In these fast-paced times, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and allow stress to take over. International Stress Awareness Week 2022 (7-11 November) is a major annual event focusing on stress management and campaigning against the stigma associated with stress and mental health issues. To coincide with this, Ludlow Street Healthcare’s well-being expert is sharing some of her key recommendations when it comes to avoiding or dealing with stress at work.
Gemma Hartnoll-Smith, Ludlow Street Healthcare’s well-being officer, works with new starters to ensure they settle in as well as running regular drop-in well-being sessions for all staff.
Gemma said: “The first piece of advice I have for anyone who finds themselves in a stressful situation is, take a break. We are on a constant treadmill; it can feel relentless. When things feel too much, the best thing that anyone can do is step back. Five minutes is unlikely to stop you meeting deadlines or getting things done but even that small pause can help you reset and clear your mind which if anything, will make you more productive.
“I’m a big advocate of both mindfulness and meditation. I find a 4-minute meditation to be a very powerful tool to calm you and bring you back into the moment. For those who don’t know where to start, I really recommend using apps such as Headspace to guide you.
“In a previous role, I ran guided meditation sessions at the end of team meetings. Despite raised eyebrows when I initially introduced it, people came to look forward to that moment of calm at the end of the group session.”
Appreciating that meditation and mindfulness is not for everyone, Gemma encourages people to find their own coping mechanisms.
Gemma said: “Just the words ‘mindfulness’ or ‘meditation’ can turn some people off, but it’s important that those people still find a way to step away for a few minutes. Even if that’s just pausing to make a cup of tea or go for a walk, that conscious quiet can have a real impact.
“There is also a big role to be played by management in helping employees deal with stress. The key is to get to know your team as individuals and to be able to identify when they are feeling stressed and establish how to help them. Simply asking ‘how are you?’ can start a very productive and powerful conversation.”
Promoting gratitude is another technique Gemma uses when working with staff at Ludlow Street Healthcare. Gemma said: “We are all guilty of focusing too much on the things that we don’t have, rather than spending time being grateful for things we do have. This is crucial for creating a positive mindset, especially over the coming months when all of us are likely to face additional financial pressures. I know it can be easier said than done, but if people can try and start each day listing what they are grateful for, it will gradually shift their mindset to a much more positive way of thinking.”
A further technique which Gemma advocates, which links closely with practicing gratitude, is learning visualisation skills.
Gemma said: “Visualising the things you want to achieve acts as inspiration to help you reach your goals. If you are stressed or unhappy, picture the things that would make your life better and work towards this positive change.”
Gemma said: “Ultimately, if people only take one thing away from their time with me, I hope it’s to not focus on what has or hasn’t happened to them, but dealing with it in the right way. By utilising some of the techniques that I’ve mentioned I hope that people will have the tools to face stressful situations with a positive mindset.”
Set up in 2005 by healthcare specialists, Ludlow Street Healthcare provides transition-focused healthcare and bespoke step-down services, including specialist assessment, treatment, rehabilitation, and education, throughout Wales and the South West of England. The organisation has developed a reputation for its person-centred approach, community-focused settings and specialist staff.
Since its inception, Ludlow Street Healthcare has supported and cared for over 800 people. For over a decade, it has worked in partnership with the NHS, developing services and investing in the necessary health infrastructure and staff training, to support patients on their journey to recovery and a more independent and fulfilling life, through step-down to community living – improving social integration and inclusion.