I have been meaning to write this blog for some time now, however, my life has been a little hectic since taking up my MSc in Occupational Psychology last year (oh to be a student again), Thrive in the City, as well as designing and planning for the launch of The Performance Club this summer.
However, fundamentally I keep coming up against some of the points I'm about to raise, so I thought that now was the right time. I'm going to address what I believe, given my experience and observations over the last 15 years in the NHS and the last 5 in the corporate world to be some significant issues. I make these points as a highly experienced mental health practitioner, coach and collaborator who has experienced and had many a discussion with others, including clients, academics and industry experts.
So, let's take a deep dive....
Lack of adaptive helping strategies
In the clinical world, we would call these coping strategies, however, I'm forever been corrected that I must use more 'business-like' descriptions so here we have it. What I mean by this is that we have become less efficient at dealing with life events which feel uncomfortable to us.
Increase in emotional instability
We are becoming less able to tolerate our emotions, this includes becoming more reactive and demanding about how the world should be, and the way in which others treat us. As a consequence, when something or someone does something to us which we feel is not right, we tend to awfulise this event. We are becoming less rational, less flexible and less emotionally resilient. Particularly, this is happening significantly to our younger generation who are struggling with these feelings of being out of control (feeding into their ability to cope and tolerate such feelings). Unfortunately, there is no Law in any land that says we can have everything we want, otherwise, I'd be sipping on my mojito in the Bahamas whilst I type this!
Increase in the fear of failure
We are now living in a society whereby we constantly fear being judged. It is now very easy to compare ourselves and our lives to others, with whom we 'assume' are living an easier and happier life (when often this is not the case). What is more truthful, is the beautiful are often the most unconfident and insecure and the most intelligent and successful are often the most fearful of failure. It is my opinion, that we are approaching the 'era of the perfectionist' and with that comes high expectations of self and others and a decrease in overall self-efficacy which can lead to anxiety and depression.
Increase in demands and low frustration tolerance
I've spoken about this one before (Digital & Loyalty) but we are becoming a demanding bunch. We are insisting things go our way, and if it doesn't then it is awful and we cannot deal with it.
For example..... I want and insist that I get that job, if I don't get that job it would be awful and I couldn't handle it, and it will just prove I'm not good enough and I will never get a job (simple example, but you get the idea).
On top of this, consumer behaviour is playing with our heads and we are developing neuropathways that tell us that we can have it all and if we don't get this wonderful experience in which we desire, then we are perfectly within our rights to think that's damn awful, and we should go elsewhere until someone does value us (therefore, treating us the way we expect - high expectations - perfectionism).
Lack of connection - preferring to work autonomously and in isolation
This also links to our need to control. When we work on our own, we can keep control over the outcome and we won't feel uncomfortable trusting another individual. Lack of trust in Organisations and in our daily lives only compounds this lack of connection, as does the utilisation of technology (see below). This can create loneliness and an inner emptiness.
Increase in the use of social technology, including 24/7 access
Technology is being designed by behavioural scientists/developers who believe it or not want to influence our brains. Social media is just one of the ways we gain instant gratification which introduces short bursts of dopamine (happy hormone #1) to the brain. This spike of dopamine provides us with short-term happiness, however, leaves us feeling empty and less satisfied in the long run. What we need to know is that dopamine is addictive, so as a consequence we are turning into happiness junkies chasing that next dopamine hit - common examples include the constant need to have new experiences, drugs and alcohol, sex, shopping and of course keeping up appearances on our Instagram feed! So, next time your toddler or teenager screams because you've removed the iPad or mobile phone from them - just remember that it is like removing a drug from a drug addict (hard hitting I know - sorry).
Social media is also helping us to disconnect from the world and each other. Often when we are facing troubles, we will turn to a device rather than a friend. This way of communicating is troublesome and further leads to isolation. I encourage you to remember we are social animals - when we do things for others it releases oxytocin (the love drug), yet we are moving further away from social bonding, interacting and connecting.
Next, I want to introduce our other happiness neurotransmitter - serotonin (happy hormone #2) which is responsible for our wellbeing. It is the chemical that allows us to be content and happy and it also helps us to keep our moods under control (helps with sleep, anxiety and relieving depression). It is very important to note the relationship between dopamine and serotonin - you see, to have a balanced happy life both have to make up a total of 100. It is helpful to see this as two glasses of water, with each glass making up half - 50 units each. However, because there are only 100 units in total, in order to increase one, we need to 'borrow' from another i.e. to increase the amount of water in the dopamine glass, we have to take some from the serotonin water glass and vice-versa. When we live a healthy balanced life, both of these glasses should sit at around 50 units each (40 / 60 is still pretty good). But the more imbalanced these glasses become, 30/70 or worse, the more likely this translates to an imbalance in our lives and is a recipe for addiction. A common medication of course for treating depression is a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI), which works to increase the levels of serotonin in the brain.
To conclude, the more we are turning towards short-term happiness and instant gratification, the more dopamine dominant we become. We are no longer content and happy, and instead of being proud of our achievements, we constantly think about what we haven't achieved instead (this might sound familiar to those bringing up young children who often feel this way).
So what do we need to do? Below I have included some basic tips:
TALK - get off the device, chat, gossip, call, hug...
Listen - learn to ACTIVELY LISTEN (google has lots of info on this technique or if you are an organisation, you could get me in to tell you all about it)
Care about one another - kindness and 'community' spirit spreads and encourages trust. These acts release OXYTOCIN (yes you can create this in teams and workplaces) the love drug, however, I am not advocating workplace affairs!
Decreases the use of the technology (for those parents out there - limit the use of these devices and educate your children as so as they are able to understand) - reduce DOPAMINE
Become SELF AWARE - learn more about what I have said today and if you want to know more - just ask!
Be COMPASSIONATE & ACCEPTING of yourself and others.
Mental health is everyone's business, and if we don't take care of ourselves and others we can develop mental ill health. It is not enough to learn about symptoms and hear stories we need to be more in control of our own behaviours which are not healthy so we can take action.
I have been working on an executive development programme for enhancing your performance in all these areas and more. If you would like to be part of the pilot programme, please express your interest by getting in touch with us at email@example.com stating why you would be a good candidate.
Stacy is the Founder of The Performance Club, Co-Founder of Thrive in the City and Founder of Impact Coaching. She is a highly experienced Performance Coach, collaborator and an award-winning Mental Health Practitioner.
You can contact Stacy for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org