Prioritizing Mental Health: Championing Vulnerability, Maintaining Balance, and Finding Your Community
My journey into the technology industry has been an unconventional one. I am a first-generation Latina that was born and raised in San Jose, CA and I come from a low-income background. My goal was to not only be the first in my family to graduate from a university, but to also be the first to break into the technology industry. The pressure to set the bar higher for future generations in my family, was self-inflicted, but there nonetheless.
At a recent company wide meeting, Co-CEO Carl Eschenbach said something that really stuck with me.
“If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” — Co-CEO Carl Eschenbach
In our fast-paced and ever-changing world, it can be easy to neglect our mental health. With so many responsibilities and demands on our time, it’s common to feel stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed. However, it’s important to remember that taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. As I reflect on the past three years, I am grateful to look back and see how far I’ve come in repairing and improving my mental health. Carl’s words inspired me to be vulnerable in sharing my mental health journey in the hopes of not only breaking the stigma surrounding mental health, but to also inspire others to prioritize mental health by finding a community of people who support them.
My Mental Health Story
I was finishing my last quarter of college with 19 credits (that’s more than a full-time class load for a semester) as a Cognitive Science Major in March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic. As one can imagine, pivoting to fully-remote classes with a heavy course load posed many challenges. Combine that with eight months of job-hunting as an emerging graduate, working a part-time retail job on the weekends, juggling two virtual internships, raising a puppy and building my personal brand, I was pushed past the point of being stressed. The pressure of everything negatively affected my mental health.
“I’m having a panic attack and it’s okay.”
Those are the words I remember repeating to my parents as they called 911 to get me the help I needed. It’s as if my body was in fight or flight mode for so long that it had enough. For way too long, my plate was entirely too full and my cup was too empty.
I had never experienced anything like this, and I realized that I needed to seek help. A week and a half after starting my full time role as a Senior Associate Business Systems Analyst at Workday, I was rushed to the hospital and was diagnosed with an unspecified psychosis episode. About 200,000 people per year suffer from psychosis, which refers to a collection of symptoms that affect the mind, where there has been some loss of contact with reality. Psychosis isn’t something that is openly talked about, and there is a stigma surrounding mental health in general. Thankfully, Workday recognizes mental health as an integral part of overall health and wellbeing.
Workday’s Light Through My Darkest Moment
Workday does a great job of creating a positive culture that values mental health, prioritizes work-life balance, and encourages open communication. It’s critical to work in an environment that supports mental wellbeing, as it has a huge impact on you psychologically, raising or lowering your stress level. A supportive environment can promote positive mental health by fostering a sense of belonging, improving self-esteem, and resilience, and encouraging open communication about mental health.
Workday’s core values, especially our ‘Employees’ value, were visible to me from the very beginning of my journey to becoming a Workmate. My team was beyond understanding and supportive when I entered treatment. I was originally supposed to be on leave for three months, but unfortunately had a relapse and needed to extend my leave by another three months. From the moment my manager found out I was hospitalized, they and my team showed their support. They went above and beyond, even assisting my father with setting up Unum, our provider for personal leave. I had the space I needed, but really appreciated that Workmates reached out to check on me and see how I was doing.
My support didn’t stop when I returned from leave, either. This was my first job in the technology industry, so I was worried about returning to work and not being able to ramp up quickly. I had a generous onboarding plan with frequent one-to-one meetings that set me up for success. I also appreciate Lyra’s partnership with Workday, which provides Workmates and their loved ones with access to counseling, therapy, and self-care tools to get you through life’s challenges — 100% paid for by Workday. Because of my team’s support and the mental health resources available to me, I was able to return to work feeling healthy and supported.
Finding My Community Within Workday
One of my favorite things about Workday is the fact that the company truly values inclusion, belonging, and equity…we call it VIBE™. We all shine in different ways, and Workmates encourage one another to find a sense of community through slack groups, Workclubs, and employee belonging councils (EBCs). I joined the LatinX EBC and its leadership team early on in my time as a Workmate. Through engagement, EBCs build knowledge, create safe spaces, foster innovation, enable business initiatives, and engage in community outreach. Joining LatinX really helped me find a community of people who share common values, interests, and goals. Finding a supportive community can have positive impacts on mental health, as it can provide a sense of social support, reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, and promote a sense of belonging. The Latinx EBC also offers opportunities for personal growth, learning, and development, as well as participation in social change and advocacy. I knew I wanted to give back and help others- especially others like me that come from an underrepresented community, to help them gain exposure to the different roles in technology.
My Non-Negotiables for Maintaining Positive Mental Health
Fast forward today, I am no longer on medication and am approaching my 2 year mark at Workday in September. I believe that a healthy mind and body are essential for success, both personally and professionally, and I strive to maintain a healthy balance in all areas of my life. Prioritizing my mental health is now a necessity in maintaining good overall health and wellbeing. My non-negotiables today are journaling, self-care, fitness and therapy. I enjoy starting my days with a gym class to help get me in the right mindset prior to starting my work day, followed by a journaling prompt and setting my intentions or affirmations for the day.
I suggest carving out time throughout the day to do something that fuels your mind, body and soul.
Allow yourself to go on a walk, disconnect from technology, and practice gratitude. I recently took a course called the “Science of Wellbeing” that is a free course offered by Yale via Coursera.
It’s pretty common to think the next “big” life milestone like a job, promotion, marriage, home, perfect body or money will bring you happiness. But this course has taught me gratitude, meditation, kindness, social connection and exercise are much more important. It teaches you how to be happier, how to feel less stressed, and how to flourish more by rewiring your habits to boost mood and overall well-being.
Find What Fills Your Cup
If I could offer advice to anyone looking to improve their mental health hygiene, it would be these 5 tips:
- Carve out time to do whatever recharges you. You can’t work well when your battery is low.
- Prioritize self care by incorporating activities that promote relaxation, such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies, into your daily routine.
- Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life to avoid burnout and create time for rest and rejuvenation.
- Stay connected with friends, family, and colleagues to maintain social support and reduce feelings of isolation.
- Practice mindfulness and try to engage in the present moment.
It’s important to remember that everyone’s mental health journey is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It can be helpful to experiment with different strategies to find what works best for you.
Breaking the Mental Health Stigma
Breaking the stigma around mental health requires a collective effort to challenge stereotypes, raise awareness, and create a safe and supportive environment for people to talk about their mental health.
My tips for creating a safe space for people to talk about their mental health:
- Have open conversations, often.
- Use respectful and inclusive language.
- Offer support and understanding, free of judgment.
Leading by example, you can encourage others to do the same. And, the best way to show your support and break the stigma around mental health, is by prioritizing your own mental health and seeking help when needed.
The last few years have been a rough period for many of us, and I share my story to bring awareness. I hope it can help even just one person realize they aren’t alone, and that they shouldn’t be afraid to seek the appropriate help. I’m grateful to have found support and a sense of belonging at Workday.