Compassion is vital in the Workplace

Compassion is essential at work. Sadly even workplaces which are by nature supposed to be compassionate are often not, especially when scratched beneath the surface. 

The workplace can be a difficult area for many of us at times.  We usually work in teams, may have deadlines or targets, we may be placed within a hierarchy, change could be forced upon us, we may feel under-stimulated or over stretched, we may be observed and  judged, things may not be fair and equal and we don’t always feel in control. Phew!  You can see why we need to be resilient in this modern age.  Sadly we don’t always have huge reserves of resilience and may feel below par and not always handle such challenges well.

Problems at work can really knock people and there are huge costs involved – both the impact on people’s lives and financial consequences for society as a whole. People may suffer from stress (work) related illnesses and reactive depression.

It’s true that life can be  complicated and often problems outside of work can increase our difficulties within the workplace and everything can get a bit mixed up. People may be dealing with big issues such as grief, chronic loneliness or perhaps struggling in a relationship.  Lets face it;  life is life, we all face difficulties from time to time.  Employers need to understand this and cater for this with compassion, enabling employees to thrive rather than struggle.

Schemes such as the Mindful employer exist but often they fall short of protecting employees and don’t work.  We need more than tick boxes, we need a culture which supports people rather than punishes people.  We need ethical employers who act with kindness and understanding. We need real living, breathing compassion.  

Managing Mental Health in the Workplace from the Mental Health Foundation.

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BE COMPASSIONATE 

Some people seem inherently more compassionate (it is active) than others, however the good news we can learn about compassion and we can strengthen and develop our compassion muscle.

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Please Don’t Take Things To Heart

Image for Milan's post Nov 2014

We ‘depressives’ are prone to taking what others say too seriously. And if taking what they say too seriously flips us into depression, then it’s just not worth it.

Those who are prone to despair, for whatever reason, I give the short label ‘depressives’; I am not an advocate of psychiatry. It is just a convenient label.

I could call us ‘despairives’ but it doesn’t feel right, so I am stuck with the term depressive. By this term I mean all those who may be doctor-labelled depressives: acute, chronic, bipolar, those ”with some mood disorder”, as I have been labelled.

But back to the main point: it is simply not worth it to take what people say too seriously, whatever it is, if it triggers a period of gloom.

Why do I say this?

Well because most people who say whatever we don’t like, or can’t cope with or who say something hurtful actually mean the opposite. They want to help. The few that don’t should be ignored, because if we take on board their unhelpful, even cruel intentions, then we are fools who suffer periods of doom and gloom. And how many times have we had those dark periods triggered? Is it really worth it. No!

Having said all that, I do know it is not easy to not take offence sometimes. I also know these things people say that trigger our periods of despair can be skilfully ignored more often in future. They can, in fact be totally ignored at some point, when we have enough of the right insights, for our own character. In other words we do not have to suffer so much, and we can never again, be driven by what others say. Our happiness cannot in the end depend on others.

A part of these two latter healthier responses, not reactions of despair, is to own our part in the matter. It takes two to tango, karmically, and we don’t have to take the bait by swallowing whole, or in part, what others say. If we can own how we take offence, whether it is meant or not, we can do the opposite. We can respond in a way that is healthy, whether people mean offence or not, and most don’t! For instance, doctors: GP or psychiatrists may not have the understandings or sayings that help me, but I take their good intentions, and skilfully sidestep the un-useful content.

I have sidestepped the boulder of such triggers more and more over the years, because otherwise I realise I would have wasted more time in despair-land.

In tandem with this I have focussed more on the friends who can and do help me more, and persisted more in communicating with them, however difficult that enterprise of deep communication may be. I hope you will do this and thus be kinder to yourselves, and have more well-being in your life.

(See also “For Better Mental Health, Cultivate Friendship” on this blog)

Milan Buddha Ghosh

Leeds with hot weather, good for wellbeing? Or is it a double edged sword – take our poll!

It’s fabulous weather here in Leeds at the moment!  How does it affect your sense of wellbeing? Take our poll! 


leedsweatherjuly2013This amazingly beautiful weather can be a godsend but it can also act as a trigger and leave me feeling that I should be living a different life…

Over the last few days I have had an increased sense of relaxation and generally felt healthier and happier.   I’ve been eating more fruit and salads and my energy has increased.  I’ve been trying to harness this increase in energy and be more active – which has involved undertaking  a new morning ritual of a ‘Mini-run’  along with a spot of yoga, my own brand ( a few stretches in the flat! ).

However sunny days have also been known to trigger me into thinking that I should have my life more on track, more organised, more settled – just somehow different ! Perhaps perfect?  These thoughts come with the sense that if things were different that I could embrace the day in technicolor . In the past I have felt this acutely. A sunny day can sometimes bring sadness to the forefront.

Here’s a little poll to take part in, not to be taken too seriously – just a little bit of fun, and food for thought! 

Embracing the present regardless of problems… 

Living in the present, is something I strive for and practicing Mindfulness has helped me with this.  Noticing a beautiful flower, taking time to appreciate an exquisite fragrance and feeling the warm breeze on my skin can really help me appreciate the moment! (I even attempted wearing shorts yesterday, only to the nearby post box I hasten to add.)

Seasonal changes do influence my mood, being aware of this helps me remain objective and keeping a sense of stability is something I aim for.  I must admit I find this a much easier task in the sunnier months.  However at times, especially my younger self – has had the tendency to be a little bit too hyper with too much sun.  But  I do love the outdoor life  which seems so much easier to access in the sunshine.  I also adore the increased sense of community that comes with the summer months.

Vicky

Beating myself up, stress and self compassion..

Beating myself up.

This act of beating myself up, doesn’t always consist of a round of negative thoughts, although sometimes it does.  Often it’s a feeling. It’s a self-critical and harsh feeling. It   feels like a ferocious participant in an inner fight, it’s got the boxing gloves on while the other opponent trembles.

My Inner Critic sounds like a psychological cliché but it feels like a fitting phrase.  Through therapy, Mindfulness practice and reading a lot,  I’ve learnt to become more aware of this critic.  I am sometimes able to question it (me) with gentleness and compassion. Sometimes I can feel my inner world soften and respond, which is quite a beautiful feeling.

Of course I still beat myself up! I’m not always aware, especially when things are difficult. I still struggle with stressful situations. When I should be bathing in self compassion and eating healthy foods to counteract the stress, I still find myself gorging on doughnuts, beating myself up and doing the opposite of what helps,  Ironic! But I think I am getting a little bit better.

I read the book ‘Stop Beating Yourself up and leave insecurity behind’ by Kristin Neff – It’s about Self Compassion. It’s one of the most helpful books I have ever read.

Thank you for reading x

The Present, a short film about a woman’s emotional journey to work.

Last year I took part in a film making project with the community group ‘Arts and Minds of Leeds.  A few of us, who were new to film-making were involved in this creative project which culminated in our short films being shown as part of last years Love Arts festival and The Leeds Film Festival – Film to Change event.

My film had a theme of emotional well-being and is about a woman who is struggling to manage stress and unhelpful patterns of thinking – which is causing her to be unhappy. However she manages to find some respite from this,   watch and you shall find out….

THE PRESENT 

The Present she unwraps is actually a gift which allows her to become more aware of  The Present moment.  We can worry about the future, ruminate about the past and dwell upon problems to the extent that it interferes with our quality of life and decreases our sense of well-being. This kind of thinking can be all-consuming and leave little space for anything else,  which may leave us feeling depleted and stressed. Research has shown that purposefully paying attention to the present moment is a technique which can help to manage this. Once the woman in the film has opened the present – she is then able to appreciate the beautiful roses on her desk that she previously hadn’t noticed.

It’s not always easy to change the way we think or to manage difficult emotions but there are techniques which can help. I had recently attended a Mindfulness Meditation Course which was the inspiration behind the film.

Sophie MacWhannell is the actress who played the woman in the film.  She is Leeds-based, very talented, passionate and extremely supportive.  I am going to plug Sophie because she was so fantastic !  Not only has she acted in various plays and short films but she also performs as part of a comedy improvisation group called Monkeyheads AND is part of *Urban Sprawl.  She recently performed with Urban Sprawl in the play;  ‘Wrecked’ which was also part of the Love Arts Leeds festival. So if you need a talented and dedicated actress – look Sophie up!

Thanks also to Carl Allport, who was the course tutor and teaches at Leeds Metropolitan University, to Arts and Minds and also to Inkwell.   Also thanks to everyone else who took part whose names are in the credits, it was very collaborative and nice to work in a great team.

Hope you enjoyed it, would love any feedback, thanks Vicky 🙂

Also If you are interested in taking part in the making of a film contact Arts and Minds.

*Urban Sprawl is Yorkshire’s only homeless theatre company. Formed in August 2004, we are committed towards using theatre as an arts engagement tool to help people affected by homelessness and related issues.Urban Sprawl meet every Monday at Multiple Choice 5-8 pm.If your interested in finding out more email us at urb@urbansprawl.org.uk

 

Stress: Portrait of a killer, A documentary and review

Stress! Yes, we all know too much of it is bad. But sometimes ‘I’m stressed’ becomes so prolonged it turns into Mental Illness. Robert Sapolsky is a Neurobiologist at Stanford University and features in the excellent documentary which I have linked to the blog:  ‘Stress: A portrait of a killer’.

Sapolsky studies the behaviour of Baboons in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. He talks about the origins of stress as a fight/flight response. The stress response kicks in so we can run away from tigers in the wild or so we can chase our prey. The problem with humans is we don’t run away from tigers anymore but this same response is still activated. We perceive situations to be life-threatening such as worries regarding mortgages, traffic jams, work issues and a whole host of others.  Sapolsky claims that whilst in the wild the stress response is activated then switched off – (you either survive or die!), with humans the response is being prolonged and that we are struggling to switch it off.

In the documentary Sapolsky suggests that people in subordinate roles in life are more prone to stress. Having a low ranking job in a hierarchical organisation can increase one’s levels of stress. He explains that these levels of stress (caused by low-ranking position) can be offset by having some status or a sense of control outside of work (for example becoming the captain of a football team.)

Within the Baboon Troup, the lower the rank of the baboon, the more likely it will suffer with stress-related diseases. However Sapolsky observed a tragedy which resulted in a change of culture within the Troup and this change resulted in a decrease in  the amount of incidences of  stress-related disease.  The more dominant and aggressive males of the Troup contracted TB and died, this changed the dynamic of the group. The group became less hierarchical and less threatening and had more emphasis on grooming and sharing, which in turn resulted in less occurences of stress.  The documentary suggests that the culture that we live or work in has a huge impact on our stress levels. 

I loved this documentary. I came away inspired and that is why I decided to upload it to the blog. I can see how my stress has been increased in situations where I had less control and where I was exposed to uncertainty and unpredictability. I think about situations both in childhood and adulthood. Having an understanding of the stress response and what may cause it has helped me manage things a little bit better.

Sapolsky suggests some Stress-Management techniques on the Stanford University Website. His suggestions include: Modifying your environment to have some control and have an understanding of what control you do have, being objective and gaining perspective on things (are you really being chased by a tiger?), having a social support network, practising stress management activities daily and not just at the weekend. Of course sometimes we may need extra help and support to reduce stressors from our lives. Sometimes we can increase our sense of control in small ways and take little steps, perhaps by organising some paperwork or by tidying up – small steps often help.

I hope you enjoyed this documentary..

Thanks Vicky 🙂

How Self Compassionate are you? Be your own best friend!

Hopefully this quick film we made illustrates the value of being kinder to ourselves especially during stressful times.

There is a field of work known as ‘Self Compassion’ which has its origins in Buddhism.  If you are interested in finding out more about self compassion I can recommend looking into the works of Dr Paul Gilbert, Dr Kristin Neff and Dr Christopher Germer.

It was our first attempt at filming on our community reporter course.  There is some background noise but hopefully the captions help diminish this.  We had a great workshop on filming and editing which was led by Jon Beech of Touchstone in Leeds.

I hope you enjoy the film

Vicky