Mental Health and Wellbeing in the workplace
Tips from Positive Psychology to cope with Worry, Stress and Burnout.
According to Chris Mackey, statistics show 1 in 5 adults experience some kind of anxiety-based condition of which a prominent feature is some form of worry.
Time pressures, excessive responsibility, perfectionism in the workplace can lead to worry, stress and eventually burnout. It’s normal. It’s very real. It’s not something to be shunned.
The entire Patrick Rowan & Associates (PRA) team was fortunate to take part a recent workshop with Geelong Psychologist, Chris Mackey. The session was full of such valuable information on Mental Health and wellbeing in the workplace, we had to share some tips, strategies and information with you.
Worry is one of the most common forms of psychological distress. Some level of worry is normal and productive usually when the issue at hand is very important, when it is likely to happen and when you can do something about it.
Worry may however also be unproductive if we continue to ruminate excessively and expect ourselves to have an unrealistic level of control over our circumstances or expect ourselves to find an ideal solution to complex problems.
If you find you’re worrying and it’s something you can’t control then look to do something you CAN do to make a difference. For example, if you worry that your work is not perceived as good enough, focus solely on the next task and try to do it the best you possibly can.
In the workplace people are commonly more prone to worry if they have harsh expectations of themselves or unrelenting standards related to their performance. Aiming to do one’s absolute best all the time would inevitably lead to anxiety. It’s worth asking yourself, does this task need to be perfect or is 80% good enough?
The most important thing to remember when addressing patterns of worry is to repeatedly practise ways of interrupting a chain of worrisome thoughts by taking some alternative action, preferably by doing something which is productive or enjoyable.
Stress is universal and is a part of living. We vary the level of stress which we can tolerate before it has an unhealthy impact on us.
Perception itself is a common cause of stress. It’s not necessarily what is happening that causes the stress but how we view and react to the situation. For example, we worry about what other people think about the situation.
It’s important to recognise the signs of undue levels of stress. Read the ‘stress signature signs’ to pick them up early.
Stress exhaustion symptoms including physical signs such as tension around shoulders, teeth grinding, appetite changes or headaches. Emotional changes such as mood swings or crying spells. Spiritual changes such as loss of meaning or emptiness. Mental signs such as lethargy or confusion. And, relational symptoms such as loneliness, resentment or clamming up.
Burnout is a term which relates to symptomatic distress we may experience after being in stressful circumstances associated with persistent demands placed on us. Burnout occurs when the demands on us outstrip our resources including strategies for coping.
When faced with burnout, Chris advises two courses of action:
- Contain or reduce the demand or,
- Bolster the resources
If burnout reactions become more severe and persist they are at risk of developing into anxiety or depressive disorders.
It is advisable to seek professional advice.
Our response to burnout may be helpful or unhelpful.
Unhealthy strategies include poor eating, neglecting relationships and preferring isolation.
Rather seek a helpful strategy – recognise the symptoms as signs of persistently increased stress levels and commit to do something about it. It is important to be forgiving of oneself for having developed such stress reactions in the first place. Seek social support, undertake relaxation such as Yoga or Meditation, physical exercise, and seek out problem-solving techniques. Humour is also a good antidote.
A bit about sleep.
When stress, worry and burnout are a concern, often sleep difficulties arise.
Worrying about not getting the recommended eight hours of sleep can just exacerbates the issue. It was fascinating to hear that most of us actually get more sleep than we think. If you wake up in the middle of the night and don’t think you went back to sleep, there’s every chance you did. Quite often people wake up during the night and don’t remember it.
There’s an app that Chris recommended which we will be sure to check out called the ‘Sleep Cycle App’.
And a few tips to get to sleep in the first place:
- It helps if your body is tired from physical activity during the day
- Relax your body and slow down your breathing
- Slow down and reduce your thoughts, it’s best if the mind is not ‘racing’
- Have a quiet pre-sleep routine, eg. Brush your teeth,
- Minimise light in the bedroom
- Turn off all electronic devices
- Limit your caffeine intake
Chris took us through an exercise not unfamiliar to many of us, but a good reminder to do this every day.
Ask yourself this simple question: “What are three good things that happened today?” It could be over the dinner table or later in the evening and is a valuable exercise for the whole family.
In a work environment, Chris suggested starting a meeting with the positives, quite often we delve straight into the issues and problems. For example, start with What went well this month?
Know your strengths and draw out the best in you.
When were you at your best?
A productive exercise is to recall a time when you felt at your best.
Chances are you were at your best because you were drawing on one of your Signature Character Strengths.
Chris has left the PRA team with a 45-minute survey to identify our individual signature character strengths. More about the Character Strengths Survey next week.
Positive Psychology, the study of happiness, is of particular interest to Chris Mackey.
This Positive Psychology model was designed by Martin Selignam as a theoretical understanding towards achieving happiness. Known as the PERMA Model, it identifies five core elements of psychological well-being and happiness:
- Positive emotion- being optimistic, forgiveness, compassion
- Engagement – be involved in life’s roles
- Relationships – anything that bolsters our relationships gives us wellbeing
- Meaning – having a purpose in life
- Achievement – accomplishment. Having goals that could be as simple as getting things done.
The PERMA model helps us think in a positive perspective at work and at home.
FIND OUT MORE.
You can find out more on Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace through accessing these resources:
- Chris Mackey & Associates Website
- BAY FM Drive time Segment. Chris does a fortnightly catch up with Daryl and Roxie every 2nd and 4th Wednesday after the 5.30 news. Catch up on BayFM.
- Chris is Author of the book, Synchronicity.
- Destination Happiness, TV Wellbeing Show.
- Chris also writes regular opinion pieces for the Geelong Advertiser
- The practice run regular Facebook Live sessions on Mental Health Themes.
Please note, this article provides general information only. It is a simple re-cap of the PRA Mental Health and Wellbeing in the workplace session with Chris Mackey & Associates. If you are experiencing a mental health issue, please seek professional help.