As a manager in a busy health and social care team, I have managed many members of staff and supported colleagues, who have experienced stress within the workplace.
Stress at work can be a debilitating condition which can cause the person affected to go off for very long periods of sickness, often a year or more.
The cause of the stress is not always acknowledged or altered, and the person can come back to work or continue to work with the stressful situation looming over them, for many years.
I’ve previously written about recognising stress at work and how to deal with it, this article is looking at surviving it.
It came from a training session I went on in 2018 with a Psychologist.
It was a useful session and I then took the learning forward with members of the team.
I wanted to share this with you, it may help you or those you manage.
If we as managers and workers can recognise, deal with, and survive stress at work and our lives, I believe the world would be a better place to live.
Life should not be about stress, pressure, anxiety, illness and fretting all the time.
For any of you who have seen my blogs or website know that I promote the idea of us taking back control of our lives, living better lives and creating and designing lives of freedom, as much as we can in our modern world.
For starters, I have been looking at surveys over the past few years generated from here in the UK, focused specifically on the health and social care profession, because that’s where I’m from.
NHS Staff survey in 2013: 56% of Social Workers in mental health trusts suffered work-related stress.
This was a 50% increase over the last 5 years!!! (50% increase, that’s massive).
A British Psychological Society survey in 2015 found that 46% of Psychology practitioners reported being depressed and 49.5% feeling a failure. These are people who look at and study the mind for a living! if they are getting stressed, what hope is there for the rest of us?!
In a European nursing survey in 2012: 42% of UK nurses reported burnout (the highest of the 10 European countries surveyed) compared to the European average of 28%. Why? Because of overcrowded wards and hospitals. Pressure to get people discharged from wards, lack of staff.
A Commonwealth funded GP Survey in 2015: found that British GPs have the highest stress levels and shortest consultations times of 11 industrialized countries.
More than 20% of GPs reported being made ill by stress in the past 12 months. This is such a worry, they are the ones supposed to be looking after us, but who looks after them?
It is a scary situation where our health and social care teams, the ones who are there for us when we need them, are under such pressure and such stress in the UK!
I have witnessed it first hand; nurses crying and going off sick because of the demands on their time and energy being too high. Staff too anxious to come to work because of the demands on them.
More and more required of them; to see more patients, to give more of themselves, to do more, and accomplish more things to do within every visit.
Often against unattainable targets.
Not enough staff… but larger patient lists.
Too many expectations on them as workers in a system they have no control over.
Often they look to their managers to support them, but those managers are off sick…withstress!
No matter what area of business or profession you are in. I am sure you recognise the all too familiar patterns and stories.
Stress and pressure at work is a killer.
But what can you do?
How do you survive stress? How do you cope when the pressures and triggers won’t go away?
You still have to pay the bills, the mortgage and put food on the table for you and your family.
You can’t just leave your job.
Often the job and its’ structure won’t change.
You must change.
You are the one that is in control. Although you might not feel like it.
It doesn’t sound easy.
But you know, it can be done.
I’ve done it, and I’ve helped others to do it too.
With a little effort and some mindset changes.
It is just Psychology.
This was taught by a Psychologist after all.
The key here is a word….and that word is Compassion. Specifically being Self-Compassionate.
Showing Self-Compassion. This is the key to surviving stress in your job and life.
What is Compassion?
It is taken from the Latin word Compati = ‘to suffer with’
it is being moved by another person suffering and wanting to help – from Lazarus
it is about sensitivity to suffering in oneself and others and a deep commitment to try to alleviate and prevent it – Dalai Lama
Paul Gilbert who wrote the book The Compassionate Mind (2010) talks about the 6 dimensions of compassion;
A Sensitivity- responsive to other people’s emotions and perceiving when they need help.
Having Sympathy – showing concern for the other person’s suffering
Showing Empathy – putting yourself in their shoes
Being Motivated/caring – having a desire to act to alleviate the person’s suffering
Having a Distress tolerance – ability to tolerate difficult emotions in oneself when confronted with someone else’s suffering without becoming overwhelmed by them
Being Non-judgment – the ability to remain accepting of and tolerant towards another, even when they give rise to difficult feelings such as frustration, anger, fear or disgust
But what about Self-Compassion?
What the hell is that?
Okay to help you really get this and put into your thinking big time, I’m going to ask you to do something…..
Think back to a day recently where you made a mistake, how did you feel?
Did you feel Stupid, a fool? An idiot?
What did you say to yourself?
“you idiot, why did you say that?
Why did you do that?”
Try it again.
See what you did and re-live it.
Maybe you cringe and whilst you say those things to yourself, notice your body and what it is doing….
You might notice that your heartbeat might increase, you tense up and feel bad about yourself.
Not nice is it!?
Now re-live the same stupid thing as before….but this time we are going to change how you react to this event.
This is the self-compassion part……it is about being kind to yourself.
Love yourself and treat yourself as you would a treasured, small child.
Say soothing words to yourself…. “do not worry, it was a mistake, you didn’t mean to do that, it’s okay, it is all learning”.
Now notice your body and mind.
Did you notice anything different?
You might get a sense of feeling more nurtured.
You might feel warmer, cared for.
Your heartbeat slows down.
That is called self-compassion.
It is so simple, isn’t it!
But this really works.
We often talk to ourselves in ways we don’t talk to anyone else.
Isn’t that a crazy thought?
We are abusive to ourselves.
We abuse ourselves!
Well isn’t that screwed up?!
Paul Gilbert talks about this in detail.
He says that we can help how we react to stressful situations by being more compassionate to ourselves.
Loving ourselves, being kind to us, the inner person. The inner child that exists within all of us.
Isn’t that much better?
Doesn’t that make some sense?
I never really got it until I heard this concept.
I was always my harshest critique, and not only was the world-beating me up, but I was beating myself up too.
I was my own worse bully.
Paul says that we feed into a threat-react system when we attack ourselves and then this in turn increases anxiety, depression, stress.
However, by being kind to ourselves, by talking kindly to ourselves we evoke a nurturing type parental voice, within us, that soothes us.
It soothes stressful emotions, it increases feelings of contentment and well-being.
Paul talks about being accepting of one’s mistakes, that they are part of life and a learning process for us all.
Being kind to oneself and others is not weakness (men listen up!!), it is a strength. It gives strength through compassion, it empowers our mind to heal and make sense of our mistakes.
It encourages learning and doesn’t shut us down to new opportunities.
Self-compassion looks at being non-judgmental towards oneself, rather than self-critical.
And seeing one’s suffering as part of the overall human condition rather than just a “Why me God!” type of mindset.
This shows wisdom and maturity and we will then make better choices and take more exciting risks because we are not so fearful of being critical and judged of ourselves.
Have you ever thought about how you talk to yourself can affect how others see you and treat you in the world?
Think about it for a minute.
If you continually beating yourself up over everything and criticise yourself, you give out that type of energy to the world.
You are then never surprised when others verbally beat you up as well.
Heh, …you got there first…. right!
Being self-compassionate is not just about how we talk to ourselves, it is being kind to ourselves and loving ourselves as a whole.
Other ways we can demonstrate self-compassion, and to tackle stress and survive in this life are;
Eating and drinking well, lots of water, clean foods, living food, less sugar, less alcohol, fewer meats and more fresh foods.
Getting a good night’s sleep…try meditation, yoga, exercise, even some sex before bed, to help you sleep.
Keeping active and exercise….walking, swimming, weights, cardio-exercise, anything that keeps your weight down, keeps the blood moving and takes care of yourself.
Meaningful social relationships. We are social animals, even though some of us might think we are loners. We all need some meaningful relationships, join clubs that interest you, maybe with other ‘loners’, but at least you are together. Go out with friends, join a gym, go to the shops and cafes and hang out. Take the dog or a neighbour’s dog for a walk, you meet people that way and chat. It all helps.
There are barriers to self-compassion.
We are designed for survival, not necessarily happiness.
Spiritual enlightenment is never going to come if you have no money to eat and pay the bills.
Get your life sorted out.
Take back control and take action to get your life sorted and on track.
We can be very lazy creatures of habit.
Is it easier to work on yourself and improve your life and well-being or watch a series on Netflix?
Yes right watching the TV is easier.
Pass me the remote now.
We can be prone to negativity.
“It’s just me, it’s always me that it happens to, just my luck, I was doomed to fail, I never seem to get the promotion, I’m not good enough”.
We lose focus and get distracted!
“What was that you were saying?”
How long does it take before we forget our new year’s resolution?
End of January?
Write down what you need to do to turn your self-compassion around.
Turn it around people. Start working on the good stuff above.
Take back control.
Other techniques really can sort out the barriers, I like to think of it as reprogramming your brain. Giving you a different character download to look at how you see yourself in different ways.
What techniques can you use to improve self-compassion?
Well, you can just sit and let your mind wander.
Look out the window and gaze at a tree for 5 mins.
Breathe and listen to your breath come in and out.
Have a hot bath and just lie there with nothing to think about. This is your time.
Carving out your time to listen to some relaxing music.
Write down your thoughts, create a blog, share with the world.
Meditation can be great if you have enough discipline. It is shown to increase our lifespan.
Write down or recite every morning and evening what you are grateful for….I am grateful for my kids, my partner, the roof over my head, my family.
Try and see positives in everything even when they piss you right off.
See the happiness in your life and treasure the little moments that really you miss because you are thinking about the next thing (we all do it).
For example how often when sitting down with your family having dinner,
do you just stop eating or talking or watching TV, and look at each of them and wish that time would just stop and keep us frozen in this fantastic space forever?
And take positive actions;
Say something positive about yourself,
“I am great, I am beautiful. I am trim, slim, toned, I am clever. I am successful”.
You are basically reprogramming your subconscious mind.
Do something good for yourself every day;
Exercise, meditate, sleep well, read something great.
Then see it snowball.
Self-compassion is so important.
As we have seen it improves our overall emotional well-being.
Which leads to reductions in anxiety, low mood,
more optimism about our lives,
we are more grateful about what we have,
therefore we attract more of the good stuff because we are giving out the good stuff…
Conclusion: This all leads to us taking better care of ourselves.
Improving our physical and mental health and immune system and we don’t get sick so often.
We have more energy, we cope better at work and life, our family, and enjoy our life so much more.
What’s not to like from all of this?
And the bottom line is we don’t let the pressure and stress at work get to us.,. it bounces off us like a Teflon coating on a frying pan.
So that is it. How to survive stress at work. But it doesn’t stop there, the idea of self- compassion transcends just the stress at work.
It will take you to another stratosphere of thinking, of being.
Imagine if you release how you think about yourself?
How you are towards yourself.
Isn’t that mind-blowing?
Isn’t that freeing? It allows you to create and design another way of living and life.
If you are interested in more ideas then check out my blog. Leave your comments and ideas for self-compassion below. I’d love to hear them.
Be inspired, be successful