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The second 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 how rethinking stress may rewire your response to it
‘For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so … since nothing is really good or bad in itself—it’s all what a person thinks about it.’
Hamlet: Act 2, Scene 2, Page 11
Stress has a bad rap and with good reason. Conventional wisdom dictates that prolonged stress will kill you (it’s true). Stress will make you ill (it will). Stress is bad for you (it is). Stress will …. (fill in the blanks). It’s all true and we know it. But is it possible that rethinking our perception of stress might increase our ability to manage it? New research suggests that the way we perceive stress may be critical in terms of how we respond to it. So what is re-thinking stress and how can we do it?
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
Mindfulness has been identified as an increasingly critical skill required to navigate the corporate world. But how do you create a mindful workplace?
‘Intent is a force that lives in the universe’ Carlos Castenados
Does every day feel like groundhog day? Are you stuck in negative patterns wondering when things will start to change? Perhaps your career is draining your creativity, you want something more but don’t know what it is. Maybe you do know and you’re afraid to take the necessary leap of faith? Perhaps you’re a square peg in a round career or it could be a relationship that is slowly sapping your self esteem adding to your feeling of disconnection. Maybe you’re too scared to leave. Or you feel that wherever you are or whoever you’re with, you will never be enough.The truth is, as Einstein observed ‘Nothing changes until something moves’. That something is you. And the movement you need is intention. Intention enables you to live with heart rather than habit.
Taking a holistic approach to your wellbeing strategy is never simple. Even when your wellbeing strategy is established, growing the health of your staff and remaining proactive is crucial. As Prof. Cary Cooper states, “A workforce that is well works well.” Creating a culture of wellbeing takes time, commitment and constant innovation. The old one size fits all approach to wellbeing is now obsolete. One of the most new and innovative ways to support staff wellbeing is writing. Long since recognised in the US as a workplace intervention, it is slowly gaining popularity in the UK.
Mood Hoovers. Emotional Vampires. We’ve all met them. Whether it’s a colleague at work, your boss, that demanding client, friends, a family member or even a partner. You’ll recognise them by that sinking feeling when you’re with them or the way that you feel depleted after spending any length of time in their company. Maybe just thinking about them leaves you feeling low. They drain you. They sap your energy. You’ll feel like crap after they’ve offloaded their emotional junk on you. It takes time to re-balance and find your equilibrium again after they’ve gone. Negative encounters are part of life. But what if you find yourself surrounded by them?
A Healthy Gut = A Healthy Mind
Known as your ‘second brain’ or enteric nervous system (ENS) your gut may be responsible for surprisingly more than digestion. Your gut communicates with your brain, sending and receiving messages. Conventional medicine has long recognised of the link between stress, anxiety and depression and those experiencing irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, pain and bowel issues. New research suggests instead that it may be the other way around with evidence that irritation to the gut may send messages to the brain triggering mood changes.
The impact isn’t confined to the our mood. Researchers also found that the digestive system may also affect our memory and cognitive function. Furthermore, gut health has also been linked to psoriasis and eczema. So if our two brains are communicating in this way, how can we improve the conversation?
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;
Whether you have an established wellbeing programme or are designing a strategy from scratch, mindfulness should be firmly on the agenda. With converts ranging from Google, Transport for London, Honda, the National Health Service, Microsoft and Aetna the results speak for themselves. We’ve worked with many companies who are now mindfulness evangelists. But where do you start when introducing mindfulness to your workplace? We’ve often been asked this question by clients so here are our
7 Insider Tips [Read more…]