As I go about my work, it’s not unusual to hear employers and employees say that it’s not their responsibility to care for mental health at work… and, yes, some people really do say that!
Of course, far from wanting to be critical, I would encourage people to take responsibility. You see, as employees, we have a duty to manage our own response to the pressures of work, just as much as it is our employer’s duty to ensure that appropriate care is taken to minimise the potential for stress and other mental health difficulties.
This is an enormous topic and one that is increasingly familiar to organisations, particularly as the incidence of stress in the workplace continues to escalate. How can that be allowed to happen, I hear you say. Well, it appears to be quite simple really; what we tend to do is to become reactive to issues as opposed to being proactive to them. Managers are often highly pressured and their capacity to prioritise may be heavily compromised as they seek to meet the demands of the business and staff welfare may not always be at the top of a list of priorities as a result. Employees are often struggling to keep up with the demands of their work, becoming so overwhelmed that their capacity for self-care may be heavily compromised too. The difficulty arises when these issues are not addressed.
Whilst, of course, stress is a natural human response in our desire for survival, it seems to me that we increasingly appear to accept that living with the adverse effects of it is normal. How often I hear people say that they are so very stressed, yet appear to take little or no action to address their response. However, that sense of feeling overwhelmed tends to prevent people from taking a physical and emotional step back from the issues that continue to fuel the problem.
Well, something has to give here, does it not? You see, if we continue to maintain a reactive response then nothing will change. So, today, I would encourage you to take one small step back, literally, and ask yourself these questions: Am I experiencing the effects of stress? Do I want to do something about it? Do I need some help to do that? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then I also encourage you to visit the following website: www.getselfhelp.co.uk and search for the guide: “Self Help For Stress”, which is free to download. However, I must add that this document is not just for bedtime reading, (actually I wouldn’t recommend you read it at bedtime) as it requires you to engage with it as a working resource.
If you are a manager and you are struggling to discern how to respond to employees who are experiencing stress at work, you might wish to consider performing a Stress Risk Assessment and relevant information can be found at www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards. This is an opportunity to work collaboratively, to assess how your employee is responding to the pressures of the workplace and how they might be best supported. Oh, and don’t forget to care for yourself in the process!
I wish you well in your exploration and please do consider accessing our services here at JR Corporate Health should you feel that some professional support might be helpful! https://jrcorporatehealth.co.uk
It’s been a busy old time for me this past year. I’ve gone through the demanding process of moving house and into a brand new area. Establishing a new home, getting to know new people, reflecting on how I can make new friends and going out there and doing just that has been demanding indeed! I’ve also, with my life and business partner, set up a new project and, as many of you might be able to identify with, this can be both mentally and physically exhausting. I have worked hard in all areas of my life and, surprisingly, considering the business that I am in, I did not realise just how much my energy levels had become severely depleted.
Having had the opportunity to take some quality time out over the Christmas period has enabled me to step back and really take the opportunity to reflect on the impact of such a year. When we are caught up in the business of everyday life at home and at work, we often don’t see how life in all its fullness depletes us of our energy and has the potential to make us less effective in the things we have to do both personally and professionally.
The opportunity to take time out, therefore, is essential for our wellbeing. Whether for a weekend or longer, taking a step back from our busy lives gives us the opportunity to recharge our batteries and so puts us in a better position to face our lives anew. Think about it, can we keep on bashing away at our laptop without occasionally plugging it in the mains socket? Well, of course not and the same is true for us.
I have returned to my desk this brand new year with a renewed sense of energy. My mind is buzzing with ideas for the next stage of our project. My body longs to get outside and exercise... and I say this after having been stretched out on a sun lounger for the past couple of weeks, which is hardly surprising. Personally and professionally I feel that I can take on the world and achieve what I want to achieve.
As I write this, I am mindful of the breaks for busy people that we are planning for this year and, if like me, you have felt the need for some R&R then give us a call to check out what is on offer for our weekend away ... go on, you are most certainly worth it!
With very best wishes for a successful and productive 2019. Jan
Asking the uninitiated whether they have heard of Mindfulness can be very tricky, as I know to my cost! “I’m not into that kind of airy-fairy stuff”, or “It’s a bit weird” are just a couple of the responses I’ve had, although underneath the statement is often an admission that the person doesn’t know anything about it. It’s so easy, it seems to me, to fall into the trap of closing one’s mind to anything that lies outside of our personal experience, which is a shame, especially because mindfulness practices pre-date our modern culture and have, over centuries, been proven to significantly enhance wellbeing.
So, what is Mindfulness? Well, to put it simply, mindfulness is the awareness of thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations experienced within the present moment, merely observing without judgement about whether they are right or wrong. Mindfulness is an art and something to be learnt. Its aim is to free the mind and body from its tendency to get stuck in negative emotional patterns and behaviours. When we are mindful we can be more aware of our reality and the choices we are able to make, rather than getting stuck in the problems of yesterday or our assumptions about tomorrow. If we begin with the mantra that says “All I have is now” then the possibilities for life right now can be limitless. In a nutshell, mindful living is the awareness that emerges as we pay attention to what is happening in our mind, our body and our deeper emotional self. If we are fully present, we have the capacity to shift into “being” mode and respond in a way that allows us to let go of judgement, both of ourselves and others and to live more peacefully, within ourselves and with others. To quote the great philosopher Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do”, sums up our human condition and, often, we live in a way that is the polar opposite of the mindful experience and so we remain shackled to those attitudes and behaviours that do little to sustain health.
What we know is that struggling to keep up with the pressures and demands of the modern world can lead us in to a vicious circle of anxiety and stress leaving us, at least, feeling exhausted and unhappy with our lot. It can be easy enough to seek out strategies for coping that have the potential to compromise our health. “What do you do to switch off at night when you can’t sleep?”, I might ask my client and it’s not unusual to hear the response: “I have a beer, or three to relax me”. What some people don’t realise is that alcohol is both a stimulant and a depressant and, if taken in excess, is known to have a number of health implications. How much easier then, to equip ourselves with strategies that have been shown to have no detrimental impact on heath in clinical trials.
Developing mindfulness practices have been shown to reduce the negative physical and psychological effects of anxiety, stress and depression, although one doesn’t need to be struggling with these issues to experience the benefits of it. Indeed, it is more likely that by using these practices we can minimise the potential for these things to escalate in the first place.
This blog is not the place for me to teach the practice of mindfulness, although much has been written on the subject. If what you have read here has kindled an interest and you are keen to explore this fascinating subject in more depth, then perhaps this is a good place to begin. There are many reputable mindfulness courses available and I would urge you to explore what is available in your area but be sure to access only those courses that meet the standards for mindfulness practice. If at this stage you would prefer a taster, then a Smart App. may well suit your needs and I recommend that you visit your App. Store for further information. I often recommend the App: “Headspace” to my clients, which can be downloaded for free and offers you the opportunity to begin the journey of mindful living. Another resource I am more than happy to pin my flag to is a book by Professor Mark William and Dr Danny Penman entitled: “Mindfulness, a practical guide to Finding Peace In A Frantic World” … don’t forget to pick up the copy that includes a free CD of guided meditations. The book is an eight week mindfulness programme and, once familiar with the exercises on the CD, they are particularly useful in any situation, whether dealing with the stresses of a busy classroom or struggling to get those forty winks!
If that is not enough, do look out for forthcoming events here at JR Corporate Health where, along with mindfulness workshops, we look forward to rolling out our innovative programmes designed to support the whole of your life journey!
Jan Rogers. JR Corporate Health
JR Corporate Health blog covering topics such as management support, supervision, psychological support, critical incident support and wellbeing in the workplace.