As the manager in Finance Department of a Local Authority Tina was faced by two key challenges in her role, which were increasing stress levels and were affecting the dynamics of her team.
Tina was struggling with:
♦ Uncertainty regarding her contract of employment and pending job evaluation
♦ Feelings of unfair treatment in the workplace
On a personal level this had a multiplier effect on her stress level, causing serious health implications. She was experiencing mounting financial pressures as her husband was unemployed and a lack time to relax and enjoy life juggling elderly parents, grandchildren and work.
Her blood pressure had been rising and had been flagged by her GP, who had recommended exercising more frequently but she was either too tired or didn’t have the time. She was finding it harder to focus and concentrate and this was having a detrimental effect on her work. Her work relationships were also suffering as she was very short-tempered and in some cases behaving irrationally.
“When Maureen came and we began to work through our free consultation. I don’t mind admitting it, but I became quite emotional. I was increasingly aware of my rising stress levels. Physically my heart would race and I felt tired all of the time. I was unable to switch off which affected my ability to sleep.”
The objectives for her work with Now Unlimited were:
♦ To understand what was happening to her
♦ To find another way to approach her work and personal situation
♦ To learn some simple and practical ways to help her deal with stressful events
♦ To reduce her irrational behaviour and improve work relationships
The Intervention: Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
Now Unlimited provided a training programme that looked at the causes and effects of stress and explained the stress-stress reaction cycle. An 8 week mindfulness-based stress reduction course was delivered to Tina and the team she managed. Firstly, the objective was to explore Tina’s stress and to equip her with ways of recognising her feelings and acknowledging difficult situations. We then taught her mindful techniques to cope with these situations.
The concept of mindfulness was introduced as a way of training the brain to work more effectively, especially when dealing with challenges and pressures. Tina said “I used to feel guilty about doing things for myself. Mindfulness taught me that taking care of myself, being physically and mentally health allows me to function fully at work and in my personal life.
The team were introduced to a number of mindfulness practices that helped them to develop greater self-awareness, use breathing to bring attention back to the present moment and respond, rather than react to difficulties.
“The course was very practical. We were shown so many mindful techniques and encouraged to adapt these principles to everyday tasks. I found developing my self-awareness extremely useful and the time for individual and group reflection made me feel confident and supported in my learning.”
When we met with Tina a few months later she had a smile on her face as she described the benefits of including more activities that gave her pleasure, a sense of achievement and that allowed her to take a more mindful approach to life and work.
“I am more energised and positive about life. I definitely feel more relaxed and stronger because my ‘can do’ attitude has returned. As a result I am finding it easier to think and make decisions strategically and I feel like I am managing my team better.”
She also described how the training had had a wider impact both within the staff team and the organisation as a whole. “People within the staff team are relating better to one another and to other teams.” Morale and motivation among staff improved and this was having a positive impact on job satisfaction and performance; demonstrated by reduced absenteeism and staff turnover. Finally indicators relating to customer services had improved significantly and this was enhancing the reputation of the organisation.