Are you obvious (or turning a blind eye) to situations that result in distress, and those subsequent behaviours that exacerbate this? Do you know the difference between eustress – that positive buzz that comes with those tasks or situations that feel achievable – and distress – the result of challenges or situations where that motiving and ‘positive buzz’ has gone away. Over a sustained period (which doesn’t have to be long) distress changes mind spaces and alters behaviour, leaving work-day life to feel never-ending, unbearable and intolerable.
What type of day did you have today?
The demanding day.
The day you think so much you cannot think. You have no space, and you’re running off a constant feeling that something will be missed. Everyone wants a little piece of you, as does your “to-do” list. A once appetising lunch sits half eaten on the table, as your eye blur in front of a screen of a thousand emails all screaming for your attention. Your eyes, mind and feet run here, there and everywhere, even though you just want to stop. This is the demanding day. How do you cope with such a day?
The slow day.
For some this is a dream – a day to catch up after that demanding day where nothing got done. For others this is a reality. Every day is slow.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
The mind is under stimulated, only excited by the idea of having something to do. You go home feeling a little numb, a little bit drained and a little bit frustrated. It’s a different type of drain though, a feeling of dissatisfaction. “I could be doing more!” “I should be doing more!”
How do you cope with such a day?
The same-same day.
Ever stop to think about the fact that the metro trains in the London, NY, Paris tubes have drivers? Deep down in the dark, every day, the same: drive, stop, drive, stop “stand clear, doors closing”. It’s the same-same every day: same hand movements, same motions, same everything. Can you imagine the mental strength it would take to endure this? Apparently they get paid very well but what about those in similar situations who don’t? The same-same day. Mind boggling. How do you cope with such a day?
The bad day.
The day that does not feel good at all. Your whole mind space, body space, face space,
just like the work you produced or the feedback you weren’t expecting. Or perhaps it was the looming realisation that you just don’t want that same-same or demanding day, every day. The bad day. You thought this and now you feel that. It’s a bad day. All because of one thing you did, or didn’t do. All because it simply wasn’t good enough. How do you cope with such a day?
The really bad day.
Is it that group of people you just don’t relate to? Maybe that boss who treats you like you’re no good or just doesn’t like you? Even worse, that colleague who’s making suggestions, remarks about the way you look? You feel uncomfortable. You feel on the outside because of something you can’t change. You’re finding it hard to do your work as the feelings that come with this day become way too consuming. The workplace is tainted for you and you’re struggling to know what to do about it. How do you cope with such a day?
So how do you really cope with such a day?
The extreme gym session.
Inside. Hot. Sweaty. You’re in a room filled with other people burning off the same negative stuff. Maybe it’s extreme yoga, power yoga or power yoga in extreme heat. Push, run, jump. Whatever it is, it’s harder, better, stronger, faster. In anger.
That first sip. Pop, glug. Hmmm. It’s deliciously mind numbing, sending you into a blissful realisation that everything is fine …because you have wine. Switch on to switch off.
Whatever pill makes you feel better.
At the traffic, the person who wasn’t looking when they walked, the bird, the dog, the child who didn’t do what you told them to do, your partner. Shout. That’s right. Get angry.
Or don’t shout.
Say nothing at all. Sit there in your head and feel awful. Tell yourself how bad everything is, how bad everyone is, or how bad you are. Feels good to feel bad. Right?
Oh yes. Take control. Check those emails, plan ahead, write the to-do list. Get more work done. It will help you feel more prepared, more in control of everything that will take place tomorrow, all because today didn’t feel like a good day. Let’s prove (to who?) that this is not the case.
After years of enduring (accepting, possibly even contributing to) a workplace where everyday was a demanding day, not only did I lose a sense of connection with myself (my body and my mind as the importance of everything around me took precedence), I lost connection with life around me. With many factors placed outside of our control, it can be incredibly demoralising to be told we have a power over such situations. I was certainly a little frustrated to read the latest findings emphasising the role of the individual (not the organisation) in creating healthy wellbeing for employees. What! Another thing on my to-do list. Another thing I have to take responsibility for!
Eventually though, common sense prevailed. An organisation can implement an array of “well being focused” policies and activities, but how effective are they going to be if your own attitudes and behaviours don’t support them? You might put blame on everything around you, yet still check those emails outside of work, want to squeeze that extra task in, tell yourself it has to be perfect, exercise in frustration and anger or spend an evening brooding over (fearing) what has been and what’s to come.
It’s so easy to think that if you don’t do “this” you’re going to fall behind; to ignore the benefits of rest, health and pleasure on work (and life) performance. How are you getting in the way of yourself? And how are you (and those sneaky little judgements) getting in the way of others? I mentioned life outside around you, this wasn’t just a reference to your life. Distress comes in many forms, so we can’t make the mistake of believing only certain situations deserve attention.
As employees, as leaders, you’re unlikely to endorse wellbeing focused cultures (or ways of living) if you don’t think they’re of any use. By that I mean, you don’t think issues are real or people need such support. If positive “life coping” techniques are the strongest means to positive well being, then we need to review the not-so-positive coping techniques that are getting in the way … behaviours and attitudes included.
Lots of love,