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Mind(ful) @ Work

Mental health month is just around the corner in October. I have been invited together with Vanessa to be part of an online webinar for OCD & Anxiety Support HK. They are a mental health charity in Hong Kong dedicated to supporting individuals suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression. You can learn more about them here:

For the last 12 months since my transition from my own medical practice to a group practice, the mental well-being of my new colleagues, co-workers, and patients has come to the forefront. Many have confided in me their struggles with the current global situation and their work experience. At the same time, I had the opportunity to be involved in a workplace well-being workshop with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange where I worked with another colleague Mr. Graham Barkus from The Human Factor Hong Kong and gained some insights around how important it is that we learn to master our own performance and behaviors as a part of cultivating a healthy community at work.

The combination of the above experiences has inspired me to write this blog. You won't find any tips on what workshops, programs, webinars, or activities to run for workplace wellbeing. There are many providers out there for that. Read on for a different perspective.

Have you ever woken up on Monday morning before work and thought ‘here we go, not again?’ Or before you stepped in the office door you felt a sense of panic or anxiety? How about feelings of frustration, anger, and dissatisfaction?

Does this pattern of negative emotions repeat itself in your work? Do you wish for improved efficiency, productivity, and satisfaction at work? Would you also like to experience support and respect from your boss or co-workers?

Most of us spend a significant amount of our time working, thinking about work or getting ready for work. When we are experiencing negative feelings about work most of us think about changing jobs. But before we get to that point I want to invite you to pause for a moment and take a look at yourself.

Many of us have certain habits in the way we react to a co-worker’s negative remark and we often respond by outwardly blaming, judging or assuming. It’s understandable that we react in this way because human nature has wired us with a really powerful tool for survival - the limbic system.

Let’s digress a bit.

The limbic system is a part of our brain involved in our behavioural and emotional responses, especially when it comes to behaviours we need for survival: feeding, caring for our young, reproduction, fight or flight responses.

Back in the caveman days, we needed this for physical protection when we faced a saber tooth tiger. The fear would kick us into reacting in 3 ways - to fight (defend), flight (run away), or freeze (unable to react - not recommended). Although we don’t have tigers roaming around we have bosses, deadlines, emails, messages and angry customers around us. The same survival mechanism still holds but manifested into a different set of behaviours or habits.

So what does this mean for us at work?

Could this pattern in our own behaviour be the hurdle to having a workplace that we desire? Just to spell it out more clearly, say we receive a negative comment (saber tooth tiger). Our limbic system kicks in because we are feeling angry, frustrated, upset (type your emotion here). We react in one or even all of the 3 ways above.

1. Fight (become defensive, find excuses or blame someone)

2. Flight (avoid the situation, ignore the problem, call in for sick leave)

3. Freeze (mind goes blank, misspeak).

Does this sound familiar?

In the next blog, I’ll expand a bit more on the meaning and reasons behind our reactions, habits, and behaviors.

But for this week let’s try this mind(ful) practice in preparation for the next related topic.

Notice one habitual reaction to either a positive or negative interaction with your boss, colleague or, customer.

Pause for a moment and reflect.

What emotion did you experience?

What basic needs or values were met or not met?

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