Being OK vs not being OK and knowing when to act
My name is Howard Lewis, I am a Managing Consultant for Finyx, based in London. I have an interest in mental health management, especially in the workplace. I am also studying for a diploma in integrative counselling. My awareness stems from a time when I had a problem with my own confidence at work and generally, after suffering from Prostate Cancer, from which I am very fortunate to be able to say I am now largely recovered. This short read was my response to a request to write an article in recognition of Mental Health Awareness.
Amongst the many ideas and phrases that psychologists use to describe how people are, is the simple but useful idea of ‘being OK’. It isn’t precisely defined (if it was, psychologists would just argue about it), and that in my opinion, is the beauty of it. Largely, we know when we feel ok, and we know when we don’t.
Unfortunately, feeling ‘not OK’ is often associated with work and the workplace, real or virtual, for many people in our culture. Work can be the most challenging environment that many of us regularly put ourselves into. If we are likely to become anxious or worried, work is often a primary driver for these feelings.Couple this with the idea that an incapacity, like not feeling OK, will impact our work and our livelihood and it is easy to see the reasons behind the vicious circle that too many people are familiar with.
When we are deep in the thick of life, it can be easy to forget what feeling OK really is. It is important to remember that life can be lived without excess anxiety or fear about what will or might happen. Yes, our lives are complex and sometimes challenging. Worry and anxiety in themselves, within tolerable and managed limits are natural. After all, a big part of human experience comes from new, sometimes challenging experiences and it does not take too much thinking to realise why we have evolved the capacity for being scared and fighting or fleeing.
Problems start when we start to feel distressed. Typically, we can focus on the future and what may go wrong, and this can have a big negative impact on how we feel and our capacity to be happy in the here and now. The problem can be compounding and at times we can become somewhat numb to the reality. In therapy sessions people often say that they feel ‘unsafe.’ We might lose sight of the fact that life can be lived in a way that makes us feel ok. We often forget that we have a right to be OK. Until we all prioritise our own wellbeing and that feeling of ‘being ok’, we will be unable to work and socialise effectively; two elements that are critical to our thriving.
That is why, during this Mental Health Awareness week, Finyx acknowledges that mental health in the workplace remains a critical issue and we are asking everyone to think about their own self-care. With all the competing pressures that work brings, even in the kindest and most nurturing of work environments, we can only truly thrive if we look after ourselves.
Most of us know what we would do to make ourselves feel OK. Space, time to reflect, exercise, being heard, sharing, community, family, and enough sleep; these are common things that people say they need but are sacrificed when the going gets tough. Although we may know what we need, many of us rarely put this into practice, perhaps because we don’t think our own wellbeing is important enough compared to the things that are causing us not to feel OK.
At Finyx we ask you to embrace your own well-being as a necessary and non-negotiable priority. You have a right to it and it is achievable. To our people, we commit to always support and listen, and never to judge. We know being OK makes you more, not less able to function at whatever is important to you – work included.
Please keep in mind that many of us will find at certain points in life that we aren’t capable of adequate self-care, and this is when help is needed. Seeking professional help and guidance can seem like a big step, but there is plenty evidence to prove that it very often works. If you feel you would like to speak to somebody else about your mental health, please see a list of ideas below.
Samaritans – Tel: 116 123 who are available any time and any day,
SANEline – Tel: 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm-10.30pm),
Campaign against living miserably (CALM) – 0800 585858,
BACP Find a Therapist – one of the UK’s governing bodies for therapy,
Mind – Tel: 0300 123 3393,
NHS – (England & Wales) Tel: 111, NHS 24 (Scotland) Tel: 08454 242424, NI Direct, (Northern Ireland) Tel: 0808 808 8000
Your local GP for medical advice by making an emergency appointment, and 999 or go to Accident and Emergency (A&E) for immediate help
Lastly, many employees offer support and provide initial contact details for support. If your employer does this, you may also find some testimonials from colleagues who have used the services. They are extremely popular, and I find many people who discuss them are surprised how many of their colleagues have used them.