With nearly 20 years’ experience working in mental health and wellbeing, Dr Louise Cowpertwait is more passionate than ever about helping people and communities manage their sense of wellbeing, particularly in the workplace. Louise is the founder and CEO of the MindMatters Clinic, which works with organizations around Aotearoa to provide happy and healthy workforces where people feel supported.
I have my own experience with mental health challenges and I have dealt with the stigma around it, especially the fact that I am a psychologist myself, she admits. I saw the importance of leaders, whether at work or in our communities, speaking openly about mental health and well-being. We need to talk about this matter.
Two of the main emotions that people often experience in the workplace are stress and anxiety, especially during busy times, like Christmas, or when there is a lot of change going on.
Through my work, I noticed a definite increase [in stress]. The data shows an increase of nearly 25 percent, as people deal with more severe or complex health challenges. People’s activities have increased more and more. We also face tremendous change and uncertainty as a nation. Some of us have been exposed to traumatic events, such as Hurricane Gabrielle. This is definitely the time when we should take care of our well-being.
Stress is when we are faced with a difficult time and we do not see how we will have the resources to cope with that challenge, explains Louise. When we are stressed our brain tells the rest of our body that there is a threat and tries to put all its energy into that threat. We get adrenaline, our heart beats faster, we may sweat more and feel anxious. We can keep it up for so long that after a while, we start to get tired.
Overwhelm is the state of mind we enter when stressed. Our mind feels rushed with thoughts and concerns, we have difficulty concentrating and are easily irritated or angry, which does not help us to perform our best at work,
When we’re overwhelmed, we don’t problem solve or think creatively because our brains go into survival mode, so we’re really caught up in our direct experience, says Louise.
His advice when dealing with these emotions in the office is to, first of all, stop your thoughts and feelings. There are three tried and true ways to do this in conversation, writing it through a journal, or changing your environment, whether that’s going for a walk or, if possible, going on vacation.
The next step, Louise recommends, is to evaluate your situation. Ask yourself: is there anything you can change? Can you talk to your manager about your workload? Can you delegate or outsource tasks to keep things more manageable? Can you see your GP to meet your mental or physical health needs?
For me personally, I work on filling my wellbeing kete (toolkit) every day, says Louise, who has in the past left toxic workplaces with terrible bosses. He acknowledges, however, that not everyone is in a position to do that and says there are many smaller things you can do to keep your well-being kete full.
I do mindfulness meditation and attend yoga. I like to prepare food from scratch, I prioritize time with my friends and time alone to unwind. My partner and I have Trashy Tuesday every week where we prioritize spending time together watching bad TV and having fun snacks. I walked I try to listen to my body intuitively so I respond sooner if I need something. I get therapy when I need it.
The key, says Louise, is to remember that we are all different and have different needs. Find what’s right for you and gather the little things that feed your sense of well-being.
5 Healthy Habits To Stay Strong
- Mindfulness meditation
- Breathe deeply to slow down the body
- Doing one thing at a time instead of rushing
- Create healthy boundaries between work and home life, including digital distractions
- Connect with nature, people (loved ones and your community) and your sense of meaning or purpose.
Below, join Samantha Veitch as she takes you through an invigorating yoga sequence.
Next week, we’ll explore how to maintain your healthy habits during the busy holiday season. For more dedicated health videos, sign up for Studioredwellness.com
From a good night’s sleep to health activities.
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