In the past, many organizations believed that by focusing benefits on an employee’s physical health and fitness, they were offering holistic tools for overall well-being. However, it’s become apparent that to create a healthy and resilient workforce, organizations must also think about mental fitness in the workplace. Mental fitness is much more than a buzzword—offering tools for emotional and mental well-being isn’t just a nice-to-have. In today’s climate of uncertainty and mounting stress, it’s essential.
Omar Dawood, Chief Medical Officer and Head of Sales at Calm, has seen the benefits (and necessity) of tuning mental fitness muscles throughout his life. This constant practice of honing inner strength has shaped his leadership style and the workplace culture at Calm. He shares his learnings about mental fitness, why it’s something all companies should invest in, and how to build mental fitness both individually and across an organization.
Well-being beyond physical fitness
Caring for the needs of your brain and emotions may not be as widely recognized as the need to move your physical body with regular exercise, but one doesn’t function as well without the other. As a clinician and entrepreneur, performing at a high level has always been top of mind for Dawood.
“I learned at an early age, because of points of adversity that I met as a teenager with stage four cancer, that you can tune your body as much as you want—but you’ll never really reach peak performance without having a strong mind and a true practice around mental fitness,” he recalls. “Mental fitness became central to me early on, and has permeated my entire life.”
Dawood defines mental fitness as the practice of strengthening your mind to be able to deal with the stresses and anxieties that life has to offer, and notes it’s an ongoing practice that requires everyday work.
The rise of mental fitness
While traditional resources to encourage mental fitness aren’t new, the idea of strengthening the muscles of the mind in preparation of whatever challenges lie ahead is becoming more well-known—and less stigmatized—in the corporate world. “That concept of getting your brain into an optimal mindset, building mental strength and resilience has been there, it just may not have been fully expressed,” explains Dawood.
Just as basketball players visualize the ball swishing through the hoop, and bodybuilders visualize the muscles contracting in a bicep curl, mental fitness is training for the brain. “Mental fitness doesn't just mean sitting in a corner on a carpet, crossing your legs, and meditating with candles around,” says Dawood. “It can be something as simple as taking 30 seconds a day to relax your mind and think about what you have ahead of you so that you approach a day with clarity.”
Mental fitness for an optimized workplace
When management demonstrates and leads with a mentally fit mindset, that consciousness permeates throughout the organization. The more self-aware, mindful, and focused a company, the more successful. Many people practice aspects of mental fitness without labeling it (or even knowing it!), especially in the workplace.
Examples of mental fitness at work
Take a deep, grounding breath before an interview or a presentation to calm thoughts and train your focus.
Concentrate on simply listening during a meeting or 1:1, drawing awareness to a single topic and truly hearing what another has to say—without the distraction of thinking what you’ll say next.
Take a deliberate pause after receiving an email with an idea you don’t agree with before responding, to allow for less reactivity.
Dawood details his mental fitness practice, crediting the addition of stillness and silence to begin and end his days to his ability to self-reflect throughout the day. Another aspect of mental fitness that’s been essential for Dawood? Listening. “Listening has been a really key part of mental fitness for me because by listening to others and listening to feedback, I've learned how to better understand people around me—and that's helped me better understand myself in my interactions with them.”
Dawood explains that cultivating mental fitness in the workplace takes time—and the best way to start is by offering accessible tools and resources for employees. And because the practice of mental fitness will look different for each person, having options for your workforce to train their mind in the way they deem most fitting is important. Proactively offering these types of employee benefits is the best way to ensure adoption. “When you don’t invest in the employee’s whole self, you can’t win—and that includes the mind. I think it's an immensely important aspect.”
Build a happier, healthier, more resilient workforce with the world’s #1 platform for mental fitness. Learn more about adding Calm for Business as an employee benefit here.