Friday, 30 November 2012

How to establish authority after promotion

Once the excitement of a new promotion has settled, the prospect of asserting authority over your previous peers can be daunting. Almost everyone interested in moving to positions of greater responsibility will face this problem at some point in their lives and the chances are very few will do it with ease. Whether your new employees continue to treat you like their friend or just ignore your requests, the peer-to-boss transition can be a tough one.

However, there are ways to negotiate through this bumpy period and emerge both as a stronger leader and a stronger team.

  • Firstly, do not let co-workers reactions ruin your happiness over your promotion. You worked hard and were chosen for a reason. If you believe in your abilities, others will too. 
  • Be confident, acting like a leader will make it easier for others to accept your new role. 
  • Connect with your team; express your commitment to their success and that of the company. If they believe you are still on their side they will co-operate better. 
  • Arrange a meeting. Outline your new responsibilities and any changes in their duties, explain exactly what you expect from them. 
  • Having once been their peer means you have a unique insight into each person’s strengths and weaknesses. Use this to your advantage to get them working at their best. 
  • Set boundaries. Your new role of authority will mean changing the way you act around your colleagues. Fo example it may no longer be appropriate to gossip or joke with them or to go out with them after work. Establishing these boundaries can help assert your role as a manager. 
  • Once promoted, that is your primary role, there is no point trying to be best friends with everyone, you must be firm when necessary. 
  • If one co-worker is refusing to accept your authority, you must take action. Talk to them about why they are having these difficulties, and if needs be, discipline them appropriately and fairly. 
Promotion is an important step in your career path. Do not let transition difficulties derail your progress. Believe in yourself and in your team and you should succeed.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Helping a partner who drinks too much

This week is alcohol awareness week, which aims to bring people's attention to how much alcohol they consume, particularly in the run up to Christmas. According to recent government statistics, one in every thirteen adults is dependent on alcohol in the UK. If  that figure includes your partner it can make the festive period very difficult.

Many addicts don't want to admit, or even recognise, they need help, but as someone close to them you may notice some of the following signs:

  • Lying or being secretive 
  • Stealing 
  • Extreme changes in mood 
  • Changes in sleeping patterns – more, less or at different times of day or night 
  • Changes in amount of energy 
  • Changes in weight 
  • Changes in social groups, new and unusual friends 
  • Changes in finances - having large amounts of cash and then none at all. 
However, even if you don't notice these signs there may still be a problem as addicts can be very successful at hiding their habits. 

It's hard to get away from alcohol as the party season approaches - from boozy chocolates to a quick Christmas tipple, there is temptation everywhere. If you think your partner has an alcohol problem or just always seems to have one too many drinks, the first step is communication. Tell them how their drinking upsets you - this can be a great motivation to stop.

Ask them to look at the following questions, which can help them see the effects alcohol is having on them and other people.
  • Are you drinking more and more often? 
  • Have you tried to reduce or stop drinking without success? 
  • Do you use alcohol to help you relax or feel better? 
  • Have friends and family made comments about your drinking? 
  • Have you dropped friends because of your drinking? 
  • Do you feel confused or depressed in the morning? 
  • Do you ever crave alcohol? 
  • Do you regularly blackout when drinking? 
If you don't feel able to resolve the problem between the two of you, you should consider getting expert help and support. There are many support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous who will understand and be able to help. Likewise an experienced counselling psychologist will be able to help you both get to the root of the drinking and cope with the season ahead.



Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Mindfulness

Over the last few blogs we've looked at the causes of workplace stress and some relaxation techniques that may help reduce stress. Mindfulness is another popular approach that has been shown to help people deal with stress.

Mindfulness focuses on the here and now - how are you feeling internally and externally on a moment by moment basis. Focusing on the present prevents us dwelling on past issues or worrying to much about the future. This allows us time to bring our nervous system back into balance.


Practising mindfulness

In practice, mindfulness often focuses on repetitive action such as breathing or chanting. It can be applied to activities such as walking, exercising, eating or meditating.

For mindful practice the following are necessary:

  • A quiet environment - somewhere you are free from distraction
  • A comfortable position - sitting on a chair, lotus position etc, try not to lie down
  • A focus - something to concentrate your mind. It can be an object, a feeling, some words or an image

Exercise: Breathing to connect

Sit or lie comfortably with your eyes closed. For the next six minutes connect with your breathing. Notice the gentle rise and fall of your rib cage and follow the air in and out of your lungs. Let any thoughts and feelings come and go, and each time you notice that your attention has wandered, gently refocus (you'll need to do this again and again... and again). For the next three minutes expand your awareness so that you're aware of your body and feelings as well as your breath. For the final minute open your eyes and connect with the room around you, as well as with your body, your feelings, and your breathing (Harris, 2007).

For more about mindfulness see an article by Chartered Counselling Psychologist, Dr Tasim Martin.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Relaxing - part 3

Today we look at the third relaxation technique, body scan, which can be used to combat stress.

Body scan is similar to progressive muscle relaxation, covered in our previous blog, but involves focusing on muscle groups rather than tensing and relaxing them.

Technique 3 - body scan

  1. Lie down on your back with your legs straight out and your arms by your sides. Focus on your breathing and breathe deeply for two minutes or until you feel ready to start.
  2. Focus on your toes on your right foot. Tune in to the sensations you feel there and imagine your breathe flowing from the sole of your foot. 
  3. After a few minutes, move your focus to your right ankle and repeat process. Then move to your right calf, knee, thigh and hip and repeat for the left side of your body. From there, move up to your torso, through your lower back and abdomen, the upper back and chest, and your shoulders. Pay close attention to any parts that are uncomfortable.
  4. Move your focus to your fingers on your right hand and then move to your right wrist, forearm, elbow, upper arm and shoulder. Repeat for left arm, then move to your neck and throat and finally the parts of your face, the top of your head, tongue, nose, cheeks, eyes, forehead, temples and scalp. When you reach the top of your head, let you breath reach out beyond your body and imagine yourself hovering above yourself.
  5. After completing the body scan, lie for a few minutes relaxing in silence and stillness noting how your body feels. Then open your eyes slowly, take a moment to stretch and very slowly roll on to your side and get up.
Our next blog will look at mindfulness - an approach that can be extremely effective for combatting stress.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Relaxing - part 2

Following on from our blogs on stress and relaxation, today's blog will look at the relaxation technique known as progressive muscle relaxation.

This technique involves systematically tensing and relaxing different muscle groups to gain an awareness of how tension and relaxation feel in the body. This should then make it easier to notice when we become tense and therefore more able to do something about it.

Technique 2 - Progressive muscle relaxation

  1. Get comfortable, take off your shoes and make sure your clothes are loose.
  2. Take a few minutes to slowly breathe in and out.
  3. Turn your attention to your right foot and focus on how it feels.
  4. Slowly tense the muscles in your foot as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of ten.
  5. Slowly release the foot, taking note of how it feels as the tension leaves the foot and it becomes limp.
  6. Stay in a relaxed state breathing deeply and slowly.
  7. Next focus your attention on your left foot. Follow the same sequence as for right foot. 
  8. Continue tensing and relaxing your muscles moving slowly up the body (see below for recommended sequence) and trying hard to focus on one muscle group at a time. 
Recommended sequence: 1 right foot, 2 left foot, 3 right calf, 4 left calf, 5 right thigh, 6 left thigh, 7 hips and buttocks, 8 abdomen, 9 chest, 10 back, 11 right arm and hand, 12 left arm and hand, 13 neck and shoulders, 14 face

TIP: if you are left handed you may wish to start with left side of body first

If you have a history of back problems, muscle spasms or other injuries, this technique may not be appropriate for you as tensing muscles may aggravate your condition. Instead try the body scan technique, which will be covered in our next blog.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Relaxing - part 1

Following on from our previous blog on work-place stress, the next few blogs will look at different ways to relax.

Being able to relax effectively is an important skill because it triggers the body's natural relaxation response - the opposite of the stress response. Relaxation is not difficult, but it can take some practice to master. Trying a range of techniques is a great way of finding what works best for you.

Technique 1 - Deep breathing

Focused deep breathing can be a very helpful technique in combatting stress and it forms the foundation of other relaxation practices. The key to deep breathing is to concentrate on breathing from the abdomen, filling up the lungs with air and puffing up the abdomen as we inhale. This process delivers more oxygen to the body and immediately helps reduce anxiety and tension.

How to deep breath

  1. Sit in a comfortable position, with a straight back. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
  2. Inhale through your nose. You should feel the hand on your abdomen rise, but the hand on the chest should hardly move.
  3. Exhale through your mouth. Concentrate on pushing out the stale air while contracting your abdomen muscles. The hand on the abdomen should fall as you exhale, while the hand on your chest should again hardly move.
  4. Continue to inhale through your nose and out through your mouth. Your abdomen should rise and fall as you do this. Concentrate to ensure it rises as you inhale and falls as you exhale. 

Tip: If you find it hard to breathe from your abdomen while seated, then try lying down until you have mastered the technique.

In our next blog we will look at technique 2 - progressive muscle relaxation.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Tackling work-place stress

Today is National Stress Awareness Day and this year's focus is on beating work-related stress, something that according to figures from the charity MIND affects half a million people in the UK to a level that is making them ill.

So what causes work-related stress?At work we may find ourselves working side by side with people we wouldn't choose to spend time with. Add to that the fact that people often have different working styles, for example, one person may work very intensely for five hours then appear to be 'slacking' for the rest of the day while their colleague may keep their head down all day and work at a consistent, less intense pace. Conflicts can arise with one person perceiving another not to be pulling their weight while the other person may wonder how they can possibly be expected to do more. As a result people may feel under pressure to drive themselves harder, particularly if there is a potential threat of redundancy.

Other people's expectations and how we manage them play a large part in work-place stress. Being expected to: work late, behave in a particular way, do tasks we are neither trained nor experienced at, take ownership of projects we perhaps disagree with, and in addition, not feeling we are valued by our employer or society for what we do can all contribute greatly to stress at work. 

So what can we do to get on top of stress?It may seem that with all these contributing factors we are destined to be stressed, but the situation is just half the stress story, the other half is how we respond. As stress arises from the body's natural response to danger, to fight stress effectively we need to find ways to relax our bodies. 

Over the next few blogs we will look at three different relaxation techniques - deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and body scan and explore how to become more mindful - techniques that many find helpful when tackling stress.