Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: mental health

The Talent Development Centre includes advice for independent contractors in IT from one of Canada’s top staffing and recruitment agencies. See all posts about mental health.

How IT Contractors Can Take Better Breaks

All IT contractors can relate to how easy it is to get caught up in a project and let time fly by. You pour back coffee and energy drinks to keep moving towards your end goal and eventually hours have flown by and you haven’t left your computer. You may end those days thinking you maximized your productivity, but did you really? Even if you did, was it enough to justify the negative consequences of skipping a break? According to a ton of recent research, you’re not doing yourself any favours.

Taking a Break is a Good Thing

Study after study has proven that taking a break throughout your day is indeed a good thing. On top of simply being refreshed physically, when you step away from a task that requires a lot of thinking power, it gives your analytical processing skills a break. When you return, your renewed energy — both mentally and physically — allows you to solve problems faster, which in return, boosts your productivity.

But delivering a better solution to your client shouldn’t be your only motivation to take a break. A pause from work is important to your own well being. Accepting that you should have time away from your desk means you’ll open up more time to exercise and eat properly through your day. You can also run some personal errands and tasks, which will free up your evening, ease a stressed out mind, and maximize work-life balance.

How to Take the Best Breaks

We understand. Taking a break is much easier said than done, especially in the IT industry when you have to deal with emergencies, outages and tight deadlines. IT contractors can’t just get up from your desk and leave… or can you? Keep in mind that you are a contractor, and not an employee — you are entitled to work any hours you please as long as you continue to honour the agreement between you and your client. Here are a few tips to take the most effective breaks:

  • Fully detach. When you take a break, turn your mind off completely from the task-at-hand and change your train-of-thought.
  • Move around. This will help with the previous point. Get away from your desk, go outside, and get some exercise.
  • Be social. Breaks are better with others and the social aspect will help you recharge. Just be careful not to distract your client’s employees.
  • Avoid all screens. When you go outside to recharge your batteries and get your mind off things, your phone is going to be a hinderance. If you must bring it with you, put it on silence and turn off email alerts.
  • Take a nap. Research has proven that a quick 20-30 minute nap can have significant health benefits for some people. Meditation is also an option that will clear your mind.
  • Do something else. Perhaps you don’t want to take a full break. Completing entirely separate, irrelevant tasks will let you stay productive AND temporarily break from your current project.
  • Take Microbreaks. Often when we think of a break it’s the traditional 1-hour lunch break, but productivity experts also encourage microbreaks throughout the day. For example, 90 minutes on/20 minutes off or 25 minutes on/5 minutes off.
  • Try any one of these 51 ideas to do when you need a break from The Muse.

Taking breaks isn’t just important at work but everywhere in life. Home DIY projects get done with more care when there are breaks, gamers see more success when they let their mind rest for a few minutes, and resumes are written much more clearly when you review them with a fresh set of eyes. How often do you take a break?

Do You Have the “Winter Blues”? It’s Time to Talk About It

Do You Have the "Winter Blues"? It's Time to Talk About ItLast week, the country’s social media accounts were once again taken over by Bell Let’s Talk, a day encouraging people to discuss mental health issues while raising money for mental health initiatives at the same time. In the spirit of that initiative, let’s talk about one of the most common mental illnesses to hit the workplace this time of year, Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

Year-round, independent contractors are concerned with their health.  Not only is there a health concern but also a financial impact when taking unpaid sick days. Especially in the winter, you do whatever you can to avoid a terrible cold or flu but how much are you doing to treat mental health illnesses like SAD? Surely, this is also something that can lead to decreased productivity or prolonged periods of time off.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), SAD, also sometimes known as the Winter Blues, is a type of clinical depression that can last until Spring and is the result of shortening days with less sunlight that result in people feeling extra gloomy. While it’s common for us to have down days, those affected by SAD feel the symptoms for longer periods of time.  Inc. recently published a post describing 9 of these subtle signs:

  1. You’re irritable and sensitive to stress
  2. You get into little arguments
  3. You have low energy
  4. You dread previously enjoyable social activities
  5. You feel a general sense of apathy towards your goals
  6. You have trouble concentrating
  7. Your appetite changes
  8. You have trouble making decisions
  9. You need more recovery time

If you find you experience these symptoms for long periods of time, the CMHA recommends you schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss options. There are a number of treatments including light therapy, medication and lifestyle changes. Melody Wilding, a social worker and blogger committed to helping women overcome emotional challenges of success, also provides 3 quick and simple ways to stave off the winter blues:  Put effort into getting dressed at work, try a negative detox, and bookend your days.

How do you ensure you remain healthy throughout the Winter?

Mental Health Should Be an Everyday Conversation

Are there parallels we can draw from the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements?  These same hashtags could be used to draw attention to Mental Health. I’m sure we can all say #MeToo to the question, “Have you ever suffered from mental health?” And of those who suffer from mental illness, who wouldn’t say “#TimesUp”? The time is up for discrimination against those with mental health issues, the time is up for hiding at home feeling like a failure because you couldn’t drag yourself out of bed because of a heightened state of anxiety, the time is up for being abused and bullied at school or at work because people see you as ‘different’, and the time is up for silence. It IS time to talk!

Bell Let's TalkAnd while Bell Let’s Talk Day is a super initiative, is it enough to just talk about Mental Health once a year? Hell no, it should be an everyday conversation. We have to change society’s mindset, our mindset, and that takes time which is why we need to talk about it now, and every day. For example, some common exchanges should be like this:

  • You to your boss:Can we change the time of the meeting? I can feel a bipolar episode coming on and I need to get to the doctor asap
    Your boss to you:Sure, that’s no problem; I’ll push the date back. Give me an update when you have time and we can talk through what else you need, I here to help you
  • You to a friendI can’t deal with everything on my plate — I’m really overwhelmed and it is getting to me
    Your friend to you:I can see you are upset, I’m going stay with you. Let’s talk more and see if we can find a way to get you through it. Plus we know there is professional help out there if you need it, so you are not alone

We have legislation in place that protects human rights and punishes those who discriminate both for the workplace and for public services but it is our everyday actions that need to be called out. It is our interactions, biases and perceptions we need to correct. Can we get celebrities to talk more freely about their struggles? Can we come up with a ‘catchy’ phrase in 3 words or less that would propel a ‘movement’? We need the people in power to demonstrate the importance of talking about mental health, that it is OK to have mental illness, and that even with a Mental Illness, you can still be a productive member of society and lead a fulfilling life. It is not shameful or weak, it’s the beautiful DNA that no-one else shares — it’s YOU.

We stopped smoking in bars and restaurants, we upped the ante when it comes to drinking and driving, and we are moving forward on the issue of Workplace Sexual Harassment thanks to a bunch of Hollywood celebs. We’ve got this, we can change the world, bit by bit, we can be that change, just by talking, by caring about people, and yes, even by hashtags.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Breigh Radford By Breigh Radford,
Director, Human Resources at Eagle

Let's Talk About Mental HealthIt’s about time we started talking about Mental Health, not just in the workplace but everywhere — at schools, at the dinner table — we need to make it a part of our everyday vernacular.  Why? Why now? Is it just another buzz word?  Hardly.

Mental Health is what it implies: health for the mind. There are too many examples of workplace violence where the root cause, given by officials, is the mental health of the perpetrator.  How many examples have to be given before we take action?  How many people have to suffer in silence before being heard?  How many generations have to go through the pain of stigma? The solution begins with a conversation. Why wouldn’t you want to talk about it… heck, we talk about everything else!

One of the ways we talk about mental health is through our social involvement and sharing our stories.  At Eagle, we encourage a community approach to promote all health.  We partner with a national gym to give staff a membership discount, therefore, boosting physical well-being.  This in turn helps deal with anxiety and depression; it also gets employees involved in another social circle, helping reduce feelings of isolation. We encourage discussions through workshops, have information posted on the company intranet and send the team regular emails on the topic. I myself attended a Mental Health First Aid workshop in order to provide immediate support for anyone who is in crisis.   This all helps create an environment where mental health can be spoken about freely and without stigma.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?

There are lots of initiatives to help generate discussion on this subject, with more and more people speaking up and getting involved.  How can you help? Get educated about mental health!  Listen to people in a non-judgemental way; let them talk freely and comfortably about problems.  Help the person feel hope and optimism; it is after all, a real medical condition.  Encourage them to seek help and guidance; there are a ton of effective treatments out there.

Today, January 25th is Bell Let’s Talk Day, where every time you talk, text and join in on social media, Bell will donate 5¢ more to mental health initiatives. The goal is to open discussion about mental illness and offer new ideas and hope for those who struggle. In addition, the first week in May is National Mental Health Week. What happens the rest of the year is up to you. How will you join the conversation and help end the stigma on Mental Health?

Mental Health: Important for Independent Contractors

And What They Can Do To Improve It

Why Mental Health Is Important for Independent Contractors and What They Can Do To Improve ItTaking steps to de-stress and manage your wellbeing is important for both your own happiness as well as your performance at work. Being an IT independent contractor can sometimes be more stressful than working full-time – a lack of surety about future work and regular changes in workplaces and colleagues aren’t easy for everyone to handle. But that’s okay – here are 4 simple tips for improving your mental health.

  1. Healthy Eating
    Pay attention to your diet – it’s important not just for your physical health but your mental wellbeing too. Nutritionist Naomi Mead suggests that you carry healthy snacks around with you, such as fresh fruit and raw nuts: “This takes away the element of choice when you are out and about and faced with temptation. It also gives you something to snack on and distract you if you get a craving for cake!” Taking a lunchbox to work can be both a cheap and healthy option – you can pack enough to keep going throughout the day, and it will help you to resist the temptation of a visit to the vending machine. Fruit-based snacking or ‘grazing’ is particularly good for getting you through a long day, while still allowing you to eat healthily!
  2. Gardening and the Great Outdoors
    People experience varying levels of stress depending on their access to outdoor space. Gardening at weekends or even for half an hour after work can help you de-stress and recharge after a long day in front of the computer. You could also have a go at rearranging your garden furniture, using ideas of feng shui to encourage a sense of peace and wellness in your garden.
  3. A Support Network
    Creating and maintaining a social network of other independent contractors specializing in information technology can be highly beneficial to your mental health. If things become particularly stressful and your mental wellbeing suffers due to your work, having a group of like-minded people sympathetic to your situation can be a great support. Maintaining strong relationships with other friends and family will also improve your mental health, but having people around you who understand the specific pressures of working on tech projects can be especially helpful!
  4. Yoga
    Ever tried yoga? Popular reasons for taking it up include stress relief and the improvement of physical/mental health according to Harvard. The majority of practitioners report a strong sense of mental clarity too. Another benefit of yoga is that you can do it pretty much anywhere! If you have a spare 20 minutes in your lunch break, try and find a nearby green space – it’s the perfect activity to do outside, relaxing your mind and body as well as getting you out in the open air.

About the Author
Irma Hunkeler works for BlueGlass.co.uk, a digital marketing agency. Her experience includes working for clients in different industries such as travel, retail, recruitment, technology and charitable institutions. Meeting professionals from different fields allows her to collaborate with industry experts for her writing.