Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Ways to cope with returning to work

There are many reasons why we might have a significant amount of time off from work. Whether It’s maternity/paternity leave, illness or unemployment, the mere thought of returning to work can be quite unnerving.

There will probably be countless negative thoughts running around in your head. Will I remember how to do my job? Will my boss be angry with me? Will my colleagues treat me differently? How will I manage to get up on time every morning?

Forward planning

Returning to work doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, it can also be an exciting time. A bit of forward planning can help to avoid niggling worries and ease anxiety.

Before you return to work, ease yourself into your new routine by getting up at the required time and going to bed earlier so that your body starts to adjust to any new sleep patterns.

Do a practice run for a usual working day, from getting up in the morning and taking the kids to school (if necessary) to taking the commute to work. By doing a practice run, you can plan your time accordingly and minimise stressful situations.

Prepare meals and do household chores at the weekend (or on the days you’re not at work) so that you have less to worry about once you get home.

Catch up before you start

To lighten the load, it’s a good idea to spend a day at work before your start date to discuss your role and responsibilities. If someone has covered for you during your absence, they could run through both old and new procedures to refresh your memory and introduce you to any new systems. This could also be the perfect opportunity to catch up with work colleagues before you dive straight into work mode. Perhaps you could spend some time reading through emails and organising your workload. By easing yourself in gradually, you’ll hopefully find returning to work a little less intimidating and you might even start looking forward to it.

Stay healthy

Returning to work after a long break can be extremely tiring when you’re out of the swing of things. By eating a healthy diet and enjoying some exercise, you’ll not only find you have more energy and feel physically fitter, your mental wellbeing will benefit too.

Take a lunch break

When we’re snowed under with work and find ourselves constantly playing catch up, it’s tempting to work through our lunch breaks to get ahead. Although this might work as a quick fix, in the long run it can do more harm than good. It’s so important to take time out to clear our minds and escape from physical, emotional and mental stress. Even if it’s just for 20 minutes, try to get outside in the fresh air, eat your lunch away from your desk and replenish your water bottle.

Switch off

So many of us continue to think about work once we’re home, whether that’s discussing the day with our partner, reading emails or chewing over what we need to do the next day. Even though it can be difficult to switch off, we should try to avoid negative conversations, turn off the media and do something that relaxes our mind and body. You might want to put your favourite music on and cook up something special in the kitchen, take an evening walk or watch a film.

The website A Return To Work features a number of case studies about returning to work, which lets you read about real life situations.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Tips for reducing mental fatigue at work

Many of us will have experienced mental fatigue at one time or another in our lives and it’s no wonder with so many pressures from work. Continual strain can leave us feeling drained both mentally and physically, which can affect our motivation and energy levels as well as causing mental block, irritability and insomnia. If we ignore the signs of mental fatigue, it can eventually lead to stress and anxiety and, in some cases, depression or heart problems.

There are, however, a number of ways we can help prevent mental fatigue by taking a few simple measures.

Clear your workspace

When we’re busy, it’s easy to neglect our workspace, but the mere act of tidying and decluttering can have a positive effect on our minds. Not only will you be able to find things more easily, you will start to feel less stressed.

Allocating time

We all have different times of day when we feel that we're most productive and motivated, so try to allocate the right times to the right tasks. Completing the more mentally demanding tasks when you feel you're at your peak and leaving the simpler, more monotonous jobs for when you've less mental energy can massively increase your productivity at work.

Create achievable to do lists

Making lists is a great way to prioritise your workload and gain perspective on the tasks ahead. However, we can sometimes overdo it and cause ourselves more stress by trying to overachieve. Create realistic goals so that you actually see your list decreasing rather than increasing. By writing a new list each day, you're more likely to see your accomplishments rather than your failings and you will leave work feeling positive.

Pay attention to your sleep patterns

Getting a good night’s sleep is vital for avoiding mental fatigue and for refreshing your mind so that you're more alert and focused. Try to get into a bedtime routine where you give your mind time to wind down and quieten before you actually go to sleep. Switch off your mobile devices or the television and spend half an hour perhaps having a bath or reading before you attempt to sleep.

Take regular breaks at work

We're all entitled to breaks at work so it’s important to take time out when you feel like your mind is getting weary. Even if it’s just for five minutes to refill your water bottle and rest your eyes from the computer screen, these little breaks will work wonders.

Eat healthy snacks

Choose healthy snacks such as bananas, seeds and nuts to munch on throughout the day. As well as being a great source of energy, they will stop the temptation of grabbing a bag of crisps or a bar of chocolate, which will inevitably result in a slump in energy. Try to drink a couple of litres of water each day to help keep your brain sharp.


Make time for some form of relaxation every day when you're at home. Even ten minutes meditating, practising yoga or even just going for a walk can lower your heart rate, reduce blood pressure and calm your mind.

Take a proper holiday

Although an exotic holiday in the sun may be our idea of heaven, this isn’t just what taking a holiday is about. Taking a proper holiday means switching off from everything that could be damaging to your wellbeing. Turn off your phone, put your out of office on your emails and totally escape anything that may cause brain drain. If you let those closest to you know that you will be unavailable for a weekend or a week, hopefully you can switch off without feeling guilty.

Forbes offers more advice on how you can overcome mental fatigue but if you feel that need further help, speak to your GP or health professionals like First Psychology.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Perfecting a work-life balance

We’ve become so used to juggling a hundred things at once, such as demanding jobs, family life and finances, that we can become tied in knots and forget to make time for ourselves.

How often does a mealtime get interrupted by an urgent call from work or how much time do you spend trawling through emails hours after you’ve left the office? Sometimes, because we lack the confidence to say “no” to our boss, our workload becomes so impossible that time management completely goes out of the window.

For the sake of our sanity and our health, it’s so important that we take some time out to assess the situation, otherwise it could result in serious health issues.

We have some useful tips that can steer you in the right direction and help you take control and get back on track for achieving that positive work-life balance.

Stop to think

Before you can move forwards and begin to make changes, you need to pause for a moment and clear your head so that you can gain perspective on your life. Whether it’s at a quiet spa, in a local park or in your bedroom with the door closed, some initial alone time is highly recommended.

Make a list

Once you’re feeling a little more relaxed and your mind is quiet, think about all the things that cause you stress or anxiety and make a list. Just by putting pen to paper, you’ll feel a weight lifted and it will help you to prioritise and put a plan into action.

Organise your workload

Once you can see everything in front of you, allocate realistic amounts of time to each task and try to stick to them without being distracted by the next task on the list. If your workload is a serious concern, speak with your boss and see if there is something they can do to help. Remember, it's okay to say “no” sometimes.

Don’t neglect your home life

Unless it’s absolutely necessary, leave your work at the office door and ensure that once you're at home, you switch off. It’s important to make time for your friends or family as this will help you clear your mind. When you feel happy and more relaxed, this will have a knock-on effect in all areas of your life. You’ll feel your stress levels start to drop and your mind will become clearer, which will help you to focus better on each task at home or work.

Take up a hobby

Whether it’s some form of exercise or a leisure activity, occupying your free time with something that you enjoy can improve both your physical health and mental wellbeing.

The Independent looks at a study that shows two thirds of British employees are unhappy with their work-life balance. Although it can appear daunting to make initial changes to your life, once you have established a better routine, you will become more productive and happier in the long run.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

The benefits of volunteering on your mental wellbeing

Whether you’re a busy professional with a hectic lifestyle or retired with plenty of time on your hands, there are lots of opportunities for volunteer work that you can fit into your schedule.

Whatever your reasons are for wanting to volunteer, you’ll find that volunteering your time can have a positive impact on your mental wellbeing.

Social contact

Working alongside other like-minded volunteers is a great way to make new connections and improve your social skills. Having this kind of support network around us can give us a sense of belonging, thus creating more positive thoughts about ourselves.

Combats stress and anxiety

As well as enjoying social contact, helping others can be a huge mood booster. Volunteer work helps you forget many of your own personal worries and, instead, encourages you to focus your attention on someone else’s needs. You’ll find lots of outdoor volunteer work too, which can release endorphins and provide you with some much-needed vitamin D.

Helps fight depression

When we’re suffering from depression, we tend to feel worthless and self-critical as well as lethargic. By surrounding ourselves with other volunteers, we increase our social network, and this can prevent feelings of loneliness. Helping others gives us a purpose in life and it can increase our self-esteem and self-worth.

Giving makes us happy

When we put others’ needs before our own without expecting anything in return, it gives us a great sense of achievement and makes us feel good about ourselves. For many people, the act of giving is far more rewarding and brings us more happiness than receiving.

Physical wellbeing

Studies have shown that taking care of our physical wellbeing can have a knock-on effect on our mental wellbeing. A lot of volunteer work involves activities that keep us exercising without us possibly realising it. As well as lowering blood pressure, exercise is one of the best ways to keep us mentally in shape and it’s great for boosting mood too.

Working with animals

Studies have shown that animals can play a part in improving mental wellbeing. The mere act of stroking or playing with an animal can help us to feel relaxed and calm. If you’re an animal lover but are unable to keep a pet at home, then voluntary work with animals could be the perfect choice for you.

If you would like to find local volunteer work, the Do-it Trust has lots of information and advice as to where to find suitable opportunities, from first aid and fundraising to support work.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

How to overcome shyness at work

Not everyone is blessed with confidence and for those who suffer from shyness, many situations that others might not even give a second thought, can appear daunting, especially in a place of work.

The Effects of Shyness

Shyness can be almost debilitating to some and can hold a person back from achieving their goals at work. You might avoid public situations, be too scared to speak up for yourself or suffer from anxiety,  and you may feel lonely, but remember that you're not alone and there are ways to overcome your shyness at work.

Be Kind to Yourself

Besides your family and close friends, your shyness might not be quite so obvious to people who don’t know you. Often our inner critic is eager to put us down when others most likely wouldn’t. Try to focus on your positive attributes rather than the negatives and make a list of everything you love about yourself. Remind yourself that you do have a lot to offer and that your thoughts and opinions are equally as important as those of your colleagues.

Face your fears It’s not uncommon to play out a situation or conversation in your head that hasn’t even taken place, so try not to overthink and create negative outcomes where there are none, although this might seem easier said than done. Ask yourself what you're afraid of and what’s the worst that can happen.

Avoid negative people
Regardless of whether we're shy or confident, there will always be negative people who like to put others down in order to make themselves feel better. Remember - this isn’t personal towards you and it’s more of a reflection of their insecurities. If you do come across these types of people, try to avoid them and don’t allow them to steal your energy.

Push your boundariesThis might seem like an impossible task, but once you start to step outside of your comfort zone and push your boundaries, the next time becomes a whole lot easier. Set yourself achievable goals such as contributing to a discussion in a meeting, and take note of people’s responses and reactions – are they really as bad as you’d imagined?

Small steps like this can really help increase your confidence over time and you might even realise that others appreciate your input.

Observe yourself and othersMake a conscious effort to observe people you admire. Listen to how they speak and take note of their body language. How does this differ to yours? What do you admire about them? Practise imitating some of their traits on your own in a place where you feel comfortable and relaxed. Try looking at yourself in the mirror, keep eye contact, keep a confident posture, smile and speak clearly. The more your practise this, the more natural it will feel and the easier it will be to put into practice in the workplace.

Practise confidence building techniques Try building your confidence up outside of the workplace with people you don’t know. Perhaps introduce yourself and start a conversation with a stranger – they don’t know you and you’ll probably never meet them again, so what does their opinion matter? Initially, you can keep the conversation short and build it up over time.

You can then try something similar at work. Maybe break the ice with a colleague on your lunch break by asking how their weekend was.

Visualisation techniquesFear is often caused by our own thoughts rather than actual events, so try to change your thought process by visualising positive outcomes. If there’s a presentation coming up at work that you’ve been dreading, imagine everyone listening intently to what you have to say and praising you afterwards for your excellent delivery.

Consider the benefitsRemember what you have to gain from overcoming shyness at work. Maybe you’ll make new friends, you’ll gain greater respect from your colleagues and boss, or you might even get that promotion and pay rise you’ve been hoping for.

The more you practise these techniques, the easier it will get and the more confident you will become.

For more techniques to boost self confidence, take a look at the Very Well Mind website. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Why it’s important to find a job that suits you

Have you found yourself going from job to job feeling unfulfilled or stressed, or have you been stuck in a dead-end role that makes you unhappy?

In the UK, the law states that we should work no more than 48 hours per week (averaged over a number of weeks), however, many of us rarely stick to this. Work can be stressful, draining and exhausting, even more so if you’re in the wrong job.

Because the majority of us have to make a living to pay the bills, we often rush into a career, accepting the first job role available without giving it too much thought. Further down the line, this could be damaging to both mentally and physically.

Have you ever considered that you may have chosen a career that isn’t suited to your personality type? Do you dread the thought of group meetings for fear of having to speak in front of a room full of people? Perhaps your role requires a lot of data analysis but the mere thought of it leaves you anxious. These kinds of fears could not only cause you mental health issues, they will ultimately impact on your success and career satisfaction.

How to find your personality type

Wouldn’t you love a job that you find rewarding, exciting and that brings out the best of your capabilities? You might never have stopped to think about whether your role suits your personality or even what your personality type is, until now.

On this Career Shifters website, you will find links to lots of online psychometric tests that can help you discover your personality type and the types of careers you may excel in. Not only are they really interesting, they can also be great fun. Rather than looking at the skills and qualifications you have, these sorts of tests seek to find out how to react in certain work situations and the types of scenarios which you enjoy, over others. This practice of self reflection can really help us to look at careers that we wouldn’t normally consider.

We spend such a lot of time at work that it’s really worth investing some time to check that the job you’re in is giving you the satisfaction that you deserve. Choosing the best career for your personality could help determine your future happiness, so it makes sense to consider all of your options.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

How to be brave at work and face your fears

There’s a saying that goes: why fit in, when you were born to stand out! However, many of us have a deep-rooted fear of failure or criticism in the workplace, which means we are more than happy to stay beneath the radar and remain unnoticed. While this may work for a time, there are occasions at work – when negotiating pay rises or promotions, for example – that we have to stand up and be counted.

It’s not uncommon to have sleepless nights at the thought of having to give a presentation in front of a crowd or when faced with the prospect of being more assertive with a colleague to resolve an issue. But in order to move forward it’s absolutely necessary to overcome our fears and step outside of our comfort zone for time to time.

Fortunately, there are strategies that you can practise to build your confidence and give you the courage you need to be brave and assert your ideas.

What’s the worst that would happen?

The moment you choose to overthink and imagine outcomes of a situation, you fill yourself with fear. Let’s face it, you’re unlikely to lose your job just because you’ve expressed a well-thought out idea or asked for a pay rise. So sometimes, it really does help to think about what the worst outcome would really be – and it’s never as bad as your initial emotional reaction. When you approach any situation from a calm, logical perspective, you’ll realise the outcome is usually much more positive than you imagine. Practise this and you could save yourself days of stress in the process.

Building confidence

In order to be brave at work, you need to build confidence and have self-belief that your ideas are worthy and that your opinions matter. Begin by expressing your thoughts clearly and make sure you back up your views with research – people can’t argue with facts! Practise the conversations in your head – or engage your friends and family members in some role play exercises. Remember, not everyone is going to agree with you all the time, but everyone brings a unique perspective to their work, so chances are your opinion might address something that others hadn’t even considered.

Attitude is everything

Our automatic reaction to addressing a colleague who doesn’t agree with our opinions is usually to become defensive. We take criticism personally, when it’s usually not intended to be. The best response is to give people the opportunity to address their issues with you personally and answer them as best as you can – calmly. Remember, it’s about working as a team for the best interests of the company. Defend your views confidently but be willing to listen to others’ views at the same time. No-one gets it right all the time. One of the best ways to overcome your fears is by accepting constructive criticism. Sometimes, it can be a hard pill to swallow but it’s a great way of increasing your confidence. When we accept our own flaws and mistakes, we learn how to improve ourselves and will find that people will begin to respect us more as a result.

For some more tips on how to build confidence, read one of our previous blog posts here.