Are you mentally fit?

8 MinutesIn Blog, Inspiration

Why do we talk about physical fitness but mental health?

Physical fitness implies positive action, the taking of control and agency, an investment in something; while mental health implies some innate state, something passive. The WHO definition of mental health reinforces this: “Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.

Most of us have measures for our physical fitness – perhaps how our clothes fit, how much exercise we are doing, how physically tired or energised we feel. Most of us have actions we choose when our physical fitness isn’t where we want it to be. It is culturally acceptable to talk about our levels of physical fitness, in the positive “I’m running a marathon next month”, and the negative, “I’m not fit enough at the moment”.

It is possible that some of us reading this may be fortunate enough in our personal circumstances to have direct influence and control over the future of our business. We may feeling highly mentally and physically fit and energised and go through crisis, like the recent pandemic, with the autonomy, resources and power we have.

It is clear though that the emotional and psychological burden of the majority has been higher than it has ever been: during the pandemic those who had primary age children and/or lived in flat shares with no outside space or separate work space or who had been furloughed suffered great challenges.

The reason that solitary confinement, being “Sent to Coventry”, and withholding kissing or hugging from our partners can be used as punishments are because we are highly social creatures – we thrive with interaction and contact. The pandemic is not a “normal stress of life” as per the WHO definition because these things are being restricted. It is unlike anything a globalised industrialised world has had to deal with before.

The opportunity that everyone’s mental health being affected presents, is for us and our organisations to shift thinking towards mental fitness: to see our cognitive, behavioural and emotional welfare as something we actively invest in, nurture, grow and develop, knowing that we will think, feel and act more healthily as a result.

We cannot afford to be passive, we cannot afford to assume that previous normal mental fitness levels will remain in the face of abnormal times.


Thrive Mental Fitness Check

Measuring mental fitness for ourselves. How am I measuring my mental fitness, what am I explicitly referencing when I think about the state of my well-being? We want to create touch points in the same way as for our physical fitness – and indeed, there is likely to be overlap. Sleep, energy levels, mood, levels of engagement, levels of joy and happiness. Write down what matters to us, what we are measuring, and face into them each day. We can be brave and own how we feel, this is always valid.


Measuring mental fitness of our teams/organisation. How have we adapted this in the face of the ongoing post-Covid pancession, depending on whether our practice is contracting or booming? We have lost some of the previous measures – we can’t feel the office or the room, assess mood and demeanour. Absence and productivity on some measures are harder to track, depending on our business. It will be helpful for leadership teams to check in and create the measures for mental fitness during what will be a long haul – otherwise we may be left with sickness and resignations as our outcome barometers. For those of us whose practices are busy at this time, in particular, we want to avoid this…..


Outputs and symptoms of mental fitness. Do we know what “good” looks and feels like? Think about our very best days, the days when we know our psychological and emotional well-being was high – what were the factors, what do we notice. And our “bad” days – what do we notice about these. Are we explicit about triggers and warning signs of when we are less mentally fit? If we know what we are looking out for, we can catch things early.


Support and nurturing for ourselves. What are the things we are doing to support and nurture our mental fitness? Write a physical list of these – some will be immediate and others delayed. For example, we can stick our head out of the window for fresh air, we may not be able to leave our desks and take a walk. Because we are all under increased stress at the moment, it is vital to have a list so that our overworked brain doesn’t have to think of a solution. If we notice we are feeling less mentally fit, we have a list we can look at to take steps to improve our fitness.


Support and nurturing for our teams/organisation. Have we packaged together what we are doing? No doubt there are many things we are in fact doing – cluster them together and promote them as the package of measures that exist. Some of the team may not recognise what the tactics are designed for and may be opting out or not valuing sufficiently. How have we adapted since the pancession started – are there things missing or things we should stop and replace with something else?


Expert input. Are we actively engaging with experts? As the expression goes, we cannot think our way into acting, but we can act our way into thinking – and experts help us identify, create and assess effective actions. This is where coaches, counsellors, therapists, books, podcasts, TED talks, webinars come in. It is where apps like Calm and Headspace can help. Online yoga and meditation courses. It is vital that we promote expert input. Of course, friends and family help with mental fitness but we wouldn’t rely on them to solve our physical issues alone. Experts accelerate our ability to solve problems and to thrive.

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