Tag Archives: Mental Health Strategy

Psychological-Self-Defence

Advanced Psychological Self-Defence

Protecting Yourself from the Expert Manipulation of Psychopaths, Sociopaths and Other Difficult People

Have you ever been in a relationship where, for some reason, you couldn’t quite figure out, you felt as if you were being controlled or restricted in some way? A relationship where you started to doubt yourself, your actions, and your emotions, or felt as if something just wasn’t right? If you have, there’s an excellent chance that you were being manipulated.

What, Exactly, is Manipulation?

While it does have a negative connotation, manipulation is a natural, effective and useful tool that helps us survive and thrive in society. We start using unconscious manipulation as infants and small children. For example, when they get hungry, babies cry. This manipulates their parents into doing what they need, giving them food. Children will often do the same thing once they realize how powerful their cries are, for example, using them to manipulate their parents into purchasing them a toy.

Psychological-Self-Defence

This type of manipulation is, truth be told, relatively normal behavior. All children do it, so the last thing you want to do is judge them or deride them too harshly. At some point, with discipline, most children grow out of self-obsessed manipulation and mature into adults who are considerate of others, kind and don’t need to use manipulation to get what they want or need; they ask. But it doesn’t always work out that way and, for some, immature manipulation traits can continue into adulthood.

When adults use wanton manipulation, however, it often is emotionally and psychologically dangerous and damaging. That’s because, at its core, manipulation is a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) form of control. Control of an individual, a group, team, or organization, or even an entire nation. When a car salesperson pushes you to make a purchase, they’re trying to control both you and the situation to create an outcome that favors them (i.e., more sales). The problem is when their wanting to sell the car is more important to them, than your need to buy one.

You can walk away from that type of situation, of course, but it’s not as easy if, say, the person manipulating you is your partner, a colleague, or someone in power, and they’re doing it to ‘keep you in line’ or otherwise derive some other benefit from your abject obedience. In short, manipulation is a typical human trait that, when selfishly abused, can be quite damaging.

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The Different Types of Manipulators (And Why They Do It)

Manipulation covers a whole range of different scenarios and situations, from more ´mild´ forms, to those that are much more damaging and dangerous. To help us clarify, we´ve identified at least 3 types of manipulators:

  1. Immature – like a child, they don’t intend harm, but are merely self centred
  2. Entitled – they believe they deserve things to be their way, and don’t want to cause harm, but will justify hurting others, to get what they want.
  3. Pathological – they don´t care who gets hurt, or even enjoy causing harm to others. This includes sociopaths, who may act impulsively without thinking how others may be affected, and psychopaths who are cold and calculating and may even play along within societal rules to achieve their own objectives, but with zero regard for human life or emotions.

Identifying the Obvious (and Not So Obvious) Signs Of Manipulation

Some of us are very trusting people, and when we meet someone new, it may not even cross our minds that they could have ulterior motives, or not be completely trustworthy. You might dive into a new romance, friendship, or business partnership assuming that the person has none other than the best intentions, only to find a little while down the track that things start to go pear shaped.

If you´re nodding your head here, it´s likely that you may have been burnt before in this respect. You´ve probably had friends and family tell you that you´re too trusting or naïve. And they could be right.

On the other hand, some people (usually those who have been burnt too many times before!) err in the other direction, and could be very critical and closed off, even suspicious towards someone new.

As with all things, a bit of balance is called for. It is worthwhile as you are getting to know someone that you remain aware, but not hypervigilant, to the way they behave and communicate.

To know if you’re being manipulated, you need to know the signs and, if you will, symptoms of unhealthy manipulation. Like the early days of the flu, things won’t ‘feel right’ when you’re being manipulated. That’s the best time to nip it in the bud, frankly, so knowing what to look for (and all the many signs of manipulation) is vital.

Things Don’t ‘Add Up.’

One of the most common signs you’re being manipulated is when situations and circumstances don’t add up or make sense. If your new partner is trying to convince you, for example, to sign away your home to them so that you can save money on a new mortgage. That doesn’t make any sense and would be a big red flag that they may be manipulating you.

You Start To Question or Doubt Yourself

Some manipulators are very good at what they do. So good, in fact, that they can start to make you doubt yourself and start seeing things their way. Their manipulations can make you feel as if you’re going a little crazy as your brain tries to figure out what’s going on.

Something Feels Off (Your ‘Gut’ Is Telling You To Be Careful)

Knowing how to feel and trust your ‘gut feeling’ is essential to sniffing out a manipulator. It’s a little feeling that says ‘hey,’ this doesn’t seem right’ or ‘get the heck out of here, this is a bad situation´. If something feels ‘off’ to you, there’s a good chance it is and that you need to extricate yourself from the situation.

Understand the Common Manipulation Strategies

People who use manipulation for evil or immoral intent have specific tried-and-true strategies they use and use often. Knowing these strategies will make it easier for you to spot if you’re in danger of becoming the victim of a predator, sociopath or psychopath.

Initial Grooming and Creating Trust

This strategy involves being nice to you and creating a feeling of trust and security. It can happen quickly (within a few hours) or over a longer period of time (weeks or months).

Playing Your Emotions With a Sad Story

Human empathy is an excellent thing, no doubt. Manipulators know this and use sad stories to hit your empathy button. Portraying themselves as weak or a victim, ironically, is how they manipulate their victims.

Foot in the Door

A classic strategy of persuasion: I ask you to make a small concession, to which you reluctantly agree. Like the unwelcome houseguest who asks to stay for ´just a couple of weeks, til I get on my feet´ and is still living with you (rent free) a year later.

Separating You From Those Who Love and Care About You

This is one of the most wicked forms of manipulation, putting a wedge between their victim and those who care about them (and who may alert you to their ways). They create drama where there is none, making their victim believe that their family or friends have shunned them (or worse).

Praise or Putting You Up On a Pedestal

This is a prevalent strategy used by sociopaths. By showering compliments, they overwhelm their victim’s gut feelings, leaving them highly vulnerable. Manipulators have used this technique to steal from people for eons, preying on their victim’s vanity or lack of self-confidence. Praising you for following their orders or giving them what they want

Ridicule and Sarcasm

Praise can often be alternated with ridicule and sarcasm, designed to avoid addressing your concerns (no matter how legitimate), create shame and self doubt, and deter onlookers from even considering your perspective or supporting you.

Twisting the Facts

This can be the most frustrating, but sometimes you won´t even know it is happening. This can include exaggerating or understating the facts, bias, outright lying, feigning ignorance, making excuses, leaving out important details, using language to mislead, and so on.

Reciprocity & Guilt

They may go out of their way to do something for you. It could be just that they are nice, but beware, if they try to convince you that you ‘owe’ them, they’re using reciprocity as a manipulative tool. Or they may flat out blame you when something they have done doesn´t turn out well. This is where it starts to take a horrible turn and can often lead to…

Fear, Threats and Intimidation

Creating fear, threatening violence or to reveal intimate knowledge is a potent strategy and used by sociopaths and psychopaths frequently. Some will veil their threats (however thinly) with storytelling. For example, by telling their victim a story about “a lady who went to the cops but later disappeared and was never heard from again” or “imagine what would happen if your family found out about what you did¨.

Wearing you Down

All of these strategies can play with your mind and emotions to such an extent that after some time, you simply get worn down and end up giving in to the bully.

How to Protect Yourself

The very best way to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of a sociopath or psychopath’s manipulation is to nip the problem in the bud as soon as it starts.

While most people are good, well meaning people just trying to do their best in this world, there will always be a small percentage,who are willing to trample on other people´s rights to achieve their own outcomes and agendas. Some of these are even wily or charismatic enough to make it into positions of power.

When it comes to protecting yourself, you really only have two options:

  1. Walk Away– If someone is trying to manipulate you, your best bet is to disengage completely and walk away. It might not always be possible, of course, but if it is, that’s your best course of action.
  2. Learn how psychological manipulation operates so you can spot it coming, and avoid you or your loved ones falling victim to it.

Either way, don´t allow yourself to be manipulated. The costs are simply too high. And when you see signs of psychological manipulation at play, whenever possible, speak out about it. If you don´t, you may find yourself or someone else in a world of trouble not too far down the road.

In our online learning course ´Psychological Self Defence´ we show you 18 different strategies you can use to handle a master manipulator, sociopath or psychopath, and how to protect yourself both in physically, mentally and emotionally.

Author: Peter Diaz
psychopath

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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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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R-U-OK

How to Ask ‘R U OK?’

Often people feel a little awkward asking someone if they are OK, when they’re worried about them. One reason could be that they don’t want to interfere, but when it comes to mental health, we must ask, so people can get the help they need. Another reason, and it seems to be very common, is that we may not know what to say. After all, we want to get it right and not make things worse!

Some Things To Keep In Mind

Use ‘I’ Statements

It’s a good idea to start with an ‘I’ statement. By saying ‘I’ve noticed’, or ‘I’m worried’, you are not making any statements directed towards the person. It is less likely to come across as blame or attack, and the person is less likely to be defensive.

R-U-OK

Talk About Something You Know For Sure

Make sure that what you have noticed or the reason you are worried, is something that you have seen directly. You DO NOT want to involve someone else by saying ‘so and so told me that you did x’. That can just make the person feel worse or even become paranoid. If you haven’t seen anything directly yourself, it’s a good idea to make sure you have some opportunities to observe how the person is before you approach them.

Keep It Real

You don’t need to sound like a psychologist. It’s annoying. Keep the language casual. This is not the time for jargon and technical language like ‘I’ve noticed you seem to have decreased appetite and lack motivation lately’. Instead you might say something simple and real like ‘I’ve noticed you haven’t really been eating much and seem a bit flat’.

Get The Person Talking

So once you’ve led in with what you’ve noticed, you can follow it up by a general question to get the person talking. You can start with something like ‘Are you ok?’, ‘is everything ok?’, or ‘ is there anything I can do to help?’. Or just let them know that you wanted to see if they wanted to talk.

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Don’t Give Up Too Quickly

Of course, they may say ‘no no, everything’s fine’. That’s ok. You could gently ask a few more questions to see if they will open up. Like ‘are you sure?’, because you really haven’t seemed yourself lately’. But if they continue to say there’s nothing wrong, or they don’t want to talk about it, then that’s ok.

Many times though, the person will tell you a little bit of what is happening for them. And you want to make sure to give them plenty of time to let them talk, before you move on to the next step.

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.

Keep The Door Open

Just let them know that if there ever was anything, or if they did want to talk, that you’re available, or that there are other places they can go too, like a counselling service or a helpline.

Take Care Of Yourself Too

Remember you are human too. Make sure you are safe, both physically and emotionally, and make sure to keep your resilience in check. Many organisations are calling us in to deliver resilience courses to their workforces because they have been proven to build resilience and increase protective factors.

We teach the above mental health communication skills and more in our Mental Health Essentials course. If you’d like to run one in your workplace or community, please contact us at admin@thewmhi.com

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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Develop-Resilience-at-Workplace

8 Tips On How To Develop Resilience For Surviving The Modern Workplace Mentally Healthy

One way to notice a well-adjusted and mentally healthy employee is through his or her resilience. By resilience we mean the ability individuals have to bounce back quickly and with a minimum of fuss. Resilient employees have the capacity to handle the strains of the contemporary workplace. This means that they can manage stress well without necessarily placing their jobs in jeopardy. Resilience is good for workplace mental health. It allows an individual to respond to the demands of life without succumbing to pressure. Resilience also allows employees to deal with the demands of their jobs especially if the job requires them to change their priorities often and regularly. The ability to cope with the stresses and adversities of work and daily life requires a change in attitude and thoughts. But, how do you do that? Here are a few ways that employees can develop resilience at work:

Develop-Resilience-at-Workplace

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  1. Create and appreciate positive relationships. By appreciating the existing social support you get at work, you become more able to develop positive relationships in the workplace. These positive relationships come in handy later when you need encouragement, which fosters your ability to cope and your resilience as a human being.
  2. Practice viewing obstacles as opportunities or challenges. What can you learn from this situation? Employees can learn to treat difficulties as a platform for learning rather than as an impediment to their careers. Developing the habit of transforming challenges into opportunities is an invaluable skill that leads to self-development, resilience and progress.
  3. Celebrate success, even small ones. Celebrating success and small victories every time they occur fosters resilience. Employees should carve out some time in their day to enjoy the highs in their careers. This trains employees brains to look for the positive and to look forward to possible future successes in their line of work rather than dwell on the negatives or difficulties of their job.
  4. Craft a plan. Developing viable and meaningful career objectives that have a sense of purpose for the individual allows employees to bridge work and other life goals. In this way, they are encouraged to develop resilience even in the heart of adversity as they are working towards a motivating personalised objective.
  5. Develop more confidence. Building levels of self-confidence allow employees to live in the knowledge that they are going to succeed eventually. Despite the drawbacks that may occur, confidence enables people to take risks in their personal life and their careers, which give them the energy to move forward in life.
  6. Learn to see things from a different angle. Resilient people know how to develop perspective, which enables them to understand that although a circumstance may seem overwhelming and impossible to maneuver now, it will not seem so later; ‘in the long run, it’ll all work out for the best’.
  7. Restructure your mind. Learning how to handle tough situations requires, at times, a complete restructuring of the mind. Bad days are inevitable, and learning how to react to them without blowing things out of proportion is part of being resilient.
  8. Be flexible. Flexibility enables resilient people to understand that things are never be constant. As such, being flexible allows people to shift and amend their goals at an appropriate, and healthy, speed.

Resilience is an invaluable skill to have in the workplace as it allows one to handle the difficulties that arise from working in a stressful environment. At the Workplace Mental Health Institute we take resilience very important. It’s a key protector of people’s mental health. Help your employees develop resilience and you immunize them from mental health problems.

Would you like to learn more? We run mental health courses on resilience. Our most popular course is the Building Resilience At Work. Check it out.

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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Owls

When being the boss’ favourite can hurt your career

Machiavelli once ruminated on whether, as a leader, it was better to be loved or feared. While he concluded that it is “safer” to be feared than loved, as humans we crave community and recognition from those we respect or who are in a position of leadership.

Our natural instinct in the workplace is to try to curry favor with the boss so we can be influential in the decision making process, know that our ideas are heard first or bend the ear of our leader when promotion opportunities arise. While all of this might sound great for you personally, it can actually work to your detriment in very important ways.

Owls

Envy brings out the worst in people

When you are seen as the “chosen one” in the office, your teammates and coworkers will inevitably begin to envy you. While it may appear inconsequential at first, your proximity to your boss’s power may present some challenges in doing your job. Coworkers will gradually shut you out of important interpersonal office relationships. Even those who eschew workplace friendships recognise the need for connectedness in sharing crucial work-related information and team communication. If you are seen as the boss’s favorite, you may be left out of the loop, intentionally or not.

Hitching your wagon to your boss’s horse may work against you

Currying your boss’s favor is nice while it lasts. However, bosses who tend to play favorites are also fickle in their affection. You may be the heir apparent to their job one week and at the rear of the pack the next thanks to a manager’s changing whims or perceptions. It is also unwise to attach your merit within an organization to anyone else’s. Sure, your boss is influential today, but should they lose their position or credibility, you will likely lose yours as well unless you are associated with something other than your boss.

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You begin to lose your objectivity

The idea of “groupthink” was first introduced by Irving Janis in 1972. He theorised that groups who are insulated from outside opinions are subject to faulty reasoning, a deterioration of mental capacity and a lack of moral judgment. Whether that group consists of 2 or 20, the concept remains the same. The longer you spend in the shadow of your boss, the more likely you are to insulate yourself from the differing opinions of your coworkers. Without that difference, you lose the ability to make an objective decision. This, coupled with a growing sense of invulnerability inevitably leads to carelessness and negative consequences.

So what should you do instead?

As humans we tend to want to be recognised for our accomplishments. We want to feel as though we are in positions of power to affect change for the better. In order to do this without sacrificing personal integrity or career trajectory, it is important to act decisively and methodically in your relationship with your boss.

  1. Honesty is the best policy. Do not oversell your influence with your peers or your boss. Give credit where credit is due. Never claim success that is not yours.
  2. Honour the workplace team. As tempting as it may be to let favoritism work for you, remember that your work team is where the majority of your tasks are accomplished. If relationships are strained, productivity plummets and your credibility dwindles.
  3. Be impeccable with your word. If something is shared in confidence with you by your boss, do not tell your coworkers until your boss shares the information. If something is shared in confidence by a teammate, do not tell your boss but rather encourage your coworker to build that relationship.
  4. Get to know other executives. Many people who are seen as parrots of their boss can combat this by interacting with other executives and learning from their insights. While some bosses become paranoid about losing their sidekick, most will see your desire to learn as a way to leverage your talents with other areas of the organization.

As nice as it may be to have the favour of your manager, you might find that it leads to greater stress and career hindrance rather than help.

Are you a psychologically safe manager? Take the self assessment to find out.

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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Hygge in the workplace

Hygge in the workplace

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

Firstly, what is Hygge?

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

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

Why do you think hygge has become popular now?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a workplace setting, how Hygge can be adopted?

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

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

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

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

Are there any cons to the concept of hygge?

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

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

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

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

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silent-scream

Office Rage: Handling Anger in the Workplace

Anger. Everyone feels it at some stage in their lives. Putting a person – any person – in the pressure cooker that is the workplace for a period of time and they are guaranteed to get angry at some point. That includes you, the manager, as well. A strong leader knows how to identify anger within themselves and others and knows what steps to take in order to rectify the situation.

As mentioned, there are two types of anger in the workplace: yours and that of your people, each with their own two separate sub-types, overt and covert anger. Overt anger is visible and easy to spot, both within yourself and your people. It is out in the open, most likely used in a confrontation.

Covert anger is the anger that nobody was able to spot in time and became overt anger. This is the one to look out for. It is annoyance, irritation or passive aggression.

silent-scream

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Feelings we have all been told not to show, to grin and bear, to the point where sometimes, we don’t even notice they are there. But, they still manifest in a variety of different ways:

    • Procrastination
    • Perpetual or habitual lateness
    • A liking for sadistic or ironic humour
    • Sarcasm or cynicism
    • Frequent sighing
    • Clenching of fists or jaws
    • Facial tics
    • Passive aggressiveness

If you’ve noticed any of these within a member of your team, you will want to subtly investigate the cause so you can decide what to do next.

The best way to approach this is by being casual. Instead of pulling the person into your office for a chat, which may only exacerbate the situation, align your lunch with theirs, ask them about their day, their lives. Allow them to open up to you. If it is an issue at work, work with them to address it.

If it is an issue at home, be patient with them and allow them time to sort it out, and of course, offer your support if you can and it is appropriate. For anybody, having a manager that they can confide in and is understanding is of great comfort. It makes it much easier for them to “leave it at the door.”

And the same applies to you, the manager too. If you notice these feelings or signs, talk to someone about them, even if it is a member of your staff (showing that you trust them helps build their trust in you). It is important not to let this anger bubble under the surface, because it will eventually explode and either you or a member of your staff to will find themselves in a very compromising situation.

All overt anger was once covert anger. However, the length of time it has been bubbling under the surface can vary. It can be built up over weeks or months, or it can boil over in a matter of minutes. If confronted with this sort of anger in a member of your staff, it is important to remove them from the situation immediately. Again, taking them to the intimidating confines of your office for a chat has potential to make matters worse, therefore, it is best to take them for a walk or a coffee and talk to them calmly about what is making them feel this way.

Getting angry yourself will only make matters worse.

It is important to be a calming influence. Again, this is done by showing patience and care. Having a calm, rational and friendly chat with the employee will allow them to open up and tell you their grievances in order for you to help resolve them.

If you find these feelings boiling over within yourself, it is important to remove yourself from the situation, compose and control yourself and let the initial anger dissipate before you confront the source. This is especially important if the source of your anger is a member of your team. Taking a breather, whether it be for 5 minutes or leaving it for the next day is invaluable as it will allow you to confront the situation calmly, rationally and maturely – ensuring you don’t hurt or break the trust and respect you have worked hard to build with your team.

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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Mental-Health-Recovery

What Does ‘Recovery’ Mean?

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

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

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

Mental-Health-Recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. We focus on ability, not disability.

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

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

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

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz 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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Nokia-case-study

We didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow we lost

Remember Nokia? I had a couple of their mobile phones once upon a time. One of my favorite phones, in fact. It was small, sleek, silver. Easy to carry. Easy to use. And stylish. It was perfect until…smartphones came on the scene. Why do I tell you this?

The CEO of Nokia in May admitted defeat saying, ’we didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow we lost’. Why? New ways of doing things; the fickleness of human nature – we like something one minute, we dislike it the next; and then…some not so clever decisions. Is there something to be learnt here? How is this related to mental health at work?

Well, while Nokia may claim to be innocent and a victim of circumstances, is it accurate to say that ‘we didn’t do anything wrong’? Let’s have a look.

Nokia-case-study

Undoubtedly, Nokia was big. Had tremendous resources. It also had a problem many organizations share – they get complacent. Here are some comments people have made as to what went wrong (and see how that matches against some poor approaches to mental health in workplaces):

‘They were reactive instead of responsive’. A common mistake in mental health too. Companies wait till there is a crisis, then they act – IF they act. Often the attitude continues to be, ‘let’s wait and see’.


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“They thought ‘We are Nokia – we have all the engineering know-how in-house we don’t need developers”. This is another common one. The education of staff on mental health issues is carried out in-house. There are some problems with this approach – can you think of some? Too often this work is delegated to someone that hasn’t got the expertise but likes the topic as a ‘hobby’. And even if the expertise is there, is that their job? Usually people have full time jobs and training is added onto their busy schedule, making the mental health training program unlikely to succeed.

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“They didn’t try anything new.” In mental health, if what you do isn’t working, you have to try something new. Some organizations have tried one thing – a mental health morning tea, or a couple of posters, and didn’t get the result they wanted. It might have been a great initiative for a little while, but soon everyone forgot about it and went back to business as usual.

“They failed Deliver with Speed and Simplicity”. Too often leadership teams lack an understanding of what is needed in mental health and wait to have all the information. When this is lacking, either the decision is delayed, with negative results for the business and the bottom line, or; the job is given to some ‘big’ mental health organization as a means to shift the responsibility onto them (we tried…we gave it to ‘what’s-its-name’). The good news – you don’t need all the data to make decisions – just enough to see the benefits. A sense of urgency is important to get the results.

So, what do we learn from Nokia? Don’t be like Nokia. Learn, innovate and take action. Call me and let’s have a chat.

Have a mentally healthy day!

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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Man-holding-stop-sign

3 Occasions Managers Should Not Be Trained in Mental Health

Even though there’s enough evidence now pointing to the fact that managers are key to an organization’s mental health, and that having good mental health in the workplace actually contributes to the bottom line, this doesn’t mean all managers should be trained in mental health.

Granted, most managers would do well in getting specialized manager mental health training, but not in all cases. And here are 3 of those cases:

1. If the manager’s a dick

Yes, you heard right. Sorry I had to get rough. But I hear all the time from people how they’ve been hurt by a boss who didn’t care how their actions impacted on others. Or worse, how they seemed to relish hurting other team members. No amount of training is going to get someone to care when they enjoy hurting others.  If a manager has psychopathic leanings and actually enjoys making people suffer, then good mental health training is wasted on such a person. The most effective thing to do with this type of manager is to remove them from the organization quickly.

man holding stop sign

Then the organization should provide good quality, empowering mental health education for the rest of the people, to help undo the damage caused by such individuals.


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2. If the organization is not committed

If an organization’s CEO and leadership team are not on board with good mental health training and don’t see it’s impact on it’s bottom line, (or ‘mental wealth’ as we like to call it), then it’s probably not going to be as effective, since managers could be caught in the double bind of having more knowledge than their bosses but lacking the authority to act on it.

How this problem would be addressed is by someone in the leadership team championing the mental health cause. Preferably the CEO but usually the Director of HR or the Director of WHS. (PS. If you need help preparing for this or you would like to brainstorm ideas with me, please contact my office for a chat)

3. If the training is illness based

A lot of workplace mental health education is ‘illness’ based. It focuses on disability not ability. This type of message is not only wrong and unethical but it undermines the manager’s ability to manage and drive their team.

To improve a team’s ability to produce, and impact the bottom line, it’s mental wealth, the manager needs to know not just what to look for, how to identify mental health issues arising, but also how to utilize what’s coming up in their team effectively, and how to create a healthy workplace that will support the person to stay at work and build their resilience, rather than responding by sending the person away til they are ‘better’.

In the field of mental health, there are two overarching approaches to mental health – one that is illness driven, the other one is strengths focused. You do the math. You decide which one will provide you with the best tools to lead your team.

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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