October the 10th is World Mental Health Day. To mark the occasion and to raise awareness of the importance of good mental health WorkGuru is getting back to basics; we are revisiting the brilliant Foresight report and their Five Ways to Mental Wellbeing. Five simple things that we can all be doing to boost and maintain our mental wellbeing.
Connect with the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.
Go for a walk or a run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness.
Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.
Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.
Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, as linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.
Does WorkGuru provide a quick fix for workplace stress? No, sorry; but what we do provide is a psychologically robust, long-term change in the way that people respond to stressful situations.
I have yet to see a piece of wearable tech or a downloadable app that provides a meaningful approach to building emotional resilience. Resilience can only ever be achieved in a sustained way through increasing self-awareness, improving flexible thinking and learning active coping skills. If we want to respond to stress differently we need to break old thinking habits and create new ones – and that takes effort and time. WorkGuru provides the insight, the knowledge and the support needed to achieve meaningful behavioural change that will result in a lasting reduction in stress and a sustained increase in emotional resilience.
The stress industry is continuing to expand and continuing to make unrealistic promises. Academic research and clinical practice can tell us what works, but in the translation of that knowledge to the workplace it becomes watered down and ineffective. Take for example Mindfulness meditation – there is a huge and growing body of research to support Mindfulness. But Mindfulness is more than just meditation; it is a philosophy – a philosophy that is challenging. But the stress industry has interpreted the evidence to suggest that a 10 minutes guided meditation on its own will result in a long-term reduction in stress. It won’t – but if taught properly, it can be a useful relaxation tool.
I would love to tell you that we have invented a miracle cure to the epidemic of stress – I’m sorry but miracle cures are just not possible. What we have developed though is an engaging, web-based stress management intervention that uses proven psychological interventions, alongside one-to-one support from our coaches to help people learn the skills and techniques that they need to boost their resilience and manage workplace stress more effectively – skills that will last them a lifetime, not just a lunchtime.
I met up with a friend recently and asked him how his work was going. “Miserable” he replied. He then stopped himself and said: “Do you know, I have to stop doing that. Work is great. I have a good job, I am well paid, and I will get a great pension. But we are all miserable, we have all got in the habit of telling everyone how miserable our jobs are – and it is infectious. You begin to believe it”.
This reminded me of an article I had read recently which talked about how negative thinking in school staff rooms was affecting teachers: “All teachers need the odd whinge, but our workloads and mental health would improve greatly if we stopped mithering and focused on the highlights”.
Yes negative thinking can be infectious, but so can positive thinking. Research has shown that we can change the way that we think, and by doing that we can change the way that we feel and behave. We can learn to see the positives in our day and as a result feel happier and more fulfilled; and – as a bonus, evidence suggests that happier workers are more productive workers and score more highly across all performance indicators.
Here is an exercise that has been shown to help boost your happiness and change negative thinking into more positive thinking:
At the end of each day write down three things that brought you happiness and joy. You may wish to create your own happiness jar – each evening write down the things that made you happy and add them to your jar. When you are feeling low you can read your pieces of paper and remember the moments that brought you joy.
Learn to see through the fog of habitual misery and spot the silver lining.
Do you just love your job, or are you a workaholic?
Researchers from the University of Bergen have identified seven criteria to measure work addiction. If you reply ‘often’ or ‘always’ to at least four of these criteria, then there is some indication that you may be a workaholic:
1. You think of how you can free up more time to work.
2. You spend much more time working than initially intended.
3. You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and/or depression.
4. You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
5. You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
6. You deprioritise hobbies, leisure activities, and/or exercise because of work.
7. You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.
There is a very strong element of compulsiveness, rigidity and excessiveness in the behaviour of workaholics. This isn’t just about enjoying your work and/or working long hours, or making sacrifices as you build your career or business. This is about compulsive behaviour that damages your relationships and your health. The same core symptoms your see in workaholism you see in drug addiction such as working to escape something, withdrawal symptoms, negative impact on other areas of your life, and problems with relapse.
Workaholism isn’t as yet a formal diagnosis so we don’t have a developed set of treatments to offer people, but the need is certainly there. Studies suggest the prevalence rate for workaholism is somewhere between 5% and 10%.
If, looking at this list, you can see that work is actively damaging you health and your relationships – then it really is time to do something about it. Visit your GP to ask about talking therapies, speak to a mental health professional or visit our website to see how we can help.
Cecilie Schou Andreassen et al (2014) The Prevalence of Workaholism: A Survey Study in a Nationally Representative Sample of Norweigan Employees. PLoS ONE, 9(8)
We here at WorkGuru love our academic research – we think it is really important that that our on-line resilience programme is not only based on years of our experience about what works to reduce individual stress and build workplace resilience but also reflects what academic research tells us works.
This is why we are hugely excited by a recently published guide on employee engagement for HR professionals. NHS Employers have launched a guide which draws on a synthesis of the academic research underpinning employee engagement and concludes that there is strong evidence linking what they call ‘positive psychological states’ and staff engagement – positive psychological states include things such as resilience and self-efficacy.
Resilient staff with high self- efficacy (the extent to which we believe in our own ability to complete tasks and reach goals) are more engaged staff, and there is of course lots of evidence for why having engaged staff is important for the success of your business.
The authors suggest that one way that HR professionals can raise engagement levels within their organisation is through offering resilience and mindfulness training. They write: “some relatively simple techniques, based on the principle of ‘positive psychology’, can help boost employees’ resilience, coping mechanisms, and awareness of self and others”.
All music to our ears. Yet more evidence that as well as the myriad of personal reasons why we should all be increasing our emotional resilience, there are also a myriad of organizational reasons why employers should be investing in resilience programmes for their staff – and of course our preference would be for investment in evidence-based, engaging programmes that are delivered on-line with individual direct messaging support from coaches, with the added bonus of on-line groups. Now where do we know an organization that offers all that? 😉