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Managing grieving employees: Two behavioral signs of mental health distress

Tips and coping techniques to navigate these murky waters

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My Sister Soul Tribe in Vieques, P.R. (Nov.2019)
My Sister Soul Tribe in Vieques, P.R. (Nov.2019)

Performance Reviews come around at least once a year. As a people manager, 2020 performance assessments were very different for my team. I am reviewing them for their efforts during the first pandemics of their lives. The virus and the mental health pandemics came together, and all of us are experiencing it first-hand, with some being personally a victim of one or both. While reviews should never be taken lightly, the 2020 reviews are especially difficult. As a people manager, it’s tough to ever tell if you know everything about your employees. So you must proceed with compassion and awareness that you may have a myopic lens only on what is visible, but not the whole picture of their life story and experiences.

“Now, every time I witness a strong person, I want to know: What dark did you conquer in your story? Mountains do not rise without earthquakes.”

Katherine MacKenett, Survivor Quote

As someone who has experienced debilitating loss throughout 2020, I know what it feels like to be on the other side. I’ve learned first-hand to identify signs of distress due to the preventable deaths and accompanying PTSD as a result of it. In the last two decades alone, preventable deaths have spanned the gamut: homeland terrorism, lack of healthcare resources, suicide, cancer, and much more. Below are some tips on how to assess mental health distress, and what to do once you’ve noted it along with four coping techniques to consider if you are taking an active role in your employees healing journey.

Two signs of mental health distress: 

  • Acting out of character
    • If you aren’t sure, take a look back at previous reviews, if available. 
    • Ask colleagues who may know your employee better than you.
  • Too many or not enough PTO days requested
    • This is a sliding scale and difficult to assess so let’s focus on “not enough.” Your employee has suffered debilitating loss yet only took a few days off given they are extremely dedicated to their job. Grief is not handled in a few days off.  Grief unfolds in our hearts over years. The deeper the connection to the loved ones lost, the deeper the grief, and the longer the time to heal.

Mental health action plan

Grieving requires time to decompress and reset, constantly. You may want to tap into HR to determine what is an appropriate amount of time off per month that your employee can take as mental health time off.  Remember: we are still living through both mental and viral pandemics, and the former has ramifications that may not fully manifest for years.

Four coping techniques

  • Personal Nutrition and Wellness Coach: A certified coach is life-changing, and it’s never too late!
    • I’m personally in a 12 week program, a healing journey through coaching. Amy is my Personal Nutrition and Wellness Coach. She is coaching me through building life-long habits for a healthy lifestyle, filled with amazing nutritious recipes, tips and tricks. 
  • Yoga: Think of it as a toolbox with endless tools.
    • The 8 Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga’ – knowing, understanding, and acting on these life principles has radically changed my life, and if you’re open to it check it out.
  • Grounding: Time in nature is soothing to your atma.
    • Find time to either stand in sunlight inside your home or outside, if possible. Aim for 30 minutes a day. Fresh air and mother nature are natural endorphin boosters.
  • Essential oils: Diffuse, anoint, consume.
    • The power of essential oils is remarkable. I’ve seen a tremendous uptick in my yoga community’s use of it over the past year, and I’ve become a huge believer in it. I’m seeing how various oils are soothing my anxiety, headaches, stress levels and much more.    

If you’re interested in learning more on the techniques above, stay tuned. I’m going to continue to share my knowledge on self-love, healing, and showing compassion. To learn more coping techniques, check out my previous blog: 10 Tools for Well-being in Action: The Path to Healing.

Remember: be the type of energy that no matter where you go, you always add value to the spaces & lives around you. I’m honored to open the door to healing for you and your loved ones. 

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