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Here we post comments and articles of interest in all matters relating to resilience and general wellbeing. Fell free to comment and share!

By Rachel Munns, Apr 9 2019 12:07PM


In the UK, issues relating to poor mental health are currently the biggest reason for people leaving the workplace. Absenteeism is costly and disruptive. Presenteeism (coming to work when ill) has been estimated to be twice as costly as absenteeism; this hidden cost has massive impacts on performance and health & safety.


For those who like stats… An independent review of the impact of poor mental health in the workplace, ‘Thriving at Work: a review of mental health and employers’ by Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer, concluded that poor mental health costs employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year, with an annual cost to the UK economy of between £74 billion and £99 billion.


At any one moment, here in the UK, 1 in 4 employees is suffering from at least one psychiatric disorder. Like most health issues, these difficulties are on a spectrum with some more noticeable, some more limiting and some more damaging than others – rather like physical health issues.


Employers, and in particular managers, play a key role in supporting the mental as well as the physical well-being of their team members. A healthy managers’ approach can create a supportive, non-judgmental ethos within the team allowing team members to flourish.


Case Study 1


Two years ago I ran some training for the senior leadership team of an international pharmaceutical company. Part-way through the training one of the managers (whom up to this point had been noticeably disengaged) started ranting about how awful his team were. He said there was no enthusiasm, no team spirit, minimal effort and a significant lack of engagement. He went on to say that he couldn’t see how a bit of mental health training could possibly address the issues that he was facing.


Some months later I returned to run mental health awareness and wellbeing training for the staff. Upon my arrival, the HR Director came to see me. She asked me if I remembered the manager mentioned above and went on to say that during my training session he had realised that he himself was suffering with some mental health issues. He shared these with HR who then supported him. With their support and the intervention of medical professionals, less than six months later the same manager was now thriving and his team were recognised as one of the most productive and engaged in the company.



This case study is a classic example of presenteeism. The manager concerned was at work when he really wasn’t in the best of health. This is common among managers who feel the weight of responsibility in their role – they don’t want to let the company or their team down so they just push through expecting that things will sort themselves out. Sometimes they do, but often they don’t and the results then can be quite dramatic (albeit well hidden) for the company.


This manager’s personal difficulties had a direct impact on the engagement and productivity of his team, and therefore, the profitability of the company. Presenteeism is not a problem confined to managers though. Many staff will come to work when they are not best equipped to do so. This has a negative impact on their own work and on the work, mood and engagement of their colleagues.


Early identification of issues saves time and money improving results, employee wellbeing and employee engagement.


Mental Health training for managers can improve occupational outcomes for people with mental health problems. Providing managers with the knowledge, competence and confidence to spot mental health disorders in their teams, and know how to take appropriate action, is vital for performance and productivity.


Without this knowledge managers find it much harder to identify mental health issues within their teams and therefore, cannot take early intervention. What can start out as someone feeling overwhelmed, struggling to sleep and finding it hard to switch off, can spiral very quickly into anxiety and depression.


Case Study 2


Early last year I ran my mental health awareness and wellbeing training for managers of a large manufacturing company. This company has offices in different locations throughout the UK.

I was surprised to see a female manager attending my course for a second time only a couple of months after the first session. I joked about it when I saw her…. “hello again, didn’t you get enough of me the first time around”?


She said she had come back to reinforce her knowledge because the day after her previous training she had become involved with a suicidal employee. She credited my training with giving her the knowledge and confidence to handle the situation thus saving the life of her colleague.


This has been the pinnacle of my career so far.



Mental health awareness training is often not seen as much of a priority against other forms of health and safety or absence management training because a lot of it goes under the radar.


The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) advocate that “organisations should support employees experiencing or recovering from mental health issues and make adjustments to ensure people with a mental health issue can thrive and make a positive contribution at work.”


They say that investing in management training for employee well-being is not only the right thing to do, but it also enhances employee engagement and productivity, which in turn supports business growth.


Case Study 3


A recent study funded by the New South Wales Health and Employers Mutual showed this….


They took 128 managers within a large Australian Fire & Rescue Service and randomly selected approximately half to receive mental health awareness training thus forming two groups – the trained group and the control group.


Sickness absence rates of supervisors and employees under the care of these managers was then monitored for six months.


The outcome of this study showed that a four-hour manager mental health training programme could lead to a significant reduction in work-related sickness absence, with an associated return on investment of £9.98 for each pound spent on such training.


This trial was registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12613001156774).



There is still stigma and misunderstanding about mental health in society and the workplace. This is largely due to a lack of sufficient education in this area.


Increasing awareness of mental health issues across the workforce can help break the silence and start to build a more open and inclusive culture.


It’s not that managers are expected to become mini therapists, but rather that they need to feel confident and competent to have conversations with staff about sensitive issues like mental health. They should also be able to signpost to specialist sources of support if necessary (HR should ensure that employees know how to access the support provided by the organisation even if they don’t wish to disclose an issue to their manager).


It is my belief that in the future, prospective employees will look to see if a company is a ‘Time to Change’ employer – in much the same way that the ‘Investors in People’ award was significant in the past.



Running mental health awareness and wellbeing training makes sense at every level

• It reduces absenteeism

• It reduces presenteeism

• It increases staff (and management) wellbeing

• It increases staff (and management) engagement

• It increases productivity

• Bottom line - it improves results (The FTSE 100 companies who do this consistently

outperform the others by 10%)




By Rachel Munns, Jan 9 2019 05:31PM

If you are contemplating a new year's health kick, you could be forgiven for feeling a little overwhelmed.


Do yoga, run, lift weights, cut the carbs, or the fat (depending on the particular diet that's in vogue), ditch the booze, reduce your stress.


It is easy to feel like your life needs to be overhauled in order to be a healthy, happy human being.


But what if you were to make only one change?


We asked experts what single thing they would recommend people should do to improve their health, assuming they are an adult who is otherwise healthy and not a smoker.


Focus on the mind


It is easy to only think about our physical health.


But according to Dr Nadine Sammy, associate lecturer for sport and exercise sciences at the University of Exeter, we should also be focusing on improving our minds by building self-awareness.


You might think of this as something that prevents us from embarrassing ourselves, but, according to Dr Sammy, it is much more than this.


Self-awareness is the ability to recognise and understand your moods, emotions and drives, and building it can play a crucial role in improving mental and physical wellbeing over time.


"By understanding your feelings, motivations and behaviours in more depth, you can begin to act more consciously in order to make better choices for yourself," she says.


"For instance, what is your motivation to exercise? When are you most - and when are you least - likely to stick to your exercise routine and why?"


There are many ways to do this, she says, including journaling, meditating, practicing mindfulness or simply making time for self-reflection after certain activities or at the end of the day.


"Better understanding ourselves allows us to play to our strengths and build on our weaknesses, thereby spurring us on to be our best self," she adds.


Adopt a dog


There are particular health benefits in adopting a dog, says Dr Rhys Thatcher.


A gym membership, a pilates class, or a morning run - just some of the things that might come to mind when we think of becoming physically more active.


But though going to the gym works for some of us, many will quit after a month or two, says Dr Rhys Thatcher, a reader in exercise physiology at Aberystwyth University.


Instead, he recommends finding ways to routinely incorporate exercise into our daily lives.


There are plenty of ways to do this, from avoiding the lifts at work to parking on the far side of a supermarket car park when you are doing the shopping.


But there are particular benefits to adopting a dog, he says.


If you make sure to walk it for at least 30 minutes twice a day, you will be boosting your activity while also getting the emotional benefits of dog adoption.


"This way you get to spend time outside, you get to exercise, you get a loyal companion and at the same time you get to improve the life of another living thing, all of which have been shown to improve physical and mental health," says Dr Thatcher.


Get your 30 a week


Experts say diversity of plant-based foods is also important.


We have all heard about getting our five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.


But according to Dr Megan Rossi, a research fellow at King's College London's department of nutritional sciences, it is not only quantity we should be striving for, but also diversity.


We should aim for at least 30 different plant-based foods per week, she says.


That is because plant-based diversity is thought to have a key role in good gut health.


The bacteria in our gut - collectively known as the microbiome - have a profound role in our health.


Allergies, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, Parkinson's, and even depression have all been linked to the bacteria in our gut.


One way we can get more plant-based diversity in our diets easily is by being a little savvier about some of the foods we purchase, says Dr Rossi.


"Instead of just buying chickpeas go for the four-bean mix. Instead of buying one type of seed buy the four-seed mix," she says.


Smile more often


Do not spend so much time focusing on arbitrary matters, do something that makes you smile instead

After the excesses of the holiday season, many of us will be planning to lose a couple of stone or setting a target for how many times we go to the gym each week.


But the problem with "arbitrary" goals like these is that they are often difficult to achieve and failing to reach them can be demoralising, says Dr James Gill.


Instead, he recommends focusing first on trying to be happier.


"There are lists of specific things that you can do to actively make your life healthier, but if you are not enjoying your life you probably won't stick to any difficult or challenging changes for the coming year," says Dr Gill, a locum GP and researcher at Warwick Medical School.


But how do you go about becoming happier?


Dr Gill recommends making one change in your life that will make you smile more often. At the same time, identify one thing that makes you unhappy and try to do something to improve it.


"Get those two in the bag, and you'll be ready to look to other things to really give your health a boost further into the year."


And finally, get enough sleep


It may seem obvious, but we should all aim to get enough sleep (seven to nine hours a night for most healthy adults).


Even being mildly deprived of it (five hours a night) can affect a range of cognitive functions, including decision making, says Dr Gavin Buckingham, senior lecturer in sport and health sciences at the University of Exeter.


There are lots of things we can do to get a better night's sleep, from avoiding caffeine too close to bed to having a consistent bedtime.


But Dr Buckingham's top tip is to stop using electronic devices like phones and laptops well before bedtime or at least put on a filter that blocks the blue light in them.


* Written by Alex Therrien, Health Reporter for the BBC.




By Rachel Munns, Dec 19 2018 12:33PM


Mental health doesn’t take time off at Christmas, and with all the added stresses that can come with the festive season it’s very important to care for your wellbeing.


1. Plan ahead

Avoid unnecessary stress over the festive season by planning as much as possible in the run up to Christmas and being careful not to take on too much. You’re not being selfish by saying “no” to some things or asking for some help. For example, if you’re hosting Christmas dinner, could you ask some of your guests to bring a starter or dessert?


2. Make time for you

At Christmas it can be all too easy to get swept up into other peoples’ ideas of fun. It’s important to make sure that you do something you want as well – this is your holiday too! If you know this will be hard, try booking something in advance or setting a free day or two aside just for you.


3. Avoid comparisons

If you do decide to use social media over the festive season, avoid comparing your experience to those of your friends. Remember that most people only share the best bits of their lives online and you don’t know what’s going on behind the smiling selfies and prezzie pics!


4. Pace yourself

Give yourself time to relax over the Christmas period – don’t be afraid to take time out to go for a walk, listen to music or have a nap if you need it. If you’re hosting, try to plan this in advance.


5. Get outside

Going for a wintery walk – even if it’s just around the block – can be the perfect way to get some fresh air and exercise along with a change of place. Being in the same house for too long can get a bit intense, especially if it’s crowded, so a change of scenery will do everyone good!


6. Try to eat healthily

Whilst it’s fine to have a bit of culinary indulgence over Christmas, try to keep your diet as balanced as possible with lots of fruit and vegetables. This will help you to avoid energy lows that can have an effect on your mood.


7. Alcohol in moderation

While a bit of alcohol can make you feel relaxed, don’t forget that drinking too much can leave you feeling irritable and low. Drinking within the recommended guidelines means you’ll get to enjoy a Christmas tipple, whilst reducing the negative effects on your mood. Alcohol can also play a big part in arguments and disagreements, so it’s sensible to drink in moderation.


8. Get enough sleep

Feeling sleepy can also leave you feeling low, so try to keep to regular sleep patterns as much as possible over the Christmas period. We have lots of tips on getting enough shut-eye in our welbeing essentials series.


9. Talk to someone

If you’re worried about Christmas or feel overwhelmed or under pressure, don’t be afraid to talk to someone about it. Have a chat to someone you trust.


10. Keep active

Exercise can be great for mental health and there are still ways to keep it up over Christmas! Have a boogie to some festive classics or head outside for a fresh wintery walk. If we’re lucky enough to have a white Christmas, you could even get some people together for a snowball fight or go sledging!


11. Christmas alone

If you’re spending Christmas alone, have a think about what you want to do beforehand. You may decide to curl up with a favourite movie, book yourself a getaway or arrange to go to a lunch. You could also consider volunteering (see point 12) which is a great way to meet new friends and give something back.


12. Volunteer

It’s no secret – giving something back can help you feel good about yourself and there’s no more perfect time to volunteer than around Christmas. Head to do-it.org to check out local opportunities!


Thanks to ben.org.uk for this brilliant article.


By Rachel Munns, Dec 5 2018 12:09PM

This is a wonderful article sourced from www.mentalhealth.org.uk


Christmas can be a challenging time for our stress levels and it's even harder for those of us with mental ill-health.


So many things that are part of our routines and we take for granted become disrupted by the change of pace in our lives.


Leaving all your preparations for Christmas until the last minute can cause unnecessary stress, but planning ahead can save you time and money. Making lists for jobs to do, presents to buy and groceries you'll need helps to organise your thoughts, prevents you forgetting something (or someone) and makes it easier to stick to a budget.


Shopping online can save you even more money, as well as avoiding the stress and crowds of the Christmas shopping season. Give as You Live provides a price comparison search and donates money to charity when you shop at no extra cost to you, so you can save money on your Christmas shopping and support a good cause at the same time! Some online stores will even deliver as late as Christmas Eve and many offer Click and Collect services. If the expense of Christmas is causing you anxiety, you may find this advice from Money Saving Expert useful.


Alcohol

The celebratory spirit of Christmas and New Year often involves social drinking and although the consumption of alcohol might make you feel more relaxed, it is important to remember that alcohol is a depressant and drinking excessive amounts can cause low mood, irritability or potentially aggressive behaviour.


By not exceeding the recommended number of safe units, you will be better able to sustain good mental and physical wellbeing.


Food

The festive period has become synonymous with over-indulgence, which in turn prompts a pressing desire for many of us to lose weight in the New Year. Where possible, maintain a good balance of fruit, vegetables, carbohydrates, protein and omega 3 sources throughout the year in order to be in good physical condition and have sufficient energy.


Maintaining a healthy diet and weight can improve your mood and can work towards preventing symptoms of lethargy and irritability that many of us feel during the busy festive season and dark winter months.


Exercise

Physical activity releases the feel-good chemicals, endorphins, which help you to relax, feel happy and boost your mood. By undertaking simple tasks such as cycling to work, walking in the park, or joining in with Christmas games, you can benefit from experiencing reduced anxiety, decreased depression and improved self-esteem.


In addition, recent research has indicated that regular exercise can help to boost our immune systems, enabling us to better fight off colds and flu viruses that are prolific in winter months.


Five ways to stay active over the Christmas period

Go ice-skating! At this time of year there are a number of outdoor ice-rinks around various locations to enjoy.

Go for a winter walk! It is a less strenuous form of exercise than going for a hard-core session in the gym.

Prefer to be indoors? Why not dance to some festive tunes. A fun way to burn off the Christmas turkey!

Take advantage of the Christmas weather. If it snows perhaps build a snowman or have a snowball fight.

Do activities as a family. Over indulgence is hard to avoid around Christmas so why not decide to go for a winter walk with all the family after dinner.


Get involved

The festive period provides us with an ideal opportunity to talk to, visit or engage with the people around us. Face-to-face communication has been shown to improve our mental and physical wellbeing as this interaction produces the hormone, oxytocin, which can benefit our immune system, heart health and cognitive function.


You could arrange a shared experience as a gift for a friend or loved one such as a cookery lesson or cinema outing.


If you're travelling to visit family or friends for Christmas booking travel in advance can often be much cheaper.


If you are apart from your family then volunteering for a charity or local community organisation can provide that same human contact, as well as help provide essential support and encouragement for others in need. These interactions can easily be sustained throughout the coming year and need not just be for Christmas.


Stay in touch

There's nothing better than catching up with someone face-to-face, but that's not always possible. Give them a call, drop them a note or chat to them online instead. Keep the lines of communication open - it's good for you!


If you're feeling out of touch with some people, Christmas can be a good opportunity to reconnect with a card, email or phone call. Talking can be a good way to cope with a problem you've been carrying around in your head.


If something is worrying you, whether it's work, family problems or other feelings, just being listened to can help you feel supported and less alone. It works both ways: if you open up, it might encourage others to do the same and get something off their mind.


Try to relax

Christmas can be a very busy and stressful time as we prepare to entertain family and friends, worry about cooking a delicious Christmas dinner, and fit in some last minute present shopping. These feelings of being under pressure can produce symptoms of anxiety, anger and difficulty sleeping which, if prolonged, could have a long-term detrimental impact on your mental health and wellbeing.


By exercising more regularly or practicing mindfulness – a combination of meditation, yoga and breathing techniques – you can help to both alleviate the symptoms of your stress and gain more control when coping with difficult situations. Christmas presents aside, implementing a new exercise regime or signing up for a course in mindfulness - such as our online course in mindfulness-based stress reduction - could be your best investment for a more relaxed Christmas and New Year. You may also find our relaxation podcasts useful.


Do good

Helping others is good for your own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress, improve your mood, increase self-esteem and happiness and even benefit your physical health.


Christmas is a good opportunity to volunteer for a charity or local community organisation and provide essential support and encouragement for others in need. You can find lots of suggestions of how to make doing good part of your life in our pocket guide.


Sleep

Despite many of us having time off work during Christmas and the New Year, our sleep patterns can be disturbed between catching up with friends and family and partying late in to the night. There is mounting evidence on the link between sleep and mental wellbeing, meaning improvements in the quality of your sleep could result in improvements to your overall mental health.


There are several steps you can take towards achieving a better night’s sleep: attempting to get back in to your regular sleep routine as soon as possible after the party period, consuming less alcohol during the festivities, implementing regular exercise into your weekly routine, and taking measures to alleviate your stress. You might find our sleep and relaxation podcast useful and you can find lots more useful advice in our Sleep Well pocket guide.



By Rachel Munns, Nov 21 2018 04:51PM

I cannot take credit for this blog myself. It was written by Psychology Today but I think the content is excellent and I hope you find it beneficial.


1. They know their boundaries. Resilient people understand that there is a separation between who they are at their core and the cause of their temporary suffering. The stress/trauma might play a part in their story but it does not overtake their permanent identity.


2. They keep good company. Resilient people tend to seek out and surround themselves with other resilient people, whether just for fun or when there’s a need for support. Supportive people give us the space to grieve and work through our emotions. They know how to listen and when to offer just enough encouragement without trying to solve all of our problems with their advice. Good supporters know how to just be with adversity—calming us rather than frustrating us.


3. They cultivate self-awareness. Being ‘blissfully unaware’ can get us through a bad day but it's not a very wise long-term strategy. Self-awareness helps us get in touch with our psychological/physiological needs—knowing what we need, what we don’t need, and when it’s time to reach out for some extra help. The self-aware are good at listening to the subtle cues their body and their mood are sending.


On the other hand, a prideful stubbornness without emotional flexibility or self-awareness can make us emotional glaciers: Always trying to be strong in order to stay afloat, yet prone to massive stress fractures when we experience an unexpected change in our environment.


4. They practice acceptance. Pain is painful, stress is stressful, and healing takes time. When we're in it, we want the pain to go away. When we're outside it, we want to take away the pain of those who we see suffering. Yet resilient people understand that stress/pain is a part of living that ebbs and flows. As hard as it is in the moment, it’s better to come to terms with the truth of the pain than to ignore it, repress it, or deny it. Acceptance is not about giving up and letting the stress take over, it's about leaning in to experience the full range of emotions and trusting that we will bounce back.


5. They’re willing to sit in silence. We are masters of distraction: T.V., overeating, abusing drugs, risky behavior, gossip, etc. We all react differently to stress and trauma. Some of us shut down and some of us ramp up. Somewhere in the middle there is mindfulness-- being in the presence of the moment without judgment or avoidance. It takes practice, but it’s one of the purest and most ancient forms of healing and resilience-building.


6. They don’t have to have all the answers. The psyche has its own built-in protective mechanisms that help us regulate stress. When we try hard to find the answers to difficult questions in the face to traumatic events, that trying too hard can block the answers from arising naturally in their own due time. We can find strength in knowing that it's okay to not have it all figured out right now and trusting that we will gradually find peace and knowing when our mind-body-soul is ready.


7. They have a menu of self-care habits. They have a mental list (perhaps even a physical list) of good habits that support them when they need it most. We can all become self-care spotters in our life—noticing those things that recharge our batteries and fill our cup. In part two of this resilience blog series, my guest Karen Horneffer-Ginter, author of Full Cup, Thirsty Spirit: Nourishing the Soul When Life's Just Too Much, shares her 25 ideas for cultivating resilience. Her blog just might inspire you to create your own self-care menu. Karen has taken the menu idea a step further by designing a self-care poster that serves as visual inspiration to nourish the soul when life’s just too much.


8. They enlist their team. The most resilient among us know how to reach out for help. They know who will serve as a listening ear and, let’s be honest, who won’t! Our team of supporters helps us reflect back what they see when we’re too immersed in overwhelm to witness our own coping.


We can all learn how to be better supporters on other people's team. In this L.A. Times article, "How not to say the wrong thing", psychologist Susan Silk and co-author Barry Goldman help readers develop a strategy for effectively supporting others and proactively seeking the support we need for ourselves. Remember, it's okay to communicate to our supporters what is and isn't helpful feedback/support for our needs.


9. They consider the possibilities. We can train ourselves to ask which parts of our current story are permanent and which can possibly change. Can this situation be looked at in a different way that I haven't been considering?This helps us maintain a realistic understanding that the present situation is being colored by our current interpretation. Our interpretations of our stories will always change as we grow and mature. Knowing that today's interpretation can and will change, gives us the faith and hope that things can feel better tomorrow.


10. They get out of their head. When we're in the midst of stress and overwhelm, our thoughts can swirl with dizzying speed and disconnectedness. We can find reprieve by getting the thoughts out of our head and onto our paper. As Dr. James Pennebaker wrote in his book Writing to Heal, “People who engage in expressive writing report feeling happier and less negative than before writing. Similarly, reports of depressive symptoms, rumination, and general anxiety tend to drop in the weeks and months after writing about emotional upheavals.”


Psychology Today UK


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