World Mental Health Day 2023: Asking the community

Being a company secretary or governance professional comes with a unique set of challenges. The responsibility of ensuring compliance, managing sensitive information, meanwhile liaising with various stakeholders can be overwhelming. This can lead to anxiety, which, if not addressed, can hinder your wellbeing and performance. In recognition of World Mental Health Day, we will be exploring some practical strategies from our community to help company secretaries and governance professionals to deal with anxiety effectively and thrive in their roles.

Identifying anxiety

Tip 1: Identify when stress or anxiety about work are starting to have a negative impact on your wellbeing and speak to someone about it.

The first step in dealing with anxiety is acknowledging its presence. It is important to recognise that anxiety is a natural response to high-pressure situations. Accepting it as a normal part of the job can reduce the stigma and make it easier to address. Juan Moore FCG, MD at Resolute Consultancy Limited, elaborates:

“We are all subject to stress. Stress in itself is not bad. It can motivate us and focus energy, we can enjoy the stress of a roller coaster or a horror film. However, when we experience too much stress, things start to go wrong. At work we might be under constant pressure to meet tight deadlines, client complaints might feel personal, we may have unrealistic targets to meet etc. In our personal lives we may be coping with the death of a loved one, moving house, divorce etc. Often these major events can happen in a short space of time.

“Before anything else we need to recognise the problem. Signs that stress is becoming problematic might include problems sleeping, difficulty concentrating or irritability. These warning signs should not be ignored. If you can, chat to someone about what is going on. If there is culture of wellbeing in the workplace, talk to your manger. Ask for more time for tasks, or a reduction in your workload. Perhaps you can be allowed to work more flexible hours to sort out any family problems. Take regular breaks, including a full lunch hour away from the office.

“Look after yourself; exercise can prove highly beneficial. Take time to do things you enjoy, perhaps reading or listening to music. Writing about the problem and your feelings can be a highly effective coping mechanism. Most importantly, you must be kind to yourself. Accept things being difficult and that it is ok not to be ok.”

Being open

Tip 2: Make time to foster strong relationships with your colleagues to avoid feelings of isolation, especially if you are working in a predominantly remote role.

Tip 3: Set boundaries to ensure that you’re able to say ‘no’ when you need to.

Building strong relationships with colleagues and stakeholders is essential. Clear and open communication fosters trust and ensures that everyone is on the same page. Do not hesitate to seek clarification if you are unsure about a task or decision, especially when you are busy. Most importantly you should make sure to use that openness to build personal connections with your team to ensure that you have people to reach out to. As Louisa Christofilou ACG, Chartered Company Secretary & Governance Professional points out:

“As a remote worker who very rarely gets the opportunity to meet with clients face to face, I have found it especially important to find alternative ways to connect with the teams I work with. From holding regular video calls instead of relying on email, to taking advantage of opportunities for team events rather than opting out and staying at home, I also ensure that I join groups and committees with a common purpose of improving wellbeing within the organisation. This has led to me establishing a great relationship with my line manager, by making sure I’m being honest and open when I’m struggling. Ultimately, by being open I have learnt when to say ‘no’ when I am pushed beyond my limits.”

Practice self-care

Tip 4: Make time to do the things that help you to recharge.

Taking care of your physical and mental wellbeing is paramount. Regular exercise, a balanced diet and adequate sleep can significantly reduce anxiety levels. Additionally, consider incorporating mindfulness techniques or meditation into your daily routine.

“Navigating the delicate dance between nurturing mental wellbeing and work pressures involves establishing boundaries, taking meaningful breaks, and engaging in activities that uplift your spirits. A harmonious mind boosts productivity and forms the foundation for a well-balanced work-life, ensuring a harmonious blend of personal wellbeing and professional success. Please don't hesitate to seek professional help if necessary.” Kim-Adele Randall, CEO, Authentic Achievements.

For non-profit organisations

Tip 5: Build your professional network to create opportunities to learn from peers and share experiences.

The above points are just as important for those working in the not-for-profit sector, as Mike Ruiter interim CEO at Rochdale and District Mind explains:

“For those working or volunteering in the charity sector, the importance of looking after one’s own mental health whilst navigating an organisation through permacrisis, is both pivotal to the success of the charity and your own long-term health. The same universal building blocks (human connection, exercise, diet, etc) apply, and for those who are time-poor it could help to combine work and play. Try a charity networking event that is focused on peers sharing stories, to discover that you’re not alone and learn how others are coping. The act of listening will boost your dopamine and help your wellbeing. Organise a team lunch and ask everyone to bring in healthy foods or take some colleagues for an afternoon walk in the park. Maybe your next meeting could be done outside instead of over Zoom. Whatever you do, ensure that you start with small steps and that you reflect on the difference those made.”

Growth mindset

Tip 6: Give yourself permission to fail; shift your mindset and see it as a chance to learn.

The world of work is constantly evolving. Embrace a growth mindset and be open to learning from both successes and failures. This adaptability will not only make you more effective in your role, but it will also help to reduce anxiety about the unknown.

Dealing with anxiety at work is a common challenge, but it is one that can be effectively managed with the right strategies. By acknowledging and accepting anxiety, establishing clear priorities, and maintaining open communication; you can navigate your role with confidence and success. Remember, taking care of your wellbeing is a crucial part of being an effective company secretary or governance professional. Implementing these strategies, can help you to excel in your professional life and have a balanced and fulfilling career.


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