Category Archives: Stress

beat post holiday stress

Beat Post Holiday Blues With These 5 Steps

Beat-Post-Holiday-BluesThe holidays can be hectic. And, since even positive stress is still stress, they can wear people out. Even if the people on your team had only positive experiences throughout the holiday season, heading back to work afterward can leave everyone feeling let down. Productivity and mental health in the office can both suffer as a result.

How Can You Tell People Have the Holiday Blues?

It’s not as simple as someone walking around with a glum look on their face. Most of us almost automatically keep a positive or at least neutral demeanor at work, even if we’re not really feeling it. Instead, you may see post-holiday depression manifest in other ways.
Sometimes, someone who usually does stellar work will turn in stuff that just meets the minimum requirements. Others may take longer than usual to get things done. Still others may avoid chatting, come in late or call in sick more often.

No matter how people are showing that they are in a slump, you as their manager can help them turn it around to make things more positive going into the new year.

How to Battle the Blues

Putting a few policies and actions in place to start can get people out of a funk and back to being engaged and content at work. A few things that can help battle workplace depression:

1. Leave the out-of-town messages on.

When people come back to the office after a trip or a few days off for the holiday, let them know it is okay to keep their away messages on on their email and voicemail for another day or two. This gives them breathing room to catch back up with work and to get back into their routine before they are crushed with new incoming messages.

2. Show empathy.

Let people know that it’s okay for them to feel down in the wake of the holidays. Instead of worrying about wallowing, recognize that expressing emotions allows you to properly process them so that you can move on and get healthy. If you are feeling a bit of post-holiday workplace depression yourself, confide in your team members. They need to see that you trust them enough to express emotions to them and that you understand what they are feeling, too.

3. Cut everyone a little slack.

It’s perfectly normal for people to work a little slower or to make a few mistakes when they are just getting back from the holiday festivities. Be understanding when it happens. If people are feeling high stress because they are getting called out on mistakes, that will only multiple issues and make them last longer. In fact, it makes sense to lower goals for this time of year so that you account for time people spend out of the office as well as the time it takes to get them back into the groove.

4. Make healthy drinks and snacks available.

We all overindulge over the holidays. Whether it’s a bit too much to drink or suffering the effects of rich meal after rich meal, it doesn’t leave us feeling our best. Stock the break room with bottled water, seltzer, fruit and whole grain snack bars. People will appreciate the chance to keep themselves on post-holiday diets and to be able to forge healthy habits in the new year.

5. Make it possible for people to get out of work early.

When you’ve just spent a couple weeks at the beach or camping in the great outdoors, it can be hard to adjust to 10 hours a day in an airconditioned box, and an hour or two of public transport either side. If it is possible to offer a half-day here and there or stop work an hour early now and then, consider adding it. People will be grateful for both the extra free time and for the chance to get out and enjoy the sunshine.

The good news is that, after a while, people fall back into their normal routines. By making the transition back into work after the holidays easier, you can help people get back to normal faster and enjoy a healthier and more productive workplace.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

Police Line Do Not Cross

The Rise Of The Senseless Crime – What ’s Mental Health Got To Do With It?

Just a couple of days ago, in Brisbane out of all places, a man approached another man, and set him on fire. When the attacker appeared in court, he’s described as ‘numb’. Then we are informed that this man has a history of mental disorders. Is there a connection? I guess we’ll never know for sure what on earth possesses a man to do something as horrible to another human being but I can tell you one thing: a mental disorder rarely does. But, drugs, any kind of drugs, do.

Police-line-do-not-crossA number of eminent psychiatrists and scientists have been warning us for some time now about the power of drugs, medication in a medical setting, to turn us into ‘unfeeling’, ‘numb’, ‘zombies’. Or as I like to call it, ‘chemically induced psychopathy’.

Drugs can, and often do, impact on our ability to make decisions. Just ask anyone that has ever had a few too many drinks. So do medicines. Am I saying no one should take medicines? Absolutely not. That would make no sense. What I’m saying is that we need to be more aware of their impact on people so we can monitor the effect of medication more closely.

There’s a reason why so many voices are saying that we, as a society, as people, are over medicated. There’s also a reason, and a valid one, why so many voices, educated, experienced voices, are saying that, on the whole, psychiatric drugs, do more harm than good.

Let’s not rush and stop all medication. But let’s take some responsibility and start having an honest conversation.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

performance vs stress level

When Fear & Stress In The Workplace Raise Their Ugly Heads

performance vs stress levelEver wondered how people screw themselves up?

Simple, we do it because we are afraid. And it’s ok. Fear is a natural survival mechanism. It’s a good thing, designed to protect us. But what happens when fear runs rampant? When your body reacts to a deadline at work with the same intensity as if it was being chased by a T-Rex? Then that’s not so good anymore, is it?

And it’s insane. It’s been said that 98% of the things we are scared of never come to fruition. Thank goodness, right? So, why do we make problems out of things that are highly unlikely to, ever, come true? It’s puzzling, isn’t it?

And when we keep doing that, fear, and anxiety turn into stress. And we all know what stress can do to our mental, not to mention physical health.

But, did you know that stress is actually good for you? Weird, right? But hear me out for a second…

Without some level of stress, we wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. We wouldn’t bother going to work, and we certainly wouldn’t take on challenges and strive to better ourselves.

However it’s the amount of stress that’s the key.

The Performance-Arousal Curve shows us that performance increases with stress to a point, beyond which additional stress becomes counterproductive. Spend too long past the optimum point in the stress curve and we risk exhaustion, anxiety and eventually a breakdown.

But here’s where it gets even more complicated. The ‘optimum’ level of stress is not the same for everyone! That’s right, each individual will have their own version of this graph. But the good news is, it’s not set in stone. It can change.

As leaders, we want to build motivated, resilient and high performing teams. And wouldn’t it be great if our teams could do two things;

First, adjust their ‘optimum stress level’, so they are more resilient in the face of inevitable pressures and challenges.

And second, self monitor and self correct if approaching overload and burnout? That’s what I’d like to see in our workplaces. That’s my vision.

In order to achieve this, workplaces need to teach team members how to recognise when a colleague tips into the right of the curve, and how to catch that person before they start to spiral down.

BUT in order to be truly effective, this education needs to have a strong Recovery approach. At the Workplace Mental Health Institute, everything we do has a strong Recovery approach applied to the workplace. We focus on recovery not illness. This may seem a subtle distinction, but it’s a vital one. We don’t teach people how to look for problems that aren’t there; we teach them how to minimise risk, and confidently identify & deal with the typical warning signs of the most common mental illnesses. So their teammates can get the help they need and recover. (And the evidence is now pretty clear that the overwhelming majority of people DO recover)

We don’t need to teach employees and leaders to be mental health practitioners, but we can give them the basic skills to intervene early, before things get out of hand.

Btw, if you’re responsible for managing the mental health of your employees, and you need some help, please hit me up. We can help you meet your compliance obligations, foster a happy, high-performing environment, and significantly reduce risk.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

Work life balance

‘Work-Life Balance’ is a trap

A colleague of mine was putting together some guidelines for her company about how to minimize workplace stress, and stay mentally and emotionally well at work, and she asked me to have a look over it and provide some feedback.

Looking at the list of strategies her company had come up with, I noticed that about 90% of them focused on things like limiting work hours to the 8 hour shift, making sure to ‘switch off’ from work as soon as you leave, not accessing work emails and phones outside of work hours, and basically adhering to a strict distinction between “work time” and “life” time. Now this isn’t an uncommon idea, we’ve all heard of the phrase ‘work – life balance’, but let’s delve in a bit deeper.
Work life balance
It you look at the language used in this expression and the subconscious connotations it sends, you might come to the conclusion that it would be better not to use the phrase at all, and definitely not promote it.

Firstly, when we juxtapose two ideas like this next to each other, we are implying that they are opposite of each other, or at least very distinct and different elements. This is especially dangerous when we compare ‘work’ and ‘life’. Let me ask you – what is the opposite of life? …. It’s ‘death’, right? So by juxtaposing work and life, we are actually equating ‘work’ with death! Are you not alive at work? When did ‘work’ become a bad thing?

Now I know this isn’t what is intended when people use the expression, or recommend it to others, but, psychologically, this interpretation can be made very quickly and subconsciously, without us really paying any conscious attention to it. After all, it’s not what we mean, but what is being heard.

If we really buy into the idea of work-life balance, it often is not long before we experience ‘life’ as good, and ‘work’ as bad, and then it makes sense to want to put some limits and boundaries around how long we spend in that ‘bad’ place. As a manager, is that the message you want to send your staff?

But what if work wasn’t bad at all? After all, the research shows that overall, work is good for your mental health and for recovery from mental distress. And what if work was simply a part of life? What if you even enjoyed, looked forward to, and found fulfillment in your work?  Would you want to limit how long you spent in that state?

Now of course, our lives are rich and full of different aspects. It is important, and most people get a great sense of fulfillment from spending time, energy and attention on other things too, like family, friends, health, travel, hobbies, etc. We should make sure we do have time for these activities. But there is inherent danger in separating work from these areas, and viewing it as a negative part of life.

Our recommendation would be to find work that you do enjoy, and is fulfilling, where you are not spending each day watching the clock and measuring, to make sure you give no more than you have to. If you love what you’re doing its not work anyway.

If you look at the people who are very successful in their field of endeavor, whether its business, sports, creative arts, parenting, or anything else, they don’t usually stick to a minimum number of hours. They don’t need to ‘switch off’ afterwards, because they love thinking and talking about their passion.

So, next time you catch yourself talking about ‘work-life balance’, think about this. It’s all ‘life’ – there are 24 hours a day and your life is made up of how you choose to spend your time. I hope you’re doing something you enjoy.

And if you’re a manager, I’m sure you appreciate a team of people who enjoy doing what they do, and are flexible enough to take on some additional responsibilities from time to time, or do some overtime occasionally. And of course, as a manager who is conscious of mental health and wellbeing, you wouldn’t take advantage of that flexibility, and you would appreciate and recognize that person’s contribution.

Author: Emi Golding
Emi GoldingEmmaline (Emi) Golding is a registered psychologist and Director of Psychology for the Workplace Mental Health Institute. With experience both at the frontline and in Senior Management positions within mental health services, Emi is passionate about educating and expanding people’s knowledge of mental health issues, particularly within workplaces. For her own well being, Emi loves to dance and spend time with friends. She also enjoys learning languages and travelling to new and exciting places around the world.

Connect with Emi Golding on
Emi Golding on Google Plus Emi Golding on Face Book Emi Golding on LinkedIn

Stress

What Can YOU Do About Stress at Work?

When it comes to workplace stress, and what to do about it, most people, most managers, will start to think about things in the workplace environment. Things that I would call ‘external factors’ like workload, overtime hours, the physical environment, etc. And these are all good considerations.

Yes, we should look at them.But very rarely is any attention paid to the ‘internal factors’. Those qualities, characteristics, or skills that reside inside each individual, and impact upon how much stress they will experience, regardless of the external environment. You see, in the same workplace, given the same conditions, different people will experience different levels of stress. Some people thrive on a challenge, work non stop and love doing it! Where as others seem to fall apart at the same challenges.There are individual differences, but that’s not to say that they are necessarily fixed. The studies are indicating that although people may be born with different sensitivities, and have different experience in their upbringing, personal resilience can be learned, like any other skill.
Stress
Therefore, when people respond differently to a pressure-filled environment, like many workplaces are, that is due to a combination of things relevant to the individual.

As we’ve talked about previously, in our article Workplace Stress we all fall somewhere on the mental health continuum, and that can change day to day, hour to hour, minute by minute even! So if we’re already feeling a bit stressed by other things going on in life, chances are we’re going to have a bigger reaction to each new challenge put forward.

Think of the analogy to the camel carrying straws on it’s back. We can carry only so much weight before we start to feel a bit strained by it all, and our knees start to shake.

But if we’re the camel, we can also build our muscles so that we become stronger, and able to carry more weight with ease. And that is ‘personal resilience’ or ‘emotional fitness’. If we do certain things to build our emotional stamina, when life (or work) does throw that extra challenge your way, you’ll be much more able to handle it in your stride.

We recently released our on line short course called ‘Mind@Work’, which introduces people to some of those techniques that can be used to minimise stress and build emotional stamina or resilience. It’s designed with workplaces in mind, but really, the strategies are tools that can be used in any area of life – after all, we’re still human wherever we are, right?

Building your own personal resilience, focussing on those internal factors, is particularly helpful for those people who might not be in a position to change their work environment. Similarly for managers, if you can’t make changes to the workplace itself, why not think about helping your team members to develop their emotional fitness to better handle the challenges.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

Stressed Anxios Worried

Workplace Stress – what are we really talking about here?

‘Workplace Stress’ is a term I am hearing people use more and more lately. And I like it. It highlights the fact that anybody can experience stress or distress in the workplace.

You see, the Workplace Mental Health Institute specialises in the field of workplace mental health, and when we think about mental health, we think about mental health at every stage of the continuum. Let me explain:Stressed Anxios Worried

‘Mental Health’ doesn’t just refer to people who are severely distressed, who have perhaps have been diagnosed with a serious mental disorder, or are having an acute mental health emergency.

‘Mental Health’ also refers to people who may be feeling a bit down, a bit anxious about something happening in their life, or just going through a rough patch. We would also describe that as someone experiencing some mental health problems at the moment.

But not only that, mental health can also be used at the other end of the scale (in fact ‘health’ is usually considered a good thing right!!!). So, looking after your ‘mental health’, can mean the person who is coping really well with life, happy, fulfilled, and waking up every morning feeling positive about work and life in general.

You see, when we think about it this way, mental health is relevant to everyone. We all sit somewhere along that scale all the time. We move up and down that scale too – it’s not fixed.

I think sometimes when we talk about ‘mental health at work’, people tend to assume we’re talking about the severe end – when everything goes wrong, when someone is suicidal, or has an episode at work. And that if that is not happening, then everything is OK.

But that’s not it. Not at all. There are plenty of people who may not yet be suffering enough for it to show up as a crisis, but have no doubts, it is still impacting on them personally, on their productivity, on their relationships with team mates and their manager. This ‘workplace stress’ needs to be addressed, and it needs to be addressed quickly – before it escalates into something much more serious. In my next article, I’ll look at some of the different approaches to dealing with it.

But for now, remember ‘workplace mental health’ is a constant. It always exists, its just a matter of where along that continuum it is right now, for any one person, or for the whole group. And depending where it is on that continuum, there are different activities which need to be happening (more on that soon too).

Author: Emi Golding
Emi GoldingEmmaline (Emi) Golding is a registered psychologist and Director of Psychology for the Workplace Mental Health Institute. With experience both at the frontline and in Senior Management positions within mental health services, Emi is passionate about educating and expanding people’s knowledge of mental health issues, particularly within workplaces. For her own well being, Emi loves to dance and spend time with friends. She also enjoys learning languages and travelling to new and exciting places around the world.

Connect with Emi Golding on
Emi Golding on Google Plus Emi Golding on Face Book Emi Golding on LinkedIn

women with mental health problem

Why 65% of people won’t get help if they have a mental problem

The reasons as to why people do anything, are many and complex. The research shows that around 65% of people won’t even seek treatment if they experience mental distress. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that stigma, discrimination and neglect prevent care and treatment from reaching people with mental disorders. What about the many people in workplaces that don’t have a full blown mental disorder but are at risk? Here we look at three major reasons people have identified as to why they won’t ask for help.

women with mental health problemIt’s just stress. The most common mental disorders (anxiety and depression) tend to be insidious, in that they gradually worsen over time. Many sufferers don’t even realise they have a mental health issue, until it’s been months or even years since they’ve felt happy. It’s convenient for a sufferer to dismiss their situation as temporary or ‘just stress’. But there is a difference between ‘stress’ and something more serious.

Just suck it up. People tend to compare themselves with others, and if everyone else seems fine, then they don’t want to be the exception, or the ‘weak one’. People will compare themselves to their parents who ‘did it tough and never complained’. (The truth is that it’s likely they faced the same issues and felt the same way, it’s just that the conditions were less understood and there weren’t the resources widely available to assist.) It’s also very easy to feel inadequate when you’re seeing all your friends on social media, having a great time and appearing successful, when the reality is, that while few people share their fears and failures for all to see, they most certainly have them. When everyone around you seems to be coping and thriving, the act of admitting you need help and seeking it out can feel like you’ve failed somehow. And a lot of people would rather endure the symptoms than admit they need help.

Career suicide. Numerous surveys from Australia, the UK, US and Canada have shown that people with a mental health problems are unlikely to disclose it to their employer for fear of being treated less favourably. Even employment lawyers have been quoted advising employees to think twice before disclosing. Many employees believe that, if they disclose, they’ll be passed over for project and promotion opportunities, or that their ‘internal brand’ will be tarnished, or that the organisation will take steps to exit them.

As you can see, these are real concerns people have. There’s a need for management to take the lead and address these concerns lest them become part of the culture.

If you’d like Workplace Mental Health Institute to run the Suicide Prevention Skills course in your workplace, please Call us on (02) 8935 3885 or take the comprehensive self paced online course.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

Bullying

Beware Declaring War on Bullying

A common mistake people make, especially at work, is to assume that it’s ‘others’ who are being a bully. And that bullying is an abuse of power by some other people more powerful than I. But this is self deceit. Many bullies don’t realise they are being a bully. It’s like having snot in the middle of your face, you are usually the last person to find out, right?

Bullying in the workplaceThe same with acting like a bully. Ask yourself, ‘can I think of times when I’ve acted like a bully?’ before you answer rashly, think about this ‘do you like to be right?’ if you are not right, does it upset you? do you like rules? (but only your rules!)’ then it’s quite probable that, at times, you may have acted as a bully to others, even if you didn’t mean to.

Or think about it this way, have you ever taken it out on someone else? and you knew it wasn’t their fault but you had a go at them anyway? and what’s more, did you secretly enjoy it? (even if later you felt guilty about it) I think most of us have. By the way most people do. It’s not that we are bad people, it’s that we all have the potential to try to force our thoughts, actions and will onto someone else. It’s usually a response to our own fears and uncertainties.

One of the common scenarios we see in workplaces goes like this – someone doesn’t agree with a colleagues’ idea, opinion, or direction. For some reason, they feel it’s personal. They feel hurt, upset, disappointed, or frustrated. Now they start to see their colleague differently. As a evil, bad, some kind of bitch or bastard. A villain. And it’s ok to stop perpetrators, right? Don’t we have a moral obligation to stop them? …and the reasons for judging, labelling and attacking keep coming.

By the way, this is completely normal and to be expected when you have a group of people coming together to work on something. But if the person is not aware of what is going on, it may not be too long before they start to feel they are being bullied or victimised. And in response, they launch an all out attack on the colleague. Does this sound at all familiar? Now who is doing the bullying in this scenario? The wise person will catch themselves in this.

We need to be careful before we react, to make sure that we ourselves have not become a bully in response. This means a certain level of self awareness and self honesty is required. Rather than declare war on bullying, check to make sure you are responding with compassion, kindness, understanding and assertion, not aggression.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

Post-Holiday-Downers-ft image

Warning – Post Holiday Downers About!

A dear friend of mine called me two days ago. He said, ‘Pedro, I haven’t been feeling too well (mentally). I think it’s because I’ve decreased my meds’. The interesting thing is, he’s not the only one that has expressed this. Maybe not in the same language, but the same kind of idea – stress, fatigue, exhaustion, “I need a holiday to recover from the holidays!”… that kind of thing. So what’s going on?
Post Holiday Downer
What’s happening is post-holiday-downers. No, it’s not a new diagnosis or symptom. It’s simply physics. We’ve pushed ourselves emotionally, spiritually, physically and financially onto the high of Christmas and New Year and now our bodies and psyches are returning us to our ‘normal’. But, physics being what they are, it demands that for every positive action there is an equal and opposite reaction – of the same impact. And that’s what people are noticing.

So, no need to panic. It doesn’t mean you are developing a mental illness. Or that you are relapsing. Quite probably, if you get plenty of rest and water, you will be back to your normal within a few days. In the meantime, don’t give your thoughts and emotions too much authority over you. No need to give them meaning and analyse them. Remember, your body is just doing what it needs to do, getting you back to normal. It all works beautifully. Just breath deeply, be patient and ride it out.

By the way, I’ve spoken to my friend since, and it wasn’t the meds it was his diabetes. With all the eating, partying and drinking, his diabetes had gone haywire. Makes sense.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

Workplace Mental Health Institute