A 3-minute read with 9 strategies to safeguard your mental wellbeing
As workplaces start to open up after the pandemic lockdown, the stress and anxiety so many have suffered will become more apparent, too. A survey carried out by Mental Health UK in March 2021 found 46% of UK workers felt “more prone to extreme levels of stress” than a year ago, and 1 in 5 workers felt “unable” to manage pressure and stress levels at work.
Another UK study, by Protectivity, found women were more stressed than men, and 35-44 year-olds were the most stressed age group. People working in HR came out as clear leaders on the stress meter with 78% of its workers experiencing stress on a daily basis. The legal sector came 2nd with 63%.
It’s no surprise, then, that the World Health Organisation now recognises burnout as an occupational phenomenon. It also describes it as a “syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
So how do we manage workplace wellbeing so any stress is stopped in its tracks before it balloons into a destructive monster?
Here’s my top tips for improved wellbeing at work:
Take the time to create a supportive team around you. Join networking groups of like-minded people and ask if there are mentoring schemes you could take advantage of. Companies should provide, or at least signpost, both of these. Many special interest groups also offer important peer to peer support – for example, in the legal profession these include The Criminal Bar Association, Family Law Bar Association, Women In Criminal Law, and Women In The Law UK.
2. Ask for Help
If you feel you need wellbeing support – ask. Your workplace should have strategies in place to safeguard your mental health. Likewise, if you are in a position to do so, raise awareness within the workplace of all the means of help available. Keep confidential channels of communication open and clearly signpost how to access resources. Point to the company’s wellbeing lead as well as professional support available. Staff should be confident, though, that they can trust any of the managers to provide a sympathetic ear.
3. Develop Mental Toughness/ Resilience through focus, planning & distraction avoidance
In this day and age, it is an increasing problem that as the world gets smaller and more accessible, our working days become longer as we are more ‘available’ for work for longer periods of time.
For that reason, I strongly recommend planning your day: As Jim Rohn said “You run the day or the day runs you.” A helpful tool for putting tasks into priority order is to adopt Eisenhower’s 4Ds Time management method: Do- Diarise- Delegate- Delete. Equipped with a daily plan, you can work more efficiently in the unexpected ‘free’ time, by prioritising your workload to ensure your best outcomes and mark off and feel good about your achievements as you meet them. Also know, however, that with the unpredictability and demanding hours of today’s professional workplace, it may be you don’t meet all these plans, and that is ok too.
Avoid distraction by being fully ‘present’ in whatever task you undertake. Work whilst at work; have family time whilst with your family. Maintaining a healthy life balance helps keep work triumphs and disasters in perspective.
4. Switch Off!
- Turn off email notifications & only check at set times during the working day, e.g. 12.30pm and 4.30pm.
- Activate airplane mode for a fully immersive level of concentration.
- Utilise the ‘Out of office’ automatic email response for set times during the working day.
- Remove Social Media apps from your mobile devices and set strict times for access.
- Take regular breaks and keep ‘proper’ hours.
5. Learn to say no
This can be a real challenge for many, and when mastered, hugely liberating. I have blogged about this before, (https://www.nikkialdersoncoaching.com/stop-saying-yes-start-saying-no-guest-blog-for-the-law-society-10th-july-2018/). To summarise:
- Ask “whose plan am I working to?”
- Think “To what am I prepared to say Yes?”
- Learn the art of saying no through repeated practice.
6. Adopt A Positive Mind-set
Look at your words, thoughts and behaviour and ask whether there are positive adjustments to be made which would more positively affect your outcomes.
In my experience, positive thoughts & language – combined with positive actions – really do lead to lead to more positive outcomes. For further examples, please read: https://www.nikkialdersoncoaching.com/positive-mind-positive-outcomes/
7. Keep active/ hydrated & change state
Keep active and well hydrated. It’s so easy to skip lunch with deadlines, meetings and countless other things on the ‘to do’ lists, but keeping water levels topped up is vital to improve muscle function, digestion and even our state of mind.
Likewise, a focused effort to change our state can soon fix that afternoon eye flicker – do a few star jumps in a quiet area of the office for a quick burst of energy! A change in state can work wonders for energy levels, and alter how alert we feel.
8. Practise gratitude
Even in the moments of extreme pressure and overwhelm, on the commute home after a difficult day, for example, be grateful for a beautiful sunset, your favourite song playing on the radio, your friends/ family. It’s amazing how quickly focusing on the positives can put into perspective, and most importantly reduce the extent of, the negatives.
For the tricky stuff, always keep in mind my favourite quote, and use as a mantra: “This too shall pass”; it will.
9. Be Authentic
It’s so easy to get caught up in life’s busy-ness, working hard to climb the ladder of success, only to discover that all that time the ladder has been leaning against the wrong wall. Put your ladder against the right wall before you start climbing – and don’t be afraid to move on to another if the destination no longer looks so appealing.
“Live a life true to yourself, not the life others expect”
Let these top tips support you in your quest to stay well. If in doubt, talk: colleagues will be better placed to help if you feel able to communicate and share with them.
Nikki Alderson Biography
Nikki Alderson, specialist Corporate & Executive Coach, Keynote Speaker & Best Selling Author, & former Criminal Barrister with 19 years’ experience,
- supports organisations, law firms & barristers’ Chambers to retain female talent; &
- empowers female lawyers to achieve career ambitions.
Nikki specialises in 3 areas:
- Women Leadership Transition & Change;
- Enhanced Career break returner support; &
- Workplace resilience, confidence & wellness.
She is the author of Amazon No.1 Bestseller Raising the Bar: empowering female lawyers through coaching , (https://amzn.to/3fodKQX) nominee for the Inspirational Women Awards, Champion of the Year Category & finalist in the 2019 International Coaching Awards, International Coach of the Year Category.
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