Mental health for directors Linda Doe, IoD inclusion and diversity ambassador for Cambridgeshire and chartered and registered psychologist

From one director to another:

  • How many times have you heard about how important our wellbeing is?
  • How many statistics have you seen that show the link between poor mental health and poor productivity?

None of us are stupid or head-in-the sand, but somehow the strain and overwhelm gets to us all at times.

As a psychologist, I’ve been supporting directors for 25 years and mental health has always been at stake for such driven, ambitious, conscientious and goal-orientated individuals. It can leave us a bit blinkered at times.

I recall a turning point for one board when I asked: Do you realise every single one of you has been divorced – and every one of you has told me your job was implicated. And you run this company. Is it how you want it to be for the next generation of directors? A penny dropping moment. But why wait for the next generation to benefit from what we know.

Yes, we are seeing a surge in anxiety. And a weird residual sense of fear, vigilance or uncertainty is hanging around post pandemic. It has thrown many of us. That’s a normal response by the way to what has been going on. I think we are a resilient lot – but we do need to respond to all those statistics somehow and remind ourselves what we have learnt through our own experience as directors – and take steps to manage our well-being for our sake and for those we work alongside.

What keeps us in good mental health?

The mind and brain stuff:

Some of this stuff you undoubtedly know – it’s to do with the mind and how we manage our cognitive load.

  • Managing time and workload to avoid overwhelm
  • Taking a step back to avoid paralysis by analysis – and when we can’t see the wood for the trees
  • Delegating, recruiting well, having a great support team
  • Having diverse and complementary thinkers, problem solvers and decision-makers

Then there is the more emotional stuff:

  • Avoiding comparing ourselves to others and beating ourselves up when we fall short
  • Ensuring connection, inclusion and engagement within our work relationships, up, down, sideways

And is it really ‘normal’ to build relationships or make connections through a screen interface? Of course it’s not. So why are we pretending it’s fine and embracing it with open arms, which are often folded whilst the video is turned off.

  • Maintaining relationships outside of work that feed and support us – marriages, partnerships, friendships, family, community, professional support

And the plain old physical underpinnings of good mental health and well-being:

  • Breathing properly – try it – start your breath before you move rather than move and let your breath catch you up – it’s a game changer for well-being
  • Sleep – enough of it and enough switching off to make sure it’s sound – listening to our dreams, which are windows into our gut and intuition and what’s really going on (when was the last time you wrote down a dream and gave it the time of day?)
  • Eating. Sometimes just giving the time to eat during the day is a challenge – and we all know the benefits to both mind and body of eating well
  • Exercise – moving, physically de-stressing – the odd massage afterwards to relax and detox – why not?

Most importantly right now – having a purpose we believe in

The most important of all and what brings everything together in mental wellness. Everything can fall into place when we get this right. It’s a core challenge to mental health that is heightened right now. A pandemic, Brexit and the ever-expanding expectations of those new to the business world has left many of us thinking – what’s the point, why am I doing this?

How can I live, do, be and run my business in a way that makes me feel good?

This could be your penny dropping moment.

This is a guest blog and therefore does not necessarily represent the views of the Institute of Directors.

Better directors for a better world

The IoD supports directors and business leaders across the UK and beyond to learn, network and build successful, responsible businesses.

Creating an inclusive and diverse workplace

Browse valuable diversity resources from the IoD.
Internet Explorer
Your web browser is out of date and is not supported by the IoD website. It is important to update your browser for increased security and a better web experience.