As we head towards the end of the year Emma Robertson, CEO of Engine Transformation, sat down with Ruby Wax to chat about her remarkable career and the importance of mental health in the workplace.
Distilling what she’s learned about happiness from some of the world’s most interesting innovators and campaigners, Ruby helped us understand how we can take control of our overstressed and overcritical minds.
First a bit of background as the Ruby that sat down to talk to us has transformed from the Ruby of the 80’s and 90’s. After being a comedian, an actor, a documentary maker, an interviewer of the stars and script editor on the likes of Absolutely Fabulous, Ruby needed to take a break to focus on her mental health. It was during this time she revisited psychology, a subject she’d studied in the past. Ruby attended Oxford University, gaining a degree in Mindfulness Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and has since been awarded an MBE for her services to mental health.
Her books, talks and advocacy help bring the importance of mental health support to a whole new audience. In her work Ruby discusses complex neurological theory in an accessible and often hilarious way but always with the purpose of reframing the conversation and removing the stigma that mental health illness still carries. Something that couldn’t be more important and relevant in 2020.
It was when she came across neuroscience and neuro plasticity that Ruby’s interest was ignited:
“Mindfulness and cognitive therapy had the most interesting results, not 100%, but you could train to self-regulate the mind. You get a real hold on what this machine can do rather than running to shrinks and screaming fix me.”
It was the idea that you can retrain the brain and take back control that has driven Ruby to not only help herself but to work out how to help other people. She’s keen to emphasise that people need to be kind to themselves when starting mindfulness.
It’s just like going to the gym. [The benefits] are incrementally slow. Did you learn English overnight? Did you learn how to play tennis quickly? It’s all so slow.
When it comes to mental health, stress and the feeling of burnout, Ruby sees it as a part of the human condition and not mental illness. It’s something we all must recognise if we’re to tackle our more difficult thoughts and feelings and increase wellbeing. She believes that the workplace must offer help and support especially when it comes to overexerting our brains to the point of being frazzled, which is a growing problem.
Frazzled, the phenomenon of stressing about stress, is an area Ruby is keen to bring light to. We’re overworked and feel that success comes from creating more work for ourselves in a way our brains aren’t built for. Ruby describes this reaction to a busier world as; “We’ve created a brilliant world. It’s just a part of our brain is still Stone Age and we don’t realize the wallpapers change.”
With Frazzled Café, Ruby has created spaces for people feeling overwhelmed to come together and talk about their experience in a calm atmosphere. These are workshops and spaces she would normally create in or near to businesses but meetings are currently being held online. You can find out more at frazzledcafe.org.
Ruby is also working closely with businesses to improve their social responsibility and the good they put into the world to build a sense of community. She believes Conscious Capitalism is the future with businesses not only checking the credentials of their supply chain and how kosher it is but also giving back. Anglia Water and their investment in the local community is an excellent example of how a company can go beyond their core purpose to help others.
When it comes to the individual and what we can do to help our mental health right now Ruby had some very helpful advice. Along with the tried and tested eating well, drinking less and doing more exercise she also thinks it’s important to recognise that we are “creatures of addiction.” That we tend to be addicted to things that are bad for us and we must learn to step away. And for herself it’s a case of checking in on her “internal baramoter” and feeling the onset of a “different quality of thinking.” That community is important and reaching out to your friends and family, even if it’s only through the technology is vital to mental health.
We want to thank Ruby for coming in and speaking to us. Her latest book, And Now For The Good News, is out now and shares how recent and new developments in technology, education, business, health, food and social change are turning our world into a better place than it’s ever been. You can find out more about mental health and Ruby’s work at Frazzledcafe.org, Mindfulnessinschool.org and Bcorportaion.net.
It’s impossible for us to fully capture the essence of the conversation with Ruby so if you couldn’t make the live event, you can watch it below – look out for the mindfulness exercise at the end – that was one of the highlights.