Monthly Archives: September 2016

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: 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:
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Before-you-can-recover

I’ve had enough

Before you can recoverI remember like it was yesterday the moment I decided I was going to recover.

I looked in the bathroom mirror and I had one of those moments of clarity and in that moment I realised I had been a people pleaser, and that my life, was not my life. A rage built up within me and I yelled (at my own reflection) ‘what the F*&k are you doing?’. That pivotal moment changed my life. I crawled myself out of that hole I was in. I used the anger as leverage. And pulled myself out. I started using the resources available to me. More importantly, I started to see the options and resources available to me, that I had never noticed before.


Read more on mental health recovery…


In short, I took responsibility for my feelings.

No, this was not an overnight thing and I have made many mistakes in this journey, but I was, and still remain, determined to live my life by my standards. It’s been an arduous journey to say the least but it’s been a worthwhile one.

Interestingly, the research on Recovery shows that my moment is a fairly common one. A lot of people who recover have had a moment like that. My tip? Don’t be afraid of a little anger and of making mistakes. Or even more scary, that the people you have around you now will not love you anymore if you change. The price of not changing is too high. Don’t pay it. Move towards recovery and freedom.

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 Google Plus Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn

Mental-Health-Recovery

What Does ‘Recovery’ Mean?

Recovery at the Workplace Mental Health InstituteOften, when I deal with health professionals and people in training, I get a range of responses when they learn that people can recover from mental disorder. Some are surprised, some intrigued by the concept since they’ve never heard it before and others oppose the idea of recovery with a vengeance. Why? What’s going on?

The concept of ‘Recovery’ from mental health problems has been around for hundreds of years, and yet for many people, the fact that people do recover from mental disorders is something that still surprises many people.

There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that the traditional model of psychiatry has explicitly stated that people do not recover. We now have oodles of research showing that this simply isn’t true. But nonetheless, the misconception persists.


Read more on mental health recovery…


The term ’Recovery’ has a long political, social, and clinical history, and its meaning has been much debated particularly over the last 10 to 20 years. I won’t go into the details now, (I could write a whole book on it, and probably will one day).

For now, what you need to know is that the term ‘Recovery’ has particular meanings within the mental health sector (even though many working in that sector still do not understand it fully).

So here is my attempt to summarize some pretty complex ideas, into a few simple explanations of what ‘Recovery’ means to us here at the Workplace Mental Health Institute:

The Recovery approach adopted by the Workplace Mental Health Institute emphasizes and supports a person’s potential for recovery.

1. We believe Recovery is not only possible, it’s probable.

    1. Research over the last hundred years is showing that on average around 57% of people with severe mental health problems do recover. And the statistics are much better for people with less severe mental distress, those who get help early, and with newer therapeutic modalities now available.

2. We view mental distress as mostly psychological, social or spiritual in nature, not as an illness. Though there maybe physical consequences and interactions.

    1. Treatment therefore can come from a range of alternatives. We are all unique and one size does not fit all.

3. We focus on ability, not disability.

    1. A person experiencing mental distress has strengths, skills and personal characteristics despite their current emotional state. Research indicates that when people recover from a mental health problem, they are actually more productive at work than they were before becoming unwell, due to their increased resilience, and strategies learned.

4. We define Recovery as the absence of severe or abnormal distress, and the presence of positive emotions and wellness.

    1. Everyone has some stress from time to time, but if mental ill-health is defined as severe emotional distress, then recovery would mean the person no longer experiences that level of distress.

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 Google Plus Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn

Pillar-5-Mutual-Responsibility

Building a mentally healthy workplace: 5th Pillar

Mutual responsibility is another trait of mentally wealthy workplaces, where a culture of blame is replaced by a culture of shared concern.

From a workplace safety perspective, if someone sees a cord in the office over which someone could trip, whose responsibility is it to do something about it?

The person who left the cord there? Of course, but what if they didn’t realise it was unsafe?

Is it the workplace safety manager? Sure, she’s responsible for making the organisation safer but she’s working interstate for the week and knows nothing about the cord.

Is it the cord-leaving employee’s manager? He’s accountable for the performance of his employees, but he’s been in meetings all morning and hasn’t spotted the cord either.

The answer of course is, the person who saw the cord.


Read about all the 7 Pillars of Mentally Healthy Workplace….


Hopefully you twigged to the metaphor. Everyone shares responsibility for mental health – their own and those of their team members. We must move from a culture of blame:

“The employee should have looked after their own health so they could present fit for work.”

“That team should have looked after its own a lot better.”

“That manager could have avoided this by not being such a slave driver.”

“My organisation didn’t provide me with a physically and psychologically safe workplace.”

…to one of shared concern :

“Yes all of those statements are true, but it’s no one person’s responsibility. We’re human beings in the same plane at the same time, and if someone is unwell, let’s take care of each other.”

It’s not all about the manager and they shouldn’t feel the need to move heaven and earth for someone with a mental health issue. Likewise the person with a mental health issue is not a victim. They’re not powerless. They are also responsible for their side of the deal. It’s a mature, balanced way of thinking. And it empowers everybody.

Talk soon and have a mentally healthy day.

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 Google Plus Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn

Mechanics-talking-mental-health

If you are asking ‘R U OK?, you are a little late

Here in Australia, we recently celebrated RUOK day. Its an annual reminder to check in with friends and colleagues on their mental health. I think it’s a great initiative, bringing much needed awareness to mental health issues, in an attempt to reduce stigma.

And I always struggle with it too, because as a manager, if you are asking ‘R U OK?’, it’s quite possible that you are already behind the eight ball. It often means there’s a problem already and you’ve left it go on too long, to the point where now you’re noticing the signs that the person might not be ‘OK’.

Of course, if that’s the case, it’s a good idea to step in and ask the question, and respond accordingly of course. (Note: if you or your team don’t know what to do after asking the question, it’s a good idea to get some training in that).

But as good as asking that question is, and as good as it may feel to ask, as managers, we can do better. What can you do to help your team BEFORE it gets to the point of asking RUOK?

Read more on workplace wellbeing…


Let’s see:

Firstly, mental health problems happen in a context. That’s why people from lower economic backgrounds are more likely to be unwell. That’s why people under pressure tend to experience stress. That’s why staff without clear guidance and vision, falter.

Second, managers, whether we like it or not, we are in our team’s ‘public eye’. Our team member are watching us. And they watch for incongruencies, in what we say, what we do and how we respond to situations. It’s a bit like when parents who smoke tell kids ‘smoking is bad for you’. The kid registers ‘smoking has to be really good if you do it anyway!’. Most of this exchange is not happening at the tangible, physical level, it’s happening at the psychological, and mostly unconscious, level.

See you may think you have the upper hand. And in a sense, you do! You have a lot of power in the eyes of your staff. You are the one who appraises their performance, and makes the big decisions. But let’s not be deluded here. Our staff are appraising us every moment of everyday. And it is precisely because we have been given that power, by virtue of our job title, that people will start to watch us more, and even worry about us. You see, they are not necessarily appraising YOU, but how their relationship with you is traveling. ‘Does my manager like me?’, ‘Are they happy with my work?’, ‘How are we doing?’ ‘R WE OK?’. And the answer to that question will make all the difference to how your people interact with you, how they  engage with their work, and how their mental health and wellbeing is.

The smart manager will handle this question, not by asking RUOK? But by regularly reassuring your team members that ‘WE R OK’. For a mentally healthy team, this is now part of your job as a manager.

Of course, you don’t want to over do it, or under do it – you’ll need to get the balance just right.

So, what are some tips for spreading the WE R OK message?

  • Make sure you connect with all your reports regularly
  • Diarise at least once a month for an individual catch up with your key people
  • EXPRESS how important they are to you i.e. some managers use that opportunity to remember why the person was hired (as a positive experience)
  • Be human, share of yourself appropriately i.e. what you did on the weekend, something about your hobbies, or travels.
  • Don’t share inappropriately i.e. how terribly depressed/stressed/angry/lost you are at the new venture
  • Set a clear vision for your team and regularly talk about it
  • Continue to tell your people ‘WE R OK’

If you do these, you’ll see a remarkable improvement both in the mental health of your team and the levels of engagement.

Let me know your thoughts and how you went.

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 Google Plus Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn