7 ways to improve your mental health at work

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We spend a lot of our waking hours in the workplace so it’s no surprise that work and personal life impact each other. It’s an issue we mustn’t ignore. Many of us have been trained or at least socialised to separate our ‘professional selves’ from our ‘personal selves’. To put on our ‘worker’ hat at work, our ‘parent’ and ‘partner’ hat at home, and our ‘volunteer’ hat at weekend sports events. We juggle the different parts of ourselves, keeping our guards up and being careful not to cross boundaries. READ “HOW MANY HATS DO YOUR WEAR?”

But can we completely separate the different parts of our lives? And should we? What are the implications, both good and bad? And how can we re-integrate ourselves when we feel like we can’t keep it all together, or when there is a major change in our work or personal lives?

The real mental health issues in the workplace

Employees, managers and business owners are all in the same boat. Where do we even begin to sort out the issues? In late 2018 Bel du Bois from Darling Downs Wellness Therapies and myself surveyed our community. The results were really interesting. 54% of people said that multiple roles and responsibilities was one of the main health and wellness concerns in their workplace. Stress, unrealistic workloads and communication difficulties also rated very highly.

The struggle to keep it all together

I know first hand what it’s like to juggle family and work responsibilities, and *try* to be calm about it all. Many of us struggle with it, yet few of us talk about it openly. We feel pressure to appear to be coping, on top of things, and to have it all together. But pretending everything’s okay doesn’t make the stress go away. Work, family, home and personal health all suffer.

Whose responsibility?

There is increasing pressure on workplaces to address mental health and wellness issues. This is great because instead of sweeping it under the carpet, we’re beginning to talk about, to acknowledge it and to manage it better.

Obviously the responsibility doesn’t sit entirely with our workplaces. We also need to address industry regulations, state and national policy, and cultural norms.

As individuals we also need to take a degree of responsibility for those things within our control – that means taking a good hard look at ourselves, our reactions in stressful situations, our attitudes, our behaviours, and the supports we choose (or don’t choose) to access.

What this means is that to improve mental health we really have to take a multi-tiered Plan of Actionapproach. We must support workplaces and managers and business owners to create a mentally healthy culture. We need to advocate for industry reform, policy and legislation that reflects a mentally healthy culture. And we need to support individuals and groups in our community to develop inner skills and behaviours (that is, the things we can control!) that enhance mental health. Read on for some tips on how you can begin to put mentally healthy actions in place today.

7 ways to improve your mental health at work

1. Remember that you are a human, not a robot. Life isn’t all smooth sailing, blue skies and cheery hearts. You have thoughts and emotions. They are real. You react to the world around you. The world around you reacts to you too.

2. Find your tribe. A supportive, open, caring community around you is what we all need. If you don’t have that, take steps to create it.

3. Build your resilience – physical and mental. The best ways to begin doing this are through exercise, having active hobbies, feeding yourself nutritious food, getting good quality sleep, and developing a powerful mindset.

4. Expand your stress management skills. You can never have too many tools in your “Coping Kit”! Read books and articles on stress management. Go to workshops. Find a counsellor. Listen to podcasts. Do an online course.

5. Find constructive ways to address your workplace issues. This may mean direct communication with your employer, industry, union or association. There may also be changes you can initiate yourself that will make all the difference eg renegotiating your work hours, equipment available for you to do your job, or the length of your lunch break.

6. Make choices that nurture your mental health and physical health. Often it’s the little things that make the biggest difference, such as choosing to go for a walk at lunch time. But sometimes we need to muster up the courage to make the bigger decisions, such as changing jobs or moving locations.

7. Ask for help. If the first person doesn’t support you in the way you need, ask someone else. Keep going until you find the right person. There are so many online resources these days that you’re no longer limited to what’s available in your local area.

Ready for more?

Wellness in the Workplace

If you relate to anything in this post, I’d love you to join me for The Wellbeing Project, a collaboration between myself and Bel du Bois from Darling Downs Wellness Therapies. We’ll be delving into these topics (and more!) in detail in our dynamic, interactive workshop “Wellness in the Workplace” to be held in Warwick on Wednesday 13th March 2019. You’ll get the latest evidence-based information and proven skills and strategies to function at your best in the workplace and in your personal life. You’ll learn techniques to build your resilience, have more energy, manage your work and home stresses, and feel healthier and happier.

Creating and facilitating workshops brings me a lot of joy. I love knowing that I’m making a difference to a room full of people instead of only one person at a time. Bel and I have thoroughly enjoyed our planning meetings at the beautiful cafes around town and we’ve got so much amazingness in store for you. This workshop is definitely not a typical ‘dry’ boring training day!

So …..

Are YOU ready to re-energise, grow your coping skills, discover strategies and techniques to use at work and home, learn ways of communicating effectively with different personalities, and discover resources and supports to guide you into the future? You can have all of this when you choose to take positive action towards better health and wellness at work by investing one day of your life in “Wellness in the Workplace”.

Read more information or make a booking for “Wellness at Work”

More workshops coming soon! Subscribe so you don’t miss out!

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Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

How do you spring clean your mind?

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Spring cleaning can happen at any time of the year

It’s spring at the moment in Australia where I’m sitting at my computer writing this blog post. As I reflect on the very warm day we’ve had, and the cool breeze wafting in through the window, thoughts of spring cleaning come to mind. But, why wait for spring??? Spring cleaning can happen at any time of the year!

Let go of what is no longer needed

Let go, spring cleaningWhat a great feeling it is to clean out the house, office or car; throw away, recycle or give away the excess that has accumulated over the past months, year, or more. Spring cleaning offers us a sense of lightness, organisation and order. It gives us renewed energy, like a gentle breeze after a hot day. We’ve swept out the cobwebs and feel fresh and clean again.

Our minds can do with a spring clean too

It’s not just our houses, offices and cars that need regular spring cleaning. Our minds need de-cluttering too, and in my opinion we can all benefit from a little de-cluttering every day. When we organise our thoughts and simplify our lives, our lives run smoother.

You can choose how to de-clutter your mind

Spring clean your mind on MTBSpring cleaning our houses is one thing, but how on earth do we go about de-cluttering our minds? One of the best ways to do this is by going for a walk, especially in a green zone. But you might prefer to spend some quiet time in the garden, listen to music, or do some painting. Perhaps you prefer more energetic methods of de-cluttering your mind like running, boxing, swimming or mountain bike riding (a personal favourite!).

Consistency and regularity are key!

Whatever your choice, remember to be consistent and regular with your actions so that things don’t get on top of you. Caring for your mind is just like housework and yard work. When you take regular small steps to clean up and clear out, life seems a whole lot less messy and there is space and energy for the things you value most.

Remember …. no matter the season, no matter the weather, you don’t need to wait till spring. Jump into spring cleaning today!

What works for you?

How do you de-clutter your mind and organise your thoughts?

 

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

8 Reasons to Get Back to Nature

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In a world that expects us to be efficient, effective and resourceful, we risk letting go of those things that sustain our energy, health and creativity. One of these things is time spent in nature. Here are 8 reasons why time spent in nature is never a waste of time.

1. Nature is a sanctuary from the pressures of modern life

We live in a world that expects us to deliver outcomes and meet deadlines. We have constant pressure to be productive and to not waste time, energy or resources. Many people feel increasingly stretched and strung out with our outcomes-based society. Nature provides a sanctuary from the pressures of modern life. When we step outdoors into the forests, mountains, deserts, beaches and waterways, we immerse ourselves in a bigger world. We are at play, not at work.

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2. Nature gives your brain a break

Brains are like busy factories mass producing thoughts, decisions, predictions, reflections, assessments, judgements, assumptions and beliefs all whilst keeping our hearts beating and our lungs breathing. There’s a lot going on inside our heads whether we realise it or not. Getting outside into some green space gives your brain a much needed break from the type of thinking it does all day. Nature is a trigger for your brain to switch modes and operate on a different level – a bit like a mini holiday!

3. Nature restores and re-energises

When we’re busy we tend to cut back on things that seem less important or urgent at the time. Usually this means we cut ourselves short on self-care. We run ourselves into the ground working harder and faster whilst putting less priority on how we are going to sustain the pace. Half an hour outdoors can be enough time for your mind to begin to reset and for your body to feel re-energised. It’s an investment you can’t afford to miss.

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4. Nature refocuses your attention

Modern life runs at a pace requiring us to be thinking and doing multiple things at once. Research shows this isn’t necessarily the most efficient (or joyful) way of living. When we focus on one thing at a time, we tend to operate more efficiently and effectively. Although it might feel slower because you’re used to being in the fast lane, it’s actually more productive in many situations! Regular time in nature can teach you to bring your attention to your immediate surroundings. This helps you to let go of your stresses, gently engage all your senses, and refocus your attention when you’re back in your everyday routine.

5. Nature shows you how to slow down

Do you find yourself reacting to a pressured lifestyle by working even harder, hoping that when you get to the bottom of your ‘to do’ list you’ll be able to relax? Sorry folks that isn’t a strategy that is sustainable over the long-term unless you give yourself regular breaks to slow down and switch off. Your ‘to-do’ list will never go away. There will always be something else that demands your attention. When you prioritise time in nature, you learn to slow down – in a good way. Your brain has a much needed rest and you come back to your ‘to-do’ list with a fresh perspective and new energy.

6. Nature stimulates creativity and innovation

You don’t have to be an artist to appreciate the special gifts that nature has on offer. Any one of us can savour the creativity and innovation that often comes with time spent in nature. Perhaps it’s associated with the opportunity to slow down and refocus, I don’t know for sure. But what I do know is that some of my best and most successful ideas have come to me when I’ve been out walking or riding.

7. Nature gets you active

A major contributing factor to chronic disease, including depression, is inactivity. Nature is the natural antidote to a sedentary lifestyle. With so much space to stretch out and explore, so many wonders to be discovered, so much fresh air to breathe and trees to hug (well, maybe that’s just me), what more incentive do you need to get out and get active.

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8. Nature improves efficiency and effectiveness

Have you ever gone in search of the perfect time management technique, tool or app hoping to be rescued from the stress of managing multiple roles and responsibilities? Despite the numerous time management tools available to us, time management is actually all about managing YOURSELF, not time. If you really want to improve efficiency and effectiveness, invest part of your day, everyday, outside in nature. If you’ve read all the other reasons why time spent in nature is not a waste, then it will be obvious to you that it’s one of the best investments you can make to improve your effectiveness and efficiency at work, home and in your relationships with other people.

Let's sum up!

Time spent in nature is NEVER a waste! Oh let me count the ways ….. (well, at least 8 of them anyway!)

1. Nature is a sanctuary from the pressures of modern life

2. Nature gives your brain a break

3. Nature restores and re-energises

4. Nature refocuses your attention

5. Nature shows you how to slow down

6. Nature stimulates creativity and innovation

7. Nature gets you active

8. Nature improves efficiency and effectiveness

You can listen to this article on the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast!

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

Spring Cleaning My Life

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Why wait for spring??? Spring cleaning can happen at any time of the year! I love the feeling associated with cleaning out the house, office and car, de-cluttering my environment, and letting go of those things that have accumulated over the past months, year, or longer. This action of making space also adds to my sense of renewal, of making a fresh start. And it’s energising and satisfying.

Spring cleaning contributes to a sense of order, healthy attachment, and organisation. It gives us renewed energy, like a gentle breeze on a hot day. We’ve cleaned out the cobwebs and feel fresh and clean again.

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And it’s not only our houses, gardens, offices and cars that need regular spring cleaning. Our minds need de-cluttering from time to time too. We can unpack our inner lives, re-organise our thoughts and attitudes, simplify our lives, and reach a new understanding of everything and everyone around us, including ourselves.

A great way to de-clutter the mind is through regular exercise – running, boxing, swimming, cycling, and so on. Some people find it beneficial to spend time alone gardening, listening to music, painting, reading, meditating or simply ‘being’. Even spring cleaning the house can be a fantastic way to clear the cobwebs of the mind!

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What works for you? How do you de-clutter your life, your mind, your surroundings?

Logo 2 shorter hairRemember …. no matter what the season, there is always an opportunity and many benefits to spring cleaning!

A Cup of Tea in the Sun

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Humans tend to fall unconsciously into habits that support the established routine. So it happens that when life is busy, and the weather outside encourages us to stay indoors, we tend to keep our ourselves in hibernation focusing on our ever-expanding list of things we have to do. With many consecutive days of cloudy, windy, bleak wintery weather keeping many people indoors, it was the talk of the town when the sun came out to shine highlighting the intensity of the bright blue sky.

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One of my colleagues remarked that it’s such a pity she always has such a long list of things to do so that whenever the sun comes out to shine, she never has the time to simply sit in the sun and have a cup of tea. I suspect the cup of tea means more to my colleague than ‘just a hot drink’. The context of sitting in the sun on a cold winter’s day brings a deeper and richer meaning to the cup of tea.

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I wonder what a cup of tea in the sun might mean to you? Maybe it means relaxation and recharge time; a few minutes to give yourself permission to savour the present moment; a ritual of self-care; honouring the sensory delights of a cup of tea or the fresh sunny weather; an escape from the hectic routine of family care; or maybe something else?

Whatever meaning my colleague makes from enjoying a cup of tea in the sun, it is clear it holds a significant degree of importance, yet it stays at the bottom of the list of things to do even when the weather makes it possible.

If drinking a cup of tea in the sun becomes your priority, how might your day be different? How might you be different? By embracing the ritual which recharges and revives our body and mind, we show equal compassion to ourselves as we do to those around us ….. and the perpetual list of jobs that begs our attention! We value ourselves and we value the energy we need to achieve our goals for the day.

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Investing a few minutes of time and mental energy into self-care rituals is not a selfish thing to undertake. The benefits reach far beyond ‘self’ having plenty of pay-offs for those around us as well.

In keeping with the philosophy of the proverb “Make hay while the sun shines” I invite you, firstly, to consider how you can make the most of opportunities to engage in self-care rituals that re-energise, revive and nurture your mind and body; and secondly, to embrace and value those opportunities and the rituals themselves.

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