Friday, December 17, 2010

She broke my heart

You damage your health if you don't have social relationships according to Matt Liebermann.

At the 2010 Mind and Its Potential Conference, Liebermann said the damage was equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.

In fact, he said, sociality is not an accident – it is ancient and by design.

We had and still have a much better chance of survival if we are not alone.

It still holds true today

Think of how animals hunt – they search for and pounce on the loner, the one separated from the group.

And reflect on the language we use as we encourage people to sign up to our point of view or pitch: “there’s strength in numbers”; “we can’t go this alone”.

Consider also the stories of babies who don’t thrive when they are deprived of social connection. Click here for one commentary that reflects on what happens.

Amygdala can’t tell the difference

So if sociality is critical to our survival, perhaps that’s the explanation why our amygdala can’t tell the difference between social pain and a threat to our physical existence.

The Almond Effect® is all about that – our bodies jumping into survival mode, fight, flight, flock or freeze, when our amygdala perceive an emotional or mental threat (e.g. your boss’s raised voice, an irate customer, the exclusion by the team, running late for a critical meeting), yet none of these are likely to result in us being wounded or injured physically.

The way we talk about social pain reinforces our amygdala’s inability to discriminate. We use the language of physical pain: “She broke my heart, you hurt my feelings, I’m gutted.”

Learn to accept the things you can't change

There are many tools we can use to manage the social pain we feel, The Almond Effect®, both at work and beyond.

One critical tool for me is the use of acceptance.

So for example, one of the best ways to deal with ongoing challenges at work, is to accept that work will never be completely harmonious and free from irritations and politics. To believe it will, is simply living in a false reality.

I came across these words ascribed to Fr Alfred D’Szouza. They sit above my desk and I reflect upon them daily to help me accept and deal with social pain and my ‘almonds’. I hope you find them useful too.

For a long time it had seemed to me
That life was about to begin – real life;
But there was always some obstacle
in the way.
Something to be got through first.
Some unfinished business,
time still to be served,
a debt to be paid.
Then life would begin.
At last it dawned on me
that these obstacles were my life.

Then you can move on

In other words, once you have accepted the situation, you can do something about it.

There will be more about strategies on how to do that in future CLUES.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Geoff Huegill triumphs over depression

Do you feel uncomfortable talking to a colleague about their mental wellbeing?

Why are we so fearful to ask someone if they are OK? Or to say that we notice that they seem a bit down and is there is something they'd like to talk to you about?

We don't hesitate if they have a sniffle, a limp or a black eye. But a concern about someone's mental state is often too hot to handle.

We usually tell ourselves that it is none of our business. Or "what if I open up a can of worms?"

Of course it's your amygdala talking, The Almond Effect, holding you back because it's feeling threatened about what a well meaning question might lead to.

Each year, undiagnosed depression in the workplace costs $4.3 billion in lost productivity and this excludes Workcover/insurance claims, part-time or casual employees, retrenchment, recruitment and training. 

In addition to absenteeism, depression accounts for more than 12 million days of reduced productivity each year. 

The World Health Organization expects Depression to be the second leading cause of disability after heart disease by 2020

But depression can be overcome. And you can play a part in that recovery by not being afraid to have the conversation.

This is all leading me to say warmest congratulations to Geoff Huegill who was awarded 2010 Sports Performer of the Year.

Geoff has experienced depression. He talks about it - a key strategy.

Another of his strategies to overcome depression was exercise - and his reward was to win the Gold Medal in the 100 metre butterfly at the Commonwealth Games and another in the 4 by 100m relay!

Geoff is an Ambassador for the Black Dog Institute, the same organisation for which I am a volunteer Community Education Presenter on Depression and Bipolar Disorder.

He also has a great smile (and abs!)

Don't let The Almond Effect stop you lending an ear to the 1 in 5 Australians who suffer, sometimes in a very lonely way, from this very common challenge. The person you talk to may not win a Commonwealth Gold Medal but be assured that they would want to give you one.