New Wave Nightingale

Preserving your mental health in today’s workplace

New Wave NightingaleCONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (Apr. 23, 2024) — Work, American style, has undergone a sea change in the last few years.

The pandemic essentially wiped out the traditional framework of “the workplace” and necessitated the building of a new one – quickly. The revelation that the performance of a job may have little or nothing to do with the worker’s physical location shocked employers and employees alike.

The post-COVID landscape is dramatically different from the era ending in 2019. There are hybrid workers, remote workers and those who follow the traditional “off to work” model. Many of the last group re-entered the workplace having spent the pandemic working either remotely or hybrid.

What has all this done to the psyche of the American workforce? It appears it has turned us into what used to be somewhat callously referred to as “nervous wrecks.”

High anxiety

Dr. Richard Chaifetz, founder and CEO of ComPsych, a group which provides mental health services to corporate clients, states: “As a society, we’re notably more anxious now than we were just five years ago, and it’s not shocking considering current world events: from the lasting impacts of COVID-19 to civil unrest, an increasingly polarized political landscape, global turmoil, the border crisis and rising crime, the proliferation of AI and an unpredictable economy – there are so many macro issues impacting people’s mental health in addition to interpersonal and personal situations.”

Chaifetz currently has no shortage of work. According to the 2024 Workplace Mental Health Poll conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 52% of employees experienced burnout in the past year and 37% reported feeling so overwhelmed it affected job performance.

Employees at both the “experienced” and “manager” levels appear more susceptible than those at the entry level, with 54% of the former reporting burnout as opposed to 40% of the latter.

The survey also found that approximately 1 in 4 employees are dissatisfied with the culture of their workplaces and a full 92% say mental health coverage is vital to building a functional workplace culture.

American workers’ focus on improving mental health in the post-COVID era appears to have resulted in an increased willingness to share details of mental health struggles. The NAMI report found that 74% of full-time employees now believe it is appropriate to discuss mental health concerns at work, but only 58% say they are at ease offering such details in the workplace.

Work-life balance

With all this turmoil, how can we work (in some permutation or another) and stay sane? The most important rule is to maintain some work-life balance.

Those who work remotely may find that the line between work and life can blur, but it is important to draw it and hold firm. Take time for self-care, doing things that make you happy and bring satisfaction.

Develop a personalized practice to manage stress and anxiety. Meditation is great for some and torture for others. Find what works for you (walking, knitting, ax throwing), then make the time to do it.

And, of course, reach out for help if you become overwhelmed and unable to cope.

For local options, visit ccclib.org and search the site for mental health resources.

Please send comments and question to Nathalie Montijo at newwavenightingale@gmail.com.

Read more “New Wave Nightingale” columns.

Nathalie Montijo
Nathalie Montijo
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Nathalie Raven Archangel-Montijo holds a rather interesting array of degrees and certifications, including master’s in nursing and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). She has post-master certification as an adult geriatric primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP) and a license to practice acupuncture in California (L.Ac). To round all that out, she is certified in infection prevention and control (CIC) and as an advanced certified Hospice and palliative care nurse (ACHPN).

She also performs in the outlaw country band, Nineteen Hand Horse.

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