Blog

Tackling Mental Heath Stigma at Work

Mental health problems at work cost the UK economy billions each year, and they’re increasingly becoming one of the most common reasons for sickness absence.

Emergency services personnel face unique challenges at work which mean they are particularly prone to developing mental health problems because of their jobs. They have an increasing workload, they face ever increasing demands, and they have to deal with traumatic situations often on a daily basis.

All of this occurs in a culture where having time off is frowned upon and where workers believe that they’ll be discriminated against if they speak out about having poor mental health.

Culture in the emergency services

Emergency services personnel are often referred to as ‘heroes’ and there’s a perception that they are somehow superhuman and shouldn’t be affected by things that happen at work. This is of course, a fallacy. They are human beings, and they are just as prone to mental ill health as everyone else, if not more so.

Research from MIND has shown that even though they are more likely to experience mental ill health, they are less likely to take time off work than the general population. They’re twice as likely to identify work as the cause of their mental health problems, and they believe that they’d be treated less favourably at work if they disclosed that they were suffering.

Organisational factors and poor mental health

Exposure to traumatic incidents is not the only factor that causes poor mental health among emergency services personnel. Organisational factors like constant change that’s badly managed, poor leadership, and a blame culture can all contribute to mental ill health.

Tackling mental health stigma in the workplace

Creating a culture where mental wellbeing is given priority and people feel able to talk about their problems makes people feel supported, and creates opportunities for early intervention. Here are some practical steps that organisations can take to promote a mentally healthy workplace and tackle stigma:

Start from the top: Any change in culture needs to start with management. If managers lead by example, prioritise mental wellbeing, and promote a culture of empathy and understanding, employees are more likely to follow suit.

Create a mental health policy: This will reassure employees that an organisation is aware of the importance of mental wellbeing.

Create a culture of openness: This helps to increase awareness of mental health by encouraging people to talk about it.

Promote healthy working practices: Encourage a work/life balance by introducing programmes like mindfulness, meditation, relaxation, and exercise into the working day.

Communicate: Raise awareness of mental health using staff newsletters, posters, training sessions and meetings.

Introduce training: This helps to tackle mental health stigma by increasing awareness and understanding of mental ill health. It can also educate people on how to spot the signs that they, or a co-worker might be becoming ill, and empower them to talk about it.

How we can help

We use our expertise in workforce wellbeing, individual and organisational wellbeing, and performance and trauma management to help front-line emergency services staff become better equipped to manage the pressures and challenges they face. The services we offer include tailored support for personnel, their managers and their families, stress-relieving strategies, and therapeutic interventions.

For more information on our work with the emergency services, contact Maureen on 07939 845920 or via maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk , or contact Kirsty Knight on 07816 923789 or at kirsty@openmindstherapy.co.uk

Staying Well After a Traumatic Incident

Emergency services personnel witness more traumatic incidents in the course of their job role than many people see in a lifetime. The need to respond quickly, calmly, and rationally to incidents like serious road traffic accidents, infernos, and increasingly terrorist attacks means that they are at high risk of experiencing stress.

Symptoms of stress

These can fall into 4 main categories; physical symptoms, cognitive symptoms, emotional symptoms, and behavioural symptoms. Some symptoms might occur immediately after an incident, while some might appear weeks or even months later.

Physical symptoms

Symptoms of shock like shallow breathing, rapid pulse, shivering, pale and clammy skin, and dilated pupils.

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Heavy sweating
  • Thirst
  • Headaches
  • Visual disturbances
  • Body aches and pains

Cognitive symptoms

These can occur at the scene of an incident, which can have repercussions for a worker’s safety, the safety of their colleagues and the safety of those they’re trying to help. Symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Increased or reduced alertness
  • Poor concentration
  • Inability to solve problems or make decisions
  • Memory problems
  • Nightmares or flashbacks

Emotional symptoms

It’s normal to react emotionally to a traumatic situation. Emergency services personnel should have access to support from a mental health professional if they experience emotional distress after an incident, especially if it persists. Symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Denial
  • Grief
  • Fear
  • Irritability
  • Inability to control emotions
  • Depression
  • Feelings of failure
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Blaming others or self for events

Behavioural symptoms

Some personnel might notice that they, or their colleagues display some changes in behaviour following exposure to a traumatic incident, including:

  • Intense anger and emotional outbursts
  • Withdrawal
  • Changes in appetite, eating more or losing your appetite
  • Drinking more alcohol
  • Feeling restless
  • Sexual dysfunction

How to stay well after a traumatic incident

Everyone is different, so people will inevitably react differently after they have gone through a traumatic incident. But however resilient you consider yourself to be, you can take some steps to reduce stress and make sure that you stay well after exposure to trauma.

  • Reach out to others: don’t bottle things up. Having someone to talk to makes a big difference and it will help you to retain some perspective during difficult times.
  • Take time to do things you enjoy to help reduce stress and recharge your batteries.
  • Don’t worry about ‘getting back to normal’: This takes time. Gradually work back up to doing your normal routine and don’t be hard on yourself.
  • Don’t feel guilty for being happy: It’s okay to laugh and feel grateful for what you have.
  • Let your family in: Your loved ones will be there with you after the incident. They’ll see how it’s affected you and you need to talk to them. Mutual understanding and patience will help you to make sense of how you feel, and it will help them to understand how they can best support you.
  • Don’t turn to drugs or alcohol: You might think that they are a way of escaping how you feel but relying on them to cope will bring a new set of problems.
  • Look after yourself: Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eat well, and take regular exercise. Practicing mindfulness and meditating can help to reduce stress, calm the mind, and help you to deal with difficult feelings in a more emotionally balanced way.

How we can help

We use our expertise in workforce wellbeing, individual and organisational wellbeing, and performance and trauma management to help front-line emergency services staff become better equipped to manage the pressures and challenges they face. The services we offer include tailored support for personnel, their managers and their families, stress-relieving strategies, and therapeutic interventions.

For more information on our work with the emergency services, contact Maureen on 07939 845920 or via maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk , or contact Kirsty Knight on 07816 923789 or at kirsty@openmindstherapy.co.uk

April Newsletter

Welcome to our April Newsletter!

Spring is the perfect time to think about changes you might like to make in your personal and professional life, so that you live your life with joy and not in a perpetual state of stress, worry and anxiety. In this newsletter, I want to share a short mindfulness exercise you can do anywhere, some of the latest research on mindfulness, and a review of an excellent book that is an excellent introduction on being mindful in your everyday life. As well as that, I’ve included the links to some very informative mindfulness articles, where you’ll find plenty of hints and tips on being mindful and why it’s not just about meditating. I’m very excited to be introducing some comprehensive e-learning packages this year, which will help you to learn the fundamentals of mindfulness, and how to use it as a tool to change the way you think, react, and feel about life.

Top tips for using mindfulness in the workplace

Here’s an easy mindfulness exercise you can do at your desk, at any time of the day.

Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing is a meditation technique that you can do while you’re sat at your desk. All you need to do is take a few minutes to focus on your breathing.

  • Inhale slowly, through your nose, and breathe out slowly, through your mouth. Breathe in for 3 seconds, and out for 3 seconds. Don’t think about anything else.
  • When thoughts come into your mind, acknowledge them, but let them go. Take your focus back to your breath.
  • Do 2-3 minutes at a time at the start, then work your way up to 5-10 minutes at a time.

 

Mindfulness research

There is an entire body of research that looks at how mindfulness affects the brain, how it can benefit people who suffer from chronic stress and depression, improves physiological health markers, and improves the chances of ageing in a healthy way. Here are some of the world’s leading mindfulness researchers, whose existing work is paving the way for some fascinating future studies.

 

Judson Brewer, MD, PHD, Psychiatrist and Chief, UMASS Medical School

He discovered how mindfulness can be used to beat addiction, by using brain imaging techniques to look at how mindfulness affects the brain. He used the information to develop mindfulness tools to help people give up smoking and beat food cravings.

His plans for future clinical trials include developing an app that will allow mindfulness to be delivered digitally, and studying how effectively it works.

 

Elissa Epel, PHD, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of California

She has done ground-breaking work, which looked at the benefits of meditation for people who suffer from chronic stress, particularly those who have never meditated before.

In the future, she plans to look at how meditation affects people who have suffered trauma or adversity in childhood.

 

Clifford Saron, PHD, Researcher, neuroscientist, Center for Mind and Brain; University of California

He led the Shamatha Project, which was research into the benefits of long-term, intensive meditation. During the project, numerous month-long retreats were held, and the findings showed that meditation improves the attention span, boosts wellbeing and empathy, and improves physiological health markers.

He wants to take this research even further, and plans to assess the wellbeing of the participants 7 years after they attended an initial retreat. In particular, he will examine markers of cellular ageing, stress, and inflammation.

 

Zindel Segal, PHD, Professor of brain and therapeutics, University of Toronto

He’s a leading researcher on Mindfulness and mood disorders, and was a founder of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which integrates meditation into psychotherapy. His work has shown that MBCT can prevent relapses in people who have depression.

He is currently conducting a study which is looking at whether adding a digital form of MBCT to standard depression treatment programmes can reduce symptoms, as well as a study that is examining brain changes in patients who have used MBCT and have recovered from depression.

 

David Creswell, PHD, Associate professor of psychology, Carnegie Mellon University

His work examined what makes people resilient to stress, and he also co-founded health neuroscience, which combines health psychology and neuroscience.

He has begun a trial, examining how Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction might improve social relationships and lead to healthier ageing in older adults.

His team is also looking at whether adding acceptance skills and training on how to keep calm and composed even in a stressful situation to mindfulness programmes can further reduce stress and improve health.

 

Mindfulness news

Something amazing happened in the House of Commons back in October. 40 Politicians sat in silence, practising mindfulness. Now if you have ever seen a Commons debate, or Prime Minister’s Questions, you’ll know that this is unusual!

UK Ministers joined colleagues from Israel, Sri Lanka, Croatia, and Sweden to consider how they could use mindfulness as a way to bring about positive change.

This was the world’s first ever congregation of mindfulness politicians, and they were discussing how mindfulness could become a matter of public policy.

Some ministers shared their experience of finding mindfulness after having suffered from depression, anxiety, serious illness, and injury.

The Sports Minister Tracy Crouch said that mindfulness has helped her to cope when receiving therapy was not appropriate in her case, and it led to her being an advocate of the use of mindfulness in professional environments, and being very keen to see how it could be integrated into policy.

Ministers were given information on the latest mindfulness news from the UK healthcare and criminal justice sectors, which included a testimony from a former prison inmate, who discovered the power of mindfulness after being in and out of prison over a 30-year period.

The event originated 18 months ago in a US Congressman’s office. Tim Ryan of Ohio, advocates mindfulness as a tool to stay sane when you’re surrounded by chaos. He promotes mindfulness as much as he can, and sees its value for everyone, not least war veterans.

After completing a mindfulness retreat, he discovered a new way of relating with the world around him, and he immediately wanted to tell people about it.

In October 2015, A Mindful Nation UK report was published, which suggested that access to mindfulness was high on the agenda in government policy, especially in the health service and the criminal justice system. How great it would be then, to establish an international commission of delegates who are both interested in, and advocates of, mindfulness. The hope was that this would help to not only promote the wider implementation and understanding of mindfulness, but that it would promote cooperation and a tolerance of different views that transcended politics.

In the UK, parties on all sides have demonstrated a willingness to accept that there is a need for mindfulness, and The Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group was developed from a mindfulness programme that was run for MPs and peers. Those who participated noted how it encouraged them to be more accepting of opposition colleagues and encouraged kinder and more mindful communication with each other. Their experience encouraged them to consider how mindfulness could be integrated into policy, which promises some exciting developments in the future. It seems that everyone can benefit from a little mindful contemplation.

 

Book recommendation and review

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World

Mark Williams, Danny Penman

This book is based on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which is an easy form of mindfulness meditation to grasp, and you can get the benefits from practising it for just a few minutes every day.

This form of mindfulness meditation has been shown to be as effective as medication for depression and it has been recommended by NICE, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence as a treatment.

What’s important about MBCT is that everyone can benefit, it’s not just for people who struggle with depression. It’s about staying balanced and mentally healthy in an increasingly demanding world. It’s not about getting rid of unhappiness, it’s about increasing feelings of joy and confidence while reducing stress, anxiety, and feelings of irritability.

This book aims to teach people how to live in the moment, and how to deal with negative events or emotions without becoming overwhelmed by them or reacting emotionally. It also encourages people to accept their thoughts and feelings without judgement, all while explaining the foundations of mindfulness and how it plays a role in psychology.

Many self-help books often have a tone that makes you cringe, but this doesn’t. It takes a practical approach and provides you with simple tasks and meditations to complete. The book uses encouraging language and motivates you to work your way through the course with inspirational quotes.

For the mindfulness sceptics, there’s a considerable scientific element to the book. As well as information on how mindfulness works and how it can work for you, there’s some information on clinical studies of its effectiveness.

You can skip the introduction to mindfulness and go straight to the practical exercises, but it’s helpful to know why mindfulness can work for you, as you’ll be more likely to carry on with it.

The book includes guided meditations and practical exercises, which is a good mix, since meditation may take some time to grasp so you’re likely to notice more obvious changes with the practical exercises.

But if you’re looking for a quick solution to fixing feelings of overwhelm in your life, then this book is not for you. The entire course in the book needs to be worked through for the best results.

You can find the book here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mindfulness-practical-guide-finding-frantic/dp/074995308X

 

Some reading material for you:

In each newsletter, I’ll be including a few articles about mindfulness that really capture the essence of what it is and why it can work for you, whether it’s at work or in your personal life.

 

Why We Need Mindfulness at Work

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_we_need_mindfulness_at_work

Here’s a great article about the benefits of mindfulness at work. When people think about practising mindfulness at work, their first reaction is ‘how am I supposed to find the time?’ But setting aside that time can really help to ease the stress of a demanding working life.

 

Five Steps to Mindfulness

This is a simple, but very informative article that is a nice introduction to being mindful, whenever, and wherever you are.

https://www.mindful.org/five-steps-to-mindfulness/

 

Blue Light Support

We now host an initiative to provide mental health care for emergency services. Please visit http://mocallaghan.co.uk/bluelightsupport/ for more information.

How can I help you?

I can help you master mindfulness to enhance the wellbeing of individuals at work, and to help organisations build productive, successful teams of individuals who listen to, and support each other. Through face to face mentoring and mindfulness sessions, or via e-learning, we can work together to manage stress, deal with anxieties about job insecurity and organisational change, and develop effective leaders who’ll remain calm and make considered decisions even during volatile times. Find out more about what mindfulness can do for you here.

I hope you have found our first newsletter both interesting and useful.  If there are any topics that you would like us to include in our next newsletter please let me know.  If, for any reason, you do not want to receive further copies of the newsletter please let me know and I will remove your details from our database.

Strengthening Personal Resilience

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from the challenges and adversity that we all face in life. Some people naturally face adversity and deal with it, but even if you feel like you don’t deal with life’s hard knocks very well, the good news is that resilience is something that can be taught and learned.

What makes someone resilient?

A resilient person understands that pain, failure, and discomfort are part of life. Along with happiness, they are just some of the vast array of emotions we experience at any given time.

If we strengthen our resilience, it will not only make us much more emotionally balanced, but it can benefit our physical health too.

A study of 99 men at Harvard University found that the way they viewed negative life events (fixed and unchangeable versus temporary and able to be influenced) predicted the state of their physical health up to 35 years later.

How to strengthen personal resilience

When bad things happen, look for meaning

If you’re resilient, you’ll be able to find good things even in difficult situations. Every difficulty has the potential to teach you a life lesson. Resilient people have the capacity to feel sad about negative events, but they are also able to see what the event has taught them and what they have to be grateful for. If you aren’t resilient, you’re likely to only feel terrible if something bad happens.

But you can change this and respond in a more emotionally balanced way. You can do this by challenging negative thoughts and any negative self-talk. So instead of telling yourself ‘There’s no way I’ll get this job’ when you go for an interview, challenge the thought. What evidence is there to suggest you won’t get the job? Is what you’re telling yourself realistic?

Build a good support network

Having the support of friends, family, and work colleagues is important if you want to be more resilient. Problems don’t seem as bad if you are able to talk about them and others can help you to keep perspective. And the effects of having a good support network don’t just benefit your mental health, they can boost your physical health too. A 2006 study found that having close friends can increase resilience against illness. The study of 3000 nurses with breast cancer found that those with 10 or more close friends were four times more likely to survive than those without close friends.

Be grateful

When you face adversity, being grateful for the good things in your life helps you keep some perspective. Try writing down 3 things you are grateful for every day for 30 days. You can also try drawing your attention to the things in your life that you might take for granted; a roof over your head, a loving partner, and a job you enjoy for example.

Expect change, and accept it

Change is a part of life, and so is sadness and loss. If you choose to move towards pain and cope with it instead of trying to eliminate or avoid it, you’ll be so much more resilient. Ask yourself how you can solve your problems and what you can learn along the way.

Look after yourself

If you’re physically well, your emotional health is likely to be a lot better and you’ll be more resilient. When you eat well, get enough sleep and deal with stress, you’re better able to bounce back from setbacks.

In terms of your emotional wellbeing, practicing mindfulness or meditating can help to lower stress levels and encourage clarity of thought.

Making time to do things you enjoy is another key to becoming more resilient. Choose active pursuits like going for a walk over sitting in front of the TV, because studies have shown that time spent in nature is good for the body and the mind.

 

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills. For more information visit http://www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk

Promoting the Mental Health of Personnel in an Emergency Services Setting

 

Emergency services personnel are exposed to trauma sometimes on a daily basis. They also face constantly increasing demands and heavy workloads that even their famous culture of camaraderie can’t protect them from. All of this combines to make them more at risk of stress, depression, anxiety, and PTSD than the general population.

Personnel working in the emergency services might feel that they can’t speak about how they feel due to stigma, and don’t tend to take time off work even if they’re unwell because they feel they are letting their colleagues and the public down if they do.

Promoting mental health in the workplace

Investing in mental health not only makes for a healthier workforce, it makes good business sense. When organisations are proactive about mental health, productivity is higher, employees are more likely to remain with the organisation, there’s less absenteeism, and fewer problems with performance or morale.

Organisations must have mental health and wellbeing strategies in place. Some strategies will be more difficult to implement because of cost or other factors, but some can be introduced with minimal cost.

Promoting the mental health of emergency services: good practice

Be systematic with risk management

Each emergency service deals with a huge range of situations, and so personnel are exposed to a variety of risks that might affect their mental health and wellbeing. Having a risk assessment specific to each service is a good starting point for putting together an effective mental health strategy.

Introduce a mental health strategy

Having a strategy is great, but implementing it into work activities each day, reviewing the plan, and learning lessons from it is where it will really come into its own.

Develop leaders

The actions and behaviours of leaders and managers can influence how personnel might cope with the demands of their job. Good managers will know when someone is struggling, whether it’s with their mental health or something else. Providing training to managers to develop their confidence is essential; whether it’s the confidence to lead effectively in a crisis situation or having a difficult conversation with an employee.

Tackle stigma

This is an issue in the emergency services where personnel might feel they can’t talk about their mental health or how they feel without being judged or bullied in some way. Tackling stigma is not expensive to do; it just requires some understanding and courage to spread the message that it’s okay to not be okay.

Strategies for promoting mental health on the front line

Wellbeing programmes and practices should be integrated into the work routine, like mindfulness programmes, meditation and relaxation sessions, or exercise programmes. Access to mental health support should be promoted and wellbeing measures should be aimed at reducing stress and preventing mental ill health, not just treating it once it’s occurred.

As every emergency service worker is likely to have to deal with a crisis or a traumatic incident, they should be prepared as much as possible for how to manage the incident itself and they should be given support in the aftermath.

Mental health and wellbeing support should not only be offered while someone is in service. Many personnel will have encountered situations during their career that will continue to affect them even years later, so offering support and advice on a long-term basis may also be necessary.

How we can help

We use our expertise in workforce wellbeing, individual and organisational wellbeing, and performance and trauma management to help front-line emergency services staff become better equipped to manage the pressures and challenges they face. The services we offer include tailored support for personnel, their managers and their families, stress-relieving strategies, and therapeutic interventions.

For more information on our work with the emergency services, contact Maureen on 07939 845920 or via maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk , or contact Kirsty Knight on 07816 923789 or at kirsty@openmindstherapy.co.uk

Too Stressed to Care?

 

The Problem of Burnout Among Emergency Services Personnel

Many emergency services personnel suffer from stress and poor mental health. The unique pressures they face in their job role, coupled with feeling unable to tell colleagues they’re suffering, and pressure to attend work even when they’re unwell often leads to burnout. Many personnel eventually leave their chosen profession, and either change careers completely or accept a role that takes them away from the front-line.

The unique pressures emergency service staff face

Emergency services personnel face some unique stressors in their job role:

  • They have no idea what the day will bring: They might have to deal with a fatal road traffic accident, or a serious industrial accident. This uncertainty can be stressful.
  • The stress triggered by an emergency: An emergency causes the body to produce a physical response. The ‘fight of flight’ system is triggered; blood sugar levels rise, the body releases adrenaline, and the blood pressure and heart rate increases. The body might remain in this state for a while, and another emergency might occur in that time. In effect, the body and mind are always in a heightened state of arousal.
  • Tension with colleagues: In a fast-paced environment which has to deal with one crisis after another, there tends to be more tension between people.
  • Frequent exposure to tragedy and trauma: Some people might never witness a traumatic incident in their lifetime, yet many emergency services personnel are exposed to these situations on a daily basis.
  • Fear: This can be fear of going into an emergency situation, or fear of someone taking legal action if they perceive you have made a ‘mistake.’

What is burnout?

Burnout occurs when prolonged exposure to stress causes a significant depletion of your physical and/or your emotional strength. It has such significant effects on a person that they might feel they can’t function normally on a personal or professional level.

Symptoms of Burnout

People who suffer from burnout may get all or some of these symptoms:

  • Feeling drained: Lacking energy every day and dreading the day ahead.
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Physical symptoms: Experiencing chest pains, shortness of breath, digestive problems, and headaches.
  • Becoming ill more often: Stress weakens the immune system, so colds and other infections occur more frequently.
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Anxiety and depression: Feeling burnt out can reduce resilience against stress, so sufferers might feel hopeless.
  • Feeling irritable and tense: Stress can cause irritability and angry outbursts which can affect personal and professional relationships.

How to avoid burnout

Build resilience to stress by looking after your physical and mental health: Exercise regularly, eat well, get enough sleep, and use techniques like mindfulness and meditation to reduce stress and calm the mind.

Make use of downtime: do something you enjoy when you’re not at work. It’s easy to cut out enjoyable activities because you’re ‘too tired’ or ‘can’t be bothered’ but taking time for yourself brings essential balance between life and work.

Find support: whether it’s talking to a friend or a trusted colleague, it really helps to have someone to talk to. It helps you to retain a sense of perspective too.

Can burnout be avoided?

Recognising that you’re stressed and managing it is the key to avoiding burnout. If workplaces change their mentality from treating asking for help as a form of weakness, to one that believes in the value of offering comprehensive support to employees suffering from stress, burnout doesn’t have to be inevitable.

How we can help

We use our expertise in workforce wellbeing, individual and organisational wellbeing, and performance and trauma management to help front-line emergency services staff become better equipped to manage the pressures and challenges they face. The services we offer include tailored support for personnel, their managers and their families, stress-relieving strategies, and therapeutic interventions.

For more information on our work with the emergency services, contact Maureen on 07939 845920 or via maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk , or contact Kirsty Knight on 07816 923789 or at kirsty@openmindstherapy.co.uk

Staying Resilient in Difficult Times

 

Everyone faces life-changing and stressful events at some point in their lives. But how do people get through tough times? How do they come back from tragedy, or a life-changing setback?

The answer is that they draw upon their resilience. People survive stressful times because they are adaptable, and they have an ability to become stronger in times of adversity, whether at work or in their personal life.

The unique pressures emergency services personnel face

It’s important to look after your mental health. One in four people will develop a mental health problem every year, and research carried out by Mind shows that emergency services personnel are much more likely to be affected than the general working population. A huge 87.5% of emergency services workers have suffered from stress or poor mental health. This is mainly due to the unique pressures they face, like regular exposure to traumatic incidents, as well as excessive workloads and long working hours. Work-related stress is common, but excessive and prolonged stress can harm mental and physical health.

The effects of chronic stress

Stress can cause physical problems like headaches, digestive problems, and hypertension, and it also weakens the immune system and causes insomnia. Excessive stress has also been linked to depression, obesity, and heart disease. These problems are compounded when people use unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress, like drinking alcohol excessively, overeating, or smoking more.

What is resilience and how can it help?

Resilience is the ability to cope with the stresses life throws at us, and to come back stronger. Being resilient can help you to deal with stress, anxiety, and difficult emotions before they turn into more serious mental health problems. Fortunately, resilience can be taught and learned. Here are some ways to develop resilience.

The key to becoming resilient

Being aware and managing your thoughts: Noticing what is going on around you and paying attention to your thoughts. Realising that your thoughts are just thoughts and interpreting your thoughts in a rational way. Your thoughts are not facts, but they have an extraordinary power to control your actions.

When your thoughts are running away with you, it can be hard to make rational decisions. A way to think more rationally about a situation is to think about alternative explanations for the situation.

An example would be if you emailed your manager and they didn’t get back to you. Your mind will offer what it believes is the most obvious reason, based on your experiences and belief system. If you have had a bad experience with a manager in the past or you don’t believe in your own abilities as an employee, you might choose to believe that all managers are ignorant, or they haven’t replied because they don’t like you or think you’re bad at your job. But this explanation might be completely wrong!

Think about alternative explanations which are more likely, such as your manager is extra busy, or they’ve been out of the office all day, and this will help you think more rationally about the situation.

 

 

Knowing when to ask for help: This is not always easy, but knowing when, and how to ask for help is a big part of becoming resilient. Everyone needs help at some point in their lives and being able to reach out to others for support is a great source of comfort and makes any problem seem much more manageable.

Looking after your physical and mental health: This increases your ability to cope with life’s challenges without becoming ill. Taking regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep is crucial for wellbeing, as is cultivating a calm mind using techniques like mindfulness and meditation. Practicing mindfulness can reduce stress by helping you to accept your thoughts and feelings without making a judgment on them.

How we can help

We use our expertise in workforce wellbeing, individual and organisational wellbeing, and performance and trauma management to help front-line emergency services staff become better equipped to manage the pressures and challenges they face. The services we offer include tailored support for personnel, their managers and their families, stress-relieving strategies, and therapeutic interventions.

For more information on our work with the Emergency Services, contact Maureen on 07939 845920 or via maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk, or contact Kirsty Knight on 07816 923789 or at kirsty@openmindstherapy.co.uk

Press Release – Women in Business Survey

For immediate release: 30/01/2018

Wellbeing Business to Develop a Support Service for Stressed Out Female Entrepreneurs

A Grantham-based mindfulness and wellbeing business is surveying female entrepreneurs to find out what pressures and challenges they face day to day.

Maureen O’ Callaghan Training and Mentoring are conducting the survey with the aim of using the information to develop wellbeing services that are user led, and that best meet the unique needs of women in business. Focus groups and interviews will also take place at an event for female entrepreneurs where the focus will be on self-care.

Director Maureen O’Callaghan has drawn on her discussions with her peers and her own experience, to think about the additional challenges that women in business face, and to come up with a service tailored to help them maintain their physical and mental wellbeing.

Speaking about the new services, she said;

 “I want to help women to identify the causes and effects of their stress and to have in place strategies that help them to be able to handle the pressures and challenges they face both in the workplace and at home.”

Women are often the main caregivers for children and other relatives, and they still tend to have most of the domestic responsibilities, even if they work full-time. They are also conditioned to be people pleasers and are brought up with the message that they have to please others and be ‘perfect’. This translates into many women being hard on themselves, especially when they’re in business. They tend to fear failure, and play down their abilities more than men, which puts them in a state of perpetual stress.

While men often deal with stress by making poor lifestyle choices, the stress hormones themselves are what affects women’s health. A recent survey found that millions of professional women are teetering on the edge of being completely burned out. They are chronically stressed and suffer from symptoms like chronic fatigue, insomnia, poor immunity, being unable to concentrate, irritability, anxiety, and depression.

The survey can be accessed via the website at www.mocallaghan.co.uk and it’s also being sent out to organisations that support women in business to ensure they capture as many views and responses as possible.

Notes for Editors

The survey has been developed with the support of a student from Lincoln University. 

Contact

Maureen O’ Callaghan

Maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk

Tel: 07939 845 920

 

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute, and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills. 

Getting on with Others: Communicating Mindfully

We all communicate with others every day, but how much of this communication is mindful? How many times have you asked someone ‘how are you?’ because you’re on autopilot, not because you’re particularly interested?

Being mindful is not just about meditation, you should be mindful in your daily interactions too.

What is mindful communication?

Mindful communication means that you listen and speak with compassion, kindness, and awareness. Often when people communicate, people don’t listen or think before they speak. Mindful communication requires you to listen mindfully and speak mindfully.

How to listen to others mindfully

Clear your mind

When someone is talking to you, try to clear your mind of any thoughts, or judgements about them or what they are saying. It’s not easy but you might learn much more from the other person.

Be attentive

People are likely to feel more comfortable telling you things if you’re attentive, as they will feel like they can be themselves and open up to you.

Make eye contact

Don’t look away or at something else, make eye contact because it shows that you care about what the other person is saying to you.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes

People tend to see things based on what they perceive about the world. Try to see something from the perspective of the person you’re talking to. You might disagree with their opinion, but that’s okay.

Don’t assume what people mean

If someone says something that you don’t understand, ask them to elaborate on what they just said, and do so with compassion. Communication between two people is often muddled because they have misunderstood each other.

How to speak to others mindfully

Think before you speak

When someone asks you a question, don’t just start talking for the sake of talking. Take time to think about your response and what you say is much more likely to be well received and meaningful.

Choose your words carefully

Insulting or painful words aimed at another person can really damage a professional or personal relationship. Even if something makes sense to you, someone else might just not get it. Be sure to think carefully about your choice of words.

Be true to who you are

Sometimes when we speak to someone, we want to portray a certain image of ourselves. We might end up trying to be something we’re not, which is not the best way to communicate meaningfully with someone. Be true to who you are, and always speak with compassion and kindness.

Say what you mean and mean what you say

This applies to a business or a personal relationship. If you say to someone that you’ll call them, do exactly that, and you’ll get a lot more respect from the other person.

Everyone likes to feel listened to and understood, and communicating mindfully is a great way to make sure that happens, in all of your interactions.

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute, and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills. 

Pressures and Challenges Faced by People Running Businesses

Being your own boss sounds like a dream; the flexibility to work when you want, escaping from office politics, and even working in your pyjamas if you want to, and it can be.

But if you decide to go it alone, it can come as a bit of a culture shock. Leaving the security of a salary and suddenly having to make all the decisions can be daunting. Here are some of the pressures and challenges faced by people running businesses:

Giving up financial security

Walking away from a permanent job, salary, and other benefits can be scary. But, the benefits of being your own boss can outweigh the risks. When you’re just starting off, you might be able to start your business on the side, but if you want your business to grow, eventually you’ll have to give up the day job.

Financing your business

If you’re just starting out, you’re likely to need to gather information on possible funding options for your business, and then start working hard on building a network of contacts.

Coping with uncertainty

When you start your own business, you’ll have many concerns. Will your business be profitable? Will you be able to pay yourself a salary? When you don’t have a steady wage to fall back on, and everything else is in a constant state of change, uncertainty is an unpleasant fact.

Staying motivated

The idea of running your own business might be attractive, but will you have the drive, belief, and determination to keep going through the tough times?

Lack of time

When you start your own business, you’ll soon come to realise that there aren’t nearly enough hours in the day. You’ll likely spend long hours working in the business and on the business, and that’s on top of trying to maintain a family life and social life.

Being afraid of failure

The idea of being self-employed can be attractive, but there will be inevitable challenges along the way. Don’t let mistakes or bad luck deter you from following your dream, if you want it enough. Learn from your mistakes and move on.

Hiring staff

If you need to hire staff, it can be a minefield. You need to pick people who are the right fit for your business, and consider how much it will cost to hire them.

Isolation

Being a business owner can be quite lonely, especially if you’re a sole trader. You might be working lots of hours when you first start your business, so you might not see family and friends as often.

How to reduce stress when running your own business

Don’t let your thoughts stress you out: What you tell yourself is true. If you tell yourself that you’re going to lose customers or that you’re going to fail, all it does is stresses you out. Don’t let irrational thoughts defeat you before you even start, concentrate on the facts.

Accept what you can and can’t control: Once you understand that you can’t control everything that happens in your business, you’ll feel more at ease. But there are things you can control, like taking time out to do things you enjoy or making sure that you finish working early on at least a few nights per week.

Make time to relax: Stress damages your immune system, and it can seriously affect your mental and physical health. Make time to do things you enjoy; you’ll be more relaxed, and your business will benefit.

Use mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness helps you to notice and accept your thoughts, without judgment. It also helps you to relax, so you will be able to choose not to react emotionally to things. This will put you in a far better position to fully enjoy, and immerse yourself in running your business.

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute, and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills.