With the right approach, you can prevent a mental ill-health inflation in your business. Here are three tips to help; Thinking, Talking, and Timing.
The uncertainty created by the cost of living and energy bills rapidly rising, perpetual media talk of economic inflation/recession, plus grief at the sad loss of our Queen, are likely to cause more stress and anxiety. This can lead to what can be called a mental ill-health inflation. All this will impact on your team and will require greater leadership and management skills. Many businesses are already short staffed and cannot afford people taking more time off work.
Early intervention can create a positive culture to build resilience and stress management skills. Talking about mental health and early recognition of people struggling can reduce the chance of absenteeism and longer-term illness.
According to the CIPD, more than eight in ten organisations increased their focus on mental health during the pandemic, but less than half believed their organisation was effective at identifying and managing mental health risks. The updated guide Supporting Mental Health at Work, developed jointly with Mind, provides practical advice to help you support those coping with mental health issues.
Our thinking impacts on our feelings, so we need to think about what our thoughts are doing to us. I was speaking to someone the other day who told me that they were born a terrible worrier and there was nothing they could do about it. Really?
“A change of thought is the only thing that can ever work to change behaviour.”Jack Pransky
It is natural to feel worried in these very difficult and unpredictable times. Some may feel a very threat to their survival. Our brains evolved to predict danger and threats, which has helped humans survive for millions of years through the worst times. Unfortunately, the natural response mechanism has not evolved fast enough to cope with the modern pressures of life and the type of threats we now face. It is when we over worry and overthink situations that problems arise. An anxiety disorder is when this is more severe, is long-lasting and interferes with the person’s work or relationships.
Self-care is critical in these difficult times and is self-preservation, not self-indulgence. You are less able to help others if you are not in a fit state yourself. It is important to be more aware of how you are and the impact your thoughts are having. We often try to carry on – the ‘stiff upper lip’. It is time to listen to what your mind and body are telling you, then you can do something about it.
Resilience is like a battery which requires the energy to bounce back and recharge. Recharging becomes more difficult if the battery runs down too far. Your brain needs the time to refresh, recharge and restore. You may like to assess how you are managing the four dimensions of mental resilience in terms of:
- Physical well-being.
- Emotional intelligence.
- Self-beliefs/mental attitude
- Spiritual satisfaction.
Are there any improvements you can make in these aspects of your life?
Encouraging people to talk about how they are feeling can create a culture where mental ill-health is not seen as taboo. A great way to get worries in proportion is to talk to someone else about your concerns. Self-isolation can make us feel we are on our own, but support from a friend, colleague or family member may make all the difference.
Alone in our head, worries can grow too large, tangled and confused. When we articulate them, then we have to get them in some order and make sense of them. The act of expressing our fears and challenging their reality can reduce their power. If you choose a calm and positive person to speak to, you are less likely to build on each other’s fears. It is important to stick to facts. Make talking to others your addiction rather than turning to alcohol, drugs, etc.
If you want to learn how to have these critical conversations, then I recommend attending the Mental Health First Aid course or following their acronym of ALGEE.
- Approach the person, assess and assist.
- Listen (actively) and communicate non-judgmentally.
- Give support and information (making sure it is accurate and factual).
- Encourage the person to get appropriate professional help (if required).
- Encourage other support (family and friends).
Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.Dion Boucicault
How often do you or others say that ‘there just aren’t enough hours in the day’? We multitask, set unrealistic targets, and not give ourselves enough rest. We can then feel guilty, overwhelmed, and worried when we don’t achieve everything we expected to do.
According to John Chancellor, our brains are not good at assessing time. We rely on inaccurate judgement, which leads to us overestimating how many hours we work and underestimating how long a task will take to complete. This can lead to more stress, mental ill-health, and a sense of time scarcity. We set ourselves up to fail with unrealistic expectations, which creates frustration, disappointment, and damaged self-esteem. The effort of better time scheduling is worth it for the peace of mind it brings you.
- Keep time logs so you know more accurately how long it takes for a given task. If it is a new task, you can compare it to similar ones or ask colleagues.
- Add BUT time, which is the average daily time spent on problems and interruptions. “I would have completed the task BUT for that”.
- Schedule your day using an hourly planner with any commitments like meetings or fixed appointments blocked out first. Only then, consider the time you have left and match the remaining slots with appropriate tasks and priorities.
- You are not a superhero who can do everything; and whatever is left will have to wait for another day.
- Celebrate what you have achieved rather than focus on what is still left undone.
- Build in proper rest time between meetings, take breaks and get enough sleep. This is important to avoid burnout.
- Assess where your time pressure is coming from. If you are being set unreasonable deadlines by others, discuss the issue with them. But be honest, are you the one pushing yourself too hard? Are your expectations of what you can achieve realistic?
If you would like more information on thinking, talking and timing, or training in reducing mental ill-health inflation, please contact me. For more in-depth help, you can call on Mind.
Also published on Medium.