April 21, 2023 15 Min Read
Support Mental Well-Being in a Post-Pandemic World
Empowering people to improve their health was the primary reason I became a doctor. But after medical school and a career in the pharmacy industry, I realized traditional medicine wasn’t the path for me.
Instead of prescribing medications to treat symptoms, I wanted to help people discover the root causes of their illnesses so that they could make actionable changes to improve their health and well-being. And I found I could do exactly that as a wellness coach.
Don’t get me wrong—Western medicine is invaluable. The technologies and services available today are saving lives in ways that were unimaginable just a few decades ago. But I also believe that Western medicine mostly takes the approach of problem-solving rather than problem-prevention. By focusing on supporting one’s well-being (ideally before any problems arise) we can take a proactive approach to overall health through a holistic lens.
Not surprisingly, I have observed an uptick in the number of people seeking support for mental health in the past few years. According to the World Health Organization, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a 25 percent increase in anxiety and depression worldwide. Add to that growing economic uncertainty and other pressures, and the mental health crisis is still in full effect, even as we learn to live with COVID-19.
So, what can be done?
While we can’t control our circumstances and the state of the world, we can control how we choose to approach mental health. Personally, I believe it would be beneficial to shift the conversation toward mental well-being.
Mental health and well-being sound similar and are often used interchangeably, but there are critical distinctions. Mental health suggests a baseline, an absence of clinical disorders. When mental health problems arise, treatment is reactive and usually targeted specifically to the symptoms.
Well-being, on the other hand, exists at a higher level. It refers to an optimal state in which an individual is able to balance all the elements of their multifaceted lives and bring their best self to all things. Fostering well-being requires proactivity—in a stressed-out world, well-being seldom happens automatically—and attention to holistic health. Well-being goes beyond what we perceive as traditional wellness, like physical and mental health, and also includes, spiritual, financial, emotional, familial, social, and professional aspects.
As the Pan American Health Organization has defined it, well-being is a state of mental, physical, and social prosperity in which a person “can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
To understand why the distinction between mental health and well-being matters, look no further than a new study by Deloitte and market research firm Workplace Intelligence. In a survey of 2,100 executives and employees in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, a whopping 70 percent said they are “seriously considering quitting for a job that better supports their well-being.”
Such wellness behaviors listed in the report included getting at least seven hours of sleep nightly, having enough time for family and friends, exercising daily, using vacation time, and eating healthily.
“While the pandemic brought worker safety into the spotlight, there’s also been an increased focus on the overall poor state of workforce well-being and the role that organizations play in determining quality of life for employees and their families,” the report said. “In fact, most companies now recognize the need to invest more in the holistic health of their employees, because it’s clear that workers are fed up” with sacrificing their health and their personal lives for their job.
Well-being is such an interconnected equation. When a company overworks an employee, for instance, the resulting stress may spill over into the family environment, creating dysfunction that then impacts the person’s performance at work. Conversely, when a company puts a premium on well-being and helps workers achieve wellness and balance both inside and outside the workplace, everyone is better off.
Thankfully, companies have started to recognize the criticality of this issue, and are working with HR departments to encourage a heavier focus on well-being. And digitization has made it simpler, cheaper, and more efficient than ever to provide people with the resources they need to support their well-being.
Employee assistance programs have emerged to help workers navigate any problems—whether personal or professional—that have the potential to negatively affect their performance or health. Wellness-promoting activities like yoga and meditation are being offered both in the office and at home. And on-demand coaching apps, like TaskHuman, offer individualized wellness support on an ongoing basis.
The accessibility of these resources is crucial because, as inflation continues to rise and economic uncertainties loom, no one should have to choose between paying for gas or wellness support.
The onus is on companies and their leadership to shine a spotlight on this important issue. By shifting the conversation from solely mental health to the more all-encompassing approach of well-being, companies can better empower employees to make decisions that support their wellness and improve their lives.
Dr. Marco Escareal is a thought leader in health promotion, wellness coaching, and workplace well-being. He is very passionate about holistic health, including its physical, mental, social, and spiritual dimensions. As such, Marco advocates for a healthy lifestyle focused on disease prevention and living life purposefully.
Marco holds a Medical Degree from the University of the Philippines, and he is a Certified Wellness Inventory Coach. Recently, he also began studying Ayurveda, the ancient medical system of India. To support his own well-being, Marco enjoys long outdoor hikes with loved ones, and he follows a daily meditation practice.