Managing stress and other demons

Back in May 2017 I decided to write a blog post for Mental Health Awareness Week and ended up letting the whole of the interwebs and the office about my own struggle with mental health. I didn’t really go into much detail about it and hoped everyone would ignore it, as I had done for a long time, hoping that it would ‘just go away’, never to be mentioned again.

Flashforward to this week, in July of 2018, and things are very different and I feel like I’m much more capable of coping with the demands of simply existing (believe me, getting out of bed can be the biggest challenge I have some days) and even thriving in certain areas.

I think it’s pertinent to mention at this point that my mental health struggle is a long-standing illness which manifested in about 2012, a long time before I started at dxw. Without the amazing support, encouragement and help of people here, I very much doubt I would be in the position I am now, being all ‘shouty’ about this subject-matter.

Stress exacerbates my illness, but it does not necessarily mean everyone is on a spiral towards depression and anxiety just because they found work a bit of a struggle last month. However, it’s unhealthy enough that, over a prolonged period of time, it can take its toll on your mental health.

What steps have I taken to reduce my own stress triggers

It goes without saying that everyone is very different, but these are a few of the things that have helped me to cope with my own ‘slightly squiffy head’ in a busy, high-paced environment to make me a bit more ‘consistent’ within my role as the Finance Manager here.

  • Attending weekly group therapy to talk about my issues with a bunch of strangers (thank you, NHS and yes, it is terrifying to begin with).

  • Taking my prescribed medication daily which is something I do openly in the office as it’s important to ‘normalise’ that I need medication to function.

  • Using an app called Headspace and taking time out of my afternoon to meditate for 10 – 15 minutes whilst trying not to fall asleep immediately after.

  • Being open and honest about how I’m actually feeling with my team, letting them know when I’m having a ‘bad day’ and squirrelling myself away somewhere quiet.

  • Realising that some days, I just need to ‘work from home’ or completely take a day or two off to ‘reset my brain’. There’s something comforting about being duvet-wrapped on a sofa whilst working through a bank reconciliation, trust me.

  • Getting feedback and actually listening to the positives whilst looking at my ‘shortcomings’ as a thing to work on to improve, rather than assuming I’m totally awful at my job because I forgot to pay a supplier 5 days late.

What we are planning at dxw digital

We had our annual Retreat at a lovely hotel in Dorking last week and we had an opportunity to pick some aspect of the way we work here at dxw, that we could to improve upon.

There were many great topics that were ‘championed’ by various people. Ten areas where people wanted to improve. The topic I decided to look at was ‘Managing Stress’, as I believe that we can alleviate stress during working hours, thus the hours you spend outside of work can be spent ‘recharging’ for the next day, or enjoying a sport, rather than worrying about the workload the next day; being able to leave all the work stress in the office, where it belongs.

Expecting no one to turn up to help me, I was pleasantly surprised when several people came join me at my table outside to discuss the subject. Having put aside my ego, in my own mini-competition of popularity, I realised that this was not a great thing. People are stressed and are silent about it. This whole bombshell simply motivated me further to try and, at least, ensure that all our staff members are aware of the signs of stress, the coping mechanisms for stress, what dxw offers in terms of help and support but to also expand upon what we currently do to ensure the office is a happy and productive place that they can feel supported.

Actions:

We now have a three-month action plan which includes:

  • Writing this blog post!

  • Creating a dxw-Wellbeing channel in Slack – to share articles, reminders to take regular breaks, arranging meditation sessions as well as understand what help is available.

  • Scheduling a retrospective to discuss the topic further to see what else we might be able to provide or improve for staff.

  • Looking at outside support, from a trained professional in the field, to improve our current mental health practices within the company.

  • Group fitness and meditation – getting active has been shown to help alleviate some of the symptoms of depression. Endorphins are your friend!

  • Updating our playbook to include a section on Mental Health and Stress Management. This will include everything that we already offer to staff, along with any other materials, advice and support we discover on this journey.

My hope is that dxw digital becomes a company that others can learn from, we tend to focus so much on shipping code and completing projects and looking at the monies when sometimes it’s more important to invest time and energy into just making sure every team member is getting the support they might need.

World Mental Health Day is on the 10th October this year and we hope to implement improvements to ensure all staff get the support they need to not only thrive in their roles but also be more open about any potential stress/mental health issues that they may need extra support in dealing with.

More updates on this as they happen!

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