Category: <span>Corporate Mental Health</span>

Give Yourself a Break: The Gift of Self-Compassion

When you have a setback towards your goals, treat yourself as you would a friend: with kindness and understanding

Self Compassion Supports Motivation

Even with the best plan and intention, things can go wrong. For most people, their initial reaction in the presence of failure at work is to turn up the inner critic more harshly than we’d find acceptable by anyone else.  I have no idea what’s going on here or why I’m on this team. You’re an idiot; you blew that presentation. Get it together, you’ll never have another opportunity at this.  

We often assume that criticism will motivate us to do better. In fact, most highly productive and driven people seem to be quite unforgiving of their own mistakes.  

To Motivate or To Berate—That is the Question

We hold on to this belief that with enough self-abuse, it will change whatever we believe to be “wrong,” “inadequate,” or “imperfect” about us. Yes, that degree of negativity you drop on yourself falls under the category of abuse, and it really doesn’t move you any closer to your intended outcome. Self-criticism can be paralyzing, and it’s a response that has brought many to my couch as a psychotherapist. While I am grateful to have you, I would like to offer you this instead- what if you were to treat yourself with a bit more understanding and compassion?  

 

When things don’t go as expected, or a goal seems out of your reach, what would you tell a friend in the same situation? That is called self-compassion, and it’s an approach that allows leaders to increase their resilience and outthink their setbacks.  

 

The Science Behind Compassion 

There is growing research supporting things like compassion and gratitude, supporting its motivational power on a psychological level. It’s becoming a valuable tool for enhancing performance and improving professional development. Self-compassionate people set high standards for themselves, and in the face of setbacks, when they don’t meet their goals, they are more likely to regroup quickly. They are less likely to get hung up on mistakes or sidetracked by feelings of embarrassment, frustration, and disappointment. In fact, according to recent neuroscientific data, those who exhibit compassion are more likely to have the emotional resilience to combat suffering, anxiety, burnout, or stress, according to Frontiers in Psychology.     

 

“Unlike self-criticism, which asks if you are good enough, self-compassion asks what’s good for you?” – Kristin Neff

Let’s put this into action: 

 

I’m inviting you to try a short experiment. Bring to mind a situation when you didn’t achieve your goal. Please take a few moments to recall the response of your inner critical voice and note what it says and how you feel, especially in your body. 

Now, bring to mind the same situation and imagine what you would say to your colleague or good friend in the same case if they brought that same failure to you. Say the exact words you would tell them to yourself (that’s self-compassion). How does that feel in your body?

 

If you did this short exercise, you probably noticed the following:

Self-criticism made you feel:

· Small

· Incompetent

· Embarrassed

· Tense

· Wanting to quit or give up

 

 Self-compassion made you feel:

· Validated 

· Understood

· Good enough

· Relaxed and calm 

 

Self-compassion is a mindset shift leaders and managers can benefit from because it reinforces worth, optimism, personal initiative, self-determination, and a sense of control even in the context of the pressure to succeed. These traits tend to be contagious and have a consequent ability to foster resilient teams. Developing a self-compassionate self and team does take time but is possible with intentional effort. Organizations should look at ways to create space for conversations and resources around compassion and navigating stress and change in the workplace.   

A few additional ideas to foster the overall resilience of your organization:

Improve your self-talk. Practice responding to yourself in ways you would to support a colleague, embrace criticism from others as a means to personal growth, and engaging with others without judgment or in a tone that would hurt their feelings.

Bring in workshops to grow as a team. Create opportunities for staff to learn from each other, for leaders to take their teams’ temperature, and boost morale and promote better staff engagement.  Bring in professionals with fresh ideas or a similar option is to set aside funding to allow staff to pursue outside opportunities (books, webinars, training) that will support their emotional wellbeing. As they invest in themselves, they become a more incredible asset to your team.

Prioritize communication and mental health at work. Having regular meetings where people are encouraged to share not only work achievements but mistakes and experiences around that make workplaces safe for learning. Also, work to improve access to support services onsite (training, consultations, mindful breaks) and outside of work (like EAP). Making compassionate and supportive workplaces a priority reduces pressure, anxiety and improves an organization’s resilience to stress, burnout, and turnover.

It’s innovative approaches that focus on self-compassion and overall well-being that will determine if teams, individuals, and organizations can embrace a more adaptive attitude and thrive through challenging experiences and transitions.

In the comments, make sure to share with us how well you think organizations are embracing concepts like compassion and emotional wellness at work and whether you believe well-being training might be valuable to your team.

 

Amanda Fludd is a Licensed Psychotherapist, Coach, and Mental Health Consultant addressing the emotional needs of individuals and the work cultures that support them.

If you would like information on how to infuse mental health support at work and facilitate practices like self-compassion, schedule a call here to discuss program options.

 

 

4 Useful Ways to Ease the Stress of Change for Women Who Lead

The mass exodus back to normal has heightened stress levels, and it’s important to acknowledge that change can be stressful. If you are someone who gets upset and loses focus when things don’t go as expected or strongly dislikes change, automatically expects the worst, and struggles to adapt, this piece is for you.

 

Do you think we are ready to return to ‘normal’? 

Well, whether we’re fully ready, we have to be prepared and adapt. In the ever-changing landscape of life and work, adaptability is a crucial skill for managers, leaders, and anyone looking to navigate change successfully. Adaptable people tend to be happier and more content as they’re not struggling against the resistance of change, and can skillfully ride the wave.

 

The Brain Behind Change

Our brain hates the unknown that comes with change, and that can show up as anxiety, which is your brain’s way of protecting you from the unfamiliar. However, that can mean saving you from a necessary or required action. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “stress is a response to a threat in a situation. Anxiety is a reaction to the stress.” The threat is that feeling of not knowing and the associated fear of what could happen in the future. Sometimes that fear is rational, and sometimes not. Sometimes it’s about something that will happen in three minutes (getting on a call to close a deal, for example) or in 30 years (having enough money to retire).

Depending on how you respond to your brain’s conceptualization of the fear can make change or transitions so difficult. It’s easy to feel powerless in these moments, but your power is in the ways you decide to navigate change.

You can decide how you want to think about the situation and what you want to do about it.

We can’t resist returning to work, going back to college, or whatever transition is on the horizon, but you always have a choice within the change. I’m not dismissing that it won’t be hard at times, but this is about being skillful so you can continue to live, lead, and enjoy life.

Let’s jump to 4 quick tips to navigate change and ease the fear of transition:

  1. Notice when an interaction or the thought of a situation upsets you and examine why. Acknowledge out loud any unhelpful thoughts going through your mind, then take those thoughts and challenge their accuracy to determine whether they represent reality. Perhaps you can then find another way to think about them that allows you to move forward.
    How you think or what you are ruminating over is often connected to the experience of procrastination, perfectionism, overwhelm, or feeling unmotivated. Learn to challenge and change the thoughts behind those responses.
  1. Successful leaders often react to anxiety by working harder, holding themselves and others to impossibly high standards, only to cause further stress or burnout in themselves and others. Examine your use of time and what you are asking of others. Putting in place a support infrastructure that includes breaks for you and your team and time to discuss expectations openly.

 

  1. Find a practice that eases your stress. Sometimes our minds operate like a runaway train. If you can quiet your mind for just a moment, you may notice there is always a fork in the road. One road allows your anxious thoughts to derail you, and the other will enable you to inject more positive thoughts and intentional actions.This can look like daily mindfulness practices, laughing, or sometimes more high-intensity activities like running or a good cardio workout. These practices short circuits the stress response by getting you out of your head, incorporating your body, and allowing the experience of stress, anxiety, and worry to subside.
  2. Don’t stay on your island; build connections. You are an expert at what you do, and getting things done is your superpower. However, we all will face the challenge of transitions and change that can make you feel alone or cause you to isolate and withdraw. Do the opposite. Instead, try coming out of your office and chatting with a colleague, or reach out via text, call a friend or  maybe even perform a quick act of kindness. Be open to also ask for help or outsource tasks to create more time and space for wellbeing.

 

In this time of crisis and change, where many are experiencing anxiety for the first time, it is an opportunity to develop our ability to adapt and contribute to a culture the prioritizes the importance of emotional wellbeing.

 

Amanda Fludd, LCSW-R is a passionate advocate for positive workplace culture, supporting the ambitious mindsets of women, and improving mental health in all settings. The goal is to simply get you out of your head, so you can stress less, and focus on your success.

Make sure to register for “Catch your Breath” a free live mindful practice series for Minority Women Who Lead running through the end of July 2021. UPDATE: The series was such a success it WILL CONTINUE through the end of 2021. Every first Monday of the month.  #minoritymentalhealthmonth #strongcommunities

 

Why Mental Health Plays a Role in the Success of Your Business

Mental Health is a workplace issue

Mental illnesses from a macro viewpoint are associated with higher rates of disability, absenteeism, and unemployment. Emotional experiences like depression and anxiety often interfere with a person’s ability to focus and complete tasks and have even been reported to reduce cognitive performance about 35% of the time. While the impact may not rise to the level of a clinical diagnosis for most workers, they are still susceptible to stress and burnout, seriously affecting their ability to contribute meaningfully in their personal and professional lives.

 

Data from several countries worldwide indicate that mental health problems are behind a considerable number of employees dropping out of work, particularly as we navigate returning to work post-pandemic. It’s the elephant in the room that can no longer be avoided, with Covid-19 having a lasting impact on the workforce. It was hard before, it’s a crisis now, and we are at a juncture that requires us individually and collectively to shift our work culture and prioritize mental health. 

Mental health was a massive issue in the workplace before the pandemic. It was hard before, and it’s a crisis now. 

 

Workplace Well-being

Mental health is something we all possess. When it is good, we have a sense of purpose and direction and feel that we can cope with whatever life (and work) throws at us. But just as our physical health fluctuates, so too our mental health. This is even true for solopreneurs or entrepreneurs, with one study out of the University of California finding that out 49% of entrepreneurs surveyed had at least one mental illness, and about one-third struggled with two or more conditions like depression and anxiety.   

Emotional challenges at work can contribute to: 

  •   Decreased productivity and performance
  •   Reduced engagement with one’s work
  •   Decreased physical capability 
  •   Poor communication with coworkers
  •   Increase in employer mental health spending with behavioral health claims responsible for a 20% increase in that area.

At any one time, at least one in six workers are experiencing common mental health problems (some studies have it as one in five), and it’s no surprise that these adults are tasked with dealing with their mental health in the workplace. Depression contributes to about 400 million lost workdays annually. Poor mental health costs US employers up to $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year, and within the UK, mental health problems in the workplace cost the economy approximately £70 billion annually. 

Good mental health enables not just the individual to thrive but the business. The WHO has estimated that for every $1 invested into the treatment and support of mental health disorders, business see a return of $4 in improved health and productivity.

 

Tips for Managers, Leaders & Colleagues

Some common signs that can surface in colleagues who are struggling with their emotional well-being:

 

1. They exhibit (or often talk about) physical symptoms, such as tiredness related to disrupted sleep or persistent headaches. 

2. Withdrawal from the team, more isolative.

3. Loss of interest in work, sadness, or constant worry

4. Noticeable irritability or conversely complacent 

5. Reference to increased alcohol consumption

6. Procrastination, indecisiveness, slowed productivity (missing deadlines and deliverables).

7. Absence may increase, or alternatively, they start to work much longer hours, starting early or staying late.

 

Employers are uniquely positioned to encourage employees to get help if they are experiencing issues with their mental health. Not only that, most workers want their employers to champion mental health and well-being in the workplace.

 

Employee/Self Care is Key to A Thriving Workplace 

Five small changes that can be made with little effort and improve employee well-being: 

1. Flexible hours. Discuss with your staff a reasonable plan to reduce their stress while navigating return post-pandemic. One size does not fit all.  

2. Enforce working hours. This can be done by limiting out-of-hours work and encouraging reduced email access outside of office hours

3. Increase supervision and team support: If possible, avoid employees working in a solely isolated way. If they are working from home extensively, make sure there are regular check-ins not just on work but also on challenges that impact the work.  

4. Share resources: Provide support services, share available resources like EAP information, child care options, and how to access staff members or consultants who have training in mental health and workplace stress. Make sure support is widely and regularly communicated. 

5. Promote self-care breaks: That may include reminders to eat healthy, group walks, or quiet time at the end of meetings. 

 

Other ways companies are investing in corporate wellness:

1. Changing company cultures – Get intentional about creating a culture of understanding and openness around mental health. This can mean HR programs taking steps to prevent burnout and build employee resiliency. It could also mean supervisors being mindful of and allowing employees to speak openly about mental health challenges or even implementing mandatory self-care time. Some companies have even implemented paid or unpaid mental health days from work, and staff is encouraged to utilize it before they feel overwhelmed or emotionally unwell. 

 

2. Incorporate a Wellness Menu – If wellness is not a regular part of the culture, invest in it. Progressive agencies are mandating self-care, and a part of that is providing options for staff to pick from during the workweek, such as the 30 mindful mornings or wellness workshops I recently facilitated at a Law Firm in NY. Other options include training on topics such as overthinking and productivity, stress and the body, or trauma-informed care. 

When the agency prioritizes care, it sends a message to the employee that your wellness matters, and that is often reciprocated back with increased productivity and a reduction in turnover. 

 

It will take all of us to help alleviate the impact of COVID-19 related stress and the emotional impact it continues to have on ourselves, colleagues, and communities. Our Mental Health Consultant Team can support you in your journey to promote workplace well-being and raise mental health awareness in the workplace or to personally develop yourselfGet in touch to find out more.

You can find additional resources from The American Psychiatric Association (APA)  here or when emotions are significantly impacting functioning refer colleagues to therapy here: Psychologytoday.com, Cliniciansofcolor.com, Therapyforblackmen.org, and Openpathcollective.com.

 

Amanda Fludd, LCSW-R, Psychotherapist and Corporate Mental Health Consultant

Why Letting Go of these 3 Kinds of Worry Will Help You Have an Awesome New Year

2020 has been an unexpected year and the uncertainty of it has thrown everyone into a whirlwind of anxiety, sadness, doubt, or a different kind of tired- Covid tired. A new year is approaching and it’s important to let go of any baggage that’s weighing you down and make space for what’s to come. As long as you have breath in your body you can create, dream, make room for joy, and live with intention despite uncertainty.

COVID-19 is like that unwanted house guest that you want to leave, but you can’t seem to get rid off.

For a lot of people – children and adults alike, this pandemic is kicking up worries, and making it difficult to get things done. What most people don’t realize is that the time you spend OVERTHINKING about a situatin instead of doing something actually feeds your stress and drains your motivation. The key to navigating stress, anxiety, worry, and overwhelm is getting a handle on WHAT you are thinking and that is what we’re going to get into- the importance of letting go of worries and it’s on your life.

Let’s do a quick exercise that will help you reduce that baggage of stress and worries you’re carrying right away. Ready? Grab a pen and paper and write down all your worries for a minute. Write down whatever you think about during the day, the thoughts on your mind now, what you feel, thoughts related to your business, your family, relationships, whatever is on your mind. Transfer all that pain, worry and negative energy to that piece of paper.

Now, take a look at what you wrote on the paper, and crumple that paper up and throw it away OR rip up the paper as dramatic as you can, shred it to bits!

How do you feel? I hope you feel a little better. Although this will not get rid of your problems completely, this simple exercise is a proven method to calm a person who is constantly in their head and at the mercy of their worries. It’s an exercise that teaches you the value of letting go. Whenever you feel worried again, write it all down, take a deep breath, tear it up, throw it away and let go.

Drop the worries that no longer serve you 

  1. Fear of the future

A lot of us get excited about the whole new year, new me and are motivated about new goals, but let’s get real, new goals (or the ones that didn’t happen this year) and dreams can be scary. A lot of my work is coaching women to from fear to success in their business and fear is the number one thing that paralyzes progress.  Fear is what is behind anxiety, but often our fears are a bit exaggerated. A quick tip: Ask yourself how bad is this really? Start to tackle what overwhelms you by breaking it into smaller steps or chunks of time. With a little bit of practice you can let go of fear and the unhelpful thoughts that drives it.

  1. The Need to be busy

Covid-19 shut us down- actually for safety, and mentally because it put a pause on our need to do as much as we can in a 24 hour period. Busyness has become the new normal.  If having back to back appointments and being in demand equates to doing a good job, it’s easy to mistake busyness for purpose and validation. This pause has given us time to tune in and realign our lives through things that matter to us, like classes to develop our skillsets, fixing up the house, to getting some needed rest. Rest and relaxation is probably the antidote to worry, as well as prioritizing your time. It is the key to reducing stress, improving your emotional health AND resting is productive. Yet, it is hard for some of us who are used to filling every moment of time to simply take a break.  A break gives you a moment to take in things like the satisfactin of your accomplishments, quality relationships, and the other details of life that can refuel your energy, support internal validation, and propel you forward.

To tackle your new need for intentional time, block it out!  Fill your schedule with tasks and activities you want to do, it’s harder for others to steal your time if you’ve already blocked off key tasks for yourself, and it makes it easier to say “nope, not today”.  Schedule key tasks of the day in chunks of time, as well as breaks and time off (vacation time isn’t optional). The key here is to be realistic about what needs to be accomplished for the day, with flexibility to be responsive to changes instead of reactive. Let go of the need to be busy.

  1. The need to be in control

Anxiety and stress happen when you feel like you’re not in control and spend too much time trying to force things to work out the way you see it in you head. The hard truth is that you’re not in control of most things in your life. You can rarely predict how the next chapter of your life will play out or the weather for that matter. Avoid wasting your energy trying to control everything. I know, easier said then done. It might help to take a step back and think about how control plays out in your life, the purpose it serves, and where this need for control comes form. [Take a breath] Accept that you cannot control the circumstances of your life, but you CAN control your reactions and what you do with what’s handed to you.  That means you have a lot of power yourself- don’t believe me? Make a list of all the things that belong to you- your health, your decisions, your emotional wellbeing, etcetera, etcetera. Refocus your energies there and take notes on how it creates change for you and in your environment.

Choose an Affirmation that Fits You

A few mantra’s to reinforce shifting control back to you- see which one best suits you and make sure to write it down on a sticky, put it up on your bathroom mirror or computer or even try scheduling it on your phone as a reminder. The goal is to recite it at least once a day until it becomes a new way of doing.

I release all fears of not being perfect. I am good enough

I live my life without restraints

I let go of the need to control others

I’m 100% in control of my life

I let go of my need to be in control

Worrying and stress will impede your productivity and create chasms between you and your goals for the new year, holding your happiness hostage. As counterintuitive as it seems, letting go of your fear of the future, the idea that you constantly need to be busy and the urge to be in control of everything will actually open up great opportunities for you. Not only will it improve your productivity and performance, but it creates a healthy mindset that will serve you right if you treat it well.

 

I’d love to hear what your goals are for next year and what you plan to let go of before January 1 rolls around. Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

 

~Amanda Fludd, Psychotherapist & Mindset Coach for Women in Business and Entrepreneurs

Not My Circus: How To Support Remote Work Parents

Leading your remote work(ing parent) team

 

Supporting Remote Working Parents

It appears our conversation will not be changing for quite some time. COVID-19 will forever be in our vocabularies. For working parents it put a full stop on stability as the school year frantically ended forcing major adjustments to accommodate work and our remote families. Just as we settled into that rhythm, summer came to a screeching halt and it’s time to get back to school across the country and every region seems to have a different plan. Parents are now back to the circus, forcing them to flex their juggling skills while putting strain on the ring master, work.

One thing that is universal for all parents working remotely is that balance is the key to success. In speaking with several parents, their collective concern is the impact of this sudden change in structure on their children, and what it means for their emotional and academic well-being. They also expressed concern with their own job stability, stress levels and productivity. For their kids, they are grappling with missing their friends, lost attention from teachers in the classroom, organized sports, yearly milestones like prom, social learning opportunities, widening education gaps and a reason to get out of their pajamas in the morning.

While there are no easy answers to the side effects to this pandemic, here is how to support your child and family while working from home:

  1. Check in with your child regularly. Ask them how they are doing and what they are struggling with when it comes to staying home or returning to school.
  2. Filter media exposure, especially for young children. Have discussions about key issues at age appropriate levels.
  3. Maintain social connections even while social distancing. Children are the most resilient when embedded in a network of social supports: a relative, a caring parent figure, teacher, etc.
  4. Seize the opportunity and make an effort to eat lunch or dinner together often as a family.

    Given some basic support and protection, our children have remarkable strength and hardiness.
  5. Get out and get active. You or your child may be struggling with anxiety and stress, which can affect memory, attention, and mood. Movement naturally helps us regulate our mood.
  6. Let’s face it, school was an escape for all of us. Make sure that everyone has the necessary time to disconnect and have alone time.  For stressed parents caring for children and trying to work: Put on your own oxygen mask first. Your self-care is essential. Being intentional with your own needs is vital to you, your children and your work.

How can employers support parents that have to work remotely  while still maintaining their work responsibilities?

We all struggle with work life balance, and just like children need frequent communication, flexibility and support, so do remote work parents! During this pandemic it is important that employers show extra care and patience for their very human employees as they try to navigate the right balance for themselves. For front line managers and administrators this may look like:

  1. Frequent check in’s and providing employees a safe space to offer feedback. This is key for leaders to get a clear understanding of what employees actually need and to demonstrate a culture of empathy and concern.
  2. Allowing employees to schedule around their children’s school schedule  (or offering  remote  work  options  and  flexible  schedules  for  the  entire  team).
  3. Being lenient with children walking across the screen or yelling to mom or dad for help during that 11am critical meeting.
  4. Acknowledging the tremendous strain of being present for work and your child.
  5. Implementing mental wellness opportunities and resources onsite or virtually to support the resilience of your remote team. Worker bees with tools to manage stress and overwhelm are more likely to exhibit resilience in the workplace and hit productivity goals.
  6. That said, modify your expectations.

The latest assumption that was communicated by Dr. Fauci is that we will not have a good handle on this pandemic until the end of 2021, so in other words, we are in this for a while.  Now is the time for all of us to show a lot more patience and understanding because this impacts all of us. We all have key roles and responsibilities in the well-being of our greatest assets.

 

Free Resources for Kids + Adults

Check out the following free resources to support your school and work efforts at home.

Khan Academy: Free resources for parents, families, and educators including daily schedule templates for different ages and grades.

Cosmic Kids Yoga: Fun videos on mindfulness, yoga, and relaxation for kids

Free Wi-Fi with Comcast: Struggling to access school or work remotely? Comcast announced it will offer free wi-fi hotspots around the country, plus other accommodations and discounts for low-income families. Check out their service page for more information.

Need tips from teachers at home? Parents can get insight straight from the professionals with curated resources such as webinars on remote instruction and practical advice.

Free Live & Online – Daily Meditation & Support Groups from Mindful Leader: Thirty-minute sessions held Monday through Friday from March 23 to May 1, including 15 minutes of silent meditation and 15 minutes of reflection and discussion.

Anxiety and stress: If its impacting your sleep and ability to focus and complete tasks, check out our psychotherapy services. 

For more information on how to promote work and life balance, reduce stress and support the mental well being of your team, connect with us.

 

Amanda Fludd, LCSW-R is a passionate advocate for positive workplace culture, ambitious mindsets and mental health. Her programs focus on trauma, depression and anxiety, both on the couch and in the workplace.

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