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What is Mental Nutrition?

Put simply it’s the fuel we feed our brains in order to have a well-adjusted and healthy life. Paying attention to our mental nutrition helps us manage our emotions, deepen our empathy, create a toolkit to handle adversity and unplanned crisis, as well as to deepen our fulfillment of the day to day.

Mental nutrition is partly interchangeable for mental health; and we as a society are so afraid to mention it or even say the words mental health, as if they’re dirty words and someone else’s problem or for those “unhinged” and seemingly unproductive members of society. The hell it is.

The functioning of your brain, healthy or unhealthy, isn’t “all in your head,” as if you’re making things up, just like if you have lung cancer, it’s not just “all in your lungs.” Mental health is a brain event and very real just like lung cancer is a lung event and very real.

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We must not bury our heads in the sand or be fearful of opening Pandora’s Box if we start learning about and taking care of our mental nutrition. The healthier our brain, the more fulfilling and productive and happy our life will be. We must be intentional about taking care of our mental nutrition.

Mental nutrition is important for the individual. For the team leader. For the manager. For the corporation. For the system and for the collective.

It starts with me. It starts with you. It starts with us…together.

How to Support a Colleague Going through a Difficult Time

Helping and holding space with a colleague while going through a difficult time can be incredibly confusing. People are often reticent to be around someone going through a difficult time because they don’t know what to say or are afraid to say the wrong thing. 
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But the best way to help a person going through a difficult time is to simply go to that person, in a private and respectful place, of course, and first acknowledge that they are going through a difficult time. Then validate what they are going through by saying things like: 
  • “that must be difficult,” 
  • “I feel for you,” or 
  • “you’re brave…” 
…as long as it comes from a genuine and caring place. 

Then ask them if they want to talk about it or if they want advice or if they want to scream or cry or take a walk to let off steam. You don’t have to have all the answers and you won’t be able to fix their problem. 

Try not to say things like: 
  • “I feel bad for you.” No one wants pity. People would much rather have empathy; so the phrase “I feel bad for you,” becomes, “I feel for you.” 
  • “It's going to get better,” because you can’t keep that promise nor can you actually predict when it’s going to get better. Instead, you can say, “it’ll get different,” because that is a promise you can keep. Life is full of ups and downs; it will get better, not so good, and then better again. 
  • “I know how you feel” because you don’t. Just be there and be present.
Simply giving them the space to express themselves goes a long way in helping that colleague going through a hard time.

How to Reframe your Thinking to Get a Better Outcome

So you want a better outcome on whatever you're looking to achieve. In order to work toward a better outcome you must acknowledge that the current outcome is not an end point but rather a lesson on the way to success. We often have some idea of what we want an outcome to look like and then act on what we perceive to be the first steps toward achieving it. But instead of doing that, identify how you want to feel after you’ve achieved that outcome and then trace your steps backwards from the end point all the way to the beginning.

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Rehearse in your head and out loud what a successful outcome would look and feel like. Use past experiences of success to inform this. 
  • What did the success feel, look, and sound like? 
  • How did you handle it? 
  • Had you experienced any other successes prior to the occurrence you’re thinking of and if so, can you dig deep and analyze to find patterns that led to each of those successes? 
If you do find a pattern, you can use it to inform the actions you take while you’re working toward achieving this new goal. 
One thing to note here: don’t fall into the trap of becoming attached to the outcome you’ve created in your rehearsals. And don’t fall into the trap of only relying on actions from past successes to inform future successes. You’re essentially practicing only so you can train your brain to be more accustomed to what success feels like and can then make it more of a habit.
I have no doubt that by taking any or all of these actions, you will be on the path toward a better outcome in no time.