“Sleep is the gateway for a lot of things” with Dr Rachelle Scott

Ultimately it comes down to creating a healthy lifestyle that works for you — at Eden Health we specifically try to ensure members focus on healthy diet, exercise and sleep. Sleep is the gateway for a lot of things, and it can impact your mood, your ability to focus and so much more. If needed, […]

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Ultimately it comes down to creating a healthy lifestyle that works for you — at Eden Health we specifically try to ensure members focus on healthy diet, exercise and sleep. Sleep is the gateway for a lot of things, and it can impact your mood, your ability to focus and so much more. If needed, we try to dig into why someone might be having trouble sleeping and look at a range of reasons from caffeine to depression or anxiety. But the trifecta of sleep, diet and exercise is really at the core of what we try to have members think about within a routine if it’s part of their behavioral discussions. This is a process though, so we remind members that it’s not about perfection, it’s about progress.

As a part of my series about the “5 Ways That Businesses Can Help Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Rachelle Scott, a psychiatrist and Medical Director of Psychiatry at Eden Health. She received her Medical Degree from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston and completed her residency in psychiatry at the Zucker Hillside Hospital in NY. She’s worked as a consulting psychiatrist and Medical Director with the Mental Health Service Corps, an initiative of THRIVE NYC. She has many years of experience treating adult psychiatric patients in a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

As a child, I was one of those kids that was always very silent. I loved listening and being a fly on the wall. Sometimes my parents would even note that they didn’t realize I was in the room with them! I knew I wanted to be a doctor from a young age, say 6 or 7. However, I discovered psychology in high school, which is where I was able to hone in on what I was truly interested in within the medical field. I was fascinated by understanding people’s behaviors and why two people might have the same experience but react very differently from one another. I majored in psychology in college and then learned that psychiatry blended my personal goals with what I wanted as a career — a focus on mental health and listening to people’s stories. I did think for a while I wanted to be an OB GYN, but I always came back to listening to stories and helping people understand their patterns which in turn helps them in their approach to life.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

When I first said I wanted to be a psychiatrist I envisioned myself providing individual therapy using a psychodynamic approach — couch and all. While I did use this approach with my patients, I knew there were other social determinants that affected patients outside of the room we spoke. My career ultimately took me down a different path, working via a hospital within a team environment doing home visits and being part of an assertive community treatment team. This took my approach to a new level, because I was able to see my patients more holistically and experience their home life and community versus just having them in my office. Our visits were about more than whether they were taking meds, but if they had food in their fridge, support from family, a stable job and a good place to live.

Eventually I discovered the collaborative care model, which has really resonated with me due to its ability to help increase access to mental health for patients and decrease stigma at the same time. Within this model I still get to hear patient stories even if not directly and help meet patients where they are. This has been my philosophy ever since. The idea of integrating physical and mental health together, while it shouldn’t be novel, was one of the best discoveries I’ve ever made. The two areas have always been treated as separate entities and I think it’s so important that they be combined to form the whole person that is being treated. Today, working at Eden Health, this model is at the core of their platform and even looks into how to use technology to leverage access for people as well destigmatizing mental health. I’m so lucky that I’ve been able to work towards increasing awareness and decreasing stigma to give people the help they need.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

The biggest thing is making space and time for self-care. This is so important. Especially now, the balance of work and home has been so blurred that people are not shutting off or disconnecting from their never-ending workload. When you’re unable to disconnect at all, this is when burnout can occur. If someone feels like they need to be constantly on it’s harder to have a balanced perspective. There are three simple steps to try and prioritize at the end of the day:

  • Disconnect: This includes things like work, social media or anything else that drains your energy.
  • Recharge: Ensure you do something that brings you joy every day.
  • Recuperate: Take the time needed to let your body and mind rest so you can replenish your energy.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

Make sure you are leaving or creating space for employees to bring all of themselves to work. Creating a fantastic work culture comes from the top in terms of what is safe and what is allowed to talk about. Creating a safe space for dialogue is a huge part of any culture and leaders need to be showing their workforce that being vulnerable, discussing mental health and advocating for resources is top of mind. At Eden our team has started open discussions — specifically creating the space for our team to discuss issues important to them and having leadership be a part of it. It’s been great to keep everyone connected and allow time for non-work topics to be broached.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

A life lesson quote that stays with me is “The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit” — Fabienne Fredrickson.

It’s good to remember that life is a process, and everything has a season. We need not despair, but trust in the hard work and effort that we put in. This is basically how I got through medical school and residency. It also helps remind me on a daily basis that you can only do so much, so be compassionate to yourself.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. In recent years many companies have begun offering mental health programs for their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, we would love to hear about five steps or initiatives that companies have taken to help improve or optimize their employee’s mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each?

Providing a mental health solution for employees — Giving access to the appropriate resources shows your workforce that you understand and place value in how they are feeling. This is key, especially during the pandemic, in ensuring your team is taken care of beyond their work expectations in order to live their best life. As more of these solutions become available it’s also important to provide the time necessary to take advantage and step away to tackle any larger issues that may be at hand.

Open Discussions — Creating space within your organization to allow employees to bring all of themselves to work. These discussions allow employees to develop a sense of connection to their colleagues. Look at offering office hours, town halls or 1 on 1 sessions with managers where employees can speak candidly and where executives can take feedback. When safe again it will be key to create space and time in an organization for lunch and learns or communal lunch spaces so individuals can have more in depth interactions versus the zoom meetings, we all now have all day long.

Educate your Employees — Take the time to educate your workforce to identify the symptoms of burnout, anxiety and stress and when they should be concerned or ask for help. A part of destigmatizing mental health is giving everyone the tools they need to be aware and letting them know it’s OK to reach out if they are going through something. The onus is on employers to show that their employees mental health is a priority and ultimately this will yield a number of positive results in the future.

Create the Change you Want to See — While the above points are all very important, executive leadership at companies need to model the behavior they want to see. For example, by not treating time off due to mental health any different than time off due to a physical ailment and openly making it known. Allowing your workforce to say, “I’m taking today as a mental health day,” is empowering and opens up acceptance across the company. An employee shouldn’t have to feel they are lying or being judged for using their time as needed.

Celebrate the Little Things — After all is said and done, leadership needs to remember that the little things can make a big difference. If someone makes a sale, reaches a goal or just does something wonderful for others, employers should make an effort to recognize and celebrate those wins. Employees will feel more supported and connected but also can receive a confidence boost from knowing their efforts aren’t going unrecognized.

These ideas are wonderful, but sadly they are not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?

There’s a lot of things that come from the top down — from the CEO and HR. Ultimately though it’s within the one to one interaction had between colleagues, with a manager or supervisor and a direct report, that makes the difference. If a company says it’s OK to talk about mental health, the effort needs to be put in to ensure that’s true. Making weekly check in’s a part of your relationship creates space for someone to discuss things beyond work related items that may be impacting them at that point in time. Other strategies might be providing benefits such as mental health days — giving your workforce the opportunity to really use their time off and openly defining what that time is for, can make asking for that time less nerve wracking or embarrassing. Most employees feel they are unable to be honest about the need for time because it will make them look weak or untrustworthy to co-workers. This shame needs to be removed. Mental health is just as important physical health and unfortunately this is not yet commonplace within work environments.

From your experience or research, what are different steps that each of us as individuals, as a community and as a society, can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling stressed, depressed, anxious and having other mental health issues? Can you explain?

We need to try and support others around us. During a hello or an introduction, you’ll ask someone how they’re doing, and they move on quickly by saying, “I’m fine and you?” It’s important to take a step back and think about how we can make the other person realize that we truly care about the answer to that question and that we want to be there to support them through whatever might be happening. Especially during Covid, many people are experiencing bouts of isolation and loneliness like never before and are unaware of how to cope. Any kind of interaction or increased sense of connectedness can make a huge impact. Fostering connections can make all the difference in the world.

The most important thing though is for us to be able to check in with ourselves. If someone asked how I’m doing would I give the generic response and move on or do I trust who I’m speaking with and can openly share what’s going on? This should be a first step if possible, as checking in personally can actually help us be better able to provide emotional support for those we love.

Habits can play a huge role in mental wellness. What are the best strategies you would suggest to develop good healthy habits for optimal mental wellness that can replace any poor habits?

Habits tie directly to a sense of routine and can help someone foster a sense of control. When there’s a lot of uncertainty, habits can help you focus on what you know you can do every day. For example, I know when my day is going to start because I choose when I’m going to wake up. I also know that exercise is best for me in the morning so that’s the next thing that I focus on. I personally like to make my bed and plan to go to sleep around the same time every night as well. I’ve found shutting off all electronics an hour before going to bed helps me to calm myself and then I read a book and light a candle or take a bath. All of these kinds of things give us comfort and can help you set the tone for the day.

In terms of forming habits it’s helpful to understand if you’re a morning or a night person. Forming habits around your best time of the day or optimizing routine around when you know you’ll be the most productive or focused can help significantly. Once my kids returned back to school, I’ve enjoyed getting up and dropping them off which signifies the beginning of my workday and when I pick them up it signifies the end. Creating balance through habits can help to create boundaries, which many people are struggling with right now.

Ultimately it comes down to creating a healthy lifestyle that works for you — at Eden Health we specifically try to ensure members focus on healthy diet, exercise and sleep. Sleep is the gateway for a lot of things, and it can impact your mood, your ability to focus and so much more. If needed, we try to dig into why someone might be having trouble sleeping and look at a range of reasons from caffeine to depression or anxiety. But the trifecta of sleep, diet and exercise is really at the core of what we try to have members think about within a routine if it’s part of their behavioral discussions. This is a process though, so we remind members that it’s not about perfection, it’s about progress.

Do you use any meditation, breathing or mind-calming practices that promote your mental wellbeing? We’d love to hear about all of them. How have they impacted your own life?

I got into meditation via Deepak Chopra and Oprah — they have various 21-day programs, which coincidentally is how many days necessary it takes to create a habit. I’ve completed it a couple times over the years and that was my initial introduction. I really enjoyed the guided meditation with repeated mantras and a visual aspect through beautiful photography. I’ve also discovered Insight Timer which is a whole library of different meditations. You can pick what fits your schedule so you have different options between 5–30 minutes and can specify if you need a specific topic like sleep or gratitude.

There’s also another app started by a person of color called Liberate that is dedicated to educating the BIPOC community on how to infuse meditation into their daily lives. It’s one that I use and appreciate the message behind the mission.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Such a hard question — there’s so many. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri had a huge impact on me. I’m a first-generation immigrant, so the book spoke to me about being first generation, learning how to integrate into American culture and what relationships look like across generations.

As a therapist, The Body that Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk is a wonderful book about trauma. While the topic is difficult to talk about, it’s important as a society that we understand a little bit about what is defined as traumatic and what trauma looks like. Definitely one that helps to educate and bring about awareness and discussion.

Finally, I’d recommend The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I revisit this book often because there are so many pearls of wisdom that I have used to help change how I live my life. Each agreement seems simple enough yet is so powerful. With time you can forget, but this is worth re-reading.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

A free therapy session for all! I would love for everyone to be able to experience therapy just once. It’s a black box for a lot of people and can be scary. Experiencing working with a licensed professional would absolutely help educate and destigmatize the work that is done within these sessions.

The idea of therapy needs to go beyond illness and also focus on wellness. Therapy is a way to learn about one’s self and how you relate to the world around you. I would love to spread that message across different cultures and backgrounds!

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

I’d recommend those interested follow Eden Health via www.EdenHealth.com. Our blog has a number of really informative articles. I also recommend setting alerts and reading about collaborative care or integrated behavioral health when possible.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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