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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. 

Creating a Good Work-Life Balance

The world of work is very different today. The lines between home and work are becoming increasingly blurred, as smartphones mean we are available 24/7, and economic pressures mean that many of us work longer hours than ever.

This makes the answer to the age-old question of how we can achieve a work-life balance even harder to find.

The answer lies partly in us taking ownership and creating boundaries so that other people will respect them, and in companies, who need to take on board the notion that we will be happier, healthier, and more productive if we have more balance in our lives.

Here are some ways that you can create a good work-life balance;

Don’t be constantly available

You might think it’s easier said than done in these days when our smartphones are linked to our email accounts, but when you’re spending time with your family, or you’re enjoying some much-needed time off, should you be expected to answer work emails? The answer is no.

Set up an autoreply on emails to manage expectations that you will reply within a certain time frame if you’re out of the office, no matter how tempting it is to hit reply when your phone pings. Your time out of work should be your own. Constantly checking emails doesn’t make you more productive, in fact it disrupts your workflow and increases stress.

If you work smarter, you don’t have to work harder

Prioritise the most important tasks you have to do and don’t get stuck doing less productive things; this is a far better way to use your time. Checking social media might be tempting, but it might also be the reason you never leave work on time. Workers in the UK now work more hours than ever, and research from the Mental Health Foundation on the effects of working long hours makes for grim reading. When employees work long hours, 27% report feeling depressed, 34% feel anxious, and 58% feel irritable.

Draw a line between life and work

Even if you don’t finish all your work for the day, make a note of any tasks you haven’t completed, so you feel a little more organised for the next day. If you really must take work home, keep it away from your living area, so work time doesn’t encroach on your time.

Sometimes ‘good enough’ is okay

If you’re already feeling overworked, trying to aim for perfection in everything you do is not realistic. Sometimes, accepting that you’ve done a good enough job is all that is expected. Don’t put pressure on yourself when you don’t need to.

You don’t need to work hard and play hard

You don’t need to be constantly crashing around at 100mph. This is not good for the body or the mind. Learn to pace yourself, and take more time to relax.

Have interests outside of work

It’s healthy to have interests outside of work. People who feel stressed at work can use exercise, hobbies, or mindfulness to reduce stress in their lives overall.

Learn the art of time management

If you feel overwhelmed, make sure you’re spending your time on the things that really matter. You can be busy without being productive. This takes a little bit of work, but take a good look at your day and see where your time really goes. Focus on the things that are going to move your business forward, not just on the noise.

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. 

Why Mindfulness is the Key to Innovation

The world of work is becoming increasingly uncertain, and the lack of stability caused by factors like the economic downturn has seen many businesses struggling to survive. Today’s workers face heavier workloads, pay cuts, and job insecurity, and this has inevitably impacted upon their physical and mental wellbeing.

What is the answer?

Innovation is the key to helping businesses and workers become more resilient to future challenges and changes. The world of work is not the same anymore, so the way we work cannot remain the same. Innovation boosts productivity and performance, makes businesses more competitive, and boosts worker motivation and job satisfaction.

What is innovation?

Innovation means adapting our ways of working so that we are more prepared in the face of uncertainty. Introducing innovation involves getting used to the idea of change, which is not always easy. A business or organisation might need to introduce additional training for employees or focus more on activities which help them to move forward. Mindfulness is one strategy that is being increasingly used in the business world to help encourage innovation and enhance people’s wellbeing in one fell swoop.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a mind/body practice that has its roots in ancient meditative teachings, but its effectiveness on wellbeing is backed up by over 40 years of research. The basis of the practice is bringing your attention to the present moment, and accepting it for what it is. It doesn’t teach you to ignore thoughts and feelings, rather it allows you to recognise them, then let them go. It’s easy to see how this could translate into a work environment; imagine how much better it would be if you could choose to react to a difficult work situation calmly and rationally, rather than allowing emotions to take over; well you can. It’s the increased awareness of ourselves and what’s around us that can help to encourage innovation in the workplace.

Mindfulness and innovation

Most of our day to day actions are carried out when we are on autopilot. We are bombarded with distractions and information from the moment we open our eyes each day. This prevents us from being fully present in the moment, and fully aware of what is going on around us. It also leads us to become quite rigid in our thinking and unaccepting of the opinions of others.

Mindfulness allows us to acknowledge where we are doing things or behaving in a certain way out of habit, and then clears the mind to allow in new ways of interpreting things. It removes the impulse to react emotionally, and so we automatically become more receptive to new ideas and we focus better.

How mindfulness boosts innovation

Forward-thinking companies like Google and Apple have implemented mindfulness-based activities in their workplaces, and for employees, Tai Chi and meditation are part of a normal working day. The idea is that a calm, open, and aware mind is more open to new things, and more able to come up with new creative ways of working.

How distractions stifle innovation

Think about a time in your life when you had a lot on your mind. How did you deal with it? Did you distract yourself by browsing social media, or by watching a film or TV? This does nothing to clear your mind, rather it fills it with even more distractions. There’s no room for anything new.

When you learn to become mindful, it frees up space in your mind to be creative, to use different thought processes, and to embrace something new.

Clear your mind and innovation will follow

Being mindful is not something that you can learn overnight, it takes sustained practice. It’s not about suspending thoughts, it’s about noticing them, but then letting them go.

By practising mindfulness, you can create space in your mind, and let creativity and clarity in. A clear mind is far more able to be creative, innovative, and calm, which is good news for the health of an organisation, and everyone who works within it.

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. 

How Does Mindfulness Help Us to Work Ethically in Business?

Studies have found that practising mindfulness improves the ability to determine if something is right or wrong, which is known as moral reasoning. This is strongly linked to ethical behaviour.

Not only this, but it increases compassion and reduces the likelihood that we will act solely for the benefit of ourselves.

Mindful managers and decision makers make choices that are inspired by compassion and what they know is the right thing to do, rather than simply just to comply with the law and make a profit.

Can mindfulness promote ethical behaviour in business?

Self-serving thoughts and beliefs and biases often cause unethical behaviour, whether we are conscious of them or not. These can stem from simply not paying attention to how our minds work. We are conditioned to act in a certain way, and this impacts on the decisions we make.

Mindfulness can train us to pay attention to our minds and how we react to situations. It can help us to respond to situations compassionately rather than avoiding them or dealing with them in selfish ways.

How can mindfulness help us be ethically-minded?

It calms the mind and focuses our attention

Many people spend their time focusing on the past and the future, but training the mind to be present and aware increases the ability to be ethical. To make an ethical decision, or even see that there are ethical issues in the first place, your mind has to be present and not racing at 100mph. People who are in a hurry are less likely to be compassionate or helpful towards others.

It improves awareness of how we respond to situations

Whether we realise it or not, we often allow our unconscious minds to choose what feels most comfortable or familiar to us when we make decisions. When we do this, we are more inclined to miss new information or act on impulse, and this can lead to us making self-serving decisions. Mindfulness can make us aware of when we are acting in a certain way out of habit, and allows us the clarity to pause and consider whether we could act more ethically.

Mindfulness helps us deal with difficult emotions

Mindfulness teaches us to be aware of our emotions and accept them, rather than suppressing them, or reacting in an unhelpful way. It helps us to respond with compassion, to develop the ability to consider different solutions to problems, and to question the assumptions and beliefs we are bringing to a situation.

Does mindfulness necessarily lead to ethical behaviours?

Many businesses offer mindfulness training to employees, yet they don’t behave ethically. Why might this be the case?

The reason people practise mindfulness determines what they get from it

So if you are looking to reduce stress, that is what you will get out of it. If you are less stressed, you might make better decisions, but it is still possible to practise mindfulness and engage in behaviour that is less than moral.

People can find it hard to integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives

When you’re practising mindfulness, you might feel like you’re able to be present, aware, and calm, but it’s not easy to translate this into sound business decisions, especially when you’re under stress and likely to fall back into your default behaviour patterns.

Making ethical decisions: A quick guide

Here’s what to do when you’re faced with a challenging situation:

  • Breathe: Don’t let panic set in. Stop for a minute, take a few deep breaths
  • Observe your thoughts: Notice what you’re thinking and the emotions you’re feeling, but don’t try to suppress them or take control of you
  • Question your beliefs and assumptions: Is the way you’re reacting to a situation down to bias or your emotions about it? Is there another perspective or point of view that you’re not seeing?
  • What is your ideal outcome?: What would you like to get from the situation?
  • What is the best choice you can make?: Not just for you, but for everyone involved

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.