Mindfulness? Pah. You don’t have time to sit around doing nothing. Or maybe you’ve read the research and you’re sold on the idea of mindfulness but you just can’t find the time. You’re not alone, this is something that we hear frequently at Positive Change Guru. So what can you do to make mindfulness part of your day? We’ve put together six painless but powerful practices to kick start your Mindfulness journey. We show you how to start where you are, adding mindfulness into your day with just a few minor tweaks.
You’re working on a project and desperately need to concentrate. At that exact same moment a colleague decides that they need to ask you something. They interrupt. It’s urgent – for them, but not for you. Try as you might to politely signal that you’re busy, they’re not for budging. Your flow, your task and your patience have been mightily tested. How do you deal with colleagues unable or unwilling to decipher your subtle (and not so subtle) “Can’t you see I’m busy?” cues. Fanfare. Meet the ‘FlowLight’
The first in our series of July blogs live from New York examines the latest US research and takes a deep dive into the work we’re doing here with our clients. Here we look at the impact of being overqualified for your role.
If you’ve ever wondered whether you’re overqualified for your current role or felt that you just weren’t stretching yourself it may be causing you more than irritation. Are you just too big for your boots or is there more to it than that? New research from Florida Atlantic University has uncovered the ‘Big fish in a small pool’ syndrome. Being over qualified may be causing you psychological strain.
Unless you’ve taken a year long sabbatical and have been living on a remote island (lucky you) you’ll have heard of workplace resilience. Recognising that the world of work is in a constant state of flux, many organisations have implemented workplace resilience programmes. But how many of them have really been effective?
Using words to increase wellbeing? Writing for wellbeing as a method of reducing workplace stress? We bring you the lowdown. The latest estimates from the HSE Labour Force Survey shows the total number of work related stress, depression and anxiety in 2015/16 was 488,000 cases with a staggering 224,000 new cases. The cause cited? Workload, tight deadlines and poor management. An increasingly stressful corporate environment means that employees are feeling stretched across all sectors. But where do words fit in this corporate conundrum and how can you use them in your anti-stress arsenal?
A growing body of research has demonstrated the power of words upon wellbeing. Yes, writing is fun but is also has a meditative effect upon our stressed minds. Let’s take a look at the science:
Writing has been linked to a whole host of health benefits;
“Expressive writing influences attention and habituation to stressful stimuli and to negative emotions and … it may influence restructuring of cognitions related to stressors and stress responses.” (Lepore et al, 2002, p.114)
An analysis of preliminary findings linking expressive writing and reductions in blood pressure (Davidson et al, 2002)
A recent meta-analysis showed that “experimental disclosure is effective, with a positive and significant” effect (Frattaroli 2006, p. 823)
Reduction in resting blood pressure levels (Crow 2000)
Psychological effects, such as lowering of depressive symptoms, rumination
and general anxiety (Lepore 1997)
But what does this mean for workplace wellbeing? Here’s what the evidence
suggests so far. Workplace writing for wellbeing sessions;
▪ Reduce levels of stress
▪ Staff recover more successfully from traumatic events
▪ Result in fewer days lost to sickness, absenteeism and presenteeism
▪ Improve working memory
▪ Increase flow
▪ Strengthen immune system
▪ Improve creativity and innovation
▪ Increase wellbeing
▪ Build stress management capacity
▪ Improve confidence
▪ Increase mindfulness
1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year so it’s likely that there’s someone in your team, department or organisation who is experiencing a mental health issue right now. That figure is compounded by a recent Shaw Trust survey which found that 72% of workplaces had no formal mental wellbeing policy. In addition to this, 23% of managers were unable to name a single mental health condition.
So what can you do right now to introduce writing for wellbeing into your day?
Keep a journal. Make time each day to journal about whatever is important to you. Commit to 10 minutes and go wherever the muse takes you. There’s increasing research to suggest that journalling provides improved leadership insight resulting in greater clarity of thinking and better decision making.
Connect to your authentic self:
Brene Brown describes authenticity as
“The daily practice of letting go who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”
Set time aside to ‘check in’ with how you are feeling. Are you able to sum it up in one word? Good.
Now take five minutes and without censoring yourself, expand upon that word. Don’t worry about style, spelling or grammar. Let go of your inner critic and just go for it. Unleash your creativity.
Take a look at what you’ve written. What does it tell you about how you really feel? Writing for ourselves in this way can tell us a lot about who we are. Perhaps something you’ve written resonates or provides an insight into some aspect of your day, your life, or a project you are working on.
Turn down the volume on the constant chatter, press pause on workplace pressures and tune in to your authentic self. This exercise will help to ground you creating a mindful space for you to reflect before you continue with your day.
For more information or to talk to us about our Workplace Writing For Wellbeing training courses contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re living in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world that continues to change at an unprecedented rate. Take a look around you, the world looks nothing like it did ten years ago. And if you had been asked to predict the socio – political upheavals of the last 12 months, well, I’ll bet that you couldn’t have (and if you had? we would have sat and laughed). The world is changing rapidly and we need to find a way to change with it. Whilst we know much about the importance of individual resilience and it’s impact upon performance, we often miss the uncomfortable truth that even resilient individuals will struggle to thrive in organisations that are designed to stifle rather than support.
However much you love what you do, if your job involves working with people, you’ll understand the concept of emotional labour. Perhaps you’re a figurehead and it’s important to build rapport and maintain your cool even in difficult circumstances that would send the rest of us running? Maybe your role involves managing other people’s emotions and it’s not always pretty? Or if you’re the first point of contact for a business, it’s possible you’ll be on the receiving end of frustration, disappointment and rancour.
Are you able to answer ‘Yes’ to the following questions;
Resilience: from the Latin word resilo – to jump back. The capacity to bounce back from adversity, adapt and succeed.
Embracing difficulty is key to resilience. But what is it? Resilience describes our ability to manage difficulties effectively rather than be overwhelmed when confronted by adversity. Perhaps one of the most profound definitions is from Viktor Frankl, concentration camp survivor and author of ‘Man’s search for Meaning”. ‘When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.’ It comes as no surprise that Frankl’s work has been modified and applied in a workplace setting. An increasing body of research suggests that resilience is also a valuable predictor of success. Penn Professor, Angela Lee-Duckworth’s research suggests that resilience is an even more accurate predictor of success than IQ. A heady claim for something we’re not taught in school. So what’s is it about resilience that makes it such an important differentiator? Lets find out.
Glenn Richardson, Professor and chair, Department of Health Promotion and Education, University of Utah describes resilience as mental toughness and encourages employees to think differently about how they view difficulty. When met by challenge, Richardson suggests that we develop the mindful habit of taking a moment of calm to support ourselves in developing resilience, by making a choice to work with our emotions to accept failure and examine what we can learn from it. This presents a very different approach to turning away from difficulty to get the job done which employees are sometimes forced into doing by workplace pressures. Dr Gregg Steinberg suggests that challenge and adversity can develop emotional intelligence and grit, enabling people to bounce back to an even higher level of resilience than before. For Steinberg, adversity creates and shines a light upon what is missing in life, highlighting what we need to be more successful and happier. Watch Gregg talking about ‘Falling Up’ in our ’10 Best Resilience Videos’ blog. You might be asking yourself how you can turn towards difficulty or failure when your natural response is to turn away, run for the hills and avoid it. Resilience is a skill that can be learned and you can begin to work out your resiliency muscles right now. The next time you face adversity, try the following;
Embed calm checkpoints into your day.
Take a moment to notice what’s happening. Breathe and sit with what is there for you in that moment.
Known as ‘Affect Labelling’ this is where you identify the emotion. Try saying to yourself “Hello anxiety” if that’s what you’re feeling. Recognising and naming the emotion makes a distinction; you are experiencing anxiety rather than labeling yourself as an anxious person.
Work with what shows up.
As human beings we typically move towards what feels good and avoid what doesn’t, frequently missing what we feel neutral towards. Instead of moving toward the positive or trying to push difficult emotions away, bring a gentle curiosity to both. Notice your reaction without judging it. Reflect on the nuances of perceptions of positive, negative and neutral. Is there an associated response in the body? Tension or lightness? Bring mindful awareness to whatever arises.
It’s not Forever.
Recognising the impermanence of all emotions is key. Mindfulness teaches us that emotions are just mental events with a short life span. Ask yourself what you need in order to manage that emotion in this moment.
Reflect on what is really going on for you. Is there historical stuff or emotional baggage that has led to this emotion? Your response might be appropriate, now you’ve investigated you’re in a better position to choose how to respond effectively and skillfully.
Practice on a regular basis.
When you develop the capacity to face difficulty you are able to make more skillful choices. Mindful awareness of challenging situations gives us the opportunity to defuse difficult thoughts and emotions and create distance. With that distance we can choose our response rather than falling into habitual knee – jerk reactions.
Difficulty is part of life, it isn’t going anywhere soon but the good new is that resilience isn’t an absolute. Changing over time it can grow, be learned and developed. For more information on how to build your resilience check out our other blogs, our free ‘Build Your Resilience’ webinar or come to one of our resilience training courses, we’d love to see you there!
To find out more about building resilience or resilience training contact us at email@example.com
What’s fuelling your burnout? Feeling exhausted? Perhaps even a little cynical where work is concerned? You could be suffering from burnout syndrome. A common response to stress, burnout is characterised by a variety of dimensions from fatigue, demotivation, frustration, cynicism and ultimately, reduced efficacy. So what, exactly, is fuelling your burnout?
The Beginnings Of Burnout
It isn’t a new phenomenon, Graham Greene wrote about it during the 60s in ‘A Burnout Case’ as a result the term was later coined in the context of employee burnout by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. It’s firmly part and parcel of corporate landscape now with employees increasingly being asked to do more with less.
Montero Marin at the University of Zaragoza identified three types of burnout. In a study of 429 university workers in a variety of occupations ranging from administration to research, the study identified 3 separate subtypes;
What’s Your Type?
- Boredom. This type of stress stems from lack of challenge. When employees aren’t stretched they’re unable to get into a state of flow, or optimum performance, stifling their development and their motivation. If you find yourself using avoidance as a coping strategy and complaining about your organisation on a regular basis, the research suggests this could be your burnout type. Leaving you feeling like giving up. boredom is fuelling your burnout fire.
- Overload. This subtype is characterised by frenetic behaviour. You find yourself doing, doing, doing with a constant mental ‘To do’ list. Your coping strategy is to keep working until you’re exhausted in the belief that you’ll somehow make headway. You’re overloaded by stress and feel cynical due to the lack of support you receive. You may feel that your organisation is limiting you. Excessive workload is fuelling your burnout.
- Worn Out. In this subtype when you’re faced with stress, you give up. It’s all just too overwhelming. The will to achieve is there but you lack motivation to get started in the onslaught of stress. If this is your subtype you may feel badly let down by your organisation. You’ve simply had enough and that is fuelling your stress.
What’s Fuelling Your Organisation’s Risk of Burnout?
Now you know what’s fuelling your individual burnout, lets take a look at your organisation. Maslach, Schaufel and Leiter identified 6 organisational risk factors that increase the likelihood of burnout.
- Mismatch in workload
- Mismatch in control
- Lack of appropriate rewards
- Loss of sense of positive connection with others
- Perceived lack of fairness
- Conflict with values
If the causes of burnout are multi factorial, how can you begin to combat it?
If you’re a leader, the starting point is your organisational culture. Here’s our checklist to guide your stress audit;
- Do you have a wellbeing strategy?
- Do staff have a healthy approach to work life balance and is this modelled by your leadership team?
- Are your people micromanaged or given the autonomy to carry out their role?
- Do you model your values or is there a disconnect? Do you need to revisit your strategy, policies, procedures and actions?
If you’ve identified that you’re on the way to being stressed, find a way to reduce your stress levels by;
- Practising mindfulness (see our mindfulness resources on this site)
- Consider Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions. Talk to your GP who will be able to recommend a therapist.
- Reflect upon whether your values are in alignment with your role. Is your current role what you feel drawn to as a profession or is something else calling you?
- Check your work – life balance is where you want it to be. If it isn’t take the necessary steps to address the areas that need work. Cut back on your hours, take lunch breaks and make sure you create time for friends, family and a life outside of work.
Can Mindfulness Boost Your Resilience?
Mindfulness. We’ve seen it grace the cover of ‘Time’ magazine and observed it being discussed in everything from ‘The Financial Times’ to the ‘Wall Street Journal’ to the Davos Convention. Panacea for the world’s ills or the latest fad?
Resilience and mindfulness – the research
Despite the criticism, behind all of the hype there is solid research taking place. But does thinking about your thinking really make you more resilient? Research by Badri Bajaj and Neerja Pande published in the latest Personality and Individual Differences Journal, Volume 88 suggests it may well do. They examined the effects of mindfulness on life satisfaction and resilience. 327 undergraduates completed a series of psychometrics to measure mindfulness (Mindful Attention Awareness Scale or MAAS), resilience (Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale, CD-RISC), life satisfaction (Satisfaction with Life Scale, SWLS) and how the reacted to life events (the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule, PANAS). This comprehensive battery of assessments examined how quickly the students bounced back from negative life events to how mindfully they went about their daily lives, self scoring responses to questions like “I tend to walk quickly to get where I am going” to “I stay focused under pressure.”
Improved coping mechanisms
The results of Baje and Pande’s research were impressive. They found that resilience was elevated in the students who were mindful suggesting that this might be responsible for many of the benefits that we know are related to mindfulness. The researchers state that “Mindful people can better cope with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down”. The results highlighted how the students with a high level of mindfulness were more resilient, reported being more content and ruminated less upon negative events than the less mindful subjects. Baje and Pande concluded that “Pausing and observing the mind may (help us) resist getting drawn into wallowing in a setback”. We know from the work of Carol Dweck and Martin Seligmann that the ability to learn from setbacks and then move on armed with this new learning is one of the key factors in building resilience, optimism and a growth mindset.
Begin your mindfulness journey with our free mindfulness podcasts
The hype (or some of it) might just be true. It seems then that from this study mindfulness may predict resilience and have a substantial effect of subjective wellbeing. If you’re wondering how to develop a mindfulness practice, take a look at some of our free podcasts to start your mindfulness journey.
Hear neuroscientist, Richard Davidson, talk about resilience and mindfulness:
We love to talk about all things mindfulness and resilience at Positive Change Guru. Check out our forthcoming events or get in touch to find out more about our suite of courses and discuss bespoke mindfulness and resilience training for your organisation.