Category Archives: Mental Health

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 organizations 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!

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?

Caring For The Carers: Mental Health And Wellbeing Tips

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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 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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Work-from-home-burnout

The real dangers of Work-From-Home burnout and how to properly tackle them

Work-from-home (WFH) burnout is a real, serious, and increasingly common risk for remote workers across the globe. Learn the signs of WFH burnout, how to combat it, and where employers/virtual managers and employees can reach out for help.

The world is grappling with the novel coronavirus pandemic that continues to take a toll on nearly all aspects of people’s lives. The vast majority of the workforce across the globe has willy-nilly adapted to a new work environment — the new “normal” in the context of the pandemic. But working from home has also opened a Pandora’s box of workaholic tendencies, anxieties and fears, proneness to overworking and burnout, and potential mental health problems.

While the virus itself poses a risk to our physical health, the impact of the whole unnerving situation on our mental health is anything but negligible, and this is especially true for remote workers whose home has transformed into their office. Between working harder and longer hours from home and juggling family responsibilities, people who have been working remotely due to government-imposed restrictions are facing an increased risk of WFH/ lockdown burnout, with potentially long-term repercussions.

Work-from-home-burnout

Different Remote Workers in Different Industries, All Overworked and Burned Out

What used to exclusively be their own oasis of relaxation where they’d spent quality time with their loved ones and unwind has also become their work environment for several months now. In a recent BBC News video, three professionals working remotely in different industries share their WFH experiences in terms of feeling the signs of burnout and overworked during lockdown in the UK.

 

“When I used to work at the gym I’d finish my work at the gym and then get home and rest but this just feels like there’s no end”.

Ana, a young personal trainer living in the UK, has been intensely working from home since March. Stuck at home, she started posting more educational content and live streaming workouts on Instagram, which quickly increased the number of clients from different countries. To provide her services online to clients in different parts of the world, such as the US and Australia, she’s been working almost round the clock. “I’m constantly working”, confesses Ana. From 30 sessions per week, Ana now manages 50-60 sessions per week.

 

“Because I lost all the gig income, I had to really buckle down”.

For David Altweger, a middle-aged musician and owner of an independent record label, the pandemic has had a devasting impact on his gig income. Running a record label online requires a lot of hard work and longer hours, so it’s no wonder that David’s workload significantly increased. He starts his day at 5 a.m. with a strong coffee. David’s workday is around 16 hours, as he’s got to handle every aspect of his business himself, including design work, office work, and, with his distributor closed due to lockdown, even CD deliveries, which are quite time-consuming, taking him at least 2 hours a day.

“Sometimes I feel like Covid Father Christmas delivering music to people’s door”, confesses David. His Moka pot is his “secret weapon”, but at the end of the day, he feels “completely knackered”.

 

“Lockdown has brought out the workaholic in me”

Abbey, a young art director working remotely for an ad agency in the UK has been feeling the pressure to stay productive and has been experiencing the effects of overworking due to fear of losing her job too. “I’m doing ten times more because there’s so much uncertainty around jobs and everything”, laments Abbey, for whom “the need to keep working” at all costs is so strong and deeply embedded that she oftentimes refuses to tend to her physiological needs for food.

She finds it difficult to take a break just to have lunch because she “doesn’t know how to switch off”. A major contributor to her inability to switch off is the fact that work and relaxation take place in the same environment i.e her home. Separating the two is as difficult for Abbey as it is for other remote workers around the globe.

In America, where over 30 million people have filed unemployment claims since March, the pressure to stay productive and even be more productive than prior to the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to a dramatic rise in the number of overworked people working from their homes. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll , 45% of US adults say that this whole situation associated with the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health.

I find myself working all the time, even when I should be getting ready for bed”

41-year-old New Jersey resident and mother-of-two Alana Acosta-Lahullier is overworked and feels burned out to the bone. Alana says she feels “an obligation to get everything done right”, even if doing so is detrimental to her mental health and well-being. Between her full-time job, working remotely for an electrical contractor, parenting, and helping with the schooling of her daughter and son, who has ADHD on the autism spectrum, she’s “constantly on the verge of a panic attack”.

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Panic-Working Is a Manic Defense

Even Gianpiero Petriglieri, a psychiatrist, MD, and associate professor of organisational behavior at the Business School for the World (INSEAD) admitted in late March that “by the time I went to bed at 3 a.m., I was exhausted, edgy, and miserable” due to “panic-working” from home.

The obsession with staying productive at all costs is considered a “manic defense” by psychoanalysts. Panic-working gives us a false sense of security and the illusion of being in control. It numbs us in the short term but this defense comes at a high price – feeling disconnected from reality, our experiences, and other people, and completely burned out.

Fighting Fire with Fire: A Vicious Cycle

Remote workers are oftentimes pushing themselves too hard as a way of coping with their anxieties and fears caused by the pandemic and the recession. But overworking in an effort to stay productive does not serve them well; in fact, it’s akin to self-sabotage because it eventually leads to burnout, more anxiety, depression, and other repercussions on their mental and overall health.

Both employers/virtual managers and remote workers need to be aware of the increased risk of burnout associated with working from home, recognise the (early) signs, and effectively combat it as early as possible.

Working Harder and Longer Has Become the Norm

Transition to a work-from-home culture has been challenging for managers across the globe. Finding new ways to ensure that their remote teams stay productive is one of their main priorities. However, instead of worrying about their teams’ underperformance, virtual managers should be on the lookout for overperformance, which has been found to be productivity’s enemy rather than its ally.

According to a 2017 working paper published by researchers at Harvard Business School, task selection is a common way through which workers manage their increased workload. More specifically, they tend to complete easier tasks, a behavior labeled as Task Completion Bias (TCB). Although TCB has been found to improve short-term productivity, it negatively impacts long-term performance measured by revenue and speed alike. Workers who do not exhibit this behavior tend to be significantly more productive than those who exhibit TCB.

Research shows that the vast majority of remote workers are more productive than their in-office counterparts. They work harder and longer hours than ever before for different reasons, including the fact that employers apply increasingly more pressure for efficiency purposes. for financial rewards, and out of fear. Remote workers fear for many things – they fear for the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones; the economic fallout and uncertainty of the future; they fear for losing their livelihood/financial security and no longer being able to provide for themselves and their family, and more.

But the reality is that overworking makes a remote worker more prone to WFH burnout.

The Warning Signs of WFH Burnout

Work-from-home or lockdown burnout refers to a state of exhaustion on physical, emotional, and mental levels caused by prolonged and excessive stress associated with panic-working/overworking from home and disruption to the work-life balance.

Although burnout is still not classified as a medical disorder, the World Health Organisation (WHO) included it in ICD-11 last year as an occupational phenomenon and is defined as “a syndrome” that results from chronic and unsuccessfully managed workplace stress.

What to watch out for:

  • Chronic fatigue/exhaustion and apathy
  • Depression and/anxiety worsening over time
  • Constantly elevated stress levels and reduced energy levels
  • Feeling overwhelmed and mentally drained all the time
  • Inability to focus and forgetfulness/memory issues
  • Lack of motivation, feelings of negativism toward one’s job
  • Declining performance, avoiding work or inability to switch off
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath and/or heart palpitations
  • Irritability, anger, and sleep disorders (e.g. insomnia)
  • Dizziness and headaches/migraines
  • Loss of/reduced appetite and/or gastrointestinal issues

Early recognition of these signs via virtual channels such as chat apps and video calls is of the utmost importance. It’s worth noting that a worker who is affected by WFH/lockdown burnout does not necessarily have to exhibit all of the above signs, because it manifests differently in different people.

Burnout can also weaken a remote worker’s immune system, which in turn may increase the risk of getting infected with the novel coronavirus.

Tips To Combat Lockdown Burnout

  • Establish clear boundaries that separate work from personal life to prevent work-life balance disruption
  • Set office hours and create a schedule designating work, free and family time to regain control
  • Avoid the tendency of being the perfect worker, which adds extra pressure
  • Take time off to unwind and discover a new hobby
  • Maintain social interactions/connections to avoid social isolation and detachment
  • Don’t suffer in silence -Talk to your team, virtual manager and reach out for help
  • If you are a manager or supervisor, make sure you can provide first aid for mental health incidents involving anxiety, stress and burnout.
  • As an organisation, provide workplace mental health training and resilience building skills training for your managers, supervisors and leaders.

Reach Out For Professional Help From Therapists

It’s absolutely crucial for virtual managers to learn to recognise the telltale signs of work-from-home burnout as early as possible in order to minimize its long-term impact on remote workers’ mental well-being as well as to properly address it in a timely and efficient fashion. The Workplace Mental Health Institute ( WMHI) is here to help virtual managers across the globe with a suite of tailored, top-tier and results-driven telehealth training courses and services, counseling, and coaching sessions on mental health, well-being, and resilience of employees working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

If you’re an employee working from home and you’ve been feeling the effects of burnout and overworked during lockdown, it’s in your best interest to take some time off to decompress and to speak with a qualified therapist. In case your job offers free counseling sessions through an employee assistance program (EAP), then do yourself a huge favor and take full advantage of it for the sake of your mental health and well-being in these uncertain and difficult times.

Author: Peter Diaz

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-isolation

Social Isolation: How the Coronavirus is Impacting Workers Worldwide?

Dr. Greg Iacono was 46 when he decided that his career as a chiropractor was, sadly, unfulfilling, and started to contemplate a new career path. “As an admitted extrovert, I really loved being around people all day, including my staff and patients. At the end of most days, however, I was unhappy and, often, in pain from my own low back issues.” After 17 years in the field, including 6 years in Belgium and 4 in Peru, he made the decision to sell his practice and become a writer, something he dreamt about since being in high school.

Like many, for Dr. Greg the lure of working from home was strong. “I loved the thought of working at home and being able to truly be on my own schedule. No set hours, no early morning stress to be on time.” Divorced and living alone in his 3 bedroom ranch in Kennesaw, Georgia, about 30 miles north of Atlanta, the former “Dr. Greg” converted a spare bedroom into his writing room and, in 2011, began his new career as a blogger and copywriter. At the same time, he also started self-taught lessons on how to write a screenplay. He quickly started picking up clients and learned the intricacies of writing for the big and small screen.

Everything was going well until the loneliness and isolation starting setting in.

“The silence, to quote an old saying, was deafening”, he admitted. “There were many days when I longed for someone, anyone, to talk to about the day’s events, politics, movies, anything.”

Social-isolation
Social Isolation: How the Coronavirus is Impacting Workers Worldwide

Although he was a father of 2, Greg rarely saw his adult children and had few close friends to pass the time with, and so the loneliness became worse. “There were days when I felt like a prisoner in solitary confinement, locked away from the world. I would go out to the grocery store just to be able to say hello to the cashier or make conversation with one of the other employees.”

After almost a year working and writing at home by himself a number of things had drastically changed. Greg found that he slept a lot more hours every day and, unfortunately, drank and smoked marijuana a lot more as well. “I was definitely self-medicating and in the throes of depression, something that I never in a million years would have guessed would happen, especially to me as I had always had such a positive, outgoing personality.”

It was when he started contemplating suicide that Greg knew something had to change, and fast. “When I started thinking about self-harm I knew that something had to give”. The problem was, he had no idea what that change could, would or should be. The solution came from an unlikely source; the local dog park.

“I was at the local park where they have an area for dogs to play with other dogs, and there was someone there with their dog and its puppies, giving them away to good homes.” Greg adopted one of the pups and named her Xena, Warrior Princess, after the beloved TV show of the same name. Never having owned a dog, it was a brand new adventure, teaching Xena basic commands, learning about dog habits and dealing with ‘accidents’. But something happened during those first few weeks and months that Greg never expected; his despair and loneliness faded.

Today, Greg and Xena are inseparable and can be seen around the park in Kennesaw nearly every day, running and playing together. “I never knew how important companionship really was until Xena came into my life,” he says, “but thank my lucky stars she did, because I was really a mess. I think Xena might just have saved my life.”

The Effect of Social Isolation on a Person’s Mental Health

Right now, as COVID-19 wreaks its wrath on humanity, millions of people find themselves in a similar situation to Dr. Greg, working from home, isolated and, in many cases, lonely and in despair. Some of that despair comes from the fact that the world is in crisis, which is understandable, but some of it also comes from the simple fact that human beings are social animals and, when the ability to socialize is taken away, a negative impact almost always occurs.

For example, while writing her doctoral thesis, academic Frances Hollis, a professor at the Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design in London, found that people who worked from home shared many distinct disadvantages. These include anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness, Isolation, lack of self-discipline, little or no exercise, difficulty setting boundaries.

Evolutionary psychology shows us that humans, like many other animal species, rely on each other for survival. Think about the times of cavemen and women, we needed a tribe so that the tasks of survival – hunting, gathering food, maintaining shelter, and keeping the children out of harms way could be shared amongst the group, with the tasks allocated to the most appropriate tribe members for the job at hand. While a lone individual could not protect against a dangerous predator, as a group they could protect the tribe and ensure their survival. To be excluded from the group pretty much equated to death. These days, that same social isolation and disconnection (especially in the form of rejection – but that is another story) can feel like a social death.

Not only do we need and want to be around other people, it seems these days many of us actively avoid being alone. In fact, in a study at the University of Virginia, 25% of women and 66% of men chose to subject themselves to electric shock rather than be alone with their thoughts.

So while it is certainly true that working alone at home brings a certain level of freedom and flexibility, the lack of human interaction, however small, can be problematic. The nuances of even small interactions with colleagues, let alone large meetings, working one-on-one with a partner or sharing stories with workmates, simply cannot be replaced by the disembodied avatars that are so popular in today’s virtual, online world.

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Does Isolation Affect Introverts and Extroverts Differently?

The answer to this question is both yes and no. While there is nothing wrong with being either an introvert or extrovert, per se, isolation seems to affect extroverts more adversely simply because they seek out companionship and are energized when around other people. When isolated for an undue amount of time they can become tired, depressed and even desperate. lacking the human interaction they crave.

On the other hand, studies have shown that brain activity in introverts is higher than extroverts. Introverts are ‘deep thinkers’, so to speak and, in times of isolation, all of that thinking and internalizing their thoughts can lead to overthinking. That includes both positive and negative thoughts. During an extended period of isolation, introverts may find themselves dwelling on their negative thoughts which can lead to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and even feelings of worthlessness.

In short, whether extrovert or introvert, long periods of isolation like we are now experiencing due to the coronavirus pandemic can be detrimental to their mental health and thus solutions must be found to overcome this pressing challenge.

Could isolation it be beneficial?

Besides the obvious health rationale in the current context, it is a common theme in stories of personal development and spirituality, that people have often chosen to spend a period of time in social isolation, in order to reflect, meditate and engage in a process of self discovery. Many great thinkers such as Lao Tzu, Moses, Nietzsche, Emerson and Woolf have championed the intellectual and spiritual benefits of solitude.

In the 1980s, Italian journalist Tiziano Terzani holed himself up in a cabin in Japan, passing the time with books, observing nature, and enjoying silence. He reported feeling free from the incessant anxieties of daily life at last I had time to have time¨. Not dissimilar to what many of us experience when on holidays or vacation.

Jack Fong, sociologist at California has studied solitude and speaks of éxistentialising moments´. ´When people take moments to explore their solitude,not only will they be forced to confront who they are, they just might learn a little bit about how to out maneuver some of the toxicity that surrounds them in a social setting´.

Similarly, Matthew Bowker, and psychoanalytic political theorist argues the ´a person who can find a rich self experience in a solitary state is far less likely to feel lonely when alone´. An interesting thought.

However, the research tends to agree that there are certain preconditions for solitude to be beneficial. And they seem to be a) if it is voluntary, 2) if we can regulate our emotions effectively, 3) If we can join a social group when desired, and 4) if we can maintain positive relationships outside of it.

So with that in mind, and given that at least at the individual level, the current restrictions may not be entirely voluntary, how can we cope with the social isolation during the COVID pandemic, without experiencing loneliness?

Tips For How To Cope with SocialIsolation and loneliness during the COVID-19 Pandemic

If you’re reading this, and are one of the many people now confined to home while the world deals with COVID-19, the tips below will help you to cope, stay healthy both physically and mentally, and maybe even learn something new and valuable.

1- Use Video & Technology To Keep In Touch with Family, Friends and Colleagues

Many people today, especially under the age of 30, use their smartphones to communicate with loved ones and colleagues, usually in the form of text messages. While this is good, it lacks the face-to-face interaction that humans need and desire. For that reason, using a video-chat software, like Skype, Whatsapp and Facetime, is vital. Being able to actually see the face, or faces, of the people you’re talking to, adds the human element to your conversation that no amount of texting can replace. The smiles, the joy and even the tears of those you love and care about simply carry more weight when you can actually see their face.

2- Keep Social Media Use to a Moderate Level

Here’s a fact about social media; it’s been found that when people tend to scroll endlessly through their social media feed on Instagram, Facebook and other platforms, they feel more left out than included. The biggest drawback to social media is the lack of actual face-to-face communication, which can lead to further feelings of isolation from friends and loved ones. In times of isolation like these, it would be better to use social media sparingly and instead use video chat and phone calls (see Tip1).

3- Make a Plan, and a Schedule, and Stick With It

Being forced to stay at home and shelter in place is abnormal, to say the least. It simply doesn’t ‘feel right’ and can add to your anxiety and stress. That’s why you should start every day by making a plan for your day and writing/typing it down so that you know what you’re going to do in the hours ahead. A schedule is also important because that’s what you ‘normally’ have to follow, so set one for yourself and stick to it. Doing these things will help you to feel more centered and calm, as well as proactive, about the situation, which can be quite helpful for your mental state.

4- Reach Out to Those Who may Need Your Help

One of the best ways to boost your mood and feel useful is to help others and, during this crisis, there are plenty of opportunities to do just that. Check on an elderly neighbor (while abiding by social distancing and using protective devices) or call a friend or relative who is sick. If possible, visit your nearest animal shelter and volunteer or send an email to someone you know might be vulnerable.

5- Go Outside and Get Some Sunshine

It’s long been known that sunshine helps the human body create valuable Vitamin D, which can boost brain function and improve a person’s mood. Plus, getting outside (if possible) gives one the feeling of being more connected to the community, can be quite exhilarating and lets a person know that, while things right now are a bit frightening, the earth is still turning and, soon enough, better days will be upon us.

6- Exercise

If you’re not positive for COVID-19 and physically able to do so, exercise is one of the best ways to stay both physically and psychologically fit during this crisis. Being isolated is bad enough but being isolated and inactive is even worse since our mental and physical state often goes hand-in-hand. Below are a few things you can, and should, do while stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Walk around your neighborhood, if possible
  • Practice Yoga, Tai-Chi or another stretching type exercise
  • Ride a stationary bicycle or another indoor exercise machine
  • If you have a pool, swim. (The CDC says that properly maintained pools are safe.)
  • Work out with weights
  • (What other in-home exercise ideas can you come up with?)
7- Engage in Activities that are Comforting and Enjoyable

It’s important that you feel good about yourself and your situation and the best way to do that is to do something that brings you joy. Playing with your dog or cat can be very comforting, as well as taking a nice, soothing bath. Catching up on your favorite TV shows or streaming movies can be very enjoyable, as can cooking or baking something delicious to eat. Hobbies are especially good at this time as well, like working with wood or building with Lego bricks. Anything that brings a smile to your face is good and valuable during this time.

8- Make Plans for the Future

Here’s a fact; the pandemic won’t last forever and things will slowly get back to normal. Until they do, you can make plans for the future and the things you want to do, see or create. Plan your garden for the spring, for example, or a trip to visit your friends in another state. Make a list of goals or things you want to accomplish before year’s end or even plan an event for your family and friends when this is all over. Planning for the future helps you to forget, at least for a short while, about the present problems we’re all facing. As Victor Frankl wrote about in ´Man´s Search for Meaning´, having a future purpose can be the difference in physical, as well as mental survival.

9- Be Intentional with Your Time

When isolated many people tend to simply let days slip by, wasting away the hours doing next-to-nothing, which can lead to increased feelings of desperation and regret. A much better plan would be to use all of this extra time we’ve been given to learn something new, whether it’s a skill, a hobby or even a new language. President John F. Kennedy suffered a number of horrible sicknesses as a child but, alone and bedridden for months at a time, he became a voracious reader. As President, he was a skilled orator and learned historian, likely due to all of those months in isolation that he used to read as many books as he possibly could.

Working from home, whether you choose to or it’s been forced upon you, has it’s ups and downs, no doubt. If you feel like you’re unable to cope, the above tips and message will hopefully give you some solace, as will the fact of knowing that you’re not alone during this crisis. We are all in this together.

Balance-and-harmony

Keeping our KIDS healthy and strong

Create certainty in uncertain times

As a mother of two teenage daughters, business owner and CEO, Montessori educator, loving wife and caring homeowner, I know what it means to “juggle chainsaws”. During times of uncertainty, like this pandemic, it is my duty – better yet, our duty – to stay informed on the topic of safety, take the best safety measures, stay home, wash hands and make the best of the situation. The latter is probably one of the hardest tasks for most people. “How in the world do I keep a safe and sound mind during this uncertain time?” you probably ask. The answer is: “Create as much certainty as you possibly can in your own environment. That starts with your mindset, your clarity, and your time ownership.”

Right now, parents are either working from home amongst all the other family members and chores that are waiting to be done, or in the worst case one or both parents lost their jobs and entrepreneurs are struggling to keep their business afloat.

Teachers are asked to move their curriculum to an online version and students are asked to stay focused in front of a computer screen (if they’re lucky enough to have a computer) for an entire day – day in, day out. Daycares have been closed for safety pre-cautions, toddlers, pre-kindergartners and kindergartners are expected to stay entertained while mommy and/or daddy work from home. In worst cases, mommy and/or daddy are trying to figure out how to pay rent, groceries, utilities because the income is no longer coming in.

Keeping our KIDS healthy and strong
Keeping our KIDS healthy and strong

Financial stress, lack of communication and constant arguing are some of the main reasons families fall apart. This stress is heightened through this time of uncertainty as emotions are raw and amplified.

We (the parents and guardians) are asked to stay calm, figure out our “new normal”, maintain “socially distant” and remain calm for the sake of ourselves and our family.

Amongst all, we yearn human connection!

To add insult to injury, being annoyed, stressed out, frustrated and anxious, makes our kids annoyed, stressed out, frustrated and anxious as well.

This means, if you want your children to stay mentally strong, you, the parent have to  take care of yourself first, gain clarity, find joy, be grateful and stay/become calm. Sounds simple. I personally use two apps to gain more calmness and clarity, especially in times of uncertainty. Your contentment will reflect on your environment and the people that live in it:

So the question now is HOW? How to make time and space to juggle all these TASKS? How to create a NEW NORMAL? How to deal with UNCERTAINTY? How to COPE? How to stay CALM?

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The answer is simple and complex all in one: Create elements of CERTAINTY:

  • Have family meetings: dump all your thoughts on a big piece of paper, talk about your ideas, thoughts, fears and hopes with each other – be free of judgement.
  • Create a time-system with chores and responsibilities for each child, each family member, make specific time slots for specific tasks, love on each other, be grateful for one another
  • Set boundaries: in time & space, outline working hours and family-time hours.
  • Let everyone in the family have a voice and allow them to be part of this process and find agreement in it. Put it in writing and hang it on the fridge.
  • Plan free time for fun & balance.
  • Make time for family activities, create & play games, give all family members ownership for specific tasks (see meaningful task list).
  • Move, make intentional time do yoga or a workout routine (either together or separately)
  • Create clarity and certainty: talk & listen, strategize and give gratitude for the things
    you have (rather than focusing on the things you don’t have at the moment), be intentional

You are in this together, your children are an active part (or at least that’s the goal) of your family. Allow each family member to be a contributing member and watch how this time will draw you closer together. It is work and it will be worth it.

  • Give your child/ren meaningful tasks, allow them in the kitchen and integrate them in everyday chores. Rebellious behavior comes from frustration and frustration is caused by meaningless tasks.
  • Have a clear daily structure and allow time for creativity. Allow boredom to spark creativity.
  • Make time to spend outside (keep your distance to others, use all safety measures to not be exposed), walk in the rain, go bike riding, jog, play ball with your family, plant a small garden or plant some seeds – all of this will make your inside time more bearable.
  • As a family, create boundaries, make a day planner with the tasks that each family member wants and must complete.
  • Make a vision board with the things everyone would like to do, once this time is past, be specific and write it down what each family member is looking forward to.
  • Create an individualized space for reading, to study, to work, to play, to be by oneself and also intentionally create time and space to come together, create new games and play them, be creative, paint, sculpt and cut.
  • Identify home improvement tasks that you can do together.
  • Cook meals together, bake, make easy recipes, picnic, work out, do yoga via YouTube or an app.
  • Laugh! Hug. Talk, listen, sing and make up songs, dance, learn a new language together, read a book together, watch funny YouTube videos, go through your old pictures together and scrapbook a photo-book.
  • Write or draw letters to friends and family, create a book together (draw, write and be creative).
  • Build a fort,
  • Create your own funny videos on your phone.
  • Create a gratitude jar where everyone gets to write something that they are thankful for each day on a piece of paper, fold it and put it in the jar.

In simple terms: create balance and get harmony.

Balance-and-harmony

Balance and harmony

As a parent, this all starts with ME, my communication. I am in charge of my kindness, wellbeing, calmness, my joy and therefore I am in charge of how my children are kind, well, calm and joyful. My inner peace will flow over to my children, my environment and my family. It starts with ME. I take care of myself, remind myself daily that the quality of thoughts, words, feelings and tasks are my choice. I reap the results. I connect with kindness, understanding, knowledge, structure and fun to the people that are closest to me. I create the ripple effect that I yearn for. It starts with me.

AGES 2 - 3

  • Pick up and put away toys
  • Make bed
  • Dust with a cloth or swiffer
  • Put away Silverware
  • Wipe down baseboards
  • Wash doorknobs
  • Fold rags and dishtowels
  • Put clothes in hamper
  • Put clothes up in dresser

AGES 4 - 5

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Set & clear table
  • Feed pets & water plants
  • Wash windows & sills inside
  • Wipe kitchen and bathroom counters
  • Match socks
  • Simple garden work
  • Prepare simple snacks
  • Use handheld vaccum

AGES 6 - 8

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Put away dishes
  • Clean up spills
  • Prepare and pack lunches
  • Sort, wash & fold laundry
  • Take out trash & recycle
  • Simple meal prep:
    – Wash produce
    – Weigh ingredients
    – Simple cutting

AGES 9 - 11

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Clean stove & microwave
  • Mop & sweep * Vaccum
  • Clean toilets
  • Tightening screws
  • Make smoothies
  • Simple baking
  • Volunteering in neighbourhood

AGES 12 - 14

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Mow lawn
  • Babysit siblings
  • Cook
  • Clean full bathroom & kitchen
  • Keep environment tidy
  • Change lightbulbs
  • Simple sewing & mending

AGES 15+

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Babysit for pay
  • Organize home office
  • Sort & file documents
  • Iron clothes
  • Wash car
  • Trim hedges
  • Simple home repairs
  • Make meal plans
Brigitta-Hoeferle

Brigitta Hoeferle

Renowned Montessori educator & parent, International Speaker, Founder of The Montessori School of Cleveland, and Owner and CEO of the NLP Center of Atlanta

Grief-and-Loss

4 Steps to navigate grief and loss amidst COVID-19

As COVID-19 has become a household word across the world over the last month, many of us find ourselves in uncertain territory. We are grieving the familiar bedrock of our lives like office time, schedules, in person meetings, and social activities. With children home from school, self-quarantines in place in much of the world, and restricted travel we are all navigating a new normal.

As we walk this unfamiliar path, perhaps fear, questions, and doubt are trying to overtake familiar landmarks like balance, trust, confidence and faith that things will all work out.

You are not alone. Most of the world can resonate with feeling anxious or uncertain, or walking through the pain of loss. Loss of job, routine, finances, stability, or even loved ones. But, believe it or not, there is hope and help despite how hard things might look in this moment. You can find your way again by taking these steps when your world feels out of control.

Step 1. Establish your mindset

It’s said that mindset is everything. You would never begin a journey without knowing where you are hoping to end up. In the same way, when we are in uncertain times, we need to have a mindset that will withstand the trial.

Grief-and-Loss
4 Steps to navigate grief and loss amidst COVID-19

One way to combat a negative attitude that often accompanies hardship is to choose a centering thought. Be intentional and choose something that is meaningful to you like a favorite expression, a significant truth, a motivational quotation, or a faith-based truth. Make it your own and refer to it often. Put it on your emails, social media, or say it in conversations to keep it in the forefront of your mind. When we choose a mindset that is framed in the positive it help us avoid getting stranded on the dark path of negativity.

Step 2. Determine your non-negotiables

In a crisis, instead of constantly reacting to your circumstances, a bit of proactive planning will give you a head start. Stay focused by creating a list of your non-negotiables. Think about things like physical, emotional, mental, and soul care. Then ask yourself a few questions: What’s important to me? What routines will I try to keep no matter what? What can’t I live without? What won’t I tolerate? What guidelines would I like people to follow?

Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, make a realistic list of what you need. Whether it’s diet, exercise, sleep habits, regular social activities, faith involvement, children’s bedtimes/schedules, or working hours, you get to decide how you’re going to navigate your hard place. Once you’ve made your choices, be sure to communicate your needs to others so they can help you take care of yourself in this way.

If you don’t determine what your absolutes are, they will be determined for you. So be proactive!

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Step 3. Ask for Help

In researching my two books, Alongside and Hope in the Hard Places, I surveyed hundreds of people who had faced all manner of loss, grief and hardship and asked what their greatest struggle was during that time. A huge percentage said that although they were lonely, overwhelmed, depressed, hopeless or afraid, it was very difficult to ask for or accept help.

Pride, shame, embarrassment, or guilt are significant roadblocks that stand in the way of hurting people getting the help they need. But it’s important to understand that being in need is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of being human!

Many people want to help and when we allow them to, we give them a chance to feel good in an uncertain time. Trying to handle everything on our own will burn us out. But in times of uncertainty, we have a chance to see the best, and be the best, in terms of our relationships.

Step 4. Stay engaged with others

There are many ways you, too, can be a source of help and comfort to those around you. Try one of these ideas to encourage and help others while maintaining your relationships:

  • Call a friend and ask how they’re doing, giving ample time to listen.
  • Have coffee dates or happy hour with friends or family by Facetime or video conference.
  • Change your regular book club or study group to phone or video, and take a moment to share your highs and lows with each other.
  • Download a video sharing app for your phone and use short video messages to stay in touch with groups of friends or colleagues.
  • Order a box of cards online and take time to write one note of encouragement per day to someone you care about.
  • Read an uplifting book at the same time as a friend and make a weekly phone date to discuss it.
  • Host a virtual dinner party where you and your friends make the same thing at your own homes and then sit down to eat together online.
  • Meet friends for take-out and maintain social distance by eating and chatting in your parked cars next to each other! (if your local authorities allow you of course!)

These practical steps are a way to set your course toward positivity and caring for yourself despite the tumultuous world circumstances. Even amid grief and loss you’re facing today, you can walk through the next days and months with hope, purpose and clarity.

Sarah-Beckman

Sarah Beckman

Speaker, Pastor, and Bestselling Author of Alongside and Hope in the Hard Places

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.

Bad-Boss-in-workplaces

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.

2. Ungrateful and Inflexible Managers

Many managers struggle with the concept of thanks and making their staff feel valued. Even worse, not only do they fail to make you feel appreciated, they also fail to be flexible. As most millennials will tell you, flexibility in the workplace is very important. In fact, it has been identified by this generation as one of the most important elements of the ideal workplace. Staff need the ability to blend their busy lives with work, whether it be family, kids, illness, study, causes – managers need to be considerate and flexible and find a way to meet staff in the middle.

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 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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How to support mental health in the workplace

How to Support Mental Health in the Workplace

What you can now copy from the TOP companies like PWC and AMP on how they boost their employees’ Mental Health while improving Corporate Culture, Engagement and Profitability

Most management teams these days don’t need to be convinced that taking care of their team’s mental health is a good idea. But many managers don’t know where to start to support their employees. Here we show you what some top companies are doing in this important space, so you can copy and use what you need.

  1. These companies recognise the importance of investing in their employees’ mental health.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), mental health disorders affect nearly one in four people each year. Depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders are among the top causes of disability worldwide.1

Since people tend to spend most of their working life at work, it follows that mental health issues affect all areas of a person’s life, including work.

How to support mental health in the workplace

WHO estimates the global cost of depression and anxiety at more than $1.2 trillion per year in lost productivity.2 Left untreated, depression and other issues can affect absenteeism, productivity, and put workers at an increased risk of suicide. In short, having a reactive (or non-existent) approach to supporting mental health at work is eating up massive amounts of profits in businesses everywhere.

Unfortunately, many people don’t get help for mental health problems. Most people won’t even tell their immediate boss that there’s a problem. Up to fifty percent of people will not disclose at work. And, even more concerning, two-thirds of people who have a mental disorder won’t seek any professional treatment. Some say that the very real fear of discrimination and stigma are two gigantic obstacles that prevent people from getting help.

Mental health has long been considered an off-limits topic in the workplace. Thankfully, smart business leaders are beginning to recognise the importance of helping their employees’ stay emotionally fit. Here are three ways that top companies put mental health and well-being first.

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  1. They Teach Employees’ How To Help Struggling Co-Workers

Most people are not trained to comfortably or effectively talk to someone about their mental health, especially in the workplace. If you don’t know what you are doing, you could make matters worse. AMP, which is a global company and also one of Australia’s largest companies, helps their employees learn how to help co-workers struggling with mental health issues. The financial giant has implemented a training program, called Mental Health Essentials, that equips team members with the skills to recognise when a co-worker is struggling and to get that person appropriate help.3 To upskill their managers and executives they’ve also run the Workplace Mental Health Masterclass for Leaders. AMP has had this Masterclass training delivered all over Australia, the UK and the USA, with great results.

  1. They Partner With Leading Mental Health Organisations And Don’t Try To Do It All Themselves

Another way that top companies help their employees is by collaborating with trusted mental health organisation’s. PWC, AMP and The Star Group partner with several well-known mental health groups, but in particular the Workplace Mental Health Institute. By working with leaders in mental health advocacy, support, and recovery, you too can learn how to proactively support your employees’ mental health, be better prepared organisationally to manage risk and safety, and be better equipped to help colleagues.3

  1. They Promote A Culture Of Openness And Trust

A high level of stigma exists surrounding mental health issues. This is an ongoing problem. More than 40 percent of U.K employers believe that hiring a person with mental illness represents a significant risk to the company, according to a 2010 survey among employers.4 Workers with mental illness are seen as unreliable and hard to get along with.

These types of beliefs in the workplace can cause employees to be reluctant to get help. Workers who call in sick because of depression or anxiety may make up other reasons for their absence. They may believe that being honest will cause their employers to pass them over for job promotions.

This culture needs to change if employers want healthier, more productive employees. One Australian company that understands the importance of fostering an open culture when it comes to mental illness is EY. Ernst & Young has collated information of other companies that are doing well in this space and they report it’s important for companies to share knowledge and information with its managers, supervisors, and employees about mental illness. The company that does well promotes an open dialogue when it comes to talking about mental illness. According to EY, openness and proactive early intervention result in decreased mental-health related claims.5

As an employer, there’s a lot that you can do to support your employees’ mental health. Try some of the things that the world’s top companies are doing to support workers’ mental health. You’ll see what a difference these changes can make to your organisation and your employees’ well-being.

Author: Peter Diaz

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-Media-Strategies-in-Workplace

Social Media and Mental Health: Solutions For Workplaces

Social Media and Mental Health

Although most workplaces have strict rules about access to social media sites during working hours, there are tools like VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) that the avid worker can use to bypass such restrictions. Furthermore, employees still have a life after work, and a significant amount of that time is spent on social media.

The latest statistics show that the world’s 3.4 billion social media users spend an average of 136 minutes or 2.2 hours daily on social media today compared to 90 minutes in 2012. Many would agree that 2.2 hours is a conservative estimate in an era where you are more likely to be looking at your phone than talking to the person sited next to you.

When did social media become bad?

After more than a decade of social media use, people have started seeing the negative effects of social media use on mental health among other areas like productivity.

Social-Media-Strategies-in-Workplace

The cons of social media are dependent mainly on the amount of time spent. Many studies have established a correlation between high social media use and mental health problems like anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, feelings of isolation, loneliness, and suicidal thoughts.

Facebook executives have even been on record stating that the platform poses risks to the emotional well-being of users. In 2017, the social network announced plans to make the platform less about spending time and more about meaningful social interactions. Facebook now has social scientists, psychologists, and sociologists collaborating with developers to make the platform have a more positive influence. Time will tell how successful they will be at the task and whether it will make a difference to the mental health of their users.

Social media anxiety

If you feel anxious at work when you haven’t checked your social media accounts, you could be suffering from a mental health disorder known as social media anxiety disorder. But don’t rush out to get a diagnosis for this social media triggered disorder. After all, this relatively new disorder is the same as social anxiety disorder affecting 20% of social media users who can’t go for more than 3 hours without checking their social media accounts. Given anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health disorders, the importance of regulating social media use can’t be overlooked.

Individuals with social media anxiety suffer from severe anxiety when they aren’t able to check social media notifications after a few minutes. Common symptoms of the mental disorder include;

  • Losing interest in everything else apart from social media.
  • Interrupting conversations to check social media updates.
  • Lying/being defensive about the time spent on social media.
  • Spending more than 6 hours daily on social media sites.
  • Trying to reduce or stop excessive social media use in vain.
  • Neglecting important commitments like work to engage in social media activities like commenting.
  • Having an overwhelming need to share social media posts with others.
  • Suffering from severe nervousness when you can’t check your social media notifications.
  • Poor professional and personal life because of excessive social media usage.

Spending several hours daily on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, among other social media sites, can hinder your ability to do truly meaningful things in life. It can cost you a job, relationships, among other things like advancements in education. Here’s an in-depth discussion on the specific ways social media affects your mental health.

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Low self-esteem

Comparing yourself to others on Instagram and Facebook with near-perfect photos and videos can bring a fair share of unwarranted insecurities, including feelings of self-doubt, even when you know the pictures have been photoshopped. The problem is that, when your sense of worth is dependent on how others are doing, you place your happiness beyond your control. There are studies showing that many social media users suffer from more envy compared with their counterparts who are rarely on social media.[1] To avoid developing low self-esteem, become more conscious of the time you waste on other people’s social media profiles, and focus on yourself instead.

Poor human connections

Human beings are heavily dependent on personal connections with each other. Social media makes this impossible. Instead of developing real connections, we are more acquainted with digital facades. Many published studies are linking regular use of social media sites like Facebook with poor human connections.[2]

Distorted memory

Social media could also be distorting the way you remember certain aspects of your life. Although you can look back at past memories and recount how they happened, the process of perfecting social media posts distorts certain aspects of the real-time experience being captured.[3] Perfecting social media visuals like photos and videos, overshadows the importance of witnessing the experience in person.

Sleep problems

The importance of sleep can’t be overlooked. You need enough hours of uninterrupted sleep to avoid mental health problems like stress. However, many of us are on our Smartphones before going to bed, making it harder to fall asleep. The blue light emitted by Smartphones is misinterpreted by the brain as daylight. This light suppresses melatonin, the hormone responsible for preparing you for bedtime by altering the circadian rhythm.[4] In a nutshell, social media makes it harder for you to fall asleep, which can, in turn, affect your work when you don’t get enough sleep. It’s advisable to avoid social media 40 to 60 minutes before bedtime.

Poor attention span

The mental health effects of social media go past the subconscious brain. You also need to worry about your ability to concentrate when you are working. Social media makes it extremely easy to distract people. Although social media places a lot of information on our fingertips, it’s harder to pay attention to serious tasks. The easy access to never-ending entertainment offers constant temptation to access new social media content instantly and repeatedly. Very few people today have the willpower to resist checking their phones even during serious engagements thanks to social media.

Serious mental health problems

If you overuse social media and the internet by extension, you could become depressed. You can also suffer from impulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, paranoia, and mental functioning problems.[5] It goes beyond peer pressure to comment and share things. Social media has introduced unique problems i.e., the subconscious need to compare your life with that of others on Instagram or Facebook. This has been linked to feelings of depression, jealousy, and suicidal thoughts in extreme cases if your own life isn’t as “perfect” as what is depicted on social media.

If you are always working but keep being bombarded by pictures and videos of individuals who always seem to be on vacation, such exposure is bound to cause feelings of depression or jealousy. You may also feel suicidal about your own life.

Strategies for workplace mental health

Given social media is a leading cause of depression and anxiety today, problems which cost the global economy approximately $ 1 trillion yearly in lost productivity (according to the WHO), the importance of developing strategies for workplace mental health can’t be overlooked.[6]One of the best approaches is through peak performance research and programs offered by organizations such as the Workplace Mental Health Institute (WMHI). Organizations are now legally obligated to care for the overall well being of their employees. The WMHI has programs which meet such legal obligations. Since managers are the primary influencers in workplaces today, programs that educate them on how to respond to mental health related issues at work benefit everyone (including employees and the bottom-line).

Effective workplace mental health programs tend to start with a company assessment meant to establish the precise state of mental health in an organization. Given 25% of the global population suffers from a mental disorder, every workplace, even those with the best recruitment practices, have employees with mental health problems that need to be addressed.

Mental health assessments should be followed by strategizing and designing the ideal, mentally healthy environment for high performance. Managers should then undergo training to be able to spot or preempt mental health issues as well as contain, solve, or reduce them. For organizations to deal with mental health issues effectively, managers must practice savvy leadership.

Employees must also be equipped to deal with mental health issues. Mentally healthy employees have better job involvement, satisfaction, commitment, performance, and turnover. The best programs provide employees with mental health essentials such as personal resilience strategies that help employees cope with ever-increasing work-life challenges. Employees who are mentally tough have the willpower to resist distractions like social media and focus on productive workplace practices.

Employees who are depressed or suicidal because of social media can get the help they need through suicide prevention skills training meant to equip employees in spotting warning signs among colleagues and how they should respond. Suicide is more prevalent than we think. In Australia, for instance, eight people commit suicide daily. Six of those are men. The prevalence of death by suicide is higher than that of death by car accidents. Workplace mental health programs can help employees identify and respond to warning signs exhibited by colleagues.

These programs are not only a great return on investment, with an average of two hundred and thirty percent return according to PWC, but also offer a platform for introducing mental health conversations in the workplace to reduce stigma and eliminate myths and misconceptions associated with such issues.

Workplace Mental Health Institute peak performance programs are tailored to promote good workplace mental health, which is crucial for achieving business wealth. WMHI programs are endorsed by CEOs and trusted by globally renowned organizations such as PWC, Glencore, American Express, and Tradies.

References:

[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/facebook-social-media-make-unhappy-jealous-people-particularly-sad-copenhagen-university-study-a7490816.html
[2] https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/185/3/203/2915143
[3] https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-effects-of-media-on-memory/
[4] https://www.sleep.org/articles/is-your-smartphone-ruining-your-sleep/
[5] http://www.medicaldaily.com/internet-addiction-internet-usage-mental-health-depression-and-anxiety-398216
[6] https://www.who.int/mental_health/in_the_workplace/en/

Author: Peter Diaz

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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Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an Anxiety disorder that is triggered as a result of some serious trauma. The Diagnostic Statistic Manual version V states that “Post traumatic Stress Disorder is characterized by the re-experiencing of an extremely traumatic event accompanied by symptoms of increased arousal and by avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma. (DSM-VI)”

In layman’s terms, this means that some people tend to re-experience the feelings of distress and horror from after having gone through some extreme negative event. This can be very disruptive to the person’s life and cause a high level of dysfunction. In the most extreme cases, people have resorted to suicide in a desperate attempt to obtain relief. The classic example of PTSD is that of the returned war veteran that has experienced severe trauma in the battlefield and keeps having flashbacks to being back in the battlefield.

Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder

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This is serious trauma. If you suspect you or a loved one maybe suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I suggest you to talk to us or to another fully qualified mental health professional fast. In the meantime, make sure you provide appropriate first aid.

On the positive side, note that, while it is normal for people to have a reaction to a traumatic event, most people recover naturally with time, never get to experience PTSD and go on to lead trouble free lives. Yet in some individuals, these experiences do turn into trauma and could be diagnosed as having PTSD. There are good and valid reasons as to why this happens and the good news is that there are effective treatments that can help you recover.

Please, if you suspect you or a loved one maybe suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I suggest you get help fast. If you would like to further your training, you might want to consider running the Mental Health Essentials course in your workplace where we deal with disorders in greater detail and we show you how to apply a first aid response to mental health emergencies at work. (read our blog – First Aid for Mental Health Problems – W.A.R.M.)

Author: Peter Diaz

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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WARM-First-Aid-for-Mental-Health

First Aid for Mental Health Problems – W.A.R.M.

So you think someone you know maybe experiencing a mental health problem? Then the big question is ‘so what do I do? How do I respond now?

There’s no perfect thing that will always ‘work’ 100% of the time, because people are people, and we are all different, but there are definitely some clear principles, that are considered best practice when responding to someone who might be becoming unwell.

We’ve put together an acronym to help you remember the steps. And it’s called WARM.

It’s a reminder that as you do each of the actions in these steps, you are dealing with a person, a human, being, so be warm and friendly in your approach. Remember to use good body language and non-verbal communication that shows you really care. (If you are a manager, we encourage you to look into running a Workplace Mental Health Masterclass for Leaders in your workplace to make sure your team has the necessary skills. In the meantime, you might want to check the blog ‘How to Ask ‘R U OK?’)

WARM-First-Aid-for-Mental-Health

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Lets have a look at the WARM steps:

W stands for Watch

– look for the signs and symptoms. Be observant. It doesn’t mean that you have to be going about your day, nervously staring at everyone and looking for signs and symptoms. If you do that, you will start to think everyone has them! But it does mean to just be aware. If you see some things, and start to be concerned, don’t ignore it.

A stands for ASK

– Approach the person directly. Ask them. This is the simplest, and best way to respond. By going directly to the person it avoids getting in a situation where you are talking about the person or making decisions about the person without having all the information and without them being involved. By going directly to the person, it can also help to minimise any fear or paranoia they may have bout office gossip.

So how do you ask then? (We deal with these topics more in detail in the Mental Health Essentials course)

Questions – It’s a good idea to plan your approach alittle bit. What sort of things do you think you should consider before asking the person? Some questions people are asking that are having good results are ‘Are you ok?’, ‘I’ve noticed that you haven’t been yourself lately, is everything ok?’ or ‘Are we ok?’

It’s important that you find a question you are comfortable with and that is sensitive to the other person’s style.

Location – Where is the best place to raise this? In the middle of an open plan office it’s usually not a good idea. Ideally you would look for a quiet, private spot somewhere, where you wont be interrupted. You want to he person to feel comfortable to talk, if there is something going on. It’s a good idea to keep it informal as well, so if at all possible. It’s also a good idea to avoid taking the person to a formal meeting room or office. In fact, maybe you can bring it up outside the office, going for a walk or over a tea of coffee? Just a word of caution: make sure the environment is safe for the both of you. If you are a person of the opposite sex, could you get someone else to have the conversation? Would that be more appropriate and safer for you? These are things to think about.

Physical Safety – You should also think about physical safety as well. If there is a chance that the person may want to hurt themselves, you, or others, perhaps it is a good idea to be somewhere where you can either escape easily or you can get other people’s attention,should you need to.

Psychological Safety – It’s good to remember that you are human too and have your own issues, needs and wants. While it’s important we take care of others, it’s also important that we remain strong and resilient ourselves. That’s why so many workplaces are doing resilience training these days. We need to take steps to self care at all times and make sure we stay healthy. If you are applying these principles at work and you are in charge of a team, then it would be good to ensure your team is prepared for anything that comes its way. Our Resilience At Work course is designed to help workplaces stay strong.

Timing – Another thing to think about is timing. If at work, and you are the managers, it is probably not a good idea to raise this matter last thing on a Friday afternoon, or at the end of their shift. You don’t know what it could bring up and then they’ll be going home where they may be alone, or in a not so great environment.

You also don’t want to bring it up right before any important work, for example, before they’re about to go into a meeting or give a presentation.

We usually recommend, that if you are able to choose your timing, then before lunchtime tends to be a good idea. That means that after this conversation the person can have a bit of a break before they go back to work.

The conversation might not be a big in depth one, but we want to be prepared just in case it does bring things up for the person.

R stands for Refer

– refer on to professional and other help. Here, it is important not to be too eager to jump in with ‘suggestions’ as to what the person should do. Remember, each person will have their own view of what is going on, and the action you think is best, may not resonate with them at all.

So again, questions are best. You can ask things like ‘have you seen anyone about this, or done anything to get some help with it?’. It is quiet possible that they are already getting some professional help.

Or you can ask them ‘what do you think we could do to get some advice with this?’. Notice the ‘we’ language, helps the person to feel like they are not all on their own with this. You’re in it together.

Or you can ask who or what has been helpful in the past? When the person identifies what they think will be useful, they are much more likely to follow through and actually seek help, than if you told them where to go.

Of course, if they really cant think of anything, then you might like to make a couple of suggestions. Make sure to give a few different options, from a few different filters. For example ‘have you thought about seeing a doctor, or a counselor, or even a life coach?’.

Your aim here is to make sure the person knows what options they have available to them, and if possible has agreed to take some steps to get help.

M stands for Monitor

– Finally, the last step is Monitor. Check in with them over the next few days or weeks, and continue supporting them by being available to chat or to help with any practical assistance they may need. If they have said they will get some help, just check in and ask how it went. Keep these check-ins casual, and make sure you also talk with them about other, non mental health related things too. You don’t want all your conversations to be about mental health!

So that’s the WARM response. Easy to remember, and easy to do. As long as you follow those steps, you have gone a long way to assisting someone with a mental health problem.

It doesn’t necessarily mean they WILL get help, or that they WILL get better. But remember they are responsible for what they choose to do. You have done your part to help, and followed the best practice we have for responding to someone who may be experiencing a mental health problem. It also means that this person now knows they are not alone. This is very powerful.

If you are ready to get practical, real skills around this subject, our Mental Health Essentials course does just that over one day. Perfect for workplaces of any sort.

Author: Peter Diaz

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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