Action is the Antidote to DespairThese days, whether you call it despair, stress, anxiety, or depression, everybody knows somebody who is experiencing mental health problems. Maybe one of those somebodies is on your crew.

When someone has a lot on their mind, being alone with their thoughts can make them anxious, especially if that person is prone to worrying in the first place. Many people work separately, even more so now, during the pandemic. Noise in the workplace can increase the sense of isolation. Being alone with their thoughts can make people worry even more. Ruminating on “what ifs” all day long can increase anxiety and worsen mental health. The folk singer Joan Baez famously said: “Action is the antidote to despair.” When you can, encourage your people to think about “I cans” instead of “what ifs.”

Mental health conversations are hard. If one of your people seems anxious, you could suggest thinking in terms of what they can do rather than thinking about the worst possible what ifs. But if you’re not comfortable with that, you can model the idea. For example, if someone asks “What if I get electrocuted? Working around electricity makes me really nervous.” You can make the conversation more positive or reassuring by responding with “I can” statements like “We can control the dangers and work safely by following lockout/tagout procedures.”

Sometimes we need more help than we can get from tools like “I can” statements, and that’s OK.

Here’s a helpful list of hotlines from the Centers for Disease Control. You and your people can call on these folks if you feel like you’re facing a crisis: