- Be Self-Aware - Know what sets off a stress reaction in you and ask yourself what stressors you can avoid. For instance, if putting on an elaborate dinner all by yourself for 30 people has the potential to turn you into an ogre, don't do it! Have others contribute to the meal by bringing a dish or delegate tasks to family and guests. Be aware of your expectations and be realistic. Take care of yourself physically, mentally and spiritually and you will be much more capable of staying calm and cordial. This will have a positive effect on others and will help everyone to get along.
- Make a Plan - In the days leading up to the holidays, take some time to reflect on the desired outcomes that you want for your family gathering. Then consider what actions and behaviours you will commit to that will lead to your goals. Consider your responses to the usual criticisms ahead of time and respond with logic rather than emotion, even when triggered. Make a conscious decision to be tactful and polite. Plan on taking a break from others if you need to, staying positive and not engaging in gossip.
- Don't Take Things Personally - Negative comments, criticisms, digs, sarcastic remarks and accusations say everything about the speaker and nothing about the receiver. These people are most likely operating out of fear and low self-esteem. Instead of being angered and upset, have compassion for them; they are in emotional pain. Taking things personally only hurts you. Knowing that it's not about you frees you to be yourself.
- Be Grateful - Look for the positive characteristics in people, even when their behaviour is less than desirable. Express your gratitude for the little things you really appreciate about them and ignore the negative traits. This will serve to not only reinforce those positive behaviours, but studies show that people who feel and express gratitude are generally happier and feel less resentment and irritation. It's a win-win! Reconnect with your goals that you established for the holidays and reflect on all of your positive accomplishments.
In one month, Canada lost four military soldiers to suicide. Having been personally affected by suicide, I understand what this means to the families of these men. This is a truly a tragedy and unfortunately, is not the first time Canadian soldiers have taken their own lives. In 2011 and 2012, a total of 35 members of the Canadian Forces committed suicide. Mental health problems in the military are steadily increasing. Many soldiers who return home from war are struggling with serious psychological disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Tragically, those that are suffering are often hesitant to get help because of the stigma and the self-stigma of mental illness. In a warrior culture, soldiers have a problem stepping forward with mental health issues.Often, these issues surface as drinking or drug problems. The military’s response to these problems has been described as very cold and completely inflexible, applying disciplinary action without regard to broader mental health issues. It seems leadership has taken the emotion out of dealing with these problems and seems to be in denial about mental illness in the military. And when s oldiers do decide to be upfront and come forward with their mental health issues, they are treated as a liability and pushed off to the side . Suicide happens because they feel they h ave lost everything they thought they had and have nothing left to live for. What’s happening in the Canadian military is a hard lesson for all organizations. I see many parallels to the military culture and the culture that is inherent in many companies and organizations. The whole concept of psychological health and safety in the workplace is a fairly new one; an idea that many workplaces have not yet embraced. As an Organizational Development Specialist and Leadership Coach, psychological health and safety is a large part of what I do every day. Canada has developed a voluntary Standard to help organizations strive towards continuous improvement for psychological health and safety in the workplace. The standard not only works to prevent harm to worker psychological health, it also promotes psychological well-being. Increased organizational effectiveness is a beneficial bi-product of a psychologically safe culture. Workplaces with a positive approach to psychological health and safety are better able to recruit and retain talent, improve employee engagement, increase productivity, enhance creativity and innovation, and boost bottom line results. Hopefully, the Canadian Standard of providing a psychologically safe workplace will soon become a part of organizational culture. My wish is that the death of these four soldiers sparks a move to remove the stigma about mental health and improve the culture not only in the military, but in organizations all over the world. For more information on psychological health and safety in the workplace, contact Susanne.