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Are You Mentally Fit Enough?

Interview with Jennifer Moss

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Feel like you can’t keep up with the pace of change in your workplace? Wish you could slow it down, and the stress and conflict that often go along with it? With the pace of change in workplaces continuing to keep most of us on our toes, it’s no wonder that many of us feel more stressed at work than ever before. So, can you expect to feel happy at work when you’re overwhelmed just trying to keep up?

“You need to expect that stress and change are going to be part of your workplaces,” explained Jennifer Moss, co-founder of Plasticity Labs and author of Unlocking Happiness at Work when I interviewed her recently. “Fortunately, happiness is not the absence of stress, it’s about finding ways to work through it faster, and to have difficult and challenging conversations inside the workplace that are healthy.”

Jennifer suggests that rather than trying to shut down stress or block any loss or frustration, you can invest in ways to build up your psychological fitness so you can better cope with change, deal with conflict and overcome challenges faster. She has found that there are seven traits that distinguish those with psychological fitness – who are the happiest, highest performers and have greater wellbeing – from others in the workplace.

Happier employees have gratitude, empathy, and mindfulness, as well as the four psychological capital HERO traits – hope, efficacy, resilience, and optimism. When you have:

  • Hope – you’re able to set goals and persevere at making progress on achieving these
  • Efficacy – you feel that what you do is important and can have an impact on the world
  • Resilience – you able to deal with difficult situations and challenges
  • Optimism – you have a generally positive outlook on what happens

Rather than putting these traits into action only every now and then – perhaps when a crisis occurs – building up your psychological fitness takes developing habits that over time embed positive practices into your daily routines. And contrary to the myth that it takes twenty-one days to change a habit, some habits can take much longer, even up to two years to develop. But the good news is there’s a simple 3Rs habit formula to help you with the process:

  • Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behavior)
  • Routine (the action you take)
  • Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behavior).

“Even if you’re high in these seven traits, however, you still need to have a good wellbeing hygiene in your workplace culture,” cautioned Jennifer. “You’ll be more motivated in your work when you feel you’re really listened to and valued.”

How can you improve the psychological fitness of yourself and others?

Jennifer shares three ways you can develop psychological fitness in the workplace.

  • Create positive habits – to feel more resilient and competent when you face stress or adversity. Use the 3Rs of habit formation to embed your practice into your daily routine. Starting with practical small steps can give you a few quick wins that can increase your confidence and momentum. Make it as easy as possible by eliminating any barriers and stacking habits together. For example, if you want to exercise more, and have a regular meeting scheduled, make your meeting a walk and talk habit. Making key changes incrementally can help your wellbeing practices become part of your everyday routine over time.
  • Cultivate gratitude – expressing thanks and appreciation in the workplace promotes a positive workplace environment, and increases job satisfaction and team cohesiveness. How often do you take the time to thank those who have directly helped you out, or thanked the unsung heroes behind the scenes whose efforts often go unnoticed? Create a gratitude culture by regularly expressing your thanks, and encouraging others to talk about the things they are grateful for. Consider starting a gratitude wall and display people’s names and what they’ve done for you or others. This recognition can make the giver feel amazing and lift everyone’s spirits.
  • Invest in workplace wellbeing hygiene – as a leader, it requires complex listening to find out what the problems in the workplace are and to come up with good solutions that make people happier and healthier. But you may fall into the trap of thinking large grand HR programs will solve all problems, but taking action on the little things that can be fixed easily can sometimes be your best option. Firstly, listen to what your people need - technology can enable this by giving you the ability to seek feedback and communication about concerns in a way that fosters frank and openness, as it protects anonymity.

What can you do to build your resilience and mental fitness to help you cope with change and stress?

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