Brexit – the Five Stages of Grief

So there we are the deed is done, the majority of the UK public has voted to leave the European Union. The Parliamentary system is in tatters, both of the major political parties are searching for leaders to lead us country through this quite revolutionary landscape. No vision, no plan, no hope, no nothing to give us any certainty of our collective futures. Us Brits like to do things slowly, deliberately and with some degree of certainty. Therefore it’s easy to see how cataclysmic this result is for the nation.

For the 48% who voted to remain in the EU the result has provoked all manner of wailing and gnashing of teeth. There is an appetite to mobilise against this injustice that has been foisted upon them. However, from my recent discussions with clients, friends and colleagues, there is a profound sense of loss for a country, values & culture we all felt we knew? Have we lost our belief that the UK is an outward looking, inclusive and progressive European country?

Collective Grief of the 48%

My own reflections from recent events are that many of us (plus some that voted leave and are regretting their choice) are experiencing a profound feeling of grief? In other words a loss, bereavement and grief for what we once had. We know that the events of the past 10 days mean that things will never be the same again, maybe like the loss of a close friend or loved one? It may also be a future that you feel powerless to change and did not vote for? Indeed I have witnessed these comparisons to my previous counselling work and my time at the Samaritans and Victim Support. Supporting many people going through a profound sense of anger and shock or “why me, I don’t deserve this”. Even the loss of a smartphone or cherished childs toy can promote this feeling of profound sadness and grief at the loss of something dear and irreplaceable.

To take that hypothesis further we can use the Grief Cycle model developed and first discussed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in the 1969 book “On Death & Dying” (in On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss – 2014). The model promotes a simple five stages that may well help to put some context around how some may be experiencing recent events. Moreover within the contexts of the five stages of grief.

Five Stages of Grief

  • Denial  Denial perhaps best described conscious or nonconscious refusal to accept facts, information or reality, etc., that are relating to the situation concerned. In this instance the UK EU Referendum. Denial is a normal reaction to rationalise overwhelming emotions that can go some way to protect us against uncertainty. It is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock of the event/loss. We block out the words and hide from the facts of the effects of the decision and perhaps any negative outcomes. We can easily become fixated upon stage when dealing with the sense of loss. We see the aftershocks of the referendum results still reverberating on social media and in the press. The events of the referendum are not easy to avoid or evade, as there is knowledge that things will never be the same again here in the UK.
  • Anger –  Anger can manifest in many different ways. In the case of the referendum, arguments, protest marches, blame, petitions, a second referendum etc etc. The people who voted to remain are now having to deal with the emotional fallout from the referendum, they may be angry with themselves, with others and especially those close. We have read about inter-family/community conflict as a result of groups voting one way or another. Of course knowing this can help keep detached and non-judgemental when experiencing the anger of someone who is very upset. However, with these highly charged emotions around, this result can make rational debate seem a distant fantasy. This anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family. We can feel guilty for being angry, needless to say, this makes us more angry at an outcomes that “we did not vote for this”
  • Bargaining – Traditionally the bargaining stage for people facing this level of social & economic change can involve attempting to bargain with whoever they can. We have heard about a group of business people banding together to ensure that Parliament change the legislation to make triggering article 50 possible (mechanism that starts leaving the EU).  This can  buy “reflection” time as a strong bargaining chip. Perhaps that there are many of us that feel we can bargain or seek to negotiate a compromise? For example “how can the leave and remain voters work together to unify the country?” when facing this magnitude of break-up of the political and social order of the country. Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it’s a matter of life or death. Perhaps this is the weakest line of defense to protect us from the painful reality of the vote of the referendum.
  • Depression –  Sometimes referred to as preparatory grieving, the dress rehearsal or the practice run for the aftermath of leaving the EU. Needless to say, this means different things to different people. This stage maybe best described as a form of acceptance with some emotional attachment. It is perfectly natural to feel sadness, regret, fear, uncertainty, etc at what may be ahead of the country we thought we knew and could rely on. This stage may show that the person has at least begun to accept the reality of the situation. Sadness and regret of the fact we will no longer be a part of the European Union predominate a sense of depression in the case. We worry about the costs to us, our jobs, our families and our communities. We worry that, in our grief, we have spent less time with others that depend on us. This phase may be eased by simple clarification and reassurance. We may need a bit of helpful cooperation and a few kind words or more to the point a clear vision, strategy and plan for how we are going to move forward as a unified country.
  • Acceptance – Lastly, this stage can vary according to the people involved and the person’s situation. Although broadly it is an indication that there is some emotional detachment and objectivity. We will hope to enter this stage and must pass through their own individual stages of dealing with the grief at the events. Coping with this collective sense of loss is ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience. However, in this case it may well be beholden to our politicians & leaders to help the country focus upon helping the remain voters see the future as being different and in a positive light. The continual political infighting, uncertainty and sense of inertia will only will prolong the natural process of healing.

I hope that this simple but effective model helps put those difficult emotions that the 48% may well be feeling presently. Of course many will not feel like this at all and have shrugged the whole matter off and moved on. However, the collective conversations had over the recent past suggest that many are experiencing one or at least some of those debilitating stages of grief and bereavement.

Lastly………

Whilst writing this post last week there has been some acknowledgment by Boris Johnson (of all people) that the country seems to be in a state of “contagious mourning”for the referendum results. Perhaps then the people of this country need to feel that there is hope to be able to move through these five stages successfully. Without a vision and a plan we may well be stuck in a place that is bad for people, business, communities and the economy as a whole.

It is this acknowledgement that the 48% may be feeling a collective sense of grief for a country and culture the once knew, that may help us move forward in due course. However, the current malaise and political vacuum will only exacerbate the anger, fear and frustration of the sense of bereavement experienced by many. So for all those people who voted remain, give yourself some slack and acknowledge the stages you may be going through as a natural progression. Its part of a process of moving forward and making it a landscape and country we will all feel collectively proud of once more.

David Dean is a principle work and coaching psychologist focussing on creating clarity & the vision for careers, business and professional development. Helping to make your career a nicer place to be. Check out Bright Sparks Coaching for more information and contact details.

References

E. Kübler-Ross, D, Kessler (2014) “On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss” Simon & Schuster UK

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The Smoke and Mirrors of Positivity

rejection-620x412We live in a world awash with the need to be positive and the need to play nicely with one another. Organisations, institutions & positivity guru’s have, according to Barbara Ehrenreich, hijacked positive psychology to espouse the virtues of “if you have nothing positive to say – don’t say anything at all“. Ehrenreich’s book “Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World” makes a compelling argument to suggest that positive thinking resulted in the misguided invasion of Iraq, global financial crash, the collapse of Lehman Bank and the sub prime mortgage scandal. Anyone brave enough to counter the positive delusions or the belief in the mandatory positivity, optimism and cheerfulness were told to shut up, sidelined or fired. The proposed collective wilful ignorance highlights that if the negatives were ignored then all would be fine. Clearly they were not fine.

The film “Up in the Air” (2009) George Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham showcases the art of spinning a positive scenario for people facing redundancy. The workforce will still feel the pain, rejection and abandonment but the business has been conducted positively for the company making the workers redundant.

Smoke & Mirrors

However, the illusion of positivity creates a sense of control upon us, that ensures that we inculcate all involved into the belief it will all be OK if we believe in positive thinking. Indeed there is a sense that we can change our world by just thinking positively – almost as if we have a positivity magnet that will attract whatever our hearts desire.

Positive thinking suggests a better life will suddenly appear when the latest positivity guru pop’s up with the next vacuous clichéd pseudo-inspirational quote to help us feel great.  By simply adjusting our attitude. Needless to say, it won’t happen. We may feel great for a little while but the guru has no more investment in you other than getting you to buy their next book, or attend the next nauseating “Billy Graham-esque” evangelical positivity conference. Indeed this perspective is akin to the Pollyanna Syndrome (or positivity-bias), defined as being when someone who is blindly or foolishly optimistic, almost delusional.

Its Never as Simple as Negative and Positive

Clearly, not everyone will agree with Barbara Ehrenreich’s world view. However, we arrive at a point that rational realism and an emotional agility is missing from or organisations and within our daily lives. There are countless common sense ideas on how to become positive and happier; be kind, count your blessings,work less, spend more time with friends and family & everything in moderation. Of course there is every reason to believe that this is not a panacea to becoming happier. According to positive psychologists Dr Todd Kashdan & Dr Robert Biswas-Diener (2015) we have gone about promoting happiness and positivity in all the wrong ways. We are encouraged to ignore negativity and focus upon the positives. Indeed we don’t actually need to choose between a negative or positive but move toward a more emotionally agile to match our emotions to the situation.

Clearly being happy & positive is a good thing and beneficial to us all in our lives. However, “in a world where rejection, failure, self doubt, hypocrisy, loss, boredom, annoying and objectionable people are inevitable (the authors) reject that the notion of positivity is the only place to look for answers” (Kashdan & Biswas-Diener 2015).  So what is the answer to gain an emotionally agile life, to be in a better position to embrace both positive and negative emotions to promote “wholeness”  (Kashdan et al 2015). Indeed the authors go on to cite a number of evidenced based studies that extol the virtues and how the affects of negative emotions are in fact more beneficial and life affirming than positive in some instances. Moreover a  great deal of memories and learning experiences develop when we are experiencing negativity or dis-comfort in one shape or form. Learning to live with negative emotions and giving them space to help us see that boredom is the affect of not enough stimulus (but can stimulate creativity), or feeling guilt because we have crossed a moral line somewhere. This information is telling us we just need to adjust something in our lives and, more to the point, we can tolerate these emotions and the discomfort they sometimes bring.

The belief we need to control our perceived negative emotions may be wrong, and that the cult of the positive is stifling emotional growth. Without promoting the emotional intelligence necessary to be able to feel guilt, shame, disgust or fear etc, and how to use the action tendencies or feedback being given we will just have an indeterminate “bad” feeling. As a result want to move away from the pain and discomfort that may just help us become balanced and emotionally happy.

More often than not we can’t actually categorise human emotion we feel so cannot use the information provided by them as we do not have a construct for them. Just end up with a bad feeling or just don’t have the words to describe how we feel.  So although at times we may have a preponderance of negative emotions in our lives, the key is the become more aware and to clarify them. As a result these emotions no-longer have the toxicity that we associate with them.

And Finally………………..

I appreciate that if you got this far with this post you have gone way beyond the call of duty. However, the positivity illusions lead us to suppress those range of negative emotions that will help us grow and hopefully listen to a fear or anxiety that things may going wrong around us. How many times have we been to an interview and felt the disappointment of not doing very well or the entrepreneur who is narcissistic or the arrogant belief that their business will succeed.

Optimism & positivity serves a purpose and will help the job seeker and the entrepreneur however, without these repackaging so-called negative emotions the entrepreneur is unlikely to make the business work or the next interview will go better as we need these motivations. Negative emotions do not need to be enacted upon so acknowledging this is what anger feels like for example is enough, or maybe we need to use the triggers of the feeling to understand how we have arrived at the point of anger and frustration. Therefore having a choice to take time out to recognise things aren’t great currently and not being bamboozled by those espousing positivity, will give us all the space to know we will be just fine and we will survive these feelings.  Indeed our emotions act as a metaphysical thumbs up or thumbs down, letting us know how we are doing and what to pay attention to.  Recognising these negative emptions will help us to become healthier and more emotionally agile to manage situations and have the tools to springboard us to happier positive life.

 

References 

Ehrenreich, B. (2010) “Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World” Granta, London

Kashdan, T. B & Biswas-Diener, R. (2015)  “The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self” Plume Books, New York

The Home Workers Strategy (whilst still having a life)

A messy desk at homeA lot of people tell me that moving toward home working is easy, just decide one day that its going to happen and there you go…………..right? Without a plan and thinking thoroughly about your run and jump into home working you might want to think again. Interested well read on.

Many organisations for lots of different reasons close offices and decide that the workforce can work from a home base. Generally there is a shrug of the collective shoulders, you pick up your laptop, a phone and off you go. No planning, no discussions at home of what it may mean to the family or how you will manage the available space.

Mum’s and Dad’s going back to work after a baby might not want to be away from their precious one, so this options will help them get back to the work they love. Again jumping in with both feet might work but when you plan the home working thing with work and family in mind its potentially a win win situation.

Here is a quick check list of things I use to help business and individuals move positively toward home working bliss.

  • Get the right technology and support for technology sorted out quickly. Being on your own to sort out broken computers, sufficient broadband, mobile phone signal etc can be challenging. Make sure you have a back up system for both files and hardware , so the stress of things going pop is reduced.
  • Talk to the family. Ensure that families and especially children understand what is happening. Let them have their input into the transitional process.
  • Decide on where you will situate your office space. This goes back to families once more, as excess clutter and paper work can cause quite a lot of stress and conflict. A corner of a living room is fine but what disturbance will you get and what hours will you be able to work most productively without being bothered?
  • If you are lucky you can convert a bedroom or garage. Again spend time planning and setting this out so you feel you are at work and away from home.
  • Commute to work. Yes I know you are working at home but a trip to the newsagents or bakers in the morning helps you get your head in the right space for work.
  • Decide upon how to maintain your social connections. Meet colleagues at the many hotels with lobbies that have coffee shops and catch up with friends when you can.
  • Do not get dragged into working too long – presenteeism is a serious problem for home based working.
  • Keep technology away from the bedroom and yes I mean phones, TV’s and computers. You need your sleep to be effective at work and yes that means home based workers too.
  • Start a homeworkers coffee morning or lunch club. Great for small business owners to mix, get ideas & network.
  • Most of all enjoy the home working experience. Enjoy the flexibility and the chance for a better lifestyle for you and your family. Plus with planning get a great deal of work done whilst sitting at home.

So all is not lost for home based working just needs a bit of careful planning and bit of negotiation and most of all commitment to make it work. Good luck and most of all have fun with the change to more flexible working.

Call or email me for details of my strategies for successful home working and my upcoming book “How to Work at Home & Stay Sane”

Employability & the Autistic Spectrum?

AutisticDid you know only 15% of people with Autism are in full-time employment. All this despite 79% of people with autism on out of work benefits want to work according to the The National Autistic Society here in the UK. Some of the most satisfying coaching work is helping high functioning autistic or aspergers people access satisfying and fulfilling work. That said there are some specific challenges, just with anyone else finding a job, that can appear confusing and frustrating for the autistic individual concerned.

Though these challenges are not insurmountable and with careful planning and support for both candidates and employers, a good fit between role and person can be found. People with this learning disability have compatible levels of competence to their work colleagues, though can struggle to learn new tasks & perhaps experience problems transferring one task to another. However, the high functioning autistic person or aspergerian are renowned to bring a professional attitude, reliability and significant attention to detail to their work. I am sure your will agree a positive commodity that the individual can bring to the workplace and therefore should be encouraged and nurtured.   

So what is autism or aspergers? Well these learning disabilities are part of the autistic spectrum that impair social interaction and communication. Now immediately we have hit upon two areas of the workplace today that could be potential banana skins. We all work socially & generally solve problems in groups and teams, and there is an expectation for teams to communicate & gel together with everyone engaging with the work processes.  Autistic spectrum individuals can experience difficulties describing & expressing emotions that can lead on to organising specific work routines, adapting to unexpected outcomes and poor interactions with work colleagues. However, with support and some training in interpersonal skill & managing the anxiety of the processes involved, these problems can be managed effectively.

As you would expect there are levels of the learning disability and this article is not designed to provide a generalised step-by-step cure all for helping autistic people back to work. It is a individualised process of building confidence and self-esteem, helping the individual find what they are good at and preparing them for interviews etc. So what can be done to support more of the 79% autistic spectrum people into employment?

Clearly it is not a one size fits all program of support, however with a number of skills such as time management, interview skills & working with a potential employer that will no doubt help support. So here are a few points that may resonate with both job seekers, employed autistic/asperger individual & employers that may provide a place to start to address the issues.

  • Start by carefully planning what you want to to do. Look at your strengths and areas to work on to be sure there is a good job/career role fit. There is nothing more dispiriting than being in the wrong job.
  • Build confidence in your abilities, remember the positives of what you are great at and what you bring to the potential employer.  
  • Take time to manage the mental health aspects of stress and anxiety. Common issues for people looking for work but perhaps more so for autistic people. It is being unsure of unfamiliar circumstances that seems to create the anxiety. These problems can be managed with clear unambiguous language & coaching.  
  • Find out what is expected for the interview – both for employer and the candidate. Autistic people can take notes into the interview and a good employer will help the candidate through the process. That said interviews are stressful and especially for people who do not necessarily understand non-verbal communication and some abstract competency based questions 
  • Try to get work, volunteering experience and supported work when you can. A great way to find out if you can get on with the job and the potential employer.
  • Look into interpersonal skills training & coaching to help you recognise the verbal & non-verbal communication in the workplace.
  • Help the employer make the the reasonable and practicable adjustment to help you manage work. You may need more short breaks, be near natural light or get some fresh air regularly. Working with your supervisor closely will help manage these and many other adjustments at work.    
  • One for career coaches – do not use metaphor or euphemisms with autistic people keep the language clear and unambiguous.

Needless to say, this list is not a one size fits all as mentioned earlier, but with good support the autistic/aspergers candidate can find satisfying work that will help them live an independent and fulfilling life. Support is available from a number of different agencies and privately, so find an agency you can work with and within your budget. There are few services for adult job seekers which is a little disappointing considering the pool of untapped workers & candidates available. So don’t despair autism & aspergers are challenging learning disabilities but with support there are a world of possibilities awaiting. Drop me a line or call to hear about the inspirational stories of people with these conditions finding their way into work. 

 

At Home at Work (and how to stay sane!)

images (27)Having worked from a home-base whilst employed and now working at home working for myself, I do thoroughly understand what it takes to stay sane working at home. Having said that I am sure my friends and family may doubt my sanity, let alone the home working part. Less said about that the better.

Now according to the Office of National Statistics report (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lmac/self-employed-workers-in-the-uk/february-2013/index.html accessed 5/06/2014) here in the UK 58% of self employed people rely on working from a home base on a day-to-day basis  By June 2012 there were an estimated 4.2 million people in the UK who regarded themselves as self employed, compared to 3.8 million just before the start of the recession in 2008.

The detailed figures are –

  • 15% = 630,000 people work from home
  • 5% = 210,000 worked on the same grounds as their home (office in the garden)
  • 38% = 1,600,000 of self employed used their home as a base.

Delving a little deeper into the figures, self employed people work longer hours than employed people. Indeed a third of people stated they are working more than 45 hours per week, compared to just over a fifth of employed people. Needless to say there are some extremes in the hours worked, both of which show it is not easy to find a happy medium when self employed whist working at home.  At one end of the spectrum, 10.8% said they wanted to do more hours. At the other end of the scale, 22% are working more than 45 hours per week. So longer hours and a reliance of working in the place that they call home. Probably not a great combination if there is a family involved that may need the attention of the home worker involved.

So with the growth of home based working for a number of different jobs (farmers, plumbers & builders occupy largest proportion), how can we manage our working week successfully and stay sane? Here are a few tips to help you focus upon getting the job done whilst balancing your home-work life.

  • Try an independent co-working or hot-desking – Co-working will give you the opportunity to meet new people, work and talk about issues rather than mull over a problem or isolate yourself. Hot-desking is generally a desk or two kept clear in your organisation so you can attend the office during the week.
  • Socialise – try not to isolate yourself during your working week. Meeting people or even popping to the shops to clear your mind and help you to refocus on your work and help you keep connected to the face-to-face world.
  • Maintain your wellbeing – do some exercise and eat well. Avoid going to bed with your smart phone – you will not sleep well with technology in the room. Nothing more miserable than not sleeping well.
  • Find a workspace at home – sometimes harder said than done. Some lucky souls have a bespoke office at the end of the garden, plumbed in and powered up. Most of us make use of a spare bedroom or even a corner of a living room. Help your family manage the space so you can feel as though you are at work.
  • Commute to “work” – this may mean walking the dog, going for a run or buying a paper. Helps move you from home mindset to work mindset and vice versa. May help manage the separation between your home and work life as well.
  • Trial working from home before committing – not sure working from home is for you – trial it first. Give yourself a chance to experience it before committing. You will need a number of skills including, great time management, support from your organisation, dedication and commitment from your family to make it work.
  • Risk Assess your work space – make sure you are safe in your home office & comply with Health & Safety (H&S) policies and procedures.
  • Get some training in H&S – your line manager can help you out here
  • Get appropriate insurance – working at home may effect your home insurance (refer to previous point).
  • Eyesight Tests – if you use a computer or use display screen equipment get an eye test to make sure you can concentrate properly.

These are just a few of things you will need to consider for a sane life at work at home. Its not easy, but with most things in life its all about planning, planning and more planning. Start as you mean to carry on with a structure you can work with that manages your home life and work life. Learn to balance the needs from work, your wellbeing & your family commitments. Need more support on how to make this transition then just drop me a line for an informal chat about working at home and staying sane!

References

Office of National Statistics – Self-employed Workers in the UK, February 2013

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lmac/self-employed-workers-in-the-uk/february-2013/index.html

The Dependency of Work – work to live or live to work?

images (24)Now I have to admit the title is quite provocative but hopefully posed an interesting question for you. That question then is, are some of us dependant or even addicted to work and working? We may be perhaps but for many different reasons. Our life choices will probably mean we need to earn money to pay for a mortgage, a car, food etc, all pretty legitimate reasons to be in employment of course. Our patriotic contribution toward national taxation will support our countries economic status and services etc. So all worthy and wholesome activities to be engaged in. However, do we trade the security of paid employment for the dependency we then have on our employer?  Do we sometimes experience poor self esteem and lack of confidence that drives us toward poor mental wellbeing; as a result become addicted to the work we do?

Whist cogitating for this blog, I stumbled across a recent article by Adrian Furnham “Work Addiction” that seemed to trigger off a few more thoughts of my own. These latent thoughts had been there for some time, following my work designing & delivering employability programmes, meeting & coaching many people along the working spectrum. There is a balance between enjoying work and being enthusiastic about what you do, toward tipping over into distorted career & personal thinking, overwork, job insecurity, perfectionism and over competitiveness is difficult and may well depend upon circumstance and work culture.

The need to continually prove oneself in conjunction with an organisation that encourages rampant competition & toxic presenteeism, is likely to encourage the addictive and dependant work attitudes and beliefs. Thus a work-life balance is disapproved of and actively discouraged by the organisation and group culture. As Mr Furnham suggests ‘Studies on workaholics showed they held various beliefs. Work is about win-lose not win-win’. ‘ nice guys finish last’; ‘you prove yourself at work’. They strive against others and certain targets”. Easy to then imagine the link between poor organisational culture and addictive & dependant behaviours for the employee.

So the workaholic may well be addicted to work or more to the point the bolster it gives the poor confidence and self-esteem, job insecurity, competitiveness, control freakery and other distinct issues. Work over 50/60 hours per week these days suggests then there may well be addictive or dependant tendencies, but how can anyone recognise the signs.

  • Perhaps find it difficult to switch off and give more time to work than is necessary
  • Needing approval and the constant need for affirmation, power and position
  • Mobile devices on all day & night for the fear of missing out (FOMO) on important news or information
  • Compelled to “work to finish” regardless of the work/life consequences
  • Poor family & personal relationships
  • Stress and other health related conditions

Many symptoms that we all recognise at one point or another I am sure. Question is what do we do about it now that we are embedded in the highly pressurised work environments today. Primarily, knowing thy self can help. Take the cognitive behavioural models that help individuals recognise the events or the work is having an effect upon negative thinking styles (catastrophising), how you feel (stressed, anxious), the physical changes (feeling sick, headaches and nauseous) and behavioural ramifications to the environment. Indeed, the behaviour change can emanate its self in unhealthy self medication with drink or smoking. Though more to the point be able to recognise the toxic events and take action to mediate them with positive and active problem solving and actions.

With our coaching support or self-help, this model will help you understand the reason for the work dependency and either support a transition toward healthier work/life balance or coming to terms with the work you do and managing it accordingly. Also consider mindfulness, stress relieving exercise, socialising with friends and family and any other activities that can help regain a sense of perspective between the work and life balance.

Of course no one size fits all, though it is clear enjoyable and fulfilling work, whatever you do is beneficial for wellbeing. Being dependant & addicted to your work with all the consequences may not be, that will sadly have a negative impact on both the person concerned and the people around them too.  So is it working to live or living to work…………..over to you!

 References
A Furnham, In Psychology Today, Work Addiction – A Sideways View (Accessed 2/06/2014) http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sideways-view/201405/work-addiction

Mind Over Matter – Mindfulness meditation for day-to-day life

images mindMindfulness is the next big thing. Hell of a statement I know but with the internet awash with evidenced based models such as cognitive behavioural mindfulness & less evidenced based more aligned to spiritual meditation, how do people use mindfulness techniques? Clearly, neither technique is more or less successful just the model that works for an individual. Now then I have to declare my hand here, I subscribe to cognitive behavioural models of coaching and subsequently mindfulness. That said mindfulness is mindfulness and the premise is the same – to help people to relax, be less anxious, have less stress and to balance thinking to help to be in the moment by paying purposeful attention to the present moment.

There are two main mindfulness-based programmes. Both of which currently have a significant evidence base to support their effectiveness. These are the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Programme (MBSR) developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and the Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Programme (MBCT) developed by Mark Williams, John Teasdale and Zindel Sigal. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn developed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme in the early 70′s at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. This approach was initial thought as a programme to help sufferers of chronic pain and chronic medical conditions. Since its inception, MBSR has evolved into a common form of complementary medicine addressing a variety of health problems.

There’s increasing evidence that Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) could help to reduce our anxiety levels and teach us new ways to manage stress. The results of various clinical studies and research speak for themselves, highlighting benefits such as:

  • A 70 per cent reduction in anxiety
  • Fewer visits to your GP
  • An ongoing reduction in anxiety three years after taking an MBSR course
  • An increase in disease-fighting antibodies, suggesting improvements to the immune system
  • Longer and better quality sleep, with fewer sleep disturbances
  • A reduction in negative feelings like anger, tension and depression
  • Improvements in physical conditions as varied as psoriasis, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

The evidence in support of MBSR is so strong that almost three-quarters of GPs think it would be beneficial for all patients to learn mindfulness meditation skills (http://www.bemindful.co.uk/ – accessed 8/04/2014)

So with the weight of evidence how can we use mindfulness in our day-to-day busy lives. Having completed the training for Cognitive Behavioural Mindfulness to help my coaching clients focus upon stress at work and at home, I have a few quick and easy exercises to incorporate into your day-to-day life.

  1. Walking Meditation – this is not easy as people can feel very self-conscious. However, feeling your feet on the ground as you walk and being quiet concentrating on your breath, can help to cultivate relaxed attention.
  2. Mindful Break – day-to-day activities at work can be time consuming and stressful. For a few moments turn away from your work station, close your eyes, clear your mind and focus on your breathing. Try to remain “in the moment” allow thoughts to flow into your mind and let them flow out, accept them and let them go. Bring yourself slowly back into the present and remember mindfulness is to help you to pay attention to the moment and not necessarily make sense of anything particular.
  3. Breathing – I remember when in training a great way to focus upon your breathing for mindfulness. Take your left or right foot, focus upon breathing in and up through your foot, leg, belly, chest and out though your head. Odd I know but really good relaxation. Try reversing the breathing – though your head and out through the sole of your foot.
  4. Get outside –  try to do your walking meditation in an open green space if you have one. Feel the environment and the grass beneath your feet, rather that the day-to-day worries. Hear the birds, the rustling of the leaves and the breeze on your face and skin. This will allow you to enjoy the moment and the place your are in rather that the “auto pilot” nature of modern life.

So there you are just a few tips to help you with a few mindfulness techniques that will not necessarily draw too much attention to what you are doing. As mindfulness expert, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, says:

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

Don’t feel limited by these techniques feel free to mix and match to fit them into your life anyway you can. When you apply yourself almost anything can be done mindfully, I will leave that thought with you! Individually these steps may seem small, but you might be surprised at the effect they can have. If you would like more information or more techniques please drop me a line and tell me what you think about mindfulness.