Category Archives: Wellbeing

Psychological Safe Defense image

Learn To Survive And Thrive Despite Narcissists, Sociopaths And Psychopaths

Have you ever had an interaction with someone that wasn’t quite violent or blatantly rude but left you feeling ‘off, rattled or shaken? What was going on there?

Have you found yourself falling for liars, con artists, or manipulators on more than one occasion? We have too.

What about psychopaths? Ever wondered if someone you know is a psychopath? Sometimes it’s essential to know.

We are seeing situations where people face more extreme and antisocial behavior- and master manipulators end up using them and pulling their strings.

Having delivered mental health and resilience training across the world, to organizations of all sizes and in all industries, and to individuals from all walks of life, we know very clearly that one of the things people struggle with most, in maintaining their health and wellbeing, is dealing with difficult people.

Everyday interactions and relationships with friends, family and colleagues can be tricky enough, even when everyone involved has the best intentions at heart.

Psychological Safe Defense image

But more and more, we see more extreme antisocial behavior to the point where they could be dealing with psychopaths, sociopaths, and other master manipulators.

Suppose you are not prepared, not alert, or not equipped with techniques to deal with these people and situations. In that case, you could be at risk – sometimes physically, sometimes financially, but often psychologically too.

Therefore, for good mental health and so many other reasons, we need to build our awareness and understanding of people who may not have our best interests at heart. And develop a skill set to deal with these people, behaviors, and situations more effectively.

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We want to raise awareness and help people develop their psychological toolbox. We want good people to feel confident and in control when dealing with bad people out there – knowing that most people are good, well-intentioned people, but that, from time to time, they will come across dangerous people to their psychological and physical health. We also want them to know how to handle them.

We want to be aware and prepared to be able to:

  • identify different types of manipulators and understand their inner psychology
  • know how to spot other signs of manipulation and how to respond effectively to nip those in the bud
  • understand the dozen or so different strategies people can use in an attempt to shape your behavior, and how to neutralize them
  • look after your psychological safety and mental health effectively and securely when dealing with these people and their behaviors

So, what are some things you can do to protect yourself, your loved ones or your teams at work?

Well, here are four things you can do, in a nutshell (we go into more detail and more strategies in our Psychological Self Defense course):

  1. Spot it early and leave, but if you can´t go, then…
  2. Get clear and confident in your own beliefs and knowledge
  3. Don´t try to play their game. Don´t try to outsmart them or trick them, or play pretend to catch them out. You´re not likely to win.
  4. Communicate in a way that is very clear, firm and transparent.
  5. Don’t try to control their actions, but stay cool, calm, and collected no matter what happens.

There’s a lot to talk about, and it’s imperative we do. But it’s hard to put this much detail here in writing. That’s why we created the Psychological Self Defense course where people can discover the strategies, tools and skills, to better deal with difficult people and to develop a type of “psychological armor” to protect themselves and their team from harm.

This online course shows you how to spot the different types of manipulators, the signs of manipulation, the ten sneaky strategies they use to pull the wool over your eyes, and the best ways to respond to this manipulation.

We consider this essential knowledge for everyone.  Of course, suppose you’re a manager or supervisor. In that case, this is even more critical knowledge to protect the wellbeing of your team – and avoid the legal implications these types could create for your company.

Please, do yourself a favor and check out the Psychological Self Defense course

It could be the best thing you do this year.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter Diaz profile

Peter 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, Peter 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.

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Social-Connection

Looking after your Social Connection

Moving from Conflict and Separation to Love and Belonging

As we counted down to the New Year, around the world millions of people were pleased to see the end of what for many has been the most challenging year in recent history, if not in their lifetime, and to welcome in a new year, with hope for something at least a bit more positive.

Observing the mixed emotions and reactions across different platforms including both mainstream and social media, one word seemed to keep coming up as important for people everywhere: Connection.

It shouldn’t be surprising really, that after a year of social distancing, quarantining, isolation and disconnection, that people are yearning to reconnect.

We are social beings after all. If you think back to our caveman times (well, you can imagine at least), we went from being lone homo sapiens wandering the lands, to forming tribes, who had a better chance of survival by coming together to fight the sabre tooth tiger and raise offspring together as a community.

But besides survival, was there another benefit? Perhaps psychological in nature?

Social-Connection

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs suggests that once our basic physiological and safety needs are met, we then seek to fulfil our need for love and belonging. And there it is, we need connection not just for physical survival but for our psychological survival and wellbeing.

Social distancing has meant not just a physical distancing between people, it has also meant an emotional distancing.

Perhaps one of the most distressing phenomena we have observed in the last 12 months has been the increased amount of conflict brought about by world events and the stresses that it creates. I´m sure you can think of examples of the following:

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  • Conflict between family members with different perspectives or different levels of risk tolerance–with some questioning whether we should we have that get together or not, others feeling hurt or rejected when family members are too afraid to see them – sometimes even their own parents or children. Or perhaps they do get together and then argue about the politics of it all.
  • Friends fighting on social media about the definition of pandemic, about how many masks to wear, about the pros and cons of lockdown, quarantines, presidents and prime ministers. We’ve even seen close friends of decades end relationships on the basis of philosophical differences. Of course, the trolls jump in to stir up the drama and discontent.
  • Partners who have become ‘COVID casualties’, no longer able to sustain a romantic relationship, either due to distance or domestic distress.
  • News articles about brawls in the street, fights in the supermarket, not to mention protests, riots and the like.

Indeed, it seems stress levels are at an all-time high, and conflict is at every turn.

Considering Moving to a Deserted Island?

Most people have at some point entertained the idea of escaping to a deserted island (if you could find a plane to get there!). When we keep coming into contact with people in a conflictual space (whether overt or covert) it can make us want to stop contacting and connecting with people at all. When every interaction raises our emotional temperature or requires a greater amount of emotional regulation on our part, no wonder we are feeling burned out by people. When the world and everyone in it is crazy, it is easy to want to withdraw from it all, in a self-imposed quarantine.

The problem is that while getting away from everyone may sound lovely, peaceful and refreshing, and indeed there can be many benefits from periods of self-reflection, it´s not a long term solution. The flip side is loneliness.

Loneliness has been recognized amongst psychologists as a huge concern for mental health, long before we ever knew what social distancing was:

  • A 2018 survey from The Economist and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), found that more than two in ten adults in the United States (22%) and the United Kingdom (23%) say they always or often feel lonely, lack companionship, or feel left out or isolated.
  • A Cigna survey revealed that nearly half of Americans always or sometimes feel alone (46%) or left out (47%). 54% said they always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well.
  • And in a nationwide survey from the BBC, a third of Brits said they often or very often feel lonely.

And loneliness is not so much about being physically separate from people, as it is about feeling emotionally separate. That’s why you can be physically in contact with people, yet still feel lonely, or vice versa, oceans apart yet still feel loved and connected.

What are the benefits of Social Connection?

It is well evidenced that we DO benefit from positive social connections, mentally, emotionally, and physically:

  • Quality relationships help maintain brain health, slowing down cognitive decline and reducing risk of dementia.
  • Helps you live longer: a review of 148 studies shows that people with stronger social relationships improve their likelihood of survival by 50%.
  • Reduces susceptibility to inflammation and viral infection, something we should all be interested in right now, and helps us to recover from disease faster.
  • Lowers rates of anxiety and depression.
  • Better emotion regulation skills.

And conversely, lack of social relationships has been found to have a detrimental effect that is just as bad as smoking, high blood pressure or obesity, in terms of their association with illness and death.

What Do We Do About It?

So, if getting away from them all isn’t the answer, what can we do to reduce the conflict, and the so often subsequent distress and create more positive social connections with people?

1. Turn off the News / Social Media?

News and social media are part of the problem. In a previous article of WorkLife we talked about how the media feeds on fear and negativity to capture our attention and sell. Hence, it is clear that it is good to unplug from time to time. The problem is not with the mediums themselves, they are just a tool after all, the problem is that it is practically impossible to control the type of input you are getting. So even the most self-aware person with great mental habits cannot fight against our natural emotional responses to emotional content, nor can we beat the bots who program us for heightened emotional arousal (and therefore sales in advertising).

Is it realistic to stop using these tools altogether in this day and age? Well, those who do, report being happy with the decision, but for many of us this may be quite drastic. And it can have the unwanted side effect of further disconnection from others. So, if you do decide to unplug for a while, make sure you are filling that gap with other, more healthy types of connection.

2. Manage Your Own Responses to People

Yes, people can be jerks. But part of our development as adult human beings is to learn to navigate that. In fact, that is something we strive to teach our children from the first moment they begin to interact with other children.

Emotional intelligence is about being able to empathize, understand others, manage our own emotions, and relationships with people, not to run away and withdraw from others.

It’s good to be humble and remember that we have also been jerks to others at some point in our lives. Wasn’t it nice when others made room for our shortcomings? It can be helpful to step into a place of compassion, remembering that most people are doing the best they can with the resources (emotional or otherwise) they have available. Instead of allowing yourself to get frustrated or angry with others, recognize that they may actually be struggling themselves. This will allow you to approach them with greater kindness, or at the very least, help you to cool down a little while you consider your response.

3. Respect Diversity

Respect for diversity is crucial if you are going to have other people in your life. Not just diversity of gender, race or culture, but diversity of perspectives, beliefs and opinions. Because as soon as you have more than one person in a room,sooner or later differences of opinion, great or small, are unavoidable.

While it can feel great to surround ourselves with like minded people, there are benefits to having people from all walks of life, perspectives and ideologies in your social circle. It makes you a more well-rounded person.

In fact, many people love the sport of engaging in a debate over the merits and pitfalls of different ideas, but this only works if both people enjoy the debate, and it is done with a great deal of respect for the other person as a person, and therefore entitled to their beliefs.

At the end of the day, the world is full of different people. It would be pretty boring if we all thought and behaved the same. So, if you are going to nurture your relationships and social connections, “to each to their own” is a pretty wise philosophy to adopt. Stop trying to change or control everyone else (an impossible task), and immediately a weight will be lifted off your shoulders.

4. Listen to Understand

“But I can’t actually respect their opinion because it is not just different, it’s immoral, evil or downright dangerous!”, you may say. Unfortunately, adding a moral judgement doesn’t help matters. But consider for a moment – is it REALLY likely that your partner/family member / friend / colleague who previously was a regular ‘good’ person with positive intentions, overnight turned into a horrible, reckless person with no care nor concern for others? Or is it more likely that perhaps you´re not really hearing what they are trying to communicate. Nor them, you.

Genuinely try to step into their shoes, and understand what they are saying, even if you already have a counter argument for it in your own head. Where are they coming from? What is leading them to come to a conclusion so different from yours? Get curious. There might even be something to learn here.

Consciously remind yourself that ultimately, they have a good intention. You may disagree on the details but it’s likely that you both want to see the same outcome, you just have different ideas on how to get there.

5. Agree to Disagree

With so many polarizing topics being discussed right now, sometimes it is simply best to agree to disagree. As mentioned, diversity is good, but we don´t want to be so divided we can´t function. With some people it might be best to agree not to discuss certain topics. That is fine too. You can still love each other and bring a lot of positive to each other’s lives. Know which conversations to have with whom, and when.

6. Don’t Make Decisions in a Crisis

Sure, take some time out from people if you need to, but keep it in balance. Don’t write off entire relationships on the basis of one disagreement, or a relatively short period of discontent or distress.

In psychology we have a saying “Don’t make decisions in a crisis” which is pretty good advice in a whole range of scenarios. If you cut off people too easily, or if you only ever have relationships with people who never hurt you, offend you, anger you, disappoint you, or let you down, you will end up a pretty lonely, and bitter, person.

Accept that part of having relationships with other humans means experiencing the lows as well as the highs, accepting people for who they are, even if they are imperfect in your view.

Come Together

Human relationships are complex, messy, and often frustrating, yet they are also necessary, beautiful and meaningful. Make 2021 a year of reconnecting with the people in your life from a place of compassion, love and kindness. There is already enough fear, anger and stress in the world. As has become so abundantly clear – life is short, and we never quite know what is round the corner, so connect in ways that you can be proud of within yourself, so you can live with no regrets.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter Diaz profile

Peter 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, Peter 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 Peter Diaz on:
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Caring For The Carers: Mental Health And Wellbeing Tips

Caring For The Carers

Mental Health And Wellbeing Tips For Health Professionals (and everyone else too!)

Sarah is a caring 36-year-old nurse working long hours at the local hospital. Sarah is also a wife and a mother to two gorgeous kids. Yet, Sarah is at her wit’s end. You could say that ‘her candle has burned at both ends’. Sarah is exhausted. Physically, emotionally, psychologically. She feels burnout. She remembers fondly the time she started her nursing studies. She loved the idea of becoming a nurse. These days she shudders at the thought of having to get off the bed to go to work. See, the shifts are just too long, the demand too great and her life seems an endless procession of chores, even with the help of her husband and the grandparents. But what could Sarah do?

Sad as it is, Sarah’s plight is far too common.

Here at the WMHI, we work with organisations from a whole range of different industries. From the public sector, through to private corporations and not for profits, and with people in engineering, finance, education, construction, mining, defence, IT, you name it!

Caring For The Carers: Mental Health And Wellbeing Tips

In recent times, we’ve seen much more attention paid to the work of health professionals and those in caring roles.Along with that, we’ve also seen an increased awareness of the importance of the mental health and mental wellbeing of those health professionals themselves. After all, they are people too, and in order to be best able to serve and support their patients, they need to be well themselves.

We were recently asked about mental health and wellbeing for staff in the health & medical industry. Below is our response to three questions we were asked. I think you’ll find many of the ideas can be translated across to any industry. What do you think?

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Why is it so important for a workplace in the medical sector to be aware of the mental wellbeing of their staff, as well as their patients?

  • Staff in the health and medical sector, and caring professions in general, are well known to be at higher risks of stress, burnout, and mental health issues themselves.
  • Part of this is due to the nature of their work, where staff are often dealing with people in highly emotional contexts and also because of the long hours and shift work. Most people came to the sector because they care about people, and want to help, but without the right working conditions, skills and tools, they can often end up suffering ‘compassion fatigue’ where they simply become tired of caring. For some people this means, they become less effective at their jobs, no longer able to give the patient the emotional support, nor the bedside manner, that benefits the patient so well. For others, this can lead to frustration, angry outbursts, conflict within teams, and even an end to their employment in a particular role (either by choice or following an incident) and, at the more extreme end of the scale, suicide.
  • Another contributor to the increased stress amongst medical staff is that as a customer facing role, they are also many times subject to those people in the general public who may take out their fears, frustrations and anger on service providers. In the worst cases, this can escalate to outright aggression and abuse, where the medical staff are required to maintain their emotional maturity, stay calm and handle each situation appropriately and respectfully. That can be a tall order for someone who is already stressed.
  • These two elements combine with what is often a very busy working environment, with a high volume in terms of workload, time sensitive job tasks, and high stakes work, coupled with many legal obligations and consequences.

Do you have any advice for workplaces in the health industry, about a few ways that they can prioritise mental health for their practitioners?

  1. Make mental health and mental wellbeing a part of the conversation and make people mental health aware from Day 1 of working in your clinic or practice. E.g., make it part of your induction training, share tips for staying calm under pressure, managing stress, and building resilience in your meetings or newsletters, put posters around the office.
  2. Don’t wait for people to be stressed or develop mental health problems before doing something about it. Have conversations early, provide training in personal resilience, managing stress and compassion fatigue, and mental health.
  3. Make sure the leader practices what they preach, use a strengths-based approach when interacting with their practitioners at all times.
  4. Make sure the job demands are doable within the time frames provided. Don’t ask one person to do the work of three people with no extra time (or pay!) provided.
  5. Make sure people have time during the day to get out of the practice, and get fresh air, sunshine, a bite to eat, stretch their legs and have a change of scenery. It does wonders for productivity as well as mental health.
  6. Make an Employee Assistance Program or independent counselling available for staff and their family members, should they need a safe, private and confidential space to get further support.

What would your top 3 tips be for health practitioners to prioritise their mental health?

Yes! We have more than three tips:

  1. Remember WHY you got into this profession and WHAT you love about it. Write it down and put it somewhere you can see often.
  2. Practice your Self Care activities daily – encompassing the basics like good nutrition, movement, sleep, enjoyable hobbies, and also more advanced strategies like making daily gratitude lists, mindfulness or meditation practice,
  3. Notice ways of talking to yourself that make you feel good, and ways you talk to yourself that make you feel bad. Then do more of the first and less of the second.
  4. Every time you have a success, get a thank you, or positive feedback from a patient, capture it. Put it on a pinboard somewhere, or keep it in a file you can go to whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, disillusioned, or have had a difficult patient/procedure/day.
  5. Make sure to keep talking. Debriefing with colleagues, friends or family members (while ensuring confidentiality is maintained) can be vital for maintaining a healthy perspective. And if you need to get more professional, objective help, reach out early. The sooner you get support, the quicker and easier it is to get back on track.
Author: Peter Diaz
Peter Diaz profilePeter 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, Peter 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 Peter Diaz on:
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The-Psychology-of-Fear

The Psychology of Fear: How Fear Harms Workplaces and People’s Lives

‘El miedo es gratis’ (Fear is free) – Old Spanish proverb.

Most people in Spain have grown up hearing that. Fear is free. What that means is that fear is free, as in, it doesn’t cost any money. But it turns out, they weren’t 100% right, were they? No, you don’t need to pay money to be afraid, but Fear,it turns out, is very costly. It has a high psychological cost, physical cost, and a financial cost, since, at the very least, it stops you from doing things and taking chances.

Today we see the whole world gripped by fear. A fear with a name but without a face. A fear that has been going on since the beginning of the year. A fear that has become imperative we get rid of immediately. Why? Because prolonged fear causes a type of stress that can become really hard to ditch.

THE ROLE OF FEAR

In psychology we see fear as a basic and ever-present emotion. A certain amount of fear is normal, even good for us. It helps us to survive, by having an inbuilt, rapid mechanism to detect danger, and therefore allow us to take action to prevent harm. It is the foundation of our fight or flight response.

The-Psychology-of-Fear

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THE PROBLEM WITH FEAR

The problem is that if our fear response goes into hyper drive, it can cause harm itself. It can paralyze us and stop us from taking actions that would be beneficial to our wellbeing. It begins to control us rather than serve us. And when fear is prolonged, the potential for serious mental distress in the form of mental disorder is greatly increased.

In mental health, we know that all mental illnesses are founded in, or at the very least, accompanied by, a large amount of fear. This means that when someone you love experiences mental health distress, of any kind and severity, you can be fairly certain that at some level, fear is involved. Fear may be lurking just under the surface, or it may permeate every aspect of their life and their decision making.But, how specifically?

HOW FEAR IMPACTS US

Decision Making – A fearful person cannot make good decisions, the decisions that they normally would make, because fear impairs and interrupts good cognitive function. For example, the research shows that when we are stressed, we are less likely to choose good healthy foods. So much for dieting when you’re afraid of being disliked! Another common response to fear is to delay making any decision, because we are too worried about what the consequences might be if we make the wrong one!

Fear

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself” – Franklin D Roosevelt

Risk Averse Bias – Importantly, fear also creates a bias in the way we interpret information. It leads us to focus too heavily on the risks, rather than making an objective analysis of all the facts of a situation. We can easily appreciate this in sufferers of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD is a disorder where the person becomes fearful of dying, either of unseen microorganisms like bacteria, viruses or germs, or from physical accident, injury or misadventure. People with OCD are not able to make objective analyses of situations and have to be helped, through therapy, to change their association with fear of pathogens. In a work context, in organizations where there is fear, you see groups become risk averse, which is not helpful for growth and development, and sometimes causes the exact result that the executives were afraid of, and trying to avoid.

Problem Solving –It’s also well known that fear disrupts our capacity for problem solving. We become tunnel visioned on our main concern, rather than expanding our thinking to discover and consider a wide range of solutions. In fact, often people tend to oversimplify the problem and the solution to the problem. The solution is often emotional, rather than logical, and does not stand up to scrutiny.

Undermining success – Fear not only impairs our capacity to solve problems and to make good, effective decisions, it also boycotts our chances for success in life. For example, ever heard of the term ‘fear of failure’? Well, we now understand this differently.We now know that often, people that say that they are afraid of failure, when they dig in deeper and explore it, they are also fearful of succeeding. How is that possible? How can anyone be afraid of succeeding? Simple, think of your life right now, as it is. If you were 100% successful and achieved amazing dreams and goals, how many of the people that are around you now, would still like you then? Or would they be envious? For most people, if they were to significantly improve their life, fear would need to take a back seat.

Can you see why fear would not always be useful in a work context?

HINDSIGHT 2020

Today, as a collective, we are experiencing a new kind of fear, which is unique in a sense. This is a fear that is being drummed up, encouraged by governments, some scientists, and the media. Though it may not be the intention, we are reminded to be fearful of others, and fearful for our safety. These reminders to be afraid are conveyed in somewhat subtle ways by the masks we must wear in many places, the visual signs we see alerting us to social distance, the announcements and conversations we hear, and in many other indirect ways. There doesn’t seem to be a reprieve from these (sometimes) subtle, yet constant reminders.

Whether it is warranted or not, is not the question here. The fact remains that we know that fear causes stress, and that long term stress causes an untold number of physical and psychological illnesses.

According to the American Institute of Stress, 120000 people die every year as a direct result of workplace stress. Chronic stress is also linked to the 6 leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, respiratory deaths, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide.

The idea that fear causes physical damage is not new knowledge. In fact, there’s a lovely Sufi story that illustrates the harm fear brings:

“A caravan leader in the middle of the desert crossed the plague cloud on his way. – Where are you going like that, asked the chief? – To Baghdad! I have a thousand lives to take, the plague replied without stopping! A few weeks later, the leader of the caravan again crossed the cloud of plague. – ‘Hey!’, said the head of the caravan, ‘I’m back from Baghdad! It was not a thousand but ten thousand people that you took away!’ – ‘I only killed a thousand people as I was ordered’, retorted the plague! ‘The others were scared to death!’”

Being literally scared to death may sound a bit extreme, but it brings us to an interesting phenomenon that was discovered in the 1800’s, called ‘Voodoo Death’.

“VOODOO” DEATH

Voodoo death is a sudden, unexplained death resulting from spells, sorcery, or curse. From a psychological perspective we may explain it as resulting from belief in the power of those spells, sorcery or curses.

In his article ´Voodoo Death´, Walter Bradford Cannon shares numerous examples from traditional cultures, where there have been instances of death observed in these conditions:

  • In the Tupinambas Indians of South America, there have been cases observed of fright induced death, following the prediction or condemnation by a chief or medicine man with the reputation of having supernatural power.
voodoo-death-doll
  • In Brown´s New Zealand and its Aborigines, there is an account of a Maori woman. who, having eaten some fruit, was told that it had been taken from a tabooed place. She exclaimed that the sanctity of the chief had been profaned, and that his spirit would kill her. This incident occurred in the afternoon; the next day about 12 o’clock she was dead.
  • Australian University Professors have observed that from time to time the natives of the Australian bush do die as a result of a bone being pointed at them, and that such death may not be associated with any of the ordinary lethal injuries.

In today’s terms we may not call it ‘Voodoo Death’ anymore, but we have studied the science, and we now have good evidence for what we now call Somatoform Disorders, and the Nocebo Effect. We can categorically say that fear can, and does injure, harm and, in the most extreme cases, kill.It can be directly, as in the case of the examples above, or indirectly, as in the case of people believing themselves sick and dying of iatrogenesis or side effects of treatment.

THE NOCEBO EFFECT

Almost everyone has heard of the placebo effect. We see the placebo effect when people have a positive improvement in response to a substance, idea, thought or situation, simply because they believe it to be ‘true’ but without it actually having any active ingredient or proof. Their mind, the unconscious part, has taken control of the body and made it respond ‘as if’ the substance or idea is a matter of fact.

The placebo effect is the most studied effect in the history of science since it’s used as the standard to produce relatively safe medicines. What most people don’t know so well is its close cousin – the nocebo effect. That’s where a person believes something benign is actually malignant to them. In this case, the person starts feeling all the symptoms and often displaying the signs of the particular ailment they believe they have, although they don’t have it. For example, ever googled some kind of strange illness and then you start feeling some of the symptoms explained? How did that happen? Well, you tapped into your nocebo. Of course, most people stop just in time of making themselves actually sick, or do they?

Building-Resilience-at-Workplace
Building Resilience at Workplace course

HEADING INTO 2021

Think of this interesting and dangerous situation during the Coronavirus situation: the media actively selling fear, the government promoting fear to get people to follow their directions, the doctors panicking trying to understand a new threat and an increased influx of new patients, and the patients themselves in a state of panic. This is a situation of compounded fear. Fear at every level. What do you think will be the results of this heightened level of fear? From purely a psychological perspective, that’s a PERFECT STORM for ill health in the form of somatoform disorders, mental disorders,iatrogenic deaths and suicide.

So, it is vital we learn to identify when fear is building in us and learn how to handle it as quickly as possible. It can save our lives and that of our loved ones.

6 Things You Can Do That Will Immediately Neutralize The Fear In You

Advanced-Resilience-Skills
  1. STOP, or severely limit, watching the news. It’s a horror movie!
  2. STOP believing unreliable sources that have a vested interest in selling you fear AND have lied to you in the past (politicians, media, etc) when in doubt, ‘follow the money’.
  3. STOP ruminating – it means stop entertaining negative, fear inducing, thoughts. Get busy with another, better thought or activity. Ie watch a comedy, go and play, etc
  4. START exercising – it releases yummy endorphins and makes you happy. Start with some kind of easy exercise
  5. START spending time every day to notice all the things you do have that we usually take for granted (ie clean water out of a tap, hot showers, some of your loved ones ;), the warm and comfy bed you get into at night, etc)
  6. START eating healthy. What we eat does make a difference. The wrong kind of food, or the wrong amounts, can tax our system and produce chemical anxiety. Ie coffee, capsicums, iceberg lettuce, oranges, etc. Every body is different so it is a matter of paying attention to what your body says and experimenting.

This article was first published here

Worklife eMag - Fear Factor
Remain-Mindstrong-during-COVID-19

How small business owners can remain Mindstrong during this crisis

Remember before the current Global Trauma known as the “Corona Virus”, when business was about nailing your message, growing your team, getting your digital message on point. Well, these not so distant business stresses seem like a dream compared to the psychological pressure business owners are facing right now.

In the business world, there has been a strong push for personal development that focuses on high performance, on habits that lead to success and wealth, on positive mindset and resilience. But what do we do right now, when the collateral damage from this pandemic sees us facing not just uncertainty in finances, but a level of stress, fear and anxiety unlike anything a business accelerator or mastermind could have prepared you for.

The uncertainty of this time, means that the epidemics of stress, burnout and mental illness will increase. When we become highly stressed the quality of our decision making drops dramatically. When processing stress the part of our brain that makes decisions goes off line. This is because our brain and body is flooded with chemicals to deal with the stress in an automatic reactionary way, rather than being able to think through things.

Remain-Mindstrong-during-COVID-19
How small business owners can remain Mindstrong during this crisis

True mental strength does not come from your thinking, but rather your ability to pause and regulate your emotions. The ability to do this keeps us from making reactive and regrettable decisions. And this is a really important time, not to make reactive decisions.

In order to remain Mindstrong, get help, and not only with your business strategy. Whilst it can be reassuring to speak to a business mentor, prioritising your psychological wellness (and I mean above just exercise and meditation) is absolutely necessary in the climate we are all facing at this time.

People think they should prioritise business goals ahead of their ability to process stress. Right now, knowing how to have difficult conversations in a highly volatile environment, is a much needed skill, along with processing the stress that comes with it.

Replace “stay positive” or “we’ll be fine” with empathy, that is to acknowledge that it’s okay to feel. Everyone will be impacted differently and will process this differently. Say, “It’s okay for you to feel (angry, scared), what can I do to help?”

We are not talking business metrics, we are talking about individuals who are afraid and this fear needs to be met with not only compassion for others, but self-compassion. It is hard to truly have compassion when we are in a state of dis-stress. A way to calm ourselves internally is to set good boundaries around the information/news we listen to. Take the time throughout the day to breathe and calm your nervous system.

Being able to regulate yourself is key to getting through these stressful times. Emotional self-regulation refers to the ability to manage disruptive emotions and impulses. Your power comes from your ability to pause. Learn to prioritise internal calm and ease before taking action.

Evonne-Englezos

Evonne Englezos

CEO of Mindstrong Global

Helping you cultivate the mental strength and resilience you need to lead – against all odds.

This article was first published on WorkLife CoronaVirus Edition

Bad-Boss-in-workplaces

Mental Health Expert Warns: 8 types of manager you could avoid for a mentally healthy workplace

Bad bosses are to blame for rise in workplace mental health issues

A recent study commissioned by global staffing business, Robert Half, showed that half of workers surveyed quit due to a bad boss. The survey results seem to support the theory that people leave managers, not companies.

Mental Health Expert and the CEO of the Workplace Mental Health Institute, Peter Diaz has warned that bad bosses are contributing to a rise in mental health issues in the workplace. We already know that workplaces are increasingly under more pressure due to the state of the global economy and the level of digital disruption happening across all industries. These pressures are being felt by many people as employees are being asked to do more with less time. At a time when employees need to be further supported given the challenging economic environment, it seems many businesses and managers haven’t got the memo.

Peter Diaz says there are eight types of bad managers you could avoid for a mentally healthy workplace.

1. Rude and Insulting Managers
This type of manager seems to find joy in making others feel less powerful or special. They openly criticise you in front of others and even raise their voice from time to time. Whether they do it on purpose or do it without even realising, this type of behaviour is incredibly destructive. You can let them know how their actions affect you however often this behaviour is attached to narcissistic personalities and those who feel threatened by others. Giving them feedback is unlikely to change their behaviour.

3. Disorganised and Last Minute Managers
This type of manager typically makes their inaction your emergency. I think we have all worked with someone like this and can vouch from personal experience that this type of manager is dangerous and soul destroying. Helping them to better manage themselves and their responsibilities is not your job.

4. Unapproachable and Arrogant Managers
This type of manager is difficult to work with. Often staff will avoid dealing directly with this type of manager because they find them so intimidating. Often when these managers do engage, they are always right and tend to gloat about it. This is a personality and style issue. You can can do your research and work out how to crack their ‘self-loved’ veneer – but it can be a challenging task.

5. Managers Pick and Play with Favourites
Unfortunately, these types of managers are everywhere. They overtly pick favourites and these people seem to get away with blue murder including not doing their job. They also tend to be the ones put up for promotion and other opportunities. Other staff often end up carrying the load which burns people out and leaves them feeling undervalued, underpaid and exploited. You can try to pamper the boss with praise and sell your soul to get into their good books – but if you are a person with a moral compass this usually isn’t the best option.

6. Micromanager
This type of manager will give you things to do and then tell you how to do it and check every aspect of your progress. Most capable staff will only put up with this behaviour for a short period of time before leaving or exploding. The key is to build confidence and trust fast while establishing mechanisms to keep your manager constantly updated. This tends to add so much work to an already busy load that most people move on to other roles to get away from the micromanagement.

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7. Too Busy and Unavailable Managers
We are all busy in the year 2019 – but the people we should be most available for, are our staff. If it means that managers have to get to work earlier, or lock in staff time that can not be double booked, then this is what must happen. Managers who find themselves too busy for their staff are not managers, they are simply absent colleagues. Staff need engagement with their manager, they need to be able to access their manager to discuss and resolve issues and seek guidance on work related matters.

8. Distressed and Overwhelmed Managers
Bosses are human too. When they are distressed and overwhelmed, they can become a risk to the mental health of their team. Self care is very important for bosses too. Here you can encourage your boss to care for themselves. Do things they enjoy and have regular small breaks throughout the day to improve productivity.

Bad managers can cause mental health issues in their workplace, and through bad management they can also worsen issues staff may be experiencing. If we can better equip businesses and managers to understand and deal with mental health issues in the workplace, we can save lives – many lives. Importantly we can also help managers to be better managers.

Peter Diaz and Emi Golding have written and released a book to provide organisations and managers with practical assistance on dealing with mental health in the workplace. Their much anticipated book is called: Mental Wealth: An Essential Guide to Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing. This latest workplace mental health book provides important guidance for all organisations, leaders and managers on mental health in the workplace and how to build resilient and meaningful cultures and processes that enable organisations to support and appropriately manage those with mental health issues.

It is more important than ever that every business, organisation and manager across the country is positioned to deal with mental health issues and understand the warning signs. We all need to step up and ensure we are taking care of people. The only thing that gets us through hard times is people. We need to help people and support them to cope and to be resilient.

The Workplace Mental Health Institute is the leading peak body for research, advice and training relating to workplace mental health.

The book is available for purchase from a number of different outlets like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Powell’s, Indigo, IndieBound and many other bookstores worldwide and online.

Please visit https://thementalwealthguide.com for more info on this book.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter 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, Peter 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.

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Hygge in the workplace

Hygge in the workplace

You may or may not be aware of the ‘Hygge movement’ that is happening globally at the moment. I’ve been asked to speak on this on a number of separate occasions over the last few months, so it seems it is a topic of some interest to many people out there, and it has particular relevant to workplace wellbeing. So here are the top 10 questions people have asked me about Hygge:

Firstly, what is Hygge?

Hygge is a Danish word which most closely translates to ‘cosy’. It has been defined as ‘the appreciation of cosiness and the nice things in life’. The Danish love their cosiness!

In the space of mental health and wellbeing, Hygge offers yet another way in which people can take care of themselves and their wellbeing – whether or not they have been diagnosed with a mental health problem or not. A hygge lifestyle is a lifestyle that is aware of your own wellbeing and how you are relating to life in general.

Why do you think hygge has become popular now?

As a society we’ve never had it so good financially and materially, so we are looking more at the existential questions of happiness, fulfillment and wellbeing, as opposed to mere survival.

Our world is going through very exciting times. It also means that the rate of change we are seeing is, in many ways, unprecedented. As people, we have a desire for both excitement and security/safety. We want enough change to make things interesting, but too much change will make us feel unsafe. If we add to change the constant flood of information we are subjected to, it’s no wonder people are looking for some reprieve. I think Hygge is one method of many that can provide people with the comfort of slowing things down a little.


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So how does Hygge help mental health and wellbeing? What’s the research?

Anything that helps busy, stressed, overworked or overwhelmed people slow down and take note of what’s nice & cosy in their lives can have a powerfully healthy and positive effect in people’s lives. While I’m not aware of any direct studies on Hygge it’s important to remember that Hygge has elements of well researched benefits like ‘slowing down and take note’. Or in other words it’s very similar, if not the same, as some of the core processes of mindfulness, and that has been shown in research to be extremely beneficial and have antidepressant effects. And ‘appreciating the nice things in life’, or gratitude, has also been studied extensively within Positive Psychology, elements we cover in our Resilience course and found to have not just anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects, but also to build the neural pathways that make it harder to experience negativity and easier to experience positivity.

What innate human needs are people trying to address through the concept of hygge?

We have an innate need for comfort and protection. In the old experiments on baby monkeys (we wouldn’t do it nowadays), they took them away from their mothers and gave them two options – a metal, mechanical device that gave them food, or a metal mechanical device covered in soft cloth that gave them comfort but not food. The monkeys opted for comfort over food every time.

I believe Hygge helps people address their needs for closeness and love, and also for safety and certainty. But, it’s important to understand that Hygge is not the only tool that helps people do this.

In your experience how do people feel when they adopt a hygge approach to life?

All in all, the return to simplicity & connecting that Hygge encourages helps people get a greater enjoyment of life. It can have the effect of reconnecting people with life, connecting them with others, and making time for their relationships. It can help bring more joy to people’s lives and protect them from turning everyday pressures into stress. After all, we are social creatures. We need that connection in order to thrive.

These simple activities, like lighting candles, sitting by a fire, are things which can, and often do, slow down time for the person. It brings them into this time and space. That’s very useful for caring for your psychological health. If you do this exercise with a loved one, it can help reconnect with that person on a regular basis, thus creating a sense of closeness and love – very important and basic needs for us too!

What’s the most important thing to do/be aware of in making Hygge work for you?

Hygge is more an attitude, an approach to life that leads to appreciation of the little things and respecting your own way of doing things. In that sense, your Hygge will be very different to my Hygge, but that’s ok, as long as it’s leading me to really connect with the inner appreciation of the little things. So even though Hygge is an approach, a philosophy as such, the little practices you do every day are what is going to bring a deep inner shift and joy.

What are the barriers that people may face in adopting Hygge practices? How would these be overcome?

One of the challenges for people in our societies today is simplification. It’s a common pitfall for people to try to apply something as simple and natural as Hygge and make a To Do list out of it. The moment that you put Hygge as a to-do for your life, then it has the danger of becoming a source of tension instead of one of release and connection. Make sure you practice, but don’t turn Hygge into a ‘new belief system’ of sorts. Enjoy it. Have fun with it. But don’t become obsessed with it. That would not be Hygge.

In a workplace setting, how Hygge can be adopted?

Some ways workplaces can adopt Hygge are by paying attention to the physical environments they create, making them ‘human friendly’. Managers can be really useful here and take the lead. But, remember a ‘human friendly’ office will be determined by the people that are going to use it, not by the boss.

For example, I like nice clean, minimalist office spaces, with no distractions, but I have colleagues who love to decorate their working space, with pictures, poems, etc to really make it their own cosy space. So Hygge is partly finding what really works for each staff member to get that sense of peace and safety, and doing that.

Have desks for people that love desks but have relaxing couches or chairs for people that love working in a more ‘relaxed’ way. Make sure this is encouraged. Have natural light. Make sure people take breaks and move. Encourage small chit chat.

Another way is for managers to encourage their teams to recognise the small things they are grateful for each day in their workplace – whether it was that the coffee machine got fixed, or what a lovely walk they had into the office that day, or a smile and a pleasant conversation with a colleague. Too often our focus is always on ‘what’s next’, instead of appreciating the good at work, and enjoying the time spent there. After all, we do spend a lot of our lives at work. And the research is overwhelmingly clear that when we are comfortable and enjoying it we will produce more.

Are there any cons to the concept of hygge?

There are cons to everything. For example, if you use Hygge to escape from deep problems that need your attention, then that’s not a good use of Hygge. Hygge doesn’t fix things, it just helps you create some needed rest for you psyche so you can deal with the more important things after. If you don’t take your refreshed mental state and use it to come up with better ways to live life, then Hygge has been wasted.
Another thing to be cautious of is that sometimes in order to achieve something big, we need to stretch outside of our comfort zone. Living in all comfort is neither natural nor good for you. We need to stretch beyond our comfort. Think about this, possibly everything great you have in your life it is because you did something that was a little outside the comfort zone – whether it was going to the job interview for that great role, or asking your now wife out on a date. If we are not balanced in our approach we don’t achieve anything. But right now, I think we’re out of balance the other way. People are feeling over-stretched and a little hyggee brings it back into balance.

What is your response to critics who believe it’s a superficial concept that represses and ignores the dark stuff of life?

I think it’s a little harsh. Where good mental health is concerned, we need to have a time for everything. A time for focusing and addressing the dark stuff in life and a time to have a welcome break to recharge our batteries, as it were. I think Hygge, if it’s your thing, can help you do that. Of course, I’d invite you to look into more tools than just Hygge. In our Building Resilience At Work course, a course for workplaces, we teach workers and managers over 12 different powerful tools to help your psyche have a break and for people to get mastery over their emotional selves. A real smorgasbord of choice. Why so many? so you can chose what you want, according to your own liking and personality.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter 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, Peter 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 Peter Diaz on:
Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on Twitter Peter Diaz on LinkedIn