“Spring Cleaning” Starts With You—Mental Health Awareness Month

by Paula Huntzinger

It’s been a long year for everyone. Yet, at times it feels like we are rounding a corner—people are getting vaccinated and businesses are opening up. The May weather, spring flowers, and longer hours of daylight encourage us to feel seasonally optimistic.

I think of May as being about Mother’s Day and planting flowers, making summer plans, and getting outside to walk and enjoy the day—many things we have longed for during the pandemic’s winter months. But I am feeling a little internal resistance at the prospect of diving in, maybe in part because our recent days have been shaped by long workdays from our homes, being socially isolated, and staying indoors to avoid the cold. It might take some effort to “spring clean” my own mind and give myself permission to gradually embark on the things that used to seem so effortless.

It’s great to see so much attention focused on mental health awareness in May. We have all been personally impacted by this difficult time, even if some of us may feel as though we have had it easier than others we know. We have been resilient, helped one another through difficult times, navigated through change, and gotten things done at home, for our families, and at work.

“…self-care starts with me…I have an opportunity to ‘spring clean’ my habits and behaviors and show others that I am proud of making the effort to do so.”

I am delighted by the fantastic programming available through our workplaces. WPP, our parent company, is offering a month of mental health resources including guided meditation, coaching and learning sessions, chats on curated topics led by our mental health partners, and a conversation with WPP leaders on practicing gratitude, which is scheduled for the end of May. Our new Ogilvy Chief People Officer, James Kinney, developed impactful programming for our colleagues called 100% You, weekly 1-hour sessions to learn tactics to care for ourselves, from the perspectives of mind, movement, money, and meals , as well as speared a number of safe room discussions on DE&I issues that continue to weigh so heavily on so many of us. There are articles and blogs, and resources such as this one from Mental Health America, to inspire us to care for ourselves. We all know intellectually that taking care of ourselves is important. But it can be like so many other things: you encourage your friends and colleagues to take time for themselves, but think to yourself, “I have too much to do,” or “I will make time for this later.” This can, inadvertently, send a signal to our friends and colleagues that I may say I want this for you, but I won’t be making it a priority for myself.

I saw this article about mental health month from the National Council for Behavioral Health and felt inspired by the call to action to share, through social media, how each of us is taking care of ourselves. It reminded me that self-care starts with me, that I have an opportunity to “spring clean” my habits and behaviors and show others that I am proud of making the effort to do so.

Maybe this May, in addition to making the time to take care of our mental health, we can go one step further and tell our friends and colleagues about what we are doing. Like peer pressure (but backwards), we can be positive role models to show we think that we are worth it, implying with words—and actions—that they are too.

I hope that the warmer, sunnier May days give each of us the motivation to carve out a little time to invest in our own wellbeing. I am going to, and will tell my friends I did.