Did you know, HSE statistics show that in the year 2015/2016, 11.7 million working days were lost due to common mental illness such as work related stress, depression and anxiety. These statistics also show that stress is more prevalent in public sector agencies such as health care, education, public administration and defence… Isn’t it ironic how those caring for the wellbeing of the wider society are often those impaired with their own mental ill-heath, inflicted - seemingly, by the work they carry out.
So, what is causing this? Research shows that the main triggers for mental ill-health at work stem from organisational factors such as: poor management structures and workplace practices, excessive workloads with little room for creativity and ownership of work product, insufficient resource for heavy demand, and interpersonal relationships within the workplace.
The mental health foundation suggest that businesses could save up to £8billion per year if they provided adequate support for mental health in the workplace, with a calculation of £347,722 in savings for an investment of £40,000 into information, training and consultation with their staff around mental health concerns. That's a saving of £8.69 for every £1 invested!
Severe stress causes the body to have a ‘fight or flight’ reaction, releasing a number of chemicals including adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine. In a natural environment, these chemicals would mobilise a lot of energy in preparation for physical action. Sometimes we experience this reaction when ‘dealing well under pressure’; however, severe and prolonged periods of stress can cause these chemicals to become toxic in the body, causing inflammation to the brain, depressive illness, sleep disturbance and in some cases brain damage!
We use ‘The 5 Ways to wellbeing’ which is an approach to decrease mental health problems and promote flourishment for people in all walks of life. We design a wellbeing plan that incorporates this for all our team members, as well as the people we support. It was designed by Foresight, through a project that considered how to achieve the best possible mental development and mental wellbeing for people in the UK.
The 5 ways to wellbeing suggests that we should: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning, and Give. So where have these come from and how can we incorporate them in the workplace?
So we all know that exercise is good for us, right? But how often are we actually committing ourselves to the right level of exercise to benefit both our physical and mental health? Adults should be carrying out 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, as well as strength exercises to stay well - that’s 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Doing this will release dopamine and serotonin, having an anti-depressant effect. It also promotes mental sharpness, and even has anti-ageing effects! – Count me in!
Often the problem we face with exercise is that we just can’t find the motivation to get to the gym! Instead, we find all kinds of reasons not to. This is a natural response by the brain, which tells us that the gym is an unnecessary waste of energy supplies, a fruitless task.
If this sounds like you, try making exercise more natural, and better still social. Things like walks with friends or loved ones, replacing car journeys with cycling or jogging, or playing games that involve physical exercise.
If you’re an employer, why not consider the ‘ride to work scheme’, employee outings during breaks – walks, games, or even after work sports clubs? Not only will this promote physical activity, but also better working relationships between staff.
So that takes us nicely into the social needs of humans. Just as we have a basic need for food and shelter, we also have a basic need to belong to a group and form relationships. Countless studies have shown that quality social interaction helps with cognitive sharpness, and even puts a stop to our stress response. Psychologists have suggested that seeing a friend several times throughout the week increases our happiness 5x.
Feeling ‘part of the team’ and building relationships in the workplace are important, as this is where we spend much of our time. Positive communication, recognition, and group activity can have a great impact on the wellbeing of team members.
This one is about the kind of stuff that sometimes gets left behind when we are feeling stressed. Take in the world around you, notice the beauty in things, reflect, relax. Sometimes this is about having the right life/work balance. Without spending time just for us, we can’t always see beyond the blinkers. Relaxation therapy and meditation is said to release GABA: “The Anti-Anxiety Molecule”, having a similar effect to benzodiazepines!
Learning isn’t just about classrooms in school. It’s about challenging ourselves, and achieving! The sense of achievement also releases dopamine – the happy reward chemical. Setting goals and challenges that require you to develop is a prime way of achieving this, regardless of what age you are!
Managers – Take time one-to-one with your staff to set goals, and offer new challenges to their career. Additional responsibilities and opportunities to learn can be beneficial to both parties – but don’t forget to recognise your employee’s hard efforts, and give them a sense of being appreciated and part of the team! Setting up a mentorship programme at work can be a huge benefit to both business and team member. This provides a great opportunity to connect, learn and give.
So we all know that giving helps others, whether you donate, volunteer, or give a hand to a person in need; But did you know, that it has positive effects for the giver also? It is said to reduce depression, stress, and blood pressure, and heighten our self-esteem. The sense of satisfaction from helping another person releases serotonin (mood stabilising), dopamine (feel good), and Endorphins (endogenous opioids) – thus the term ‘helpers high’ – like any other high, this one is also addictive! Why not gain a healthy addiction, and volunteer to help others with valued lives, or contact volunteer Cornwall to find a wide range of voluntary opportunities to suit your interests and ambitions!
Valued Lives are offering workplace wellbeing consultancy and training packages as rewards for our crowdfunder! Take a look, http:www.crowdfunder.co.uk/valuedlives