In filling the cups of others, make sure to fill your own cup

Lindsay Powers
Lindsay Powers

Human resource professionals play rewarding and vital roles in fostering positive outcomes for employees by promoting wellness and providing platforms for support, including mental health resources.

The process can take a toll, though. HR professionals not only help employees deal with their troubles, but also deliver the bad news of terminations, layoffs and benefit cutbacks. Moreover, the confidentiality requirements of HR can lead to feelings of isolation. When was the last time you, as an HR professional, took steps to care for yourself? When was the last time you used your employee assistance plan to alleviate the stress of work or life?

HR professionals typically offer mental health education and support to the work force, not the other way around. But it’s important to practice what we preach. What steps can HR professionals take to care for themselves?

Raise awareness. This requires a look at yourself and your HR department to begin the discussion of creating a culture of awareness and safety. Culture starts here.

Break down barriers. Preserving confidentiality is a reality. So how can support still be attained while maintaining status quo? Think critically about what must change, and take steps to institute those changes. 

Change your mindset. Too often people become stagnant and have a hard time imagining work without the stress or burden that’s become the norm. No rule requires this level of stress, so change it.

Be mindful. Mindfulness is powerful. Remaining present in each moment and recognizing how that affects you and those around you connects you to people and situations in deeper, more meaningful ways. It’s just as important, though, to remain aware of when situations end and disconnect for self-preservation.

Build resilience. Resilience is a familiar buzzword in the HR world. Skills to build resilience include optimism, attitude and behavior. Act in specific ways to stay balanced with competing priorities and difficult emotions. Practice resilience, talk about what you practice and use support networks to find effective and sustainable ways to build and rebuild resilience.

Lead the change. Recognizing the time to reach out for support and acting on the signs creates an example to emulate. Author and lecturer Marianne Williamson said: “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” Take action.

Of course, all this is easy to say, put down on paper and consider the benefits. But it’s time for change, to cure the stigma and take action within ourselves. The duty of the human resource professional is to maintain the balance of the organization, to pivot between leadership and work force to keep the organization moving forward. Diminished productivity in the individual support professional decreases the effectiveness of the overall organization.

It’s OK to need help. It’s OK to ask for help. To continue to fill the cups of others, it’s required. Don’t allow yourself to buy into the mental health stigma. Cure the stigma. Start with yourself.