Under pressure at work

Why learning how to trigger yourself happy is so important

Image credit: Dreamstime

Being able to identify the warning signs that can activate stress and anxiety, and knowing what to do about them, will be more important than ever in the post-Covid workplace.

In a recent conversation with a friend, we were discussing how Covid-19 and lockdown has given us time to reflect on how we work and what we need as individuals. I’ve learnt more about myself then I ever thought I could. I learnt about my ideal daily routine, I learnt how much I need exercise in my life – for those that don’t know, exercise isn’t my favourite activity – and I’ve enjoyed having time to just sit and read too.

There’s so much I’ve learnt, and I can’t wait to take forward as the world continues to evolve following the pandemic.

However, this is a good opportunity to go even deeper into understanding ourselves, and reflect on triggers that create specific behaviours.

So, who am I? I’m Hannah, an engineer and founder of Engineer Your Mind Ltd, and I suffer with depression and anxiety. Learning the triggers and warning signs that activate those issues has been a game changer for me and my ability to show up as a friend, family member and employee.

I’ve been through various forms of support to better understand how my brain operates and how to be effective while suffering with these conditions. This time in lockdown has given me an opportunity to delve further into this.

Have you taken time to do some deep reflection into your own triggers and specific behaviours? I know some of you will think this is all a bit ‘woo’, but stay with me.

Let me give you a relatable example: When testing a circuit, should there be noise on a signal or the circuit doesn’t operate, you would fault-find to see what triggered the issue. You would consider what should be happening and find what is stopping it from performing as required. Next time you build a similar circuit, you would check for that issue because you knew it had been a problem before.

It’s the same for you as a human.

Example: You start feeling overwhelmed continually and it’s starting to affect your ability to give the required output of work. What do you do? Carry on going, tell no one and hope it blows over – you don’t want to be seen as someone who can’t handle the load? Tell someone and have work moved around? You start to feel better and more productive? Go for external support because the reason isn’t work related? Or a mix of all three?

I can almost guarantee most of you will respond by simply carrying on. How? Because I see it happen in the workplace regularly. Coffee chats with people who say they’re busy and overwhelmed but do nothing to help themselves or alert others.

If the above scenario is you right now, ask yourself three questions. How often is this happening? What’s happening just before this feeling occurs? How can I mitigate it? This will help you start to see if there are any patterns in how and when this behaviour is emerging.

Finding patterns is key to early mitigation. Early mitigation is made easier if you learn some tips and strategies on how best to manage those triggers. This is something therapy is designed to support but a number of charities and companies, such as mine, do as well.

Now restrictions are being lifted and workplaces will slowly reopen, we need to make sure we take what we have learnt about ourselves into our ‘new normal’. As we come back, we need to take extra care on those that do struggle with various mental health conditions. It can be a big adjustment for some of us, me included.

My anxiety makes being in busy, loud places a struggle. Previously, I’ve been in situations where I couldn’t leave the house. After months not needing to use my coping skills, going back to work and using public transport will be a challenge. It’s one I’m happy to accept, but it’ll be exhausting and require a lot of energy. It’ll be an adjustment for a period.

I won’t be alone in this. There will be many who feel the same, and for most, having to readjust to certain habits that are normal or not an issue will be tough and draining.

It’s important as we move back into the workplace that we not only consider what we’ve learnt about ourselves and how we need to work, but that we also remind ourselves to check in with colleagues. Check how they’re coping with readjustment to some semblance of a normal life again.

Where can you go for tips and support? If you’re struggling with a mental health condition, please speak to a medical professional. You can head to amazing charities such as Mind, the Samaritans and CALM or use your employee assistance program. The Constructing Mindsets podcast recently launched an episode on post-Covid life with Martin Coyd OBE as a special guest. There are also lots of tips over on my social channels and blog at www.engineeryourmind.com and you’re welcome to email me at engyourmind@gmail.com.

Hannah Schaapkens is a senior electrical engineer and founder of Engineer Your Mind Ltd.

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