Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Last Sunday in Berlin, Eliud Kipchoge broke the marathon world record, steaming into the history books with a time of 2 hours, 1 minute, 39 seconds - smashing the previous, 2014 record by over a minute. Commentators looked on in awe; as the Telegraph’s correspondent put it, ‘Humans are not supposed to do this kind of thing.’
Kipchoge’s physical abilities are renowned, and he combines these with a mental strength built on a strong personal philosophy. He trained hard for this moment, and he had a team behind him paving the way for this record to be smashed - not least the pacemakers who ran with him part of the way. They set the bar on stamina, they encourage and drive, embodying the grit needed to achieve these superhuman levels. When it comes to physical fitness and performance, even extraordinary individuals have to work hard and have the right support in place to achieve their peak.
But what of our mental fitness? Mental fitness is the baseline psychological welfare necessary for any of us to thrive and achieve to the best of our abilities. It’s the emotional stability that allows for mental health and functioning in our everyday lives, and it’s built on building blocks we all know about: Eating well, getting enough sleep, nurturing strong friendships and relationships.
In the UK, mental fitness in our working lives is in crisis. The mental health charity Mind released findings last week that in the UK half of all working adults are affected by poor mental health. That’s right, 50% of employees. On top of that, 300,000 people lose their job every year due to a mental health problem.
Workload and poor relationships with managers and colleagues were reported as the most common causes of mental ill-health. Not only are employees suffering, but half of those struggling with their mental health also don’t say anything to managers due to fears about job security, and shame. For businesses, this is an enormous problem: Not only are employees unwell, but many of them don’t feel able to seek out the support that could enable them to get better.
It’s time for a change. We need a huge cultural shift in our attitude to mental health, particularly at work. We need to put the same effort into our mental fitness as our physical fitness. It’s the only way we are going to turn around those frightening statistics. We need to tackle one of the great unmet needs in the developed world: The prevention of mental health problems.
At Untapped, our aim is to make mental fitness as much of a priority as physical health at work. We are all about empowering individuals to improve their mental fitness through an intelligent blend of human and AI support. Each user has access to an emotionally intelligent personal accelerator, alongside AI tools and insights. These resources act like the remarkable pacemakers who ran alongside Kipchoge as he ran the marathon: The user might be running, but we’re right there beside them.
Just like physical fitness, mental fitness takes work. Because we know about these basics of mental health - eating well, getting enough sleep, building good relationships - you’d think that making changes to increase our mental fitness might be easy. But in a culture built around the compulsions of quick fixes and asking perfection of us all, getting a little exercise can easily turn into a new way to berate ourselves for not going to the gym, or pushing ourselves to extremes as we commit to a marathon.
In reality, it is simple, small changes every day which make all the difference: Just 10 minutes of mindfulness or an extra hour of sleep can have a powerful impact on mental wellness. With the right plan, tools and support, you can reach your goals and make small but meaningful changes that will ripple out to every area of your working and personal life.
Written by Claire Lamont