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Fire Up Your Mental Health with Anthony McLean

Fire Up Your Mental Health with Anthony McLean

Self-awareness, self-compassion, self-reflection — three key ways to optimize your mental health and proactively build mentally healthy spaces both at home and work.

We were fortunate to have Anthony McLean join us as part of our client-exclusive event series, At The Spotlight. An expert on mental wellness and DEI, he drew from his new book, All Fired Up, to share simple steps to improve our mental health, ignite joy, and fuel peak performance.

Anthony has been called a “master storyteller”, and he lived up to his reputation. As soon as he started talking, he elevated the mood in the room and it’s fair to say we all left the event uplifted, inspired, and equipped to adopt a supportive mental health routine.

The Mental Health Spectrum: Resilience vs. Self-Compassion

When we’re experiencing difficult times or faced with challenge, there are two ways we can respond — draw on our resilience (our adaptability) to get through it or practice self-compassion (self-kindness) to ease our way through it.

It can be hard to balance between the two, Anthony said, because too often, in the moment, it’s hard to know which would be more effective. And, depending on the individual, he added, we need different approaches.

Anthony began his speaking career as a youth speaker on bullying. Through this experience, he discovered that kids can be split into two different groups. If a bully walked up to someone in group A and said, “you’re stupid,” they would respond with “what’s wrong with you?” They would question the bully, not themselves. Group B however would internalize it by questioning themselves, “am I stupid?”

These two very different responses require different tools. One group needs tools to help them continue growing that pool of strength we call resilience, while the other needs help practicing self-compassion in order to build up that pool. As adults, we can still fall in either group. We still have that need for self-compassion alongside resilience.

While we often default to “pushing through”, Anthony said that practicing self-compassion has been proven to reduce burnout, improve Organizational Citizenship Behaviours (OCB), and lower turnover rates.

Self-Awareness: A Crucial Future-Ready Skill

So how do we learn to balance resilience and self-compassion? How do we know which side of the mental health spectrum we should lean on in difficult moments?

This is where self-awareness comes in. The Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council called it the most important capability for leaders to develop, surpassing communication, decision-making, and adaptability.

Being proactive about our mental health requires us to know our baseline, Anthony said. We have to be aware of our mind and body so we can recognize when we’re feeling off. Are we more irritable? Are we carrying tension in our bodies? Are we more tired than usual? Etc. These are all warning signs that we need to engage in self-care — our first line of defence against burnout.

Secondly, self-awareness helps us ensure we are practicing healthy coping habits in moments of stress. It can help us catch those moments when we lean on unhealthy coping habits, such as online shopping, emotional eating, drugs and alcohol, etc., and replace them with healthier activities such as going for a walk, immersing ourselves in nature, listening to music, etc.

Building a Supportive Mental Health Routine

Anthony shared with us his go-to activities to maintain his mental health but prefaced this by saying that “what works for others, may not work for you.” There is no one-size-fits-all mental health routine, he said. It’s also an ever-evolving routine as habits that worked for us before, may not work for us now. By being self-aware, we can make these changes to our routine to keep us feeling our best. Anthony’s daily focuses include:

  1. Walking audio journal: Every morning, Anthony puts on his headphones, takes a 15-minute walk around his block, and records his thoughts, starting with “I feel… because…”
  2. Sauna: The Scandinavians know what’s up, Anthony said. A sauna session is said to boost focus, improve memory and learning, regenerate muscle tissue, and reduce depression and anxiety.
  3. Magnesium supplements: This has been proven to reduce irritability and improve mood and stress response.

Cultivating Collective Wellness

The other key component to mental wellness is the environments we’re in. Whether it’s at home or work, psychological safety weighs heavily on our general well-being.

When it comes to the workplace, Anthony said it starts with the individuals. What are you contributing to the culture? Your attitude makes a difference.

Secondly, social connections at work are a gamechanger. Lean into those work relationships, Anthony said. We are happier shoveling manure beside a friend, he continued, than working a top corporate job alone.

Lastly, take advantage of the opportunities in front of you, Anthony said. How often does a year go by where you haven’t used the full portfolio of benefits available to you through work. Use what you have and take the time to nurture what’s in front of you.

Anthony McLean delivers lively, actionable presentations on mental health, diversity & inclusion, and the intersection between them. He’s worked with such leading organizations as PepsiCo, Intel, Danone, Coca Cola, and more, showing them how to foster environments of empathy, acceptance, and mental well-being to enhance DEI work and boost individual and team performance.

Contact us to learn more about Anthony and how you can book him to speak at your next event.

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