On January 30, 2013, Donna Bowyer, Canadian Mental Health Association, SK Branch spoke to faulty and staff about the effects of stress on one’s health. She noted that if you do not have mental health you do not have health. As well, she emphasized that a person needs to consider, “Am I in control of stress or is stress controlling me?”
She noted that overall mental health issues (direct and hidden) are now costing Canadians $51 million dollars and that the health system is spending less money on the issue today than they did in the 1960’s. She also stated the 500 000 people a day are entering medical facilities with mental health related issues.
Donna Bowyer discussed what was causing people stress including a lack of assertiveness, unrealistic expectations (home, work and other people at work); negative self-talk, pessimism, and the inability to accept uncertainty. She underlined that it was important when feeling stress to STOP, take a breath and to re-evaluate what was happening or causing the stress. It is important for us to be present – in the moment- rather that focused on what has happened or what might happen in the future. She noted that children when they play are here in the now. Stay present!
The presentation discussed what caused a toxic workplace and Donna gave examples such as an employer who placed employees together on one floor while renovations were taking place and then decided to keep them all on one floor. The employees had no personal space which impacted negatively on them and their mental health. She also noted that employers need to include adequate training before introducing new things.
As for stress Donna noted that one time something might happen to you and you deal with it fine but the next time it could be a major stressor. The individual needs to consider that between the stress and the stress in the individual and the key factor is, “How do you (the individual) process the information (or view the stressor)?
Donna outlined how to reduce stress in your life by focusing on four key factors: 1) take charge of your thoughts, 2) take charge of your emotions, 3) use your schedule to help you not hinder you and 4) consider the way you deal with problems. She also used the analogy of an elastic that when we have a problem that the solution will change depending on who you are dealing with but you can only stretch the elastic so far until it breaks.
Awareness was brought to the fact that a phobia was not a disorder unless it interferes with your life. She said that her phobia is birds flying loose in buildings but she is quite capable of functioning with this phobia. We learned that anxiety is 100% treatable and arise from wanting to control ones environment whereas depression results in having no energy to do anything. In most cases women will pull in whereas men will push away. In the area of diagnosis women will stop enjoying what they enjoyed whereas if a man liked hockey he will still like hockey -hence while he may have depression the doctor will misdiagnose based on asking “Do you still enjoy what you liked before?”
Peer support in the workplace is very important to reduce stress. You need someone you can trust to vent your frustration and know that they will hold your information in confidence.
The session ended with Donna talking about how it is important to support coworkers with mental health issues whether it is going out with coffee with them, including them in activities when they are off work and it is most important to listen. Stay connected. There are accommodations to bring people back into the workplace after traditional illnesses but when a person comes back after stress leave they are expected to hit the floor running at 100%.
Listen to the session podcast.