In this guest post, practising therapist and Head of Wellbeing at Splendid Collective Jane Latham shares her advice for agencies, in-house teams and professionals on how to keep a balanced mind in this fast-paced industry.
While calendar moments like Mental Health Awareness Week serve as great reminders, mental wellbeing is a conversation that needs to be sustained above and beyond crunch points and calendar hooks. But for employers and professionals alike, thinking about tackling mental health and wellbeing can be daunting – perhaps now more than ever, given the range of challenges currently being faced in the industry.
As a ‘Human Givens’ therapist, I’m a firm believer that The Human Givens approach is a helpful starting point. This approach is based around the insight that, as humans, we have emotional needs which evolved to support our survival as a species. They can be categorised into eight need states: security, control, status, headspace, inclusion, connection, development and purpose. In the workplace particularly, when our needs for security, control and status are not being met, we will feel stressed, undermining our ability to perform to the best of our ability across all aspects of our life.
On a busy day, it’s easy to ignore the signs of stress building up and continue to plough on, ending the day feeling tired and emotional. However, if we can start to recognise how we are feeling, moment to moment, we can develop an awareness of any emotional arousal, and take action to address it before stress takes hold.
Using a calming technique such as slow breathing can then help. It works because it helps access the rational mind, so we can validate the emotions and put them into perspective as understandable, given the circumstances. With practice we can also learn to override any negative self-talk and be kinder to ourselves, putting us in a better place to address the issue that has arisen.
Identifying which of our three basic emotional needs are being undermined can also help to inform the best course of action. For example, a heavy workload will undermine our need to feel in control of our lives, as well as our needs for status and security, as we start to worry that we can’t do everything. We can restore a sense of control by writing down a schedule for the week and meeting with a manager to discuss priorities. We could also choose as our next task something that makes us feel good about ourselves, or remind ourselves of all the things that went well in the past week, restoring our sense of positive status.
This simple approach can be applied to the people we work with, too. Imagine being let down by a member of your team missing a deadline. Any feelings of anger that arise can be validated as understandable given the situation, but do not need to be expressed strongly to the team member, who is likely to be feeling pretty stressed already. Instead, being kind and understanding towards them will help restore their sense of security and status, lowering their stress levels and therefore enabling them to get on and complete the work. Afterwards, you can review the situation, discuss how to meet future deadlines together and learn from it.
It’s worth recognising that kindness, towards ourselves and others, can be a powerful tool for restoring emotional balance, and it’s a theme I return to throughout all my wellbeing workshops at Splendid.
Fundamentally, the emotional needs framework helps to remind us that everyone is human. Over the longer term, applying this simple approach to all that we do at work will help us to feel better about ourselves and be more understanding of the needs of others, improving performance across the business.
Jane currently divides her time between her Head of Wellbeing role at Splendid and seeing private clients as a Human Givens therapist. Jane will host the free webinar ‘Feel Human at Work: an Introduction’ for all professionals working in the communications industry on Wednesday 18th May from 5-6pm. Learn more and register your place here. Further information on the Human Givens approach can be found at HGI.org.uk