Tag Archives: Resilience Strategies

Social-Connection

Looking after your Social Connection

Moving from Conflict and Separation to Love and Belonging

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

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

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

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

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

Social-Connection

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

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

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

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

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

Considering Moving to a Deserted Island?

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

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

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

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

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

What are the benefits of Social Connection?

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

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

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

What Do We Do About It?

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

1. Turn off the News / Social Media?

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

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

2. Manage Your Own Responses to People

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

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

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

3. Respect Diversity

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

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

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

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

4. Listen to Understand

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

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

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

5. Agree to Disagree

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

6. Don’t Make Decisions in a Crisis

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

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

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

Come Together

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

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz 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 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.

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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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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:

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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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