Category Archives: Stress

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Managing Work Stress Prior to Christmas

It’s around about this time of year that many people in organizations look at their calendar and realize they’re on the downhill run to Christmas.

It’s a time when managers and HR professionals notice an increase in the number of employee complaints, performance issues, absenteeism and team conflict. In the counselling and psychology professions, Christmas / New Year is also when we see a sharp increase in the number of people reaching out for help.

Christmas-offer

So I thought it timely to explore some of the common challenges your staff may be facing during this time and how, as leaders, we can support our team members through it to help them enjoy their break and to welcome them back refreshed in the New Year.

Financial pressures

For some people who are just keeping their head above water during the year, living month to month with a maxed out credit card, Christmas can be an anxious time. Many people worry about how they’ll give their family a nice Christmas experience with the associated cost of food, drinks and gifts.

Presence or absence of family

Extended families coming together over the Christmas holidays can be a source of stress, be it from arguments or conflict between family members, or a keenly felt absence of a family member. Quite often people feel dragged back into old family roles and dynamics that they have worked hard to distance themselves from and this can be very frustrating.

On the other hand, absence of family and friends is also an issue. Employees who are estranged from their family or have few friends outside work can feel isolated and despondent over the Christmas break as they’re left with their own thoughts and without their usual routines to distract them.

‘Wrapping things up before Christmas’

Christmas is one of those deadlines that seem tidy and appropriate, but unless you are in fact Santa Claus, can be fairly arbitrary. When clients, project managers and senior managers are all requesting a ‘pre Christmas’ deadline, it can certainly crunch the employees further along the value chain who then need to put in the extra hours.
General exhaustion
It’s no surprise that the pace of work these days is intense, and getting to the end of the work year can feel like crawling across the finish line of the Hawaiian Ironman. The realization that after a week or so of rest, a person must back it up and do it all over again, can be overwhelming.

So given we now know this is going on for some people in our team, as leaders and as team members, how can we help?

3 things we can do for our staff and colleagues

  1. Be on the lookout for warning signs
    While some level of stress is normal – actually desirable for high performance – there is a point where it stops being ‘just stress’ and becomes something more. Symptoms like irritability, conflict with coworkers, angry outbursts, avoiding people or difficulty completing tasks, where these symptoms present for an extended period and are out of character for the individual, can indicate a mental illness.
  2. Review workloads
    Under-resourcing is one of the fundamental contributors to chronic stress and burnout in organizations – particularly those with a fast-paced, ‘just get it done’ culture. Leaders who see patterns of stress claims and absenteeism in parts of their business might look closer to see if the workload and resourcing are appropriate in those areas.
  3. Say thanks
    Send a personal email or better yet, sidle up to the person and let them know you appreciated their help this year and that you’re looking forward to working with them next year. Whether you’re a leader acknowledging a team member or a team member saying thanks to a colleague in a support department, it shows that we respect that person’s abilities and their contribution to the team. It doesn’t have to be a formal presentation or elaborate awards night – sometimes a quiet, genuine and personal thanks works better.

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3 things we can we do for ourselves

As leaders, if we stay calm and unflappable when the pressure is on, our staff will follow our lead. And the things we can do at the end of the year to restore ourselves are the same things we can do throughout the year to remain resilient to the challenges that crop up.

  1. Do what restores you
    Is it reading a book? Listening to music? Throwing a party? All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, as they say. Try getting some regular exercise and quality sleep – both are proven ways to combat chronic stress and improve your mood.
  2. See a counsellor or psychologist for some practical strategies
    Say you have a challenging relationship with a family member, and you’ll be spending a bit of time with them over the Christmas break. And say you’re worried they might end up in a shallow grave under the mango tree at your hand. Well, a good counsellor or psychologist can help unravel the dynamic between you and that person and give you some strategies to resolve the issue or at least lessen the likelihood of being triggered.
  3. Undertake some structured life planning
    New Years resolutions are a great idea, but lots of people go about them the wrong way, and that’s why many are in tatters by the second week of January. Consider doing some structured life planning, where you set a goal for each domain of your life: career, family, relationship, artistic, spiritual, etc. Consider involving your partner and family in the process (and with meddling auntie now under the mango tree it should be easy). Set small, achievable and measurable goals that will help you build confidence and therefore momentum to tackle the bigger ones.

The concerning statistic that we’re hearing more and more these days is that 1 in 5 adult Australians suffers from a mental illness. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate in who it chooses and it can happen at any time. But there are things we can do to minimize the chances of it taking hold in our most valuable business asset – our people – and degrading creativity, productivity and happiness.

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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When Your Body Speaks, Its Time To Pay Attention

Feeling run down? Aching muscles? Sore head? Listen to your body!

Your body is always speaking to you, giving you directions about which decisions to make. It wants you to live a life in line with your path and your purpose. It’s just that it is speaking in code!

Too many of us blindly ignore our body, thinking of it as a machine – that as long as we keep feeding the body, it’ll keep running. Not true!

An easy example of this is that many of us could come up with a list of signs telling your immune system is weaker than usual. Some of the physical signs include headaches, a cold sore reappearing, even eczema or thrush. The big one is picking up the office colds or flu regularly. Emotional signs you would notice include increased irritability or feelings of fatigue. It’s not rocket science. Our bodies are remarkable messengers. We just choose not to listen. Or we can choose to listen.


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When you notice that funny feeling in your stomach or you start to get a headache around a particular topic, listen to the message from your body. Maybe this is not your path. Maybe it’s telling you to slow down. Maybe you need to reconnect with an activity or person.

Your gut instinct will tell you when you are out of alignment with your path. There are a variety of physical and emotional messages your body tells you every single day.

Feeling tense about a situation you’re not comfortable doing? Feeling forced to do something you’d rather not? Notice the tension in your neck, shoulders and gut. That’s a sure sign you are drifting off your path.

Whatever it is, make it a practice to listen to your body and carefully consider what its message might be. If you don’t listen to your body, it will send you even louder signals!

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

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Zen and The Art of Effective Anxiety – 10 Tips To Hold On To Your Anxiety

It’s not always easy to hold onto your anxiety. At times, when you least expect it, a strong feeling of relaxation can come over you. To make matters worse, although anxiety is common, many people out there want to stop you from feeling anxious and uptight. Oh! How much do we love you dear anxiety! The feeling of nervousness, restlessness and discomfort that is caused by some inner storm that does not let us stay in peace. There is absolutely no way in which we would want to steer clear of the path that leads to your home.

If you too love this feeling of uneasiness and discomfort, then we bring 10 tips for you that would help in keeping your beloved anxiety by your side, always.

  • Live in Dreams – This is the best thing that you can do in order to maintain the level of your anxiety. Real fears are far smaller than we imagine them to be. When you plan to stay away from reality and live in a hypothetical world, there is no way in which your stress would lower and your anxiety would go away.
  • Never Face Your Fears – If you don’t see your fears coming, there is no reason why you have to face them. A great way to increase your anxiety is to never face your fears. Running away from stress or social situations that cause anxiety can be a great idea.
  • Never Meditate – Meditation relaxes your mind and also provides you the much needed peace. For holding on to your anxiety, never even think of doing any kind of meditation.
  • Never be social – Being social means spending your time in positive activities around positive people. If you become social, the fear of a gathering will never bother you and this resilience will make your anxiety disappear. Never do that then!

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  • Don’t take responsibility for your problems – There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. If it wasn’t everything and everyone else, your life would be perfect! Remember: Anxiety and stress do not interfere with your personal, professional and social life. Therefore, you don’t have to accept that you have a problem and you don’t even need to make an effort to solve it. So, keep blaming your problems on everything and everyone else and keep telling yourself how great you are.
  • Never Divulge Your Issues To A Confidante – If you talk to people about your fears and your issues or even maintain a log about them, you will never be able to maintain your anxiety. The stress of being with people and talking to them is too much for you to handle. Better be alone and try to be happy with your anxiety.
  • Never believe – whoever tells you that you can get over anxiety is a fool. Don’t trust him. He is just misguiding you.
  • Worst Case Scenario– never think about being ready for the worst case scenario. This would help you in decreasing your anxiety and staying happy. The worst thing you can do for your anxiety is to think of other options.
  • Have unrealistic expectations – whenever you have unrealistic expectations for yourself or for others, you get to increase your anxiety. Why not keep doing it again and again?
  • Don’t get help – anxiety cannot be cured. It is something that you must live with. There is practically no use going to a doctor nor attending a Mental Health First Aid Course. Getting help or treatment would only waste time and money. After all, you are probably the only case in the world that no treatment exists for anyway!
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