs in your life, you gain emotional balance. As a result of all this, you gain better control of your life and your day-to-day activities. You have more meaningful relationships, you are able to better work on yourself and cope up with stressors at the workplace. These are all essential to lead a generally happy life.
- Clarify the more obvious traumas that limit emotional health
Emotional health conditions may limit an individual from effectively expressing themselves or managing their emotions. This affects their daily functioning leaving their happiness at stake. The following list covers some common emotional health conditions (8):
- Attention Deficit Disorder/ Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD): Common emotional ADHD symptoms in adults include mood swings, difficulty in concentrating, and coping with stress. Research shows that emotional dysregulation in ADHD patients is common, given that they find placing attention on their feelings a challenge, which leads to emotional struggle and impairment (9).
- Addiction: Substance abuse and dependence usually go hand in hand with trying to curb negative emotions. Addiction is an unhealthy habit and worsens one’s emotional health as it only momentarily relieves a person of their emotional burden. Once withdrawal kicks in, the person would feel even worse, therefore continuing to abuse substances to feel better, in a never-ending cycle (10).
- Depression: Your emotional health is at stake with depression as feelings of intense sadness take over and it is challenging to find pleasure and feel worthy (11). Further, detrimental thinking patterns can make it difficult to move on from tough/sad moments.
- Schizophrenia: This disorder can affect how one feels, thinks, and acts, producing illogical thinking, delusions, and a lack of showing emotion (apathy) (8).
- Bipolar Disorder: Abnormal changes to one’s mood that affects emotional health and the day-to-day functioning of a person (8).
- Autism: This developmental disability affects a person’s ability to understand emotion (8). Autistic individuals may find it difficult to empathize with others, recognize emotions and facial expressions, as well as body language, which are important cues to understand someone else’s emotions.
- Trauma: This may lead to emotional dysregulation where the affected individuals display disproportionate fear, sadness, or anxiety to situations that triggered them.
Physical disorders could affect one’s emotional health and may lead to an obvious struggle with managing their feelings. The confusion and distress with managing their physical symptoms and how this affects their life, especially if it’s a recent diagnosis, adds to their emotional overwhelm. The following are some examples of physical disorders that may limit emotional health:
- Dementia: A dementia diagnosis can leave a person overwhelmed with emotions like grief, sadness, shock, disbelief, and fear which could be difficult to manage (11). This emotional distress may negatively affect the person’s life or even trigger mental disorders like depression and anxiety that can further affect one’s emotional health.
- Cancer: This can significantly affect one’s emotional health as having cancer is an emotionally charging piece of news. A cancer diagnosis is not only physically challenging but also tends to take a toll on the patient, their family and lives. According to research up to one-third of cancer patients are estimated to have common mental health conditions, potentially evolved as a result of emotional struggle (13).
- Polio: Disorders that lead to paralysis, such as polio may contribute to significant emotional distress in patients. Statistics show that emotional stress leads to fatigue in 61% of polio survivors. Such an emotional burden can make it challenging for them to reach happiness.
- Parkinson’s disease: Living with Parkinson’s disease can be tough. Patients may feel a surge of various emotions making it overwhelming for them to manage them effectively (15).
- Clarify the less obvious traumas that limit emotional health
Certain kinds of overlooked thinking, behaviors, and experiences may affect one’s emotional health to the extent that they limit happiness:
- Loneliness and being ostracized: Being alone or feeling left out could make you sad. Social rejection can negatively affect emotional health.
- Feeling overwhelmed: Emotional overwhelm is a surge of intense feelings that can be too much to make sense of or manage properly. It can affect one’s day-to-day functioning. Trauma, poor boundaries, being bullied are examples of instances that may fill you with overwhelm (these are individually explored below too).
- Poor boundaries: Setting healthy boundaries is key for good emotional health. Poor boundaries include finding it difficult to say “no” to things others want you to do but deep down, you don’t want to do them, and allowing other people to tell you how you should behave or feel (16). This might lead to confusion and overwhelm of not being able to express one’s emotions healthily, as a result, their emotional health is affected.
- Insecure and low self-esteem: Feeling “not good enough” for the world, such as not being of the right body shape, not being the right partner, not able to perform things well, can constantly fill a person with emotional distress and unhappiness. For strong insecurity with very low self-esteem, professional help may be necessary to help the person sort out their emotions and address them in a healthy way (17).
- Bullying: Bullied individuals can experience emotional problems, where they may feel overwhelming sadness, anxiety, and loneliness (19). The background of bullying may include a myriad of other concerns that could contribute to additional emotional distress apart from the bullying incident itself:
- Individuals may be bullied and harassed for not believing and accepting conventional norms, such as coming out as a homosexual in a homophobic environment (25). The pressures of being unable to express oneself fully can lead to additional emotional distress apart from the bullying. In fact, according to a youth survey done in the US in 2013, only 37% of LGBT youth find themselves happy with almost half of them believing they’d have to move away from their present location to find happiness (26).
- Racial and religious tensions stemming from different beliefs may also be a cause of bullying. Religious bullying can have long and short-term effects on the victim including low self-esteem, social anxiety, inattentiveness, depression amongst others, which in turn negatively affect one’s emotional health (28). This form of bullying tends to be overlooked although it continues to exist (28). Refer to citation (28) for a comprehensive outline of religious bullying and its emotional effects.
- Microaggressions are intentional or unintentional hostilities and insults usually toward marginalized groups (27). Although microaggressions may not seem like obvious bullying, they can cause emotional harm and distress to the affected individual (27).
- Simply having a different lifestyle could also make the basis for bullying. For example, different dietary practices may form the basis of bullying: 31.5% of children in a study reported being bullied for food allergies and diet, which affected their quality of life.
- Nutritional deficiencies: Healthier eating, which includes a balanced diet with no deficiencies can improve your emotional health. Research shows that not consuming some of the essential dietary components in your early-life diet may lead to cognitive and mood dysfunction.
- What does this (emotional health and happiness) mean for the following, what are the best practices, what are some common misconceptions
preschool students (24)
Nurturing the emotional health of preschool students is essential for their overall development. At such a young age, teachers, parents, and other caregivers play important roles in teaching preschoolers emotional skills.
Good emotional health is necessary for these kids to have motivation for school, to learn, to socialize and in general to be happier. Emotional difficulties lead to challenges with working together in learning activities and listening to directions.
elementary school students
middle school students
high school students
higher ed students
Leaving high school and entering the phase of higher education can be overwhelming. There is a lot of change, transitions, and adjustments. Some higher ed students have to leave their homes, states, or even countries which can make them feel lonely or homesick at times. Finding the right friends, hobbies, or practices to make this new adjustment amenable to your good emotional health and happiness is important.
The emotional health of higher ed students
There are some situations and factors that can make it challenging for higher ed students to manage their emotional health:
- Stress: Having to meet deadlines, balance schoolwork with extracurriculars, and social life can be tough. Although eustress is necessary to stay alert and attentive, excessive stress can lead to “wear and tear” of our bodies (29). Overwhelm by not having enough time to do so much can negatively affect the emotional health of higher ed students, by leading to poor management of stress (e.g.unhealthy eating habits, excessive alcohol, and drug use) (18, 2).
- Loneliness: Moving away from home and into a new environment might make higher ed students feel alone, especially if they have trouble making friends. It might make sharing their emotions and distress with others a bit challenging. Particularly with the pandemic and lockdowns, students have felt isolated at times and bound to virtual interaction only (30). A Save The Student survey found that this isolation due to COVID-19 impacted the mental health of 2/3s of students (31).
- Low self-esteem: A university environment can be competitive and it’s natural that higher ed students might not feel like they are enough at times. Low grades and performance, no post-grad job opportunities, feeling like they don’t fit in can affect the self-esteem of higher ed students. Being unhappy about body size and image can also contribute to low self-esteem (32). Low self-esteem has been shown to be significantly related to emotional distress (32).
- Feeling blue: A number of events can make college students feel blue. Perhaps it can be feeling homesick, having trouble with sticking to a schedule, feeling alone, feeling like they don’t belong, etc. These feelings can be occasional and go away within a few days or turn into something more persistent like depression. College depression can affect the mood, cognition, and behavior of higher ed students leading to emotional and physical issues such as hopelessness, frustration, emotional outbursts, sleep disturbances, appetite, and weight changes, anxiety, suicidal thoughts (33).
- All-nighters: 60% of college students report pulling all-nighters once or more since the start of college (34). Regular all-nighter and sleep deprivation may leave students fuzzy, irritable and also increase the risk for depression and anxiety (35, 37).
- Anxiety: The American College Health Association Fall 2018 National College Health Assessment showed that 63% of higher ed students in the US reported anxiety in 2018. Intense overwhelm with classwork, being afraid of not meeting deadlines, or even graduating on time can put higher ed students on the edge. Feelings of anxiety can bring about emotional distress, where students tend to avoid their anxiety and stressors over dealing with them in healthy ways (37) (see below for best practices). This can compromise their happiness.
Best practices for higher ed students’ emotional well being
As the higher education environment encompasses several triggers for poor emotional health, as outlined above, it is important to educate students on what practical steps they can take to better their emotional well-being.
- Dealing with stress:
- Plan ahead and stay organized: College students usually stress out about not having enough time to work on assignments and study for exams. This leads to cramming and all-nighters and even more stress. Creating a simple weekly plan and laying out tasks over your week, even in a loose structure, can help you spread out your work and finish them timely (40).
- Address the cause rather than avoiding it (37): Identify the root of your stress- is it because you find a class challenging? Is it because you are too overwhelmed in a new environment and have nobody to talk to? Then take small steps toward making the situation better. Maybe you can try to befriend someone in your class if you feel lonely or talk to your professor if you find their class too tough.
- Mindful belly breathing and Yoga: Whenever you feel stressed, take three deep, slow, and controlled belly breaths (38). This is helpful to activate your parasympathetic nervous system and to shut down the fight-or-flight response that occurs with stress. As a result, you can feel calmer and think clearer. Alternatively, you can place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest and observe your breathing in a mindful way (38). Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India, that incorporates mindful breathing with bodily movements for better physical and mental health (39).
- Exercise: Exercise is a great and proven way to reduce your stress levels (41). Walking, hiking, gym sessions, swimming, jogging, and more with university friends are all great to boost the “happy hormones” endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin for improved mood and reduced stress.
- Check your nutrition: Being under stress can lead to unhealthy dietary practices such as eating excess sugar, junk food, etc. Although having comfort food once in a while is fine, consistent unhealthy habits have deleterious effects on the body (42). Population-based studies have found that whole foods such as fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, fish, are associated with lower levels of stress (43).
- Dealing with overwhelm, and anxiety:
- Address the cause rather than avoid it (see above)
- Healthy habits: As outlined above with stress coping, maintaining healthy habits such as eating healthy food, exercise, fewer all-nighters and more proper sleep habits, and avoiding unhealthy coping mechanisms such as excessive alcohol use and drugs, are necessary for mood and stress regulation (37). These are necessary to manage feelings of anxiety.
- Campus resources: Excessive stress and anxiety may lead to mental health issues such as anxiety disorder. Universities usually have resources such as counseling services, wellness workshops, academic advisors, etc to help you curb your anxiety with the necessary professional aid (37)
- Mindful belly breathing and yoga (38): Anxiety can occur with physiological changes such as an increased heart rate and breathing rate. Mindful breathing and yoga can help you slow down your breathing and heart rates, thereby activating the parasympathetic nervous system to help you feel calm (38).
- What to do when you feel blue and/or depressed:
- Again, address the cause rather than avoid it: what is making you sad? Is it being away from home? Feeling lonely? Once you accept your sadness and become aware of why you feel that way, you can gain more insight into what sort of steps to take to feel better (video calls with family, trying to meet new people, and become friends with them). Sometimes you tend to feel blue but for no particular reason. During those moments, take time out for yourself and do something you love, read a book, call a friend, take a nice warm bath, treat yourself to a lovely piece of cake, go outside, etc (44). If you feel persistent sadness and a lack of interest in things you used to like, do consult professional support as you may have signs of depression.
- Be mindful of your thinking patterns: Certain thought patterns such as “I am always terrible”, “I am a complete failure and good for nothing”, “Nothing ever goes my way”, can make higher ed students spiral into a state of depression (45). Try to be mindful of illogical thinking patterns and work on correcting them “I failed once, but I can always learn from my mistakes and try again”, “I am not good at everything but there are some things I am good at.” Check reference 45 for some great examples of negative thinking patterns and healthy thinking patterns.
- What to do when you feel blue and/or depressed:
- Healthy habits: shown above
- Severe mental illnesses: Refer to ‘Best practices for med students’
Less obvious concerns:
- What can you do when you feel alone (check 30):
- Cultivate few, meaningful relationships: Deep and meaningful connections are important for general happiness and wellbeing as opposed to many superficial social relationships (30). Of course, it is not easy to build such meaningful relationships overnight or to chase after those. If you meet people you connect with well, put in the effort to get to know them in more than a superficial way (eg: asking questions, listening, having quality conversations beyond just small talk).
- Take part in communities and their activities at university: Extracurricular activities and communities at university are great for meeting new people and potentially making friends. It was found that extracurricular activities taking part in extracurriculars had a positive association with friendship and general mental wellbeing (46).
- Try to make a new friend at class: Introduce yourself and ask them questions about themselves (which year they are in, what course they study, etc). Remember, it’s all about taking tiny steps.
- Try to have regular virtual catch-up sessions with high school friends:
- Sometimes being alone isn’t a bad thing! Take the time to get to know yourself better and try out things you love: It’s important to cultivate self-love and what better way to do this but spend time with yourself. Medium amounts of introspection are important to be aware of one’s emotions and to gain insight on how to cope with them; this can be empowering and helps you heal (47). Check resource 47 for a comprehensive understanding of emotional wellness
- How to improve your self-esteem:
- Own yourself: It is natural for everyone to feel like they aren’t good enough at times. Prolonged low self-esteem can affect one’s emotional and mental health (48). It is possible to improve one’s self-esteem for better emotional health. Good self-esteem helps people stay resilient in the face of failure and to better cope with it (48). To own yourself, spot negative thinking about yourself: “I am not good enough at all”. Generally, this negative thinking is rooted based on one or a few incidents, but it isn’t logical to assume that you are not good enough in all instances, even those you are yet to experience. So, think of any positives about yourself when you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts: “I am enough, I can always try again”
- Positive relationships: Take for example this analogy: if you place good fruit next to fruit covered in mold, the mold would slowly spread and cover the good fruit. Similarly, negative social relationships may affect your self-esteem, leaving you feeling like you are not worth it. According to the American Psychological Association, positive social relationships, support, and acceptance are key for developing your self-esteem, across 4 to 76 years of age.
- Awareness of thoughts and emotions: Bring awareness to the situations, people, or events that lower your self-esteem. Think about what these situations or people make you feel, what are the thoughts you have? (50) A usual facet of low self-esteem is irrational thinking: all-or-nothing thinking, mental filtering, rejecting positives, jumping to negative conclusions, negative self-talk, etc (50). Notice these sorts of thinking and challenge them. Most of the time, they are irrational and not wholly true.
- Healthy habits
- Healthy alternatives to regular all-nighters (this section is based on my personal experiences):
- Time management can be tricky at college so relying on all-nighters is common. Alternatives to regular all-nighters include planning ahead. If you know there is a big test coming up in June, then spread out your revision over the weeks leading up to the exam. This way you don’t have to cram everything the night before and your emotional health is unaffected by all the stress of studying in one night.
- If you have no motivation to start a project early, use operant conditioning principles: treat yourself to something nice once you complete the work you have for the day. It’s your reward. (this works, I have tried it. But you need to have self-control)
- If you must take an all-nighter, make sure it’s not frequent.
- Procrastination affecting your emotional well-being?: Psychologists think that procrastination is a problem of managing one’s emotions rather than time (51). Students tend to procrastinate because the task they have to do is hard, too boring, and they are afraid of failing. To temporarily put off feeling this way, procrastination happens. Although they may feel good about procrastinating short-term, long-term it can lead to guilt and stress (51). So how can you manage procrastination?
- Make the first step. An approach called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) teaches you to tolerate the temporary uncomfortable feelings of a task and to keep doing what you need to do to complete a task (51). Once this first step is made, following through is not as uncomfortable.
- Reward yourself after a task so that there is motivation to complete it, even though it is a tough task or is boring.
Common misunderstandings about emotional health (Higher ed version)
- Negative emotions are bad, only positive vibes: It’s okay to not be okay, you are not always going to be happy at college and you mustn’t force yourself to always be so. Toxic positivity is that no matter how bad you feel, you have to only think of “positive vibes”. This is problematic as it essentially represses your negative emotions, depriving you of the opportunity to deal with those emotions in a healthy way.
- Therapists are only for people with mental illnesses (63): This is not true. As important as therapy is for people with psychiatric disorders, therapists provide a useful space for anyone with emotional health challenges, such as stress coping, grief management, etc
- Stress is bad: All stress is not bad. Eustress is a form of beneficial stress that is needed for attention, motivation and emotional well-being (64). However, when stress becomes excessive, that’s when it becomes a problem. It is important to curb excessive stress by talking it out, taking me-time, engaging in sport, etc
- Everybody has the same stress tolerance (65): No, stress affects different people differently. Some people need help to cope with certain stressors which may not affect other people in the same way. Some people cannot work under pressure while others thrive in it. The key is to understand what works and doesn’t work for YOU.
- Stress is unavoidable (65): As much as it’s true that stress is common in our day to day life activities, we do have some control on managing our schedules to avoid unnecessary stressors. For higher ed students, planning ahead in their course can avoid the avoidable stress with having to finish assignments at the last minute.
- Drink on emotions, we are going to die anyway: Dealing with emotional stressors by only engaging in unhealthy practices is detrimental in the long run. True, we are all going to die anyway, but we can choose to lead a healthy life with minimal physical and mental struggles which would otherwise be brought about by unhealthy practices that bring temporary satisfaction.
Impacts on the faculty, higher ed institutions, and parents
How does the topic of “Best Practices for Nurturing Emotional Health in order to Foster Happiness impact Faculty?
- Why is the topic important to faculty?
- It is the responsibility of the various faculties to ensure the emotional wellbeing of its students and staff members: “as faculty, we cannot take care of our students if we do not learn how to take care of ourselves.” (74)
- Universities seek input from faculties, students and staff on emotional health via health surveys to plan initiatives that cater to good emotional health, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic (72),
- Nurturing emotional health for happiness is important at the faculty level to provide a supportive learning environment for students and a working environment that is amenable to good mental health of staff (72).
- This topic is important to assess existing emotional wellbeing services and adjust them based on circumstances, to foster overall happiness in the institution.
- The faculty needs modes to communicate with university leaders about threats to the emotional health of its students and staff. Existing modes must be advertised effectively, while new modes need to be designed.
- How are faculty impacted personally?
- COVID-19 challenges which affected conventional teaching modes, and led to isolation, anxiety, and financial instability of staff members have negatively impacted faculty emotional wellbeing (72).
- Racial trauma experienced by faculty members also affects their emotional health (72).
- Sexual harassment, violation, threats, bribery, gender-based harassment, lonliness, mobbing and bullying at the workplace may affect faculty emotional health and productivity (73, 74).
- Overwhelming workloads, burnout, excessive stress and struggle to balance personal and professional lives may lead to poor work-life balance of faculty members, especially if they have several leadership roles, leaving their emotional health at stake (74).
- Hypercompetitive attitudes among faculty members may foster a “hustle” culture, negatively affecting both physical and mental health (74).
- How does the higher educational community address the topic for faculty?
- Increasing the awareness of resources and community wellness services available for faculty’s emotional health (72).
- Weekly surveys to assess mental and emotional health (72).
- Provision of support for teaching for faculty members (74).
- Efforts to normalize feelings of stress, anxiety and other mental/emotional health issues, to reduce isolation (72).
- Design of new services, wellness websites, programs to provide wellness aid to faculty (72).
- How has the higher educational community failed to address this topic to faculty?
- Despite the availability of tools to support teaching, an associate professor talks about the need for higher ed institutions to provide mental health awareness and intervention tools to faculty members (74).
- There needs to be much more awareness about the stigma of emotional and mental health issues experienced by faculty members, who, just like their students, experience these issues. Admitting to stress and mental health issues by faculty members are thought to affect relationships with students, colleagues, superior and one’s career, thus fostering minimal open communication about these issues (74). Higher ed communities can organize lectures and activities about normalization of mental health on campus, and advocate for a supportive community that is more sensitive to mental health struggles of its members.
- The need to provide professional training, project and team management guidelines, mentoring and conflict resolutions skill by higher ed communities to aid their faculty members (74)
How does the topic impact Higher Ed Institutions?
- How are they impacted?
- Higher ed institutions are responsible for the emotional and mental wellbeing of students and staff.
- They need to devise programs, tools, resources, etc to support the wellbeing of the higher ed community for the overall health and productivity of the campus.
- Leaders of higher ed institutions need to take care of their own emotional health for themselves and to serve the higher ed community.
- Higher ed institutions need to identify best practices that work for their institution and circumstances, and plan action strategies (76).
- How does the higher educational community traditionally address and fail to address this topic?
- 10 years worth of data from the Healthy Minds Study, which is a web-based survey from 150,000 students across 196 campuses in the U.S has found that compared to the past, mental health stigma has decreased but the mental health burden has increased, with diagnoses rising from 22 percent to 36 percent and suicidal ideation from 6 percent to 11 percent (75). At the same time, use of treatment has increased from 19 percent to 34 percent, potentially reflecting the openness to getting help but also the increase in disease burden.
- Creating an atmosphere that fosters and encourages hyper competition among peers as opposed to individuals who are praised for taking time off in their studies to cater for their health. There needs to be more of a shift in appreciation of taking care of one’s health rather than the “hustle culture”.
- Shortage of mental health services and budget constraints, leading to longer wait time for non-crisis cases to obtain counseling services, thus affecting the emotional well being of staff, students and faculty (77, 78).
- The need for more communication of available wellbeing services to students.
- The need for more mental health stigma, suicide and discrimination awareness and reduction.
- What are 10 best habits that higher educational institutions can practice to nurture Emotional Health in order to foster happiness in their students and stakeholders:
- Encourage open conversation about mental and emotional health issues: “..I discussed my situation with my professor, confiding the stressful circumstance and my depressed mood. He told me that when he moved to California, he became depressed and started taking medicine. What helped him overcome his depression was exercise, especially running. I’m very thankful that he told me his story. Without it, I wouldn’t have realized that ‘anyone’ is subjected to depression and that there is always help and support around you even though you may not be aware of it”- anonymous student (78).
- Provide a guide for faculty and staff members on how they can nurture emotional health of students by identifying signs of distress, knowing how and when to take action and awareness of vulnerable groups who may experience barriers to help seeking (78).
- Encouraging staff members to use their experience, good judgement and instincts to check-in with students whom they think are showing signs of distress.
- Compile and alter emotional wellness resources based on circumstances (72). For example, universities need to provide additional resources during the COVID-19 pandemic that help students cope with not only their emotional health issues but also adjusting to the new normal which can also ultimately affect their mental health.
- Hold seminars, lectures, workshops and other events to raise awareness of mental health and resources in the campus setting, to reduce stigma and encourage students to seek help.
- Invest in sufficient mental health services and collaborative systems of support consisting of representatives at each department and faculty that can work together to address concerns of students that belong to their division (78). This reduces the burden that any one department has to deal with student issues and allows prompt support for students too.
- Educate staff and faculty members about cultural diversity on campus which is important to know when dealing with students’ emotional well being (78). This allows faculty to reach out to students with sensitivity and an open mind. Some students may be hesitant to reach out for help due to their cultural background so a good practice is for example, to ask the student what they think of counseling and if it helps with their emotional issues, to gain an insight to their cultural perspective (78). This is a great way to gain the student’s trust prior to providing your recommendations.
- Higher institutions need to be mindful of practices that need to be avoided as they can hamper emotional wellbeing and happiness of students. For example: making the student’s/ staff member’s concerns seem small, providing overwhelming supportive options so that it is hard for the student to process, etc (78)
- Provide follow-up services to assess treatment outcomes.
- Provision of resources for career planning as this can be an emotional stressor for students (87)
How does this topic impact parents of Higher Ed Students?
- Why is the topic important to parents of students?
- Emotional health of their children is important and parents play a crucial role in this.
- A child’s home environment plays a role in their emotional health and parents can impact this. For example, having an abusive home environment or broken family may negatively impact a child’s emotional health.
- Parents are at the forefront of noticing changes in the behaviors and habits of their children, and this is an important insight to their emotional health. Having knowledge of this topic helps parents intervene earlier.
- An emotionally healthy childhood allows more developmental milestones to reach, hence this topic is very important for parents (79).
- How are parents impacted personally?
- Parents who have their own emotional/mental health struggles can affect them and in turn their children (79). A study found that 1 in 14 children aged 0-17 years had parents with poor mental health and those were more likely to have reduced overall health (79).
- Dealing with the emotional health issues of their children is not easy, therefore learning about supportive comments and parenting tips for the emotional wellbeing of children and themselves is necessary (79).
- How do parents of students typically address this topic for their students?
- By having open conversations with their children about changes to their behavior, mental and physical health (80).
- Advising the child about healthy practices such as getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising, etc and how this helps one’s overall health (80).
- Teaching the child that all emotions are accepted, and need to be expressed healthily. Also the importance of coping with so-called negative emotions like stress, sadness, anger in healthy ways and that.
- How do parents of students fail to address this topic for students?
- Parents who do not allow their children, especially male children to cry because “crying is not for boys”/ “be a man” teaches them to repress their sadness which is unhealthy for their emotional health. Rather, they should teach them to express their emotions and cope with them in healthy ways (cry about it to feel better and then ask why you feel sad and what you can do about it)
- Emotional neglect, where parents fail to pick up signs of distress and support their children can affect their emotional wellbeing and happiness (80)
- Not having conversations about mental/emotional health.
- What are the 10 best habits that parents can practice in order to nurture Emotional Health in order to foster happiness in their students ?
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry mentions the following points to develop a loving relationship between parents and their children which can foster their emotional health and happiness (81):
- Take steps to create a safe home where the children feel loved. This helps your child reach out to you when things get tough for them as they trust you. Also, a safe and loving home is conducive to emotional wellness. A broken family can leave your children stressed, overwhelmed and upset and they’d not know who to talk to about it since the parents are already in arguments.
- Listen to your child’s concerns, do not belittle them and dismiss them.
- Teach your children about boundaries so that they learn to not take on too much and say no, which is very important for emotional wellness as discussed previously.
- Don’t always nag your child to talk to you about their emotions, there needs to be age-appropriate independence such that they’d talk about feelings they are comfortable with.
- Teach your children rules on good health and safety such as proper amount of sleep, hydration, nutrition and being aware of sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation which all affect emotional health.
These are some additional best practices:
- Encourage your sons especially to speak up about their emotions, cry if they feel sad and express their vulnerability if they experience it. They shouldn’t grow up to feel like they mustn’t express their emotions as that would make them less “manly” (82).
- Educate your child on mental health and mental health issues, such as the signs, symptoms, etc and the importance of seeking treatment and open communication (83).
Top conversations needed (higher ed)
med school students
(For this section, I spoke to an ex-med student (Khushi) about her experiences with emotional and mental health at med school. Khushi had a tough experience in her med school as she had classes from morning till night and would prepare for exams during the weekends. Her brother on the other hand had a fruitful experience in his med school. This shows that even the location and schedules of different med schools can affect the emotional health of med students differently. The importance of the faculty and staff in ensuring manageable schedules at med school is very crucial. I will draw on information from my conversation with her along with other resources to write this section.
Med school is tough and stressful. Being a med student, although a rewarding experience, can be a lot of pressure that could leave their emotional health at stake. According to the research done by Boni et al, it was found that 70.6% of first-year medical students experienced emotional exhaustion (52).
Emotional health of med students
A study that utilized medical students from 9 schools in Florida found the following stressors reported by medical students: excessive workload, time management issues, poor work-life balance, financial stressors, med school administrative failures, poor assistance with career planning, performance pressures (87). Below are some factors that may affect the emotional health of med students:
- Sleep deprivation: My talk with Khushi highlighted her intense schedule. She spends up to 3 hours per class and her classes can go on until as late as 9 pm. After classes, she spends time studying or preparing for the classes on the following day. Her tight schedule makes her not get enough sleep for days. Research has commonly shown that medical students report high occurrences of poor sleep quality (53). Sleep deprivation may have complications including depression, frustration, emotional numbness, and poor cognition (53).
- Malnutrition: Khushi talks about having to skip breakfast on most days so that she isn’t late to class. In terms of statistics, research shows that 71.92% of medical students skip breakfast (54). This was related to tiredness and low attention in class. Skipping breakfast was also thought to cause mental distress (55).
- Challenges with socializing and feeling isolated: Khushi spoke of difficulties with making friends and how you can feel out of place and alone in med school at times. Challenges with socializing can affect one’s emotional health. Research points out that medical students share feelings of being lonely, isolated and encounter challenges that are hard to be understood by their close friends or even their spouse (56).
- Poor time management: With a huge workload and hectic schedule, time management for med students is very important. Poor time management can lead to stress and anxiety (57).
- Pressure to keep going on even if you want to quit: A lot of money and time are put into a medical degree. Khushi wanted to quit med school several times, but she didn’t even take the time to think about this because of the pressure to keep going. She felt guilty. After all this money that is being spent, how can she just quit? Most students suppress their emotional distress to get through med school, just because of the pressure to do so. Khushi was fortunate as her parents were open-minded and allowed her to quit and pursue what she was more comfortable with. On the other hand, her roommates continued to push through med school as their parents did not give them the choice of quitting. Sometimes we need to quit for the sake of our emotional health, especially if it’s something we can’t go through with even after numerous attempts.
- Poor access to resources: In my conversation with Khushi, she mentioned that there needs to be adequate awareness of the available mental health resources. Simply having resources is not enough. Students need to know what resources are available and where to find them. Constant communication of this and the importance of taking care of one’s emotional health is necessary for med students. Access to career planning resources are also a necessity.
- Mental illness: Immense stress, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and general overwhelm of managing a tedious schedule can put med students at risk for mental diseases like anxiety and depression. Research shows a prevalence rate of 29.6% for common mental disorders (CMD) in medical students (58).
Best practices for med students’ emotional well being
Being aware of things that affect the emotional health of med students is important. The following section covers supportive habits for the optimal emotional health of med students.
- Stress: Feeling stressed is very common among med students and it is not always a sign of having a mental illness, although repetitive stressors are a risk factor for mental and physical issues (59). Managing stress healthily is crucial:
- Refer to “Dealing with stress” in the higher ed student section for healthy habits that can help med students cope with stressors.
- Med school-specific tips for dealing with stress:
- Search for stress management resources provided by your med school. These resources may include peer support groups, group sessions for stress management, mentoring/ buddy schemes (59).
- Attend interactive lectures on mental health, emotional health and coping mechanisms (59).
- Openly speak up about your stress with peers as this may encourage mutual sharing that can help both of you.
- Understand that as a future doctor, it is important to not only be a doctor but a patient too (59). If you require help to manage your stress, then you need to approach help and not rely on self-help alone. As much as it is important to help the health of other people, if you don’t take the step in helping yourself, how can you help someone else? Asking for help with stress coping and your emotional health will NOT jeopardize your career (refer to misconceptions of emotional/mental health of med students).
- Burnout: “People don’t realize it is not necessarily the time but the exhaustion from concentrating and working hard that stops you from doing leisure activities and keeping in touch with non-medics.” (59) Burnout is a serious concern in med school as intense course material along with in-training clinical responsibilities add to overall physical and mental exhaustion. Around 45% of medical students feel burnout (60). Med students can reduce burnout effects by:
- Taking care of your health. Eat a balanced diet, avoid skipping meals, exercise, and get sufficient sleep. Staying up and studying all night might do more harm than good when you need to perform at an exam the next day. (60).
- Talk to your friends and tell them you are exhausted. Admitting you are burned out is the first step to taking action about reducing it (60).
- Research about existing support systems in place at your university that you can reach out (60).
- Due to stigma, students may be afraid to open up about their intense exhaustion as they think it may affect their career and puts them behind in the “competition at med school.” Tell yourself that at the end of the day nothing matters more than good health, yes, not even your career. You cannot sustain your career if you are not healthy in the first place. So, be open about your emotional struggles and SEEK HELP. Stigma is gradually improving so help this movement by being open. Good practice is such that an individual must not be discriminated against based on their mental health status.
- If you anticipate a heavy workload in the coming weeks, then strategize and spread your work throughout the week. Planning ahead this way helps to avoid last-minute cramming.
- Mild-to-moderate mental health conditions: these include depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder. The prevalence of depression and anxiety are higher among medical students than in the general population (59), therefore the necessary support for these mental health issues are crucial: (59)
- Refer to ‘Dealing with overwhelm, and anxiety’ and ‘What to do when you feel blue and/or depressed’ under ‘Best practices for higher ed students’ emotional well-being’.
- Research the professional support services available to you at your university to help with your mental health issues. Consult professional aid so you can receive appropriate treatment and experience recovery
- Be honest and open about your health as that is the only way the university, parents, and friends can support you.
- Attend campaigns that promote good mental health and well-being practices, peer support groups, group sessions to manage stress, etc
- Get involved in extracurricular activities as they can help you curb stress, and make new friends. It is the responsibility of the medical school to ensure that the time students spend on such activities is protected so it doesn’t affect their school work.
- Severe mental illnesses: includes schizophrenia, severe depression, and manic depression (59). Generally, these conditions are more stigmatizing than mild-to-moderate mental health conditions, therefore med students may be more reluctant to seek help. These are some practices you can follow to help with severe mental illnesses:
- Reach out to a trusted friend, faculty or family member about your mental health status, that you don’t feel like yourself lately. Seek professional help with them as these illnesses can be treated, earlier the intervention the better (62).
- Reach out to peer support groups, individual or group psychotherapy, as having the social support of people who understand what you are going through can be helpful for the long route to recovery.
- Open conversation is very important if you are to get the right treatment at the right time. The stigma does make this difficult but talking to friends you trust about what you feel can really be a helpful starting point for your recovery.
Less obvious concerns
- Skipping breakfast: Most of the time med students skip breakfast because they don’t have enough time to make breakfast and then make it to their morning classes. A good way to avoid skipping breakfast and cut the morning hassle with breakfast prep is to meal prep the night before or during the weekend (62). You can cut a bunch of fruits and freeze them so that all you have to do in the morning is to blend the fruits to make a smoothie or add the fruit directly to a bowl of ready made oats. Keep an eye out for quick yet balanced breakfast recipes.
- Feeling isolated: Check ‘What can you do when you feel alone’ under the ‘Best practices for higher ed students’
- Forced to be in med school: Some of my friends were forced into med school because being a doctor is a respectable profession and that’s what the parents want for the child. However, pursuing something that is not only difficult but without the passion for it can lead to a lot of emotional turmoil. If you find it difficult to continue being a med student, and it isn’t related to the typical stressors one would feel at med school but more so about a lack of passion, know that it is okay to quit. Khushi spoke to her mum about her struggles and her mum suggested she quit med school and pursue something she is more interested in. Currently she is a nutritionist and working for a mental healthcare startup. It is important to engage in open conversation with your parents about your struggles.
- Tight class schedules: My interview with Khushi made one thing obvious, long class schedules throughout the week made it extremely difficult to spend time on things apart from med school. It is up to the faculty to ensure that schedules are made such that students have time for themselves and to get enough rest (more on this in the section for what med faculty can do to improve emotional health of med students).
Common misunderstandings of emotional health med student version (59)
- Seeking help for emotional health issues is a sign of weakness: This is false! Infact, seeking help for your health is the strong and right thing to do.
- Med students and healthcare professionals are supposed to be amenable to the stoic work environment: Medical students and hcps also experience mental health issues and it is important that they reach out for help and take time outs. This is both important for their health and the patients they treat.
- Time outs are impossible in med school: Medical students have to take time out from their studies and usually this is necessary to help you address your emotional stressors. In turn, you’d feel better getting back to studies afterwards.
- Recovery from psychiatric illness is not possible/ psychiatric treatments are usually ineffective: Treatments for mental health issues show good clinical effectiveness. Earlier the intervention, better the prognosis. Recovery from mental health issues are possible and there are many people who have made full recovery, even in the health care community.
- Having emotional health issues will affect my career prospects: Discrimination against having a mental health condition is not possible in a legal perspective.
- Check (59) for more common myths and busters regarding med school and mental health
Impact on faculty, med ed institutions and parents
How does the topic of “Best Practices for Nurturing Emotional Health in order to Foster Happiness impact” Faculty?
- Why is the topic important to faculty?
- Faculty is responsible for the mental and emotional wellbeing of its students.
- They need to know what support services are available to students and how they can assist them with their emotional and mental struggles.
- This topic is important to faculty so they are aware of receiving the training needed to help students, especially in situations where they have mental health issues (59)
- Faculty need knowledge on signs of emotional distress so that they can pick them up and intervene early.
- How are faculty impacted personally?
- There is stigma about talking openly on emotional and mental struggles, especially in the stoic medical environment, therefore faculty may be reluctant to take care of their personal emotional wellbeing (59).
- Emotional wellbeing of faculty is essential for themselves and for taking care of their students and patients (if they are doctors). If one doesn’t take care of themselves, how can they take care of others?
- Incidents at the workplace like violation, threats, harassment can personally affect the emotional health of faculty.
- How does the medical educational community address the topic for faculty and what initiatives have faculty taken to implement its importance efficiently?
- Wellness opportunities and resources that build resilience, manage stress, emotional distress, a tough transition, etc (85).
- Establishment of well-being and wellness offices that provide emotional health assistance to faculty and students (84)
- Provision of surveys to assess mental and emotional health of staff members (72).
- Encouraging faculty to take care of themselves and speak up about difficulties and struggles (84).
- Medical support to address serious emotional health crises for faculty (84).
- How has the medical educational community failed to address this topic to faculty?
- Failure to sufficiently spread the word about available wellness resources such that all faculty are not aware of them.
- Shortage of mental health services such as insufficient staff to provide counseling services (long wait lists) (77,78).
- The need for more awareness of the prevalence of emotional health struggles among faculty members, therefore normalizing of it and efforts to reduce stigma (74).
How does the topic impact Medical Ed Institutions?
- How are they impacted?
- Medical ed institutions bear the responsibility to ensure the emotional and mental wellbeing of their faculty and students.
- Understanding the topic of best practices for emotional wellness and happiness is necessary for them to devise tools and resources that support the wellbeing of their community.
- It helps them refine existing resources and adjust based on the circumstances, while identifying areas of improvement.
- How does the medical educational community traditionally address and fail to address this topic?
This is what I learned from my conversation with Khushi about her medical college:
- Some medical educational communities need to pay more attention to the structure and time duration of classes. 3 hour long classes from morning till night is mentally and physically exhausting for students and can lead to burnout. The schedules should be more manageable to students such that their emotional health is not at stake at having to stay alert in medical classes throughout the day.
- Medical school is tough, the content is hard but that doesn’t mean that a harsh, competitive environment should be condoned. Having a tight schedule with limited breaks is not okay. Medical colleges that have such harsh environments need to adjust their structures
- Her medical college did not provide an orientation series that would have helped her get to know classmates more, make friends, get to know the campus as well as resources they provide. Instead she had to join intense medical classes from day 1. Not allowing students proper time to settle into a new environment may affect their emotional wellbeing
- Khushi made a great point about how her medical school did not advertise the wellbeing resources they had. Khushi was not aware of such resources and even if she wanted to get them there were language barriers. These are failures from which medical educational communities can learn from. It is paramount that students are aware of the available health resources.
- Mental and emotional health are still not completely openly discussed at med school and later in the healthcare professional community. The medical educational community needs to do more to reduce this stigma and encourage more open conversations on this matter.
- How has the way med schools students need to address this topic evolved?
- With increased awareness of the importance of taking care of one’s emotional and mental health, reducing stigma and more open conversations about this topic, med schools have evolved to provide more well-being resources to students.
- What are 10 best habits that medical educational institutions can practice to nurture emotional health in order to foster happiness in their students and stakeholders
- Encourage open conversations about mental and emotional health to reduce stigma associated with it (59).
- Arrange course schedules such that they are not packed with time constraints but allow for in between time the students can use to catch a break and/or take care of their health.
- Advertise the existing wellbeing resources to students and invest in courses, lectures, and workshops that reach students important coping skills and resilience (59).
- Provide training sessions to equip staff with knowledge on recognizing early signs of mental health conditions and how to advise students on what support is available (59).
- Compilation of guidance documents on how to support students and staff with mental and emotional health concerns and best practices to promote well-being (59).
- Provision of mindfulness, yoga and meditation sessions on campus for self-relief and recovery of staff and students.
- Investing in campus wellness activities such as a wellness office, mentoring schemes, peer support, etc.
- Provision of protected time to staff and students to take part in extracurricular activities for their physical, emotional and mental health (59). Protected time is important to allow for work-life balance: a significant problem students face is that they don’t have time or are too tired at the end of the day to catch up with friends and family which is necessary for good work-life balance.
- Invest in communication training of students so that they are in a better position to talk about their own health (59).
How does this topic impact parents of Students?
- Why is the topic important to parents of students?
- Parents of medical students are a crucial support system for the emotional
well-being of their children.
- Learning about the signs of emotional distress and how to help medical students with emotional issues are important skills for parents.
- How are parents impacted personally?
Refer to ‘how parents are impacted personally’ under Higher Ed students
- How do parents of students typically address this topic for their students?
- Refer to ‘how parents are impacted personally’ under Higher Ed students
- How do parents of students fail to address this topic for students?
- Refer to ‘how parents are impacted personally’ under Higher Ed students
- Familial pressure on students to pursue medicine may lead to burnout and negative attitudes toward their career, as shown by research (86). It is important to have open conversations about the student’s career choices: After Khushi’s emotional struggles at medical school she had an open conversation with her mother. Her mother suggested that she consider other options that are more in line with her characteristics and passion. She is now a nutrition student and part-time content creator at a mental health project.
- How has the way that parents need to address this topic evolved through generations to accommodate the needs of their medical school students today?
With the rise in mental health burden over the last 10 years (75), the need to address emotional and mental health is absolutely crucial. This means that parents need to inform themselves of how they can better nurture the emotional wellbeing and happiness of their children, such as teaching emotional coping skills and seeking treatment in the case of mental illnesses. This has been shown by more movements to reduce stigma with mental health and the need to have open conversations about emotional health with children.
- How do parents of medical school students benefit from addressing this topic?
- Parents will gain more insight into the emotional health of their children. A lack of awareness of their emotional health can delay picking up signs of emotional distress and early interventions.
- Understanding how their children can be assisted during tough moments of their lives, such as during medical school, can help medical students open up to their parents and experience emotional relief.
- What are 10 best habits that parents can practice in order to nurture emotional health in order to foster happiness in their students ?
Much of the best practices listed for parents of higher ed students are applicable for parents of medical students. An additional point would be awareness of familial pressure exerted on students to pursue medicine and how it is important to talk to your children about med school, whether their decision is based on their own choice or influenced by parental expectations.
Conversations needed (med ed)
business and wellness (work-life balance)
Balancing work and life is essential for good emotional health. Bosses need to invest in their emotional health while “being at the top”. Employees need to experience a safe and emotionally sound work environment to thrive mentally in their work. A mental health in the workplace report found that ⅖ of employees experience dire effects of stress (66). Below are some challenges that affect the emotional health of work leaders and their employees:
Emotional health in the workplace (66):
- Increased workload: Having a lot of tasks at the workplace may limit the time one has for oneself and it can be stressful. This may lead to emotional turmoil as employees/employers would have to work after working hours, taking a toll on their personal life and sleep.
- Problems at home: Excessive workload can affect one’s personal life and personal issues may in turn affect one’s work life.
- Health issues: Challenges at the workplace could negatively affect one’s physical and mental health, leading to stress and anxiety of having to complete work while taking care of themselves.
- Burnout: Not having enough time to complete work, experiencing emotional, physical and mental exhaustion can lead to burnout. This affects the emotional health and happiness of employers and employees,
- Hostile work environment: Poor quality work relationships with peers may negatively affect one’s emotional health. Behaviors such as harrassment, bullying, sexual intimidation by co-workers can affect one’s emotional health (67).
- Poor work-life balance: Having poor boundaries can lead to imbalance in work and life, negatively affecting emotional health.
Best practices for the emotional well being of employers and employees
Employers and employees can follow the following best practices to reach good emotional well being and happiness at the workplace.
- Work-life balance (67, 68): Juggling between personal life and work matters is not easy and can make it tough on one’s emotional health. This is what you can do as an employer or employee to have a better work-life balance:
- For employers:
- Being a leader at the workplace comes with several responsibilities, including hearing out concerns of your employees while balancing your own tasks. This may limit the time you have for yourself and family matters. It is important to openly communicate any difficulties you have with co-employers, so that flexibility is allowed with managing work matters and family/personal matters. If you are the sole employer, allow yourself this flexibility by delegating required tasks based on the availability of employees or work longer hours on some days to allow for extra time to manage personal life issues on the others.
- Plan your schedule in a realistic way rather than aiming for perfection. Of course things don’t always go according to plan so ensure you have fluidity to allow for last minute changes (sudden work trips, family emergencies, etc). This isn’t something you’d master overtime, but with experience.
- Constantly assess your goals and priorities so that you meet the ones that matter the most and adjust accordingly to meet the others.
- Set boundaries! Do you really need to bring your work home today? Or is this something you can manage to finish at the office the next day? Unless necessary leave work out of your home and spend time with family once you are at home. Again, allow for flexibility based on your priorities (eg: if there is a project deadline to meet and you need to work out of office hours too).
- For employees:
- Employees depend on their employer/s for their work-life balance for the most part of it, therefore take the time to research the work environment of your job and if it is amenable to achieving work-life balance. Are flexible working hours provided? Remote working? Does the work environment foster trust where productivity of employees is not measured by how long they spend in the office but they are trusted to get the work done even with flexible and remote work hours?
- Personally, maintain strict boundaries. Allocate hours for work and hours for personal life matters. Stick to these boundaries, changing unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Seek time away from work, go on holiday and vacations. Not only is this necessary for your physical and mental health, but it also promotes an efficient work-life balance, since you are at your best self!
- For employers:
- Burnout: Excessive workload can lead to emotional exhaustion and burnout, which significantly affects one’s emotional well being and happiness. Both employers and employees need to constantly assess their workload and make adjustments as necessary to ensure their burnout risk is minimal. If you are an employer, make sure you don’t take on too much work that your work force cannot handle or consider getting more employees to divide the work. If you are an employee and finding it difficult to manage the workload, communicate to your employer for advice and possible rescheduling of work deadlines. Take care of yourself first, then you can take of your work: you need to be in a healthy state to ensure the work gets done in the first place!
- Health problems: Physical and mental issues can arise as a result of burnout or not in relation to the work environment at all. It is important to take time off to cater to your health rather than working even with your health problems. If you feel unwell, access professional help and take time out from work. Companies can encourage a healthy lifestyle (eg: eating a balanced diet with less processed foods and more home made meals, exercising, drinking enough water, healthy stress coping) and prioritizing their employees’ health, as this is crucial for long-term success of the firm too. Providing employee health insurance is a great incentive for employees to join work and protect their health for the overall success of the company.
- Work environment: It is important to foster a friendly, emotionally and psychologically safe work environment:
- Educate yourself as an employer on threats to emotional health in the workplace, such as signs of bullying, cheating, intimidation, sexual violence, unfriendly notions and a general hostile environment which is not supportive. Use this knowledge to inform your team about these threats and encourage them to speak up about these issues in open conversations and what aid is available to them. Create an environment that employees feel safe in, this is very important for their overall emotional wellbeing at the work place.
- Activities that improve emotional well being at the workplace can be conducted: invite psychologists for a workplace health lecture, team yoga/meditation/mindfulness sessions, educational programs to teach signs of an emotionally distressed person so that workers can recognize these in themselves or their colleagues, monthly meetings to engage with the team socially, etc
- Foster good social relationships among colleagues and between employers and employees. It can be lonely for employers as leaders on the top, so having off-work social gatherings such as parties, night outs, bowling games, team sports days, etc with employees can not only help to improve the general aura and team spirit in the company, but also helps to tackle loneliness that employers/ employees feel. It is also a great way for employees to improve their social relationship with their boss, which can encourage more open conversation about issues at the workplace and their work. As the boss it is important that one finds the balance between social relationships and professionalism to ensure you can still lead the team.
Less obvious concerns
- Meaningful team relationships: This draws on a supportive work environment with cordial relationships among colleagues, to further enhance meaning among these relationships. This means going beyond just being courteous to connecting with colleagues in a deeper way. Meaningful relationships where you can talk to your colleagues about troubling situations, sharing stories of your kids and even have them over for dinners, gatherings, outings, etc helps to reduce burnout at the workplace (69). It also helps employees feel secure, not isolated and motivates them to come to work. In turn, it helps their emotional wellbeing and productivity at work.
Common misunderstandings of emotional health @ the workplace (70, 71)
- Poor emotional and mental health is a sign of weakness and that you are not cut out for the competition in the worklife: This isn’t true. Emotional and mental turmoil are far more common in the workplace than we think and misconceptions like this only make it harder for people to cope healthily with their troubles by being open and seeking help. It is up to the company managers and co-workers to reduce this stigma and foster an environment that allows open conversation about emotional health and ill-health.
- Emotional issues will negatively affect one’s career: This misconception leads to employees and employers hiding their struggles, afraid that it may ruin their career. In fact, early interventions to manage stress and mental illnesses are necessary to positively impact one’s career, as unaddressed emotional issues have significant impacts on one’s well being, therefore, career.
- Workplace is competitive and tough so nothing can be done to help with emotional distress: It is not impossible to include activities and programs that cater to the emotional well-being of employees, as mentioned in the previous section. In fact, investment in such programs are important for the overall productivity of the company.
- You shouldn’t talk about emotional/mental health issues at the workplace: The American Psychiatric Association Foundation (71) developed the “Notice. Talk. Act” approach to provide tools for co-workers to reach out to their peers who are distressed. Open communication about emotional health issues at the workplace is paramount as fostering a supportive environment not only helps employees feel safe but also good emotional health is necessary to function at the workplace.
Impact on customers, leadership/management
How does the topic of “Best Practices for Nurturing Emotional Health in order to Foster Happiness for Greater Work Life Balance” impact the customers/consumers /consumers?
- Why is the topic important to customers/consumers?
- Good work-life balance practices by employers/employees is necessary for overall work productivity which directly impacts customers.
- A good understanding of emotional health by employers is necessary to work with emotionally charged customers (88).
- For high-emotion services such as funeral services, marriage, home buying, etc (88), employees and employers are put in the unique situation to deal with customers and their emotions: when a family organizes a funeral, their intense grief and other emotions mean that employees need to have a good understanding of how to sensitively talk about expenses, etc (88)
- How are they impacted personally?
- Customers choose business services based on how they are treated. A business that nurtures the work-life balance of their employees and who invest in understanding emotional health are more likely to identify emotional triggers of customers and communicate respectfully to them (88). No customer wants to have employees screaming at them but wants them to enhance the customer’s satisfaction.
- How does the business community address the topic for customers/consumers (88) ?
- Understanding emotional triggers of customers and minimizing them. For example, underperformance of a company can make customers fearful. The business community engages in surveys to acquire knowledge on what aspects of the service made customers feel negative emotions. This information can be used to improve their service hence reduce customer emotional triggers.
- Responding as early as possible to intense emotions of customers
- To reduce customer anxiety during high-emotion services, go through a step-by-step plan of what is to come. Ask the customer for any questions or clarifications they need to feel at ease and cater to them.
- Careful communication: it is important that business communities train their staff to deliver messages with the right body language, choice and tone of words, to emotionally charged customers. For example, phrases that negatively affect customer’s confidence and hope should be avoided.
- Providing customers a sense of control by advising them of available assistance. This helps to reduce stress related to feeling a lack of control on the part of customers.
- How has the business community failed to address this topic to customers/consumers ?
- Provision of poor customer service: a lack of empathy and bad communication (89). When a customer is frustrated it is important for employees to care about the stress the customers experience and support them in any way they can. Rather than communicating generic responses that would not really help the customer, it is important to communicate important information while also speaking in a tone that shows the customer you care about their emotional wellbeing and experience with your services.
- Not investing in teaching employees on how to deal with customers in respectable ways, that take into account their emotional state.
- Making customers wait for too long for services (89), thereby emotionally triggering customers.
How does the topic “Best Practices for Nurturing Emotional Health in order to Foster Happiness for Greater Work Life Balance” impact leadership/management?
- How is the leadership/management traditionally impacted?
- Having work life balance is crucial for the emotional wellbeing of business leaders.
- Leaders need to take care of their emotional health along with that of their employees for overall wellness and productivity.
- How do leadership/management address and fail to address this topic?
- Poor time management leading to overwhelming work and imbalance with work/personal duties leading to emotional distress.
- Low investment in resources that help themselves and employees cope with stress and other emotional difficulties at the workplace.
- Lack of flexibility at the workplace thereby not allowing yourself and employees to explore what works best to manage work/personal duties along with emotional and mental health: spending hours at the workplace versus remote work and time off to cater to personal needs such as a health emergency of a family member. (90)
- Too much working hours per week leading to burnout and work family conflicts. (90).
- How have leadership/management needs to address this topic evolved?
- With statistics that show that 26% of office work is taken back home and 40% of people use their computers after 10 pm, the need to better balance work/life for better emotional and mental health in current times is evident (90).
- In addition, the rise of social media and instant messaging while at work (we check messages on our phone every 6 minutes on average and 21% of working hours are spent on social media (90)) make the need for better time management for overall work/life balance evident.
- What are 10 best habits that leadership/management can practice in order to enhance their emotional health for greater happiness in their workplace culture?
- Provide flexible working hours and modes of working (e.g: remote work) which in turn empowers employees as it shows that their employers trust that they can manage their own time and work (91).
- Encourage time off and breaks for the wellbeing of yourself and staff (91). Break-out rooms or rest rooms for employees to spend alone time are great options.
- Review workloads to ensure employees (and yourself) do not have too much on their plates which could lead to burnout (91).
- Provide health insurance to encourage employees to seek health check-ups and take care of their wellbeing (91).
- Invest in services at the workplace that can alleviate stress and financial pressures such as gym membership, company cars, etc (91).
- Encourage social activities such as monthly gatherings to foster good relationships among staff.
- Ask your staff for reviews on what can be improved (91).
Conversations needed (business)
Effects of emotional trauma on the brain + Neuroplasticity/ rewiring the brain (in general for all populations)
- Movements (in general)
Man enough, vulnerability, taboo
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