Wellness at Work — Part 2

Your Mind

In part one, you learned how to prevent injuries at work and how to manage your physical symptoms if you have any. You learned how to achieve wellness at work despite having to perform strenuous physical duties.

But what if your duties are not physical? What if you are expected to perform strenuous, or rather dull, mental duties?

It is still up to you to feel sane.

Here is how you can get started:

  1. Music

Music can help anyone get through a difficult work day or work task.

- Need motivation? Try an upbeat playlist (rock, pop, hip hop, dance, oldies, etc.).

- Need to focus and concentrate? Try brain wave instrumental music.

- Need to relax? Try classical music or nature sounds.

With the latest technology all you need is a device that plays music (Ipod, MP3 player, smart phone, computer, etc.) and a pair of headphones.

Some jobs don’t allow you to have headphones. See if the room you are working in allows background music. Maybe your coworkers, your classroom or your clients would appreciate music as well!

2. Self-Esteem at work

Some people don’t even notice they have low self-esteem at work because they don’t know the impact:

- Are you often anxious or stressed at work?

- Do you tend to stay silent because you are afraid you will be judged if you say anything?

- Are you scared of joining any group or taking a new challenge because you feel you wouldn’t be good enough?

- Are you scared of asking for that raise or promotion because you feel like you don’t deserve it?

- Are you scared of your boss?

- Do you find yourself saying yes to every command people throw at you because you are scared they won’t like you if you say no?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you probably have low self-esteem at work.

Contrary to popular beliefs, self-esteem is not a personality trait. You can improve it if you work on it. Key word: “you”

You are the one that needs to improve your self-esteem; your job or co-workers cannot do it for you.

Here are a few steps you can take as a start:

- Remind yourself of your qualities (what makes you an awesome person). This one can be difficult to answer. Imagine your friend is looking for a job that is exactly like yours, but with another company. Now imagine your friend is asking you what type of skills he needs to have in order to acquire that job?

Ex: Punctual, good communication skills, ability to use a map, a measuring tape, must have a driver’s license, need be able to calculate, lift 50 lbs, know how to manage a team, know how provide care, know how to fix a computer, etc. Whatever skills you need in order to be hired at your job are qualities that you have!

Make a list of them and remind yourself every day that some people out there cannot do what you do.

- Think about the last time you had a higher level self-esteem. What did you do that day? What thoughts were running through your mind? Try re-tracing those past events and remind yourself that it is possible to re-do some of those activities or get into that same mind set.

- Make a list of people that make you feel comfortable and try spending more time with them as opposed to the disrespectful people you know.

- Try on a new challenge. Get used to being embarrassed. Some challenges are meant to be left to experts, but some challenges are available for anyone with the guts to try them! Our self-esteem can improve significantly when we try something new/challenging and exciting. The difference between people with high self-esteem vs. low self-esteem is persistence. It is not talent. We seem to think people with high self-esteem are good at everything. Wrong. People with high self-esteem face their fears and try new challenges. They also know that failing is not a big deal and that failing is a way to learn and grow. People with high self-esteem embrace new challenges.

3. Compassion

We often think the purpose to having compassion is to make others feel good.

I know what you are thinking. Why should I have compassion for my boss if he is being such a ***? Why should I have compassion for my colleague who is always bragging or my client who is always complaining?

Because having compassion for others has its fair share of benefits for you too. Here are a few reasons why:

-Every one suffers. Behind every jerk, you can find a person who is suffering. Behind every complaint, there is someone who has a legit concern and is frustrated. Behind every self-centered person is someone who is insecure and often scared. Look for the sufferance behind the person’s behaviour.

-Find the common ground. Think of a time when you were a jerk to someone else, or a time when you were frustrated or insecure. You and that other person are both humans and you both went through the same type of suffering at some point.

-The Dali Lama puts it well when he says that, “when we think of alleviating other people’s suffering, our own suffering is reduced. This is the true secret to happiness.” This means, just thinking about relieving someone’s suffering is enough for us to feel better.

-Act on it. See how you can express your discovery with the other person. Let them know you understand their suffering and that you’ve been there. Let them know you wish them well and ask how you can help? This might not solve the problem, but it is enough for the person or their behavior not to have power over your life. It is enough to relieve your own suffering.

4. Gratitude

Gratitude is such a powerful tool, but it is difficult to cultivate. Sometimes we just forget to use it.

Gratitude is what you do when you realise how lucky you are.

-I am so lucky to be alive

-I am so thankful to have a job and to be able to work

-I am so grateful that …

Our brain has limited space, like a very small restaurant. When you use all of your space to entertain lousy thoughts: “I am not good enough” “I hate this job” “I hate the people I work with” “I am not getting paid enough” “Where is the weekend” “I am tired”, you don’t have no space left for uplifting and positive thoughts.

When you practice gratitude you fill your restaurant with positive and uplifting thoughts: “This job is not perfect but it is a stepping stone” “this job allows me to pay for my house which I love” “this job gives me the experience I need for my future project” “I don’t like that my co-worker is lazy, but I get to do more and learn more because of it” etc.

I agree that thoughts alone cannot solve your issues, but they are a good start:

If you spend enough time entertaining healthy & positive thoughts à you will immediately feel more relaxed and in control of your life à with time, your positive thoughts will inspire positive behaviors à positive behaviors, when invested into constructive actions, will solve a lot of issues.

5. Upgrade

Why are you working at that job? Have you ever looked for jobs that are more interesting for you in your workplace? — or maybe higher up the ladder?

Think you don’t have the skills?

I have personally worked for a department director of a federal level insurance company/bank. How he got that job? He started as a clerk with that same company and made its way up the latter!

Have you look for jobs outside your current work?

Have a look. Maybe there is a job opening out there you never thought would come up! Maybe looking around will make you realise you are actually happier exactly where you are!

6. Make Personal/Professional goals

Sometimes all we need is a side project or goal to work on. We often complain about work because it is all we seem to be thinking about. Find something else to focus on for a short while.

Try a walking challenge! Go out for a 15 minute walk every lunch break and see how many times you walk in a year. Compete with colleagues for fun!

Try an online class! You can learn something that will help you work more efficiently! You can even do an online class about something completely outside of your work field! Mix it up! Maybe some colleagues will love the idea and join you or will want to learn about it during breaks.

Read a new book! This can be anything from a novel to a self-help book. Maybe you can learn a thing or two about personal finance, or traveling, or how to cook healthier, or how to better manage your time, etc.

Try listening to audiobooks in your car!

7. Escape

Your mind needs to reboot, just like your muscles need to rest. Earlier we talked about taking breaks. Now let’s talk about how you can escape, mentally, for a few minutes.

If possible, remove yourself from your work station and go somewhere you can be alone. It does not have to be somewhere quiet, but somewhere people won’t distract you. If you can sit that is even better, but not needed.

Now you are going to shift your thoughts from focusing on the outside world to focusing on your body. How?

Start with your lips. Think about your lips, where they are located on your face and what they allow you to do (whistle, speak, kiss, etc.). Now think about your chin, then your cheeks, then your head and the roots of your hair. Think about your ears, your nose, your neck, your shoulders, etc. — All the way to your toes.

This will allow your brain to focus on one body part at a time and escape the everyday overload of information you receive at work: who you need to call; what projects you need to do; how many clients you have to see; the presentation you have to do; the paperwork that needs to be done etc.

The state of mind your brain is using to run your typical work day (logic and critical reasoning wave called betta) is not the same as the one that you use if you focus on your body parts (Deep relaxation wave called Alpha). This activity helps your brain to rest by taking a break of the beta state of mind and entering the alpha state of mind.

This can be done anywhere. All you need is 5 minutes.

8. Journaling

Journaling does not have to be about secrets and high school crushes. Journaling is about putting your thoughts on paper — simply.

Putting your thoughts on paper can allow you to organize them and maybe establish some type of order. This can help you gain clarity and allow you to focus more. Your brain loses a lot of mental energy when it has to carry a to-do-list around all day. Put it on paper.

Putting your thoughts on paper can help you see progress in your projects or goals by observing what you have accomplished vs. what needs to be done.

Putting your thoughts on paper can allow you to have a different perspective on your problems and solutions. Write your problem or idea down and put it away. Review its content the next day and see how you can move it forward.

Sometimes all you need is to write your issues on paper to stop them from overpowering your brain. A journal can be like a non-judgemental friend with a good listening ear. You had a bad day? Don’t let it follow you home. Write it down and then put it away. You had a good day? Write it down and use it as a pick me up down the road!

You don’t even need to write words. You can draw, scribble or brain storm!

Remember, our society has evolved with technology, but our brain is still very old fashioned. Sometime, you have a thought; idea; problem or project running around your brain for months and you can’t seem to move it forward. Maybe you even ran some ideas on your computer of cell phone but you are still stuck.

Try a good old pen and piece of paper. Sometimes all your brain needs is concrete images and a bit of hand writing for an idea to run its course!

We all know wellness at work is not just about your mind.

Don’t miss Wellness at Work — Part 1: Your Body

or Wellness at Work — Part 3: Your Colleagues

Julie Richard, BHSc, BSc(OT), MOT