Seasonal Stress Busting Tips

Christmas is widely regarded as the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be a time when stress levels soar. There’s often personal pressure to create the picture-perfect holiday, added financial strain and even increased family conflict – not to mention more stress at work thanks to holiday-shortened deadlines, anxious clients and customers, and frenzied end-of-year workloads.

Feeling overwhelmed by an increased To Do list, disappointed by unrealistic expectations and worried about money are some of the chief symptoms of the holiday blues – and with some retailers promoting the season as early as October, fatigue can begin to set in even earlier.

Most of us are aware of the adverse effects that stress can have on our emotional and physical wellbeing. In fact, studies have shown a correlation in the increased occurrence of heart attacks during the festive season, which may be due to increased stress, combined with heavy alcohol consumption and a fattier-than-usual diet.

Whether you’re looking for ideas to reduce your own holiday stress levels, or to help get your workers through the added pressure of the festive season, we’ve put together some top tips to help stop silly season stress in its tracks.

At Home: Be Mindful of Finances 

Financial strain is one of the leading causes of stress during the holiday season – but an increasing number of families are bucking this trend by focusing on spending less, and putting their focus on time together over gifts, extravagant decorations, and belly-boggling feasts. Something everyone can do to limit financial stress is set a budget, and making an effort to manage impulse spending. 

At Work: Go for a Walk

Getting away from your desk and going to a brisk walk is a good idea year round – but it’s especially important in the lead-up to Christmas, when stress-levels and workplace pressures are higher. Get away from your desk and take a walk around the block on your break. Exercise of any kind produces endorphins, and even a short stroll has been shown to reboot the brain in such a way that it reduces its response to stress.

At Home and At Work: Avoid Overindulging

‘Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry, and we can feel surrounded by extravagant foods and drinks at this time of year! Workmates bring Christmas cookies in to share and family members drop in for pre-Christmas drinks… and while all that merrymaking can seem like a nice treat in the short-term, those added glasses of wine and sugary treats can actually work against you by increasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Don’t avoid a indulging altogether – just be treat-wise and stay mindful of portion sizes.

At Home: Kids’ Expectations

Managing the expectations of children at this time of year is never easy – particularly when it seems they’re surrounded by festive hype. Remind children that Christmas is about being together, and that they won’t receive everything on their wishlist to Santa. 

At Work: Prioritise Your To Do List

Christmas is the biggest holiday of the year in New Zealand – and it comes at rather an inconvenient time, being so close to end of year deadlines! Many workers spend December in a frenzy, attempting to complete reports and projects that have been left on the back burner… all the while aware that not everything is going to be marked as complete.

This year, prioritise your workload – deciding which tasks absolutely MUST be done before Santa’s sleigh bells ring, and which less urgent jobs can be dealt with in January, if need be. Talk through your workload, timelines and suggested priorities with your boss or manager so ensure you’re both on the same page, and to give them a chance to re-delegate as needed.

At Home and At Work: Delegate!

Workload and stress are clearly linked, and regular day-to-day demands (cooking, paid work, school runs) don’t stop just because Christmas is fast approaching. If anything – because workplaces and schools shut down over the break– those demands can actually increase, with seasonal tasks such as gift buying and decorating heaped on top.

Trying to achieve everything alone during the holidays can take its toll on your mind and body, so be sure to delegate at home and at work. Share out silly season tasks such as grocery shopping with other family members, or make decorating the tree a fun, shared event rather than a chore. At work, ask for help when you need it! Colleagues and co-workers with lighter workloads will be more than happy to pitch in and lend a hand.

At Home: Sleep

Research shows few adults get the recommended 8-hours of sleep each night, but being well-rested is particularly important during times of increased stress! If there’s just one thing you take away from these tips on managing stress, let this one be it. A lack of sleep affects your mood, diet and quality of work, so don’t stay up all night finishing last-minute reports at home, or wrapping presents. 

At Work: Ditch Secret Santa

Secret Santa is great in theory… but in reality, many workers feel they simply don’t have the time or resources to complete all their usual holiday-related tasks – let alone throw gift purchasing for someone they may not know all that well into the mix! Surveys have shown that Secret Santa shopping can add to feelings of anxiety among employees, because it’s just one more personal task to do, and it can be hard finding a ‘thoughtful’ and clever gift within a $5, $10 or $20 budget. If Secret Santa is a tradition in your workplace, consider gifting staff an hour off during the workweek to shop. 

At Home and At Work: Have Fun!

They say laughter is the best medicine, and for good reason. Laughter lightens your mood, stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles, boosts circulation, releases endorphins, and – here’s the kicker – lessens the physical symptoms associated with stress. That all means savouring positive experiences, and giving yourself permission to have a little fun at home and at work, will help you get through those more stressful situations this festive season. 

Have 5-minutes before your next meeting starts? Find a Christmas meme and email it to your team. Take a couple of hours this weekend to sit down with your loved ones– or during some much-needed YOU time – and watch a Christmas movie. Pop a Christmas playlist on at work, or bake some festive cookies at home. The point is to decompress and get your to-do list off your mind for 5-minutes.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing

Endorsed by the World Federation for Mental Health, Mental Health Awareness Week kicks off in New Zealand on September 23 – and this year is all about encouraging Kiwis to explore their way to wellbeing (Whāia te ara hauora, Whitiora).

The week is an opportunity for you and your team to explore the experiences, actions, relationships and surroundings that make you feel good and uplift your wellbeing – in essence, discovering the things that make you feel good, individually and as a team, and doing more of them! 

What are the Five Ways to Wellbeing?

In 2008 the British government contracted the New Economics Foundation to come up with a set of actions that improve personal wellbeing. 

The idea was to develop a 5+ a day style set of principals for wellbeing that were evidence-based and accessible to everyone. The New Economics Foundation reviewed studies from around the world and conducted an enormous number of interviews – resulting in a report that identified five key actions, which, if done regularly, were scientifically proven to enhance wellbeing.

These five key actions or themes have been adopted around the world as the Five Ways to Wellbeing.

Connect | Me Whakawhanaunga
The first principle is based on evidence that people are stronger when they pull together and build meaningful connections with others.

Connect with the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day. 

Be Active | Me kori tonu
The second principle focuses on the proven physiological and psychological effects of being active.

Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness. 

Take Notice | Me aro tonu
The third principle relates to mindfulness, and the importance of being present.

Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you. 

Keep Learning | Me ako tonu
The fourth principle is about the proven benefits of challenging oneself and experiencing new things.

Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun. 

Give | Tukua
The fifth and final principle is based on research linking the act of giving with physical and health benefits, as well as emotional benefits such as ‘helper’s high’.

Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.

How Ways to Wellbeing can Benefit Your Business

Mental wellbeing is one of your organisation’s most valuable business assets, and it’s been proven that workplaces where mental health is prioritised have better engagement, reduced absenteeism, higher productivity, greater morale and higher job satisfaction among staff.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing are proven to help people find balance, build resilience and boost mental health and wellbeing – and can support workplaces to meet their health and safety obligations to manage risks to mental health and wellbeing. 

The Ways to Wellbeing at Work

Here are some simple ideas you can implement in your workplace, utilising the Five Ways to Wellbeing to support your staff, boost morale, and increase productivity.

Encourage Connection
Support your team members to build meaningful relationships at work. This could include:

  1. Setting up a staff social club where team members organise a quarterly outing 
  2. Organising shared lunches at work
  3. Hosting weekly games or competitions in the office
  4. Finishing two-hours earlier one Friday a month for a trip to the bowling alley
  5. Annual team-building trips

Encourage Giving & Generosity
It feels good to give! Supporting your staff and colleagues to give could include:

  1. Participating in national charity events like the SPCA Cupcake Day
  2. Holding an annual food drive, where staff can bring canned goods for donation
  3. Giving staff one paid day off a quarter to volunteer in the local community
  4. Fostering a culture of generosity, where staff give compliments and champion one another
  5. Donating company time to a local charity 

Encourage Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness can be a great way to help your staff find balance. At work, this might look like:

  1. A weekly guided meditation or yoga class
  2. Quiet break spaces, where staff can take a few moments to decompress
  3. An ‘unplug’ policy, where staff are encouraged NOT to check emails on days off
  4. A gratitude wall, where staff share notes on things they’re thankful for
  5. Weekly ‘celebration’ breakfasts, where the team catches up on good news

Encourage Learning
No matter what their role within your business, every employee wants to be challenged and enjoy variety. Your organisation could:

  1. Sponsor professional development courses and continued education
  2. Host a ‘random facts’ brunch each month, where employees share fun trivia
  3. Hold fun peer learning sessions, where employees lead a workshop on a project, hobby or passion
  4. Set up a mini library in the break room, stocked with books staff can borrow
  5. Partner with a local dance, cooking or sewing school, and offer classes free to staff

Encourage Movement
Being active isn’t just good for your employees’ physical health – it has also been proven to increase their mental and emotional wellbeing. Your organisation could:

  1. Establish daily walking meetings at the local park
  2. Get together a team for local indoor netball or touch rugby
  3. Eradicate tired office chairs in favour of Swiss balls and standing desks
  4. Set up a phone loop around the building so staff can walk while on calls
  5. Implement a stand and stretch policy, encouraging staff to get out of their chairs and every couple of hours

Looking for ideas to further integrate the Five Ways of Wellbeing into your company’s policies and workplace culture? Check out the Five Ways Toolkit from the Mental Health Foundation and Health Promotion Agency for free resources.

The Journal

The Journal is a free, personalised online programme that is designed to teach you the skills that can help you get through depression.

John Kirwan (JK) and mental health experts will take you through a series of online lessons. These include how to stay positive, how to create lifestyle changes that improve mental health and 3 steps to problem solving.

Anyone can sign up for this programme and benefit from it. You begin with a depression self-test which is can also be done as a standalone test. The results will link you to The Journal where you can track your changes over time. 

Read more about The Journal on their website here.  

Positive Communication

Positive communication is the cornerstone of creating a mentally health workplace. This is communication that is based on respect and builds trust and collaboration. 

The Mental Health Foundation has created a range of Working Well resources that help your workplace prioritise mental health and ensure employees wellbeing is improved – resulting in a happier team and higher job satisfaction. 

Leaders, managers and teams can use the communication resources to help reflect on current approaches and to build a culture of positive communication.

The range of resources available includes: 
Avoiding a culture of silence
Reframing failures as opportunities 
Communicating so people feel safe to speak up.

Jump on over to the Mental Health Foundations website to download all these resources and start communicating positively with your teams today.

Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that can lead to physical or psychological harm.

Repeated behaviour is persistent and can involve a range of actions over time. Unreasonable behaviour means actions that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would see as unreasonable. It includes victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening a person. Bullying may also include harassment, discrimination or violence.Creating a mentally healthy workplace is about creating a safe, supportive and strong workplace culture where bullying cannot thrive.

The business or undertaking must effectively deal with workplace bullying however everyone at work has a role to play. 

To help you identify if bullying is going on at your workplace WorkSafe has great information on their website here. If you do not have policies in place there is a great template available for you to work from to create one. 

The Mental Health Foundation has a great range of resources available as part of their Working Well suite or resources. This includes fact sheets on what bullying looks like, how to facilitate team discussions or how to get help. View these resources here

One of the components within our Psychological First Aid course is the topic of bullying. To learn more about our Psychological First Aid course, click here

May 17 – Pink Shirt Day

This coming Friday (May 17) is Pink Shirt Day.

Pink Shirt Day is led by the Mental Health Foundation and is about working together to stop bullying. It is about celebrating diversity and promoting positive social relationships. 

Everybody should feel safe, valued and respected no matter their age, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability or culture.

Make sure your workplace gets involved on Friday. TriEx and Gallagher Bassett will be dressing in pink and are celebrating with a shared lunch this Friday. The Pink Shirt Day website has resources, and content you can use at your workplace — just visit their website here

Kōrero Mai, Kōrero Atu, Mauri Tū, Mauri Ora – Speak Up, Stand Together, Stop Bullying!

It’s Okay Not To Be Okay

But what’s not okay is to not to talk to someone. The events in Christchurch last month have affected people in many different ways. “New Zealanders can choose to re inflate their “protective bubbles” as soon as possible after the Christchurch shootings or keep them deflated and “see the world as it really is” — disaster mental health expert Dr Sarb Johal. 

“It will take courage to choose to live in deflated bubbles for longer. But by doing so, Kiwis may be better able to rebuild trust and reshape society.” You can read Dr Sarb Johals full blog post here

After the recent events in Christchurch our teams have been supported by onsite EAP professionals, and employees took this opportunity to talk to someone about how they were feeling. If your business has this available we urge you to promote it within your workplace. 

Our mental health awareness training (Psychological First Aid) has been designed to support the breaking down of the stigmas around mental health, to increase our knowledge and understanding of mental health as a spectrum and to be more accepting and tolerant towards those who might be faced with concerns around their own mental health.

It is developed to also to enable the impact of stress on an individual, the importance of resilience and the impact that has in the workplace. In order for us to break down the stigma around mental health the model has to facilitate sensitivity, openness and honesty in talking and sharing. 

To learn more about our psychological first aid you can contact our team on 0800 487 439 or email enquiries@triex.co.nz

Managing Workplace Stress

Resources

The Mental Health Foundation is calling for 2019 to be the year that workplace stress is taken seriously. Results of a survey they carried out show that high workloads, poor work/life balance and stressful work are the top three causes of poor mental health at work. 

Mental Health Foundation chief Executive Shaun Robinson says “How we feel at work impacts not just our ability to work well, but our relationships with our colleagues, whānau, friends and communities. When our mental health is impacted by stress at work, the effects ripple out into our home and whānau lives and prevent us from flourishing.”

They have developed a free resource Minimising and managing work place stress which is designed to help workplaces tackle stress head-on and forms part of their Working Well resources. It is designed to support understanding around workplace stress, including how work impacts stress, how stress impacts individuals and what works to minimise and manage stress.

Good mental health leads to better engagement, reduced absenteeism and higher productivity, while also improving wellbeing, morale and job satisfaction. 

The resources are all available for free from the Mental Health Foundation here. 

How’s your mate? Be aware of mental health this Men’s Health Month

June is Men’s Health Month. If there’s ever a time as a male to think about your personal health, now is the time to do it. This month we have been discussing men’s health issues and what you can do to improve.

So far we’ve covered three topics for Men’s Health Month:

For our final Men’s Health Month post, we want to talk about Mental Health.

Read more →

Pink Shirt Day 2018: How you can help someone being bullied.

Today is Pink Shirt Day, a day when people around the world wear a pink shirt to symbolise a stand against bullying, so this week we’re publishing a series of blog posts on workplace bullying. In our last two posts we talked about what bullying is, and what you can do if you’re being bullied. Today we’re going to talk about how you can help someone who is being bullied.

Standing with a friend or colleague who is being bullied doesn’t mean you have to take a punch for them.

There are many ways you can be supportive and keep yourself safe.

Many people are worried that if they stand up for someone, they will just become the bully’s next target. While this does sometimes happen, in many cases, instigators of bullying respond to strength – such as a stronger or bigger group of people defending someone else – by backing away. That is, after all, why Pink Shirt Day was created in the first place!

If someone tells you they are being bullied, don’t see them as a “victim”. Try to use the word “target” – it is more empowering for people, and less likely to make them feel helpless.

Some things you could do include:

  • Just listen – sometimes, all you need is someone to listen to you, without judgement, and acknowledge that what you are going through is hard and painful.
  • Make a plan with your friend about what to do if they get bullied again, eg, “If it happens again, we need to talk to a manager”.
  • Stopping rumours in their tracks – if people are telling lies about your friend or other colleagues, speak up, and tell people that it isn’t true or that talking about people like that is unacceptable.
  • Go with your friend when they tell a manager or HR Representative. Asking for help can be scary, and your support might be the difference between them telling, and keep it to themselves. If they’re not yet ready to reach out, you could suggest they write a letter.
  • Ask a manager for help or report the bullying to HR – especially when bullying is physically or emotionally abusive, it’s important to keep everyone safe, without putting yourself at risk. It’s not “telling” if you are keeping your friend safe.

If you see cyber bullying

  • Try to help the target; perhaps by offering them support. Having support will mean that the person may feel less alone.
  • Help them report the bullying, this could also include taking screenshots and printing before the post or exchange is removed.
  • Report the bullying anonymously if that feels safer to the website where it is happening.
  • Offer to go with your friend if they need to report the cyber bullying to police.

Many people who are being bullied feel isolated and completely alone. They often don’t speak up because they feel powerless to do so. Supporting someone who is being bullied can go a long way towards ending what can be a very difficult and painful situation.

Just listening to someone when they need to talk can empower them to take action. Standing up for those who are being bullied is what Pink Shirt Day is all about.

One of the components in our Psychological First Aid course discusses the topic of bullying. To learn more about Psychological First Aid, click here.