Tag Archives: Stress

Work-from-home-burnout

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

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

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

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

Work-from-home-burnout

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

“Lockdown has brought out the workaholic in me”

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

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

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

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

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

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Panic-Working Is a Manic Defense

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

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

Fighting Fire with Fire: A Vicious Cycle

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

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

Working Harder and Longer Has Become the Norm

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

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

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

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

The Warning Signs of WFH Burnout

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

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

What to watch out for:

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

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

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

Tips To Combat Lockdown Burnout

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

Reach Out For Professional Help From Therapists

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

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

Author: Peter Diaz

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

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How-Mindfulness-can-help-workplace

How Mindfulness Can Help Corporate Employees

A Third Of Corporate Employees Are Feeling Stressed, Anxious Or Depressed. How Can Mindfulness Help?

Earlier this year, results from an Australian study of over 3,500 employees across 42 organisations from different industries found that one third of the participants were suffering from some form of mental disorder. Of those, 36% were suffering from depression, 33% from anxiety, and 31% from stress.

The results echo the statistics from other parts of the world. In the UK, the National Centre of Social Research reports that 26% of people have been diagnosed with a mental disorder, and a further 18% experience an undiagnosed mental disorder each year. The USA reports 20% – 32% of adults have a mental health condition each year, depending on the study. Research on prevalence in Canada and New Zealand show similar results.

Staggeringly, 58% of women and 73% of males who met the clinical criteria for depression or anxiety did not know they had a problem. Only 17% of participants in the clinical ranges for depression or anxiety were seeking help. 47% of employees do not feel comfortable discussing a mental health condition with their manager.

How-Mindfulness-can-help-workplace

The implications for workplaces include increased absenteeism, presenteeism, disability claims, accidents, injuries and illnesses, grievances and complaints, turnover and legal implications.

Globally, mental health problems are estimated to cost workplaces 2.5 trillion US dollars, and that’s expected to rise to 5 trillion by 2030, according to the World Health Organization.

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What Is Stress? And How Does It Lead To Mental Health Problems?

Everyone feels stressed from time to time. Stress is the biological and physical response to a perceived threat or danger and is often described as a feeling of being overwhelmed or worried. In modern day society, everyday stressors include managing work and family commitments, work deadlines, financial pressures and family issues. Stress can also be caused by sudden negative change, including loss of a loved one or job, or experiencing trauma, such as a major accident or natural disaster.

Not all stress is bad. Stress can be highly motivating at times and can enable us to perform in job interviews, work presentations etc. The majority of people are equipped with the ability to handle short lived periods of stress. However, prolonged periods of stress or excessive stress can lead to significant mental and physical health problems including depression and anxiety.

Everyday stress can be the toughest type of stress to tackle because the source of the problem tends to be more constant, and the body therefore stays in a state of alarm.
Something needs to be done to stop the tide.

Why Businesses Should Be Investing In Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Training?

A decade ago, one in five employees were living with a mental disorder in a given year and, according to the latest studies around the world, the statistics are worsening. There is still a stigma associated with mental health conditions, and approximately half the time, individuals do not seek help or even know they have a problem. In very real terms this means that management is often operating with half of the information they need to manage their employees.

To tackle this issue, it’s important for HR professionals to offer a wide range of wellbeing initiatives, as one size does not fit all.

Mindfulness based stress reduction training is evidence based education that has proven effective in reducing stress, anxiety and depression, and can be offered in conjunction with other organizational wellbeing initiatives, to improve staff productivity, performance and wellbeing.

According to PWC, organizations that are dedicated to creating a mentally healthy workplace, can expect a positive return on investment (ROI) of 2.3.

If you are interested in running our Mindfulness At Work course for your team, please contact us at [email protected] or give us a call.

Author: Tania Young
Tania Young

Tania is an experienced Mindfulness Facilitator who has delivered training to organisations across Australia. Tania is also a Human Resources professional with almost 10 years experience working for medium to large corporate businesses across different industries in London and Sydney. Tania combines her a wealth of HR knowledge and experience implementing wellbeing initiatives, to support employee wellbeing, drive engagement, performance and productivity.

What-is-Mindfulness

What Is Mindfulness

Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as the “process of paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment, non-judgmentally”. But what does this actually mean?

Research from Harvard has shown that we spend almost half of our lives distracted, not living in the present moment, bemoaning the past or catastrophizing the future. We spend very little time living in the present moment.

Mindfulness is a powerful tool that can help people to slow down, and connect with the present moment. Mindfulness not only trains people to experience the world through our five senses and be more open to what life has to offer. Mindfulness also helps people develop greater self-awareness and an opportunity to reflect on their thoughts and feelings objectively. This helps to alter our habitual responses, by taking a pause and choosing how we react to a situation.

What-is-Mindfulness

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Mindfulness training is evidence-based education that effectively reduces stress, anxiety and depression, and can be offered alongside other organizational leadership and wellbeing initiatives, to improve engagement, creativity, performance and wellbeing.

According to PWC, creating a mentally healthy workplace for your organisation with workshops of this type, can bring you a positive return on investment (ROI) of 2.3.

If you would like to know about our Mindfulness At Work course for your team, please contact us at [email protected] or give us a call.

Author: Tania Young
Tania Young

Tania is an experienced Mindfulness Facilitator who has delivered training to organisations across Australia. Tania is also a Human Resources professional with almost 10 years experience working for medium to large corporate businesses across different industries in London and Sydney. Tania combines her a wealth of HR knowledge and experience implementing wellbeing initiatives, to support employee wellbeing, drive engagement, performance and productivity.

Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

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

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

Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder

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

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

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

Author: Peter Diaz

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

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Mental-Stigma-And-Stress-In-The-Workplace

Mental Stigma And Stress In The Workplace: Employers Need To Pay Attention To Workplace Stress Factors

Why employers should manage the mental health of the workplace

Employees undergoing mental distress affect most, if not all, organisations. This trend explains why people often take a day or two off work. To make matters worse, many individuals often experience anxiety when faced with the thought of confronting and discussing the subject because mental health continuous to be a taboo subject. Promoting mental health at work is beneficial to all parties involved including the supervisors because poor mental health will ultimately affect corporate productivity levels and, with it, the bottom line.

Mental-Stigma-and-Stress-in-the-workplace

Although companies are bound by law to protect the physical and psychological well-being of their employees, they often lack specific guidance as to how to go about improving and protecting employee health. Issues in the workplace that impact on the mental stability of an employee include:

  1. Stigma or any form of discrimination
  2. Professional burnout
  3. Substance abuse
  4. Bullying and abuse in the workplace

When the mental health of employees is secured in the workplace, it means that the employers care for their employees and that they are interested in promoting their wellbeing. One of the best ways to safeguard the mental health of employees is to eliminate or handle negligent and reckless behavior that may add to an employee’s stress level. Another way to promote the mental stability and safety of employees is by eliminating anything that induces chronic anxiety and excessive fear among employees.

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The process of safeguarding people’s mental health at work should be initiated by top executives. Employers must take active steps to improve their workplace culture as the culture is often a triggering factor for inducing stress among employees. Alternatively, companies can also create comprehensive strategies aimed at promoting mental wellness. Procedures should include initiatives and policies that promote psychological safety.

Employers are advised to consult their employees before developing strategies aimed at protecting their mental health. The end result of well-formulated policies is a progressive workplace where the employees are encouraged to empower themselves. Comprehensive strategies that are implemented properly will automatically improve productivity levels significantly. Other advantages of improving employee mental health at work (in addition please read our discussion paper – Silent Expectations) include:

  • Levels of creativity are improved, which also improves their level of engagement.
  • Encourages employee retention and low turnover.
  • Drastically improves employee satisfactions and morale.
  • Opens the lines of communication between subordinates and supervisors.
  • Improves the levels of recruitment for your organization.
  • Reduces the culture of absenteeism and promotes increased attendance.
  • Reduces workplace injuries
  • It cuts down the amount of grievances that come up at the workplace.

Too many employees suffer in silence due to poor mental health at work, and it is the responsibility of business leaders to take steps to improve the situation.

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.

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Performance-vs-Stress-level

When Fear & Stress In The Workplace Raise Their Ugly Heads

performance vs stress levelEver wondered how people screw themselves up?
Simple, we do it because we are afraid. And it’s ok. Fear is a natural survival mechanism. It’s a good thing, designed to protect us. But what happens when fear runs rampant? When your body reacts to a deadline at work with the same intensity as if it was being chased by a T-Rex? Then that’s not so good anymore, is it?

And it’s insane. It’s been said that 98% of the things we are scared of never come to fruition. Thank goodness, right? So, why do we make problems out of things that are highly unlikely to, ever, come true? It’s puzzling, isn’t it?

And when we keep doing that, fear, and anxiety turn into stress. And we all know what stress can do to our mental, not to mention physical health.

But, did you know that stress is actually good for you? Weird, right? But hear me out for a second…

Without some level of stress, we wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. We wouldn’t bother going to work, and we certainly wouldn’t take on challenges and strive to better ourselves.

However it’s the amount of stress that’s the key.

The Performance-Arousal Curve shows us that performance increases with stress to a point, beyond which additional stress becomes counterproductive. Spend too long past the optimum point in the stress curve and we risk exhaustion, anxiety and eventually a breakdown.

But here’s where it gets even more complicated. The ‘optimum’ level of stress is not the same for everyone! That’s right, each individual will have their own version of this graph. But the good news is, it’s not set in stone. It can change.

As leaders, we want to build motivated, resilient and high performing teams. And wouldn’t it be great if our teams could do two things;

First, adjust their ‘optimum stress level’, so they are more resilient in the face of inevitable pressures and challenges.

And second, self monitor and self correct if approaching overload and burnout? That’s what I’d like to see in our workplaces. That’s my vision.

In order to achieve this, workplaces need to teach team members how to recognise when a colleague tips into the right of the curve, and how to catch that person before they start to spiral down.

BUT in order to be truly effective, this education needs to have a strong Recovery approach. At the Workplace Mental Health Institute, everything we do has a strong Recovery approach applied to the workplace. We focus on recovery not illness. This may seem a subtle distinction, but it’s a vital one. We don’t teach people how to look for problems that aren’t there; we teach them how to minimise risk, and confidently identify & deal with the typical warning signs of the most common mental illnesses. So their teammates can get the help they need and recover. (And the evidence is now pretty clear that the overwhelming majority of people DO recover)

We don’t need to teach employees and leaders to be mental health practitioners, but we can give them the basic skills to intervene early, before things get out of hand.

Btw, if you’re responsible for managing the mental health of your employees, and you need some help, please hit me up. We can help you meet your compliance obligations, foster a happy, high-performing environment, and significantly reduce risk.

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

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Stress at workplace

What Can YOU Do About Stress at Work?

StressWhen it comes to workplace stress, and what to do about it, most people, most managers, will start to think about things in the workplace environment. Things that I would call ‘external factors’ like workload, overtime hours, the physical environment, etc. And these are all good considerations.

Yes, we should look at them.But very rarely is any attention paid to the ‘internal factors’. Those qualities, characteristics, or skills that reside inside each individual, and impact upon how much stress they will experience, regardless of the external environment. You see, in the same workplace, given the same conditions, different people will experience different levels of stress. Some people thrive on a challenge, work non stop and love doing it! Where as others seem to fall apart at the same challenges.There are individual differences, but that’s not to say that they are necessarily fixed. The studies are indicating that although people may be born with different sensitivities, and have different experience in their upbringing, personal resilience can be learned, like any other skill.

Therefore, when people respond differently to a pressure-filled environment, like many workplaces are, that is due to a combination of things relevant to the individual.


Read more on workplace stress….


As we’ve talked about previously, in our article Workplace Stress we all fall somewhere on the mental health continuum, and that can change day to day, hour to hour, minute by minute even! So if we’re already feeling a bit stressed by other things going on in life, chances are we’re going to have a bigger reaction to each new challenge put forward.

Think of the analogy to the camel carrying straws on it’s back. We can carry only so much weight before we start to feel a bit strained by it all, and our knees start to shake.

But if we’re the camel, we can also build our muscles so that we become stronger, and able to carry more weight with ease. And that is ‘personal resilience’ or ‘emotional fitness’. If we do certain things to build our emotional stamina, when life (or work) does throw that extra challenge your way, you’ll be much more able to handle it in your stride.

We recently released our on line short course called [email protected], which introduces people to some of those techniques that can be used to minimise stress and build emotional stamina or resilience. It’s designed with workplaces in mind, but really, the strategies are tools that can be used in any area of life – after all, we’re still human wherever we are, right?

Building your own personal resilience, focussing on those internal factors, is particularly helpful for those people who might not be in a position to change their work environment. Similarly for managers, if you can’t make changes to the workplace itself, why not think about helping your team members to develop their emotional fitness to better handle the challenges.

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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Stressed-Anxios-Worried

Workplace Stress – what are we really talking about here?

Stressed Anxios Worried‘Workplace Stress’ is a term I am hearing people use more and more lately. And I like it. It highlights the fact that anybody can experience stress or distress in the workplace.

You see, the Workplace Mental Health Institute specialises in the field of workplace mental health, and when we think about mental health, we think about mental health at every stage of the continuum. Let me explain:

‘Mental Health’ doesn’t just refer to people who are severely distressed, who have perhaps have been diagnosed with a serious mental disorder, or are having an acute mental health emergency.

‘Mental Health’ also refers to people who may be feeling a bit down, a bit anxious about something happening in their life, or just going through a rough patch. We would also describe that as someone experiencing some mental health problems at the moment.

But not only that, mental health can also be used at the other end of the scale (in fact ‘health’ is usually considered a good thing right!!!). So, looking after your ‘mental health’, can mean the person who is coping really well with life, happy, fulfilled, and waking up every morning feeling positive about work and life in general.

You see, when we think about it this way, mental health is relevant to everyone. We all sit somewhere along that scale all the time. We move up and down that scale too – it’s not fixed.

I think sometimes when we talk about ‘mental health at work’, people tend to assume we’re talking about the severe end – when everything goes wrong, when someone is suicidal, or has an episode at work. And that if that is not happening, then everything is OK.

But that’s not it. Not at all. There are plenty of people who may not yet be suffering enough for it to show up as a crisis, but have no doubts, it is still impacting on them personally, on their productivity, on their relationships with team mates and their manager. This ‘workplace stress’ needs to be addressed, and it needs to be addressed quickly – before it escalates into something much more serious. In my next article, I’ll look at some of the different approaches to dealing with it.

But for now, remember ‘workplace mental health’ is a constant. It always exists, its just a matter of where along that continuum it is right now, for any one person, or for the whole group. And depending where it is on that continuum, there are different activities which need to be happening (more on that soon too).

Author: Emi Golding
Emi-Golding-blog-imageEmmaline (Emi) Golding is a registered psychologist and Director of Psychology for the Workplace Mental Health Institute. With experience both at the frontline and in Senior Management positions within mental health services, Emi is passionate about educating and expanding people’s knowledge of mental health issues, particularly within workplaces. For her own well being, Emi loves to dance and spend time with friends. She also enjoys learning languages and travelling to new and exciting places around the world.

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Dear-Stress

Learning to handle stress like a pro – techniques to avoid Professional Burnout

StressLast Tuesday we videoed a Mental Health Essentials Masterclass. One of the attendees asked, “How can we take care of ourselves when we seem to cop so many complaints within such a short time?”. She was concerned about being able to withstand the pressure. She was afraid of professional burnout.

Her concerns are well founded. No matter how much you enjoy your job, there are times when pressure or stress can start to take an emotional toll on you. It is important to be able to spot the symptoms associated with professional burnout.

Burnout occurs after a prolonged period of stress under which a person feels that their emotional resources are not good enough to endure or overcome the obstacle. This can lead to a feeling of helplessness and a host of emotional and physical symptoms.

Let’s take a look at Jim, for example. Jim is a healthcare professional who is very committed to his job and genuinely cares for the patients he sees on a daily basis. His job is rewarding but he is also often witness to pain, confusion and sadness as his patients are often ill or dying. Jim works long hours and often takes work home with him or comes in on days off just to check in. Over time the emotional strain begins to build up until eventually Jim starts to feel exhausted, unmotivated, and helpless. He starts to experience sleepless nights, jaw clenching, and elevated blood pressure. His family and friends worry that he “isn’t his usually happy self.”


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Jim is experiencing burnout caused by prolonged stress that he did not take the time to deal with properly. There are two important actions Jim needs to take: a) review his work and look for improvements where possible, and b) make sure he obtains relief from the pressure on a regular basis. There are several self-care actions that you can put into place before letting burnout take hold. Self-care is the practice of activities that individuals perform on their own behalf to maintain life, health and well-being. Jim was dedicated to his career and to his patients, but he neglected to take care of his own personal needs.

You can start by taking the first few minutes of each day and making them about you. Most people rise from their beds at the sound of an alarm clock and immediately start to “work.” They might get dressed, check e-mail, care for a spouse or child and rush out the door quickly. Instead, take the first ten or fifteen minutes of each day for meditation, or reflection. Spend time mentally preparing yourself for the day by focusing on positive thoughts.

Another way to practice self-care is to be mindful of your diet and exercise. Proper nourishment gives us energy and stamina to get through our day. Building a healthy body through wholesome foods and physical activity decreases the chance of sickness, improves sleep and makes us feel happier.

Limit the burdens you place on yourself. Do not take on more than you can reasonably do in a day and enlist the help of people that care about you when you feel overwhelmed. Do not stay connected to your technology all day long, occasionally take a break. It’s alright to be “unreachable” from time to time. Remember that by not focusing on your own needs and your own health you could be impacting your ability to do your job or take care of your loved ones. By practicing self-care you will become healthier, more positive and more focused than ever before.

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 Twitter-logo

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Managing Work Stress Prior to Christmas

It’s around about this time of year that many people in organisations look at their calendar and realise 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.

Managing-Work-Stress-Prior-to-Christmas

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 realisation 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 organisations – 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 minimise 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-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

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