How to boost and protect your psychological wellbeing

17th March 2020

I don’t know about you, but I love exercising. In fact, I try to walk several miles every day. I do it for various reasons, but above all for my physical health and mental wellbeing. I’ve always said it helps set me up for the day. But it does something else too. It helps me to deal with any stress I’ve had to deal with during the day.

When I’m working from home, as soon as my alarm goes off, I’ll get up, have a drink of water and nip out for a brisk 30-minute walk. And depending on where I’m working, I either do some yoga, more walking or body weight training in the evening. These are healthy habits I’ve created using a psychological model of behaviour change, which removes the barriers and encourages the right behaviours. Not one time – but every time.

Our work environments can impose many challenges which can potentially provoke anxiety such as social conflicts, interactions with supervisors, perceptions around failing at tasks and working in high risk environments. When we’re faced with situations that are challenging, our brain can identify these as threats. When we feel threatened, we become anxious and this switches on the body’s production of adrenaline and switches off the strategic part of our thinking – in other words, our clarity of thinking. It means we can end up reacting more impulsively and making errors of judgement and mistakes.

The good news is, it’s entirely possible to reverse these feelings of anxiety by moving the adrenalin out of our body. We can do this easily, by exercising or using breathing techniques. There are vast amounts of research which supports going for a walk to improve anxiety levels, as this supresses the sympathetic nervous system – the system which prepares our body to fight, flight or freeze. Plus, it energises us, makes us feel more positive and happier.

Okay, so what’s this got to do with health and safety? Well, once we understand how and why we react in challenging situations – we can then begin to understand why someone else may react in a certain way when they’re faced with a challenge. A challenge which, has the potential to result in them making a mistake.

Our everyday lives at work can be challenging and easily cause someone to make a mistake – we are human after all. Creating a culture though, where people are working in an environment where they have the opportunity to stop, take a break and think things through is easier said than done. We always have set goals, targets to reach and perceptions around what our line manager wants and what their line managers are expecting.

So, let’s start with small steps and create a habit. Take a lunch break – too many people skip their lunch break, or eat at their desks – go for a 30-minute walk or, use a breathing app for a 3-minute de-stress before sending that email. And remember, be kind to each other. After all, we’re living in a high energy, demanding and fast paced environment and we’re doing the best we can.

If you’d like to know more about how to create habits from a psychological perspective, please contact the Broadhead Global team.

Written by Sarah Prince – Health & Safety Leadership & Behaviour Specialist 

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