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Are you aware of your emotions in the workplace?
By Dr Eileen Ward CPsychol
Our understanding of mental health in the workplace has come in strides since we were introduced to the concept of “burnout” in the 1970s, initially described as a psychological state of exhaustion due to excessive work demands. Current research from the University of Sheffield has identified ‘moral burnout’ as a more intense form of stress in which employees experience emotional and physical trauma. With 1 in 4 people suffering from mental distress, it is more important than ever that companies view well-being holistically and create a culture of psychological safety that addresses burnout and all other mental health problems.
My view on burnout and workplace stress are offered from two perspectives. Firstly, 20 years of experience as CEO of a medium-sized enterprise that provided HR solutions to the financial markets, and now as a practising psychologist. Hindsight and reflection have taught me that being a leader afraid to show vulnerability can be likened to setting sail in a leaking boat. On the outside, all looks well, but internally, the consequences can cause stress, anxiety and overwhelm.
Mental Health Matters
Humans are hard-wired for connection, but when stressed or anxious, we often self-isolate and allow the brain to reflex to well-trodden neural pathways that inevitably lead to repeat maladaptive behaviours and the use of not-always-helpful coping mechanisms. For example, procrastination frequently travels alongside anxiety as it indulges the mind in fear of failure or syndromes such as “the imposter”. In turn, anxiety causes an exhausting cycle of rumination about tasks we have yet to start or complete.
Supporting mental well-being is a fundamental requirement to enabling employees to bring their best selves to work every day, but there is also a (not so) hidden cost to consider. A recent study by Deloitte found that for every £1 spent by employers on mental health interventions, they can expect £5 back in reduced absenteeism/presenteeism. Other benefits identified in the CIPD’s Health and Well-being Survey 2022 recognised that companies with a more holistic approach to well-being benefitted from a “healthier and more inclusive culture, better work-life balance and better employee morale and engagement”.
What are your barriers to flourishing?
As a practising counselling psychologist and compassionate coach, it is evident from my discussions that people still find it difficult to talk about their emotions in the workplace. I have a sense most believe emotions are for out-of-work activities. Integrating the rational and emotional mind can be a simple first step to preventing disordered behaviours.
The ideal approach to mental health for individuals and organisations would be to aim for prevention. Preventing subclinical symptoms from developing into full-blown mental health disorders is achievable. It starts with self-awareness. Our psychology is unique and guides how we relate to ourselves and others. Consequently, our leadership and communication styles are equally governed by our internal compasses. When stressed, the brain takes the most well-trodden path, which inevitably leads us to repeat maladaptive behaviours and engage with unhelpful thinking patterns that precipitates the problem. The lenses through which you view your world shape your reality. Although we know that internal/external factors influence our mood, we have more power to influence our mood than we think
By arming employees and leaders with the awareness and skills to adopt a stance of psychological flexibility, individuals learn to make room for the discomfort of stressful/challenging events by acknowledging their well-being in every situation. Understanding the fundamentals of Positive psychology can offer skills and techniques that can help focus the mind objectively on life’s positive/negative elements, maximising individuals’ performance and potential while building the resilience and psychological flexibility that creates optimal work-life balance.
Is it time to add new skills and techniques to help your organisation flourish? If this blog resonates with you, please get in touch.
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