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Future wellbeing trends for 2015

09 January 2015

Future wellbeing trends for 2015

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Recent years have seen a huge focus on stress reduction initiatives. As we move into 2015, employers are likely to move away from a problem solving approach and move towards a positive and proactive approach to prevent employees from getting sick in the first place..

Resilience training is set to become all the rage. Unlike stress reduction initiatives, which tackle negative situations and problematic states of mind, resilience training involves increasing the ability of employees to stay healthy under pressure.

But what does it mean to be resilient? And how can you actually make someone more resilient?

What does it mean to be resilient?

There are currently two schools of thought when it comes to resilience training. The first seeks to equip employees with ‘thicker skin’ so they can become less sensitive to whatever life or the workplace throws at them.

The problem with this approach is that although we often associate resilience with being strong, tough or even hard, the fact is we can’t equip employees with an impenetrable emotional armour and nor would we want to. Just imagine how indifferent, insensitive and utterly lacking in empathy workers would become towards one another and customers if every negative comment simply washed over them, without affecting them in the slightest.

Conversely, nor do we want employees to be so sensitive that an off-the-cuff remark wounds them so deeply, or annoys them so much, that they can’t stop thinking about it.

The second approach isn’t to stop people from experiencing the emotions that arise naturally during the course of a busy, challenging day at work. Instead, it’s to equip them with the ’emotional readiness’ required to quickly process and act on those feelings, instead of allowing them to fester inside them.

Pack all your troubles in your old kit bag

Whenever I’m asked to define ‘emotional readiness’, I like to use a camping analogy. People who are good at camping aren’t necessarily hardier than the rest of us, but they’re almost certainly better prepared.

Talk to anyone who enjoys camping and you’ll find they have a good section of their garage or garden shed dedicated to storing everything from tents, groundsheets and gas burners to waterproofs, wellies and windbreakers, as well as warmer weather cool packs, picnic rugs and portable fridges. Whatever the weather, they’re ready.

The chances are if you went camping and hated it, you simply weren’t prepared. Which brings us back to emotional resilience, just as you can increase your physical resilience by preparing and teaching yourself to use the right equipment for challenging situations, you can also increase your emotional resilience by putting coping mechanisms in place to support you through difficult times, before you actually need them.

The measures required to become emotionally ready for mentally testing times include things like having a trusted person on standby who you feel able to offload with and confide in, even if it’s just a close family member; or the number for a counsellor at the end of the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) helpline.

Other important measures include the ability to unpick problems and see the bigger picture. Again something we can do with relative ease when it's someone else’s problem or we’re not under pressure, but when our back’s against the wall, it's all too easy to keep focusing on the urgent stuff and lose sight of the important stuff.

Get your emotional five-a-day

Just as digesting vitamins and minerals every day can keep us physically healthy, we also need vital emotional nutrients. Typical sources include regular contact with family and friends, finding the horizon and emptying our minds for five minutes every day, making time to enjoy a hobby or indulge a passion, and participating in endorphin-releasing exercise. Eating well and getting enough sleep represent more obvious ingredients, even if more often than not we’re guilty of giving them insufficient attention.

Although many of these ‘emotional vitamins’ have proven physical benefits, they also play an important role in keeping our self-esteem and emotional resilience high, so that unexpected or unpleasant life events don’t overwhelm us.

Of course, not everyone manages to consume the recommended daily minimum of five different fruits or vegetables every day. Likewise, it’s not always possible or even necessary to wolf down all our emotional nutrients in one go, provided we expose ourselves to them throughout the week. It’s also worth noting that if your current life circumstances make it difficult to get a particular emotional nutrient (for example, we all know how sleep deprived new parents can become), it’s essential to top up on others, such as claiming that five minutes to totally switch-off and relax once a day.

This is often easier said than done, it requires conscious effort if you’re not used to stepping back to reconnect with the bigger picture and recharging yourself each day. Once again, resilience training can help your workforce to develop the skills they need to stay mentally healthy, so that when work, or events outside of work, put them under extra pressure, they’re much more likely to find a positive way through it without incurring any negative mental health problems.