Healthy Mental Habits and Managing Stress

I’ve been working with Ecclesiastical Insurance Group to talk about ways of improving broker well-being. Their survey of 200 brokers found two thirds of them suffered stress, mainly due to work load. 98% reported they didn’t take time off to deal with it. Firstly, a big shout out to Ecclesiastical for talking about this, universally all the organizations I work with say we don’t talk about our mental health enough and from conversations with many different businesses I’m hearing a similar story to Ecclesiastical’s research. Adrian Saunder’s interviewed me to talk about ways we can develop healthy mental habits and manage stress. For each of us the answers will be different, one thing I find massively boosting is running with my dogs. Admittedly I struggle to keep up with them, but like most people they have more legs than I do. Here are a few simple ideas:

1.     After a long conversation with a psychologist who studied how people coped with war, natural disaster, traumatic injury and being a victim of crime; I learned there’s no model. What works for one person might not work for another. Those who coped faced reality and found ways to recharge their psychological batteries. These were as diverse as running, gardening, dog walking, reading, music, going for a lively night out with people who’ve had similar experiences, meditation, talking, binge watching box sets- The list is endless we need to find something that works for us.

2.     Face difficult issues and they stop being so difficult. Make a habit of nipping problems in the bud and don’t suffer in silence; ask for help it’s a sign of strength not weakness.

3.     Recognise at the end of the day were all a bit ridiculous and part of the human condition as we take things personally we shouldn’t, see the bigger picture and perhaps try not to be the centre of our own universe; will it matter in five years?

4.     Marcus Aurelius said ‘If you are distressed by anything external it is not due to the thing itself, but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment’. The concept of managing our state’s not new. When we deal with difficult people, we’re unlikely to be able to change them, but what we can do is manage the way we allow them to affect us.

5.     Recognise when we become stressed our fight, flight, fright response kicks in. Throughout evolution this has been useful for dealing with things like sabre-toothed tigers, but it might not be much help in the modern office. Breathing exercises, thinking of a nice smell, a treasured memory or safe special space is calming. Humour is one of our greatest coping mechanisms and if you’re ever struggling to find things to laugh at, just look at the people around you and it won’t take long.

6.     If works piling up and it’s a struggle to keep afloat don’t keep taking on more. Sometimes people are unaware of just how much we have to do. Asking for help, delegation and prioritization Some also keep piling the work on until people say ‘enough’. Where possible play to your strengths.

7.     Take ownership for as much as possible. Ask constructive questions like ‘What am I doing I don’t need to do?’ ‘Where’s the value in what I’m doing and what should my priorities be?’ Finally plan effectively, no one plans to fail but many people fail to plan as well as they should. My favourite acronym from the army: prior preparation and planning prevents poor performance. Lastly keep calm and eat cake, no sorry fruit.

For more information here are the interviews, which are also available (along with their research) on the Ecclesiastical website:

Introduction to Managing Stress

Managing Stress

Opening Up

Helping Others