Mental Health Awareness Week – The importance of exercise and talking

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Guest blogger: Sarah Brindley has dedicated nearly two decades to Schneider Electric, gaining experience across many areas of the company. Presently, she spearheads marketing and business development for the Secure Power division of Schneider Electric.

Imagine a long drive through fog. You’re unable to clearly see around you and unsure if there is someone you can ask for directions, so you continue the journey alone. It sounds intense, but after many years as a Listening Volunteer at The Samaritans, this is an all too frequent feeling of loneliness and highlights the difficulties faced by people who feel alone.

Mental health has always been important to me, and I believe talking through things or taking a break and getting some exercise can make a real difference, which is why the theme for this year’s UK’s Mental Health Awareness Week is Movement: Moving more for our mental health. I’m fortunate to have two lovely dogs, which need walking and allow me to take a break every day. No calls. No emails. No distractions. However, some people don’t have the same privileges as me, and in industries where pressure is high, it can be difficult to prioritize at all.

Schneider Electric recognizes we all can have mental health challenges and has a large number of mental health first aiders trained in supporting our teams. We have several well-being initiatives that run throughout the year and work with third-party organizations to ensure we all have the support that’s right for how we’re feeling. As part of this important message, I have reached out to my colleagues Chris Holmes (Technical Services Representative), Tom Falshaw (HR Director for EO UK&I and Digital Energy), Ciaran Vaughan (Business Development Manager) and Mark Yeeles (VP Secure Power UK&I) for their thoughts and advice for others.

What do you do to take care of your mental health?

Chris Holmes: I talk a lot with family and friends; my 10-year-old son chats non-stop, which is a great joy! I got diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis during the pandemic, so I can’t exercise as much as I used to, but I do take walks and short bicycle rides.

Tom Falshaw: I’m fortunate to live in the countryside, so I really like getting out into nature and going on a run for some fresh air. When I have less time, or I’m in the office, a short walk or a walking meeting helps, and I avoid sitting in a meeting room or staring at a computer for too long.

Ciaran Vaughan: I always like to be outside where possible. I’m a keen tennis fan, so doing that with family and friends is great for my mental health. I also think going for a run or a workout helps too.

Mark Yeeles: In demanding industries, some tasks can be exhausting physically and mentally. One thing I do is give myself more credible time to be on my own to refresh my mind and spend more time with my family. I really value watching rugby or cricket with my son and walking the dog with my wife.

mental health and exercise

Why is mental health important in the world of data centers?

Chris: I think we need to remember mental health affects everyone. It can be good mental health or bad, and we experience it every day. It’s not a taboo subject, so people need to know there are resources to help them. I’m one of Schneider Electric’s mental health first aiders, and it’s really helped and supported people over the years. There’s still a huge stigma around mental health, and if we can all take time to be a little more empathetic, it can make such a difference to people.

Tom: Working in high-pressure environments puts an extra load on our mental health; therefore, how we support colleagues to build resilience or talk about issues is really important. Yes, I understand the need to meet business deliverables, but the environment people work in is equally important, where mental health is discussed and cared for.

Ciaran: This industry can be quite stressful and fast-paced, given that it is some of the most critical infrastructure in the world. It is important not to get too caught up in it that it affects your mental health.

Mark: Mental health is a challenge across all industries, but it’s important to be the change you want to see to support mental health. We are at the forefront of technological advances, making significant differences around the world, but for this to continue, we must have a healthy workforce to be able to innovate, so it’s so important that we look after the people we work with.

What advice would you give someone struggling with your mental health?

Chris: First of all, talk to someone. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a first aider, just someone you can confide in. Talking openly is the first step and can lift a huge weight!

Tom: Talk to someone. It can be a friend, family member, or anyone you feel is appropriate for how you’re feeling. This is how you can get help and support, and I really believe talking is the best start to positive mental health.

Ciaran: There are many online services that can help. If you injured your leg or felt ill, would you see someone for advice? For me it’s not dissimilar. I would also encourage physical exercise outside in fresh air, even if it’s just a walk.

Mark: If you’re struggling with your mental health, organizations such as Electrical Industries Charity (EIC) and The Sarmatians are trained to understand your challenges and provide help. When something is troubling my team, I advise them to take a breath and step away to assess what has gone wrong and what they would do differently next time. With time, we can sit down together and solve the problem. We all feel vulnerable at times, so find someone you can trust to talk to and find solutions.

It’s hard to imagine the difficulty faced by people who feel they have no one to talk to, and in the data center industry, we have a lot of challenges to deal with. If you are struggling, please don’t suffer alone; reach out to friends, family, or colleagues. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, there are several organizations that you can call and talk to without fear of judgment. Talking things through can make a real difference.

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