Prioritising mental wellbeing as a Sustainability young professional.

Prioritising mental wellbeing as a Sustainability young professional.

As we approach the end of the year and as fatigue looms over all professionals, tasks are starting to take a little bit longer and seem a tad more difficult.

Nomamfengu Mbele has started thinking about what is causing this and how, as a young professional, she can maintain a drive to implement sustainability in the built environment while ensuring that she is living a sustainable life by prioritising her mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing.

Considering the stresses introduced over the COVID-19 period such as work insecurity and mass job loss, with over 600k jobs lost in South Africa alone (Stats SA, 2020), there has been an indirect pressure placed on professionals to work harder to keep the work they still have access to, combined with increased isolation and minimal human contact – so working constantly has become the norm. This has made the idea of a sustainable living almost mythical. Long gone are the days where you could actively focus on “exercising a healthy work-life balance, never working on weekends, taking a break and setting boundaries.”

As challenging as it is to push through the stresses and anxiety of working during a pandemic, there have been some tips and tricks that I have picked up this year that have aided in beating the fatigue and anxiety in my daily life to be a better and happier professional. Some of these tips include:

  • Finding a professional mentor

    I have been lucky enough to have Adrie Fourie, Head of the Sustainable Cities and Research Department at Solid Green, as my professional mentor. Weekly check-ins with a mentor have been life-changing, as a mentor helps with thinking through ideas for projects, project time management, picking up issues you may have overlooked, and sourcing support to aid with your professional growth.

  • Finding 30 minutes a day for yoursel

    It can be as simple as drinking tea outside with all communication devices switched off, closing your laptop during lunch and walking up the road for a coffee, or waking up earlier for daily planning and a productive 30 minutes before meetings start.
  • Asking for Help

    I am really fortunate to work for a company where collaboration is prioritised. We have Weekly Wuddles, a team WhatsApp group and multiple Microsoft Teams groups where all questions can be answered, and ideas can be sourced from our skilled team to help clear a foggy mind and work through project challenges.

  • Igniting a curious mind

    With zoom fatigue being a real thing, signing up for an online seminar is not the most appealing activity right now. However, committing to one webinar per week or month has been a much-needed energy boost. Webinars can range from more content heavy topics like the sustainability reporting landscape hosted by GRI Africa to the occasional light-hearted TED talks on finding your purpose. Webinars have been my saving grace for when my mind is cluttered with deadlines.

  • Be kind to yourself

    As we race towards the end of 2021 and close out some of the exciting projects of the year, pressure is high, deadlines are looming, and creativity thins out. Mistakes will be made. Try not to beat yourself up. Being tired is normal, so ask for help, take a nap, and start again.

In the sustainable built environment industry, being an integrative, creative, and enthusiastic thinker is vital. That can be hard to do when energy is low, yet deadlines are looming. Integrating some of these habits has opened my mind to being the analytical person that project teams require. Prioritising my mental health has indirectly assisted in staying on top of projects that require a resilient, creative open-minded professional to meet her sustainability goals.

As our director, Chilu, says, “A luta continua; vitória é certa”, meaning “The struggle continues; victory is certain.” As professionals, there are many challenges involved in ensuring that project teams incorporate sustainability in their developments. The same energy must be applied for our personal sustainability goals – continuous effort to have a balanced life is integral to our personal and career development.

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