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27 min read

Episode 24: Self-Care for Success: Managing Stress in the Workplace w/ Lisa Gunn

Episode 24: Self-Care for Success: Managing Stress in the Workplace w/ Lisa Gunn

In this episode of The SME Growth Podcast, host Richard Buckle is joined by mental health professional Lisa Gunn discuss stress in the workplace as part of Stress Awareness Month. Lisa explains the concept of a "stress bucket" and emphasises the importance of managing stress well and allowing space for breaks to prevent chronic stress. They discuss the causes of stress in SMEs and the importance of self-care techniques in managing stress.

The conversation highlights the importance of recognising and addressing stress before it leads to burnout and mental health issues. So, take care of yourself, and don't neglect self-care. Remember, "If you don't take time for your wellness, you'll be forced to take time for your illness."

Get the most from this episode in the form that works best for you: watch the episode, read the transcript or access further resources below.


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REad the transcript

Please note: Whilst all transcripts are double checked for accuracy, they are transcribed via Otter.AI so may contain errors.

Richard Buckle 01:08

Okay, welcome to the SME Growth Podcast. I'm Richard Buckle. And David Perry is not actually with us this week as he's away on holiday. So for those of you tuning in to listen to Dave, you can turn off right now! Or you can carry on listening to myself. And today I've got a guest with me, Lisa Gunn, who is a mental health professional and psychotherapist, what does that mean?

Lisa Gunn 01:37

What does that mean? So that means that I am a therapist and I deliver cognitive behavioural therapy for people with anxiety and depression.

Richard Buckle 01:47

But it's not exactly why you're here speak to me today 

Lisa Gunn 01:50

It isn't, no! So a lot of my role also involves working with corporate clients and helping them to manage how to prevent themselves from getting unwell in the first place. So it fits quite nicely into our theme.

Richard Buckle 02:00

So we thought, well, you know, one of the issues that we see a lot with our clients, with business owners, and you know, just, I guess in society in general is how people deal with stress. It's it's a big topic for business owners, and for many people working in businesses nowadays, it's, you know, it's one of those kind of, I suppose, cultural phenomenons that seems to be increasingly in the news. And it also happens to be that April is Stress Awareness Month. Have I got that? Right?

Lisa Gunn 02:32

That's right. 

Richard Buckle 02:33

So we thought, what better way to you know, we're almost at the end of April, but we thought we could sneak in there and get Lisa in. So I suppose one of the things that can be stressful, you know, growing a business, being part of that kind of, you know, top team in a business, or even just working in the business can be stressful. And I was looking at some stats, and it was actually quite, I'm gonna be honest, it was a bit disturbing. Actually, the problem is bigger than I thought something like 56% of people who own a business or an SME business feel like they need help with mental health. 

Lisa Gunn 03:09

Yeah, so it's quite a large stat, more than half. And I think I sorted the 79% find running your business really stressful and actually want to quit. So one in five feel like they want to quit on a daily basis, which is huge 

Richard Buckle 03:21

Which is huge as it's far bigger than actually I thought, you know, and I think maybe there's a I think maybe we touched on this when we spoken before about is there a bit of a gender thing in there, you know, because like from the blokes, particularly, I'm speaking as a bloke, you don't talk about it, you don't want to just carry on and, you know, so that's kind of, I guess, some of the stuff we want explore today and say, Well, you know, what's the, you know, what is stress and, and how do we talk about it and all that type of thing. But I thought I could probably you know, set the scene with with a personal experience for me, and I know, we've had discussions before where Lisa has tried to analyse me.

Lisa Gunn 04:02

We did, We did, still so much more to cover! 

Richard Buckle 04:07

So yeah, so we'll try and yeah, you know, not go down that path today. But But yeah, so I was like, probably, I don't know, maybe 10 Maybe a bit longer than that 15/16 years ago, in previous role. Before, you know, I was doing this, this thing. And I was working in the business. And I was I was really, really stressed and it was one of those things that kind of crept up on me over time. People that probably know me today maybe wouldn't recognise this like kind of, you know, I It's definitely tempered my attitude towards stress. There's a part of me that's very much like, just go and read, you know about Shackleton in endurance, and just kind of crack on with it. But also, I think having had this experience that I'll share that kind of you know, it's definitely changed my mind on some of these things. So, yeah, so I was, you know, 15/16 years ago, working the business was probably mid to late 20s. And started working on some projects, and just just the way the projects are structured, and the way that, you know, things that kind of happened, meant that I ended up being like quite, you know, stressed about it. And it started to manifest itself, I suppose, just going home, just having a rant. You know, my wife Saffron, and she would always be like, every single day you coming home, you're ranting, you're kind of you know, you had to I had to get that out to somebody, after a while, like, I think it actually got to a point with her that it would actually bring her to tears to hear me talking about work the way that it was. And so that, but that then meant that I kind of shut that off. And I think maybe that's something that other business owners actually could relate to, like, there's only so much maybe that your partner wants to hear about, you know, how bad it's all going. So, so that, but then it started to manifest itself, you know, physically, so I was being, you know, sick at work physically, like physically sick. In the toilets, there was actually, you know, someone there who probably wasn't the most helpful, who would kind of, you know, had this whole thing that, you know, my, it was all at all, the responsibility landed on me. So if it went wrong, that I was going to be the one that eventually went to prison, that was so far removed from the reality of the situation. But in my head, I'd convince myself of this, and this particular person would always throw that in, well, you know, you'd be the one that went to prison if this went wrong, and all this kind of stuff. So I had all of this. And eventually, a colleague of mine said, You look really ill you need to go to the doctor. So you know, you kind of resist it and resist it, eventually you go. And, and I went, and my blood pressure was like 185 over 130 or something like that, which apparently is high? I don't, I don't really know. Like, they're like, Yeah, that's high. So she took she took the my blood pressure a couple of times, just to confirm it was right. And you know, it wasn't a dodgy blood pressure monitor. So yeah, that was a blood pressure. And then she did an ECG, because she wanted to make sure that I hadn't actually had a mild heart attack. So this was all that I was about, I don't know 27 or something like that.

Lisa Gunn 07:12

Still really young

Richard Buckle 07:12

So quite young. And but you know, that experience has kind of, I guess, made me sort of take us probably a slightly different view of the severity of mental health, actually, and at the time, even looking back on it, like, you know, 15 years ago, we just didn't talk about this stuff.

Lisa Gunn 07:32

No, no, it definitely wasn't talked about talked about as much as it is now. And I still think there's a lot of work to do. In that space. We're talking about mental health at work. Yeah. And stress and how that manifests in mental health problems.

Richard Buckle 07:42

So and I guess that's partly why I wanted to do this podcasts really is to is to try and, you know, just open it up a little bit and just see where we go. So. So are you able to talk tell us what is stress? What is it? 

Lisa Gunn 07:53

A good place to start really, and I think stress, I think one of the good things about talking about stress is that it's really common to everybody. So all of us have experienced stress. And I guess in mental health, we call them stressors. So they could be personal that could be work related. So if you think about, all of us have an autonomic nervous system, so our fight and flight, people might be familiar with that. And it's a good system. So stress is good for us. In a way it tells us when there's a potential threat going on, and it alerts the body and the body gets ready to fight or flight or freeze flight friend flop are the kind of reactions we can have as well. So when we have any kind of threat, whether that's perceived or whether it's real, that can be worked later stressors can be personal stresses the stress level go off, healthy, that's good, but it should return to its baseline, that's when we know we're doing okay. The problem is with stress is what we call chronic stress is when that alert system is continuous, and it's not having that time or that space to come back down again. So therefore, the body's producing adrenaline and cortisol. And cortisol is a hormone that's corrupted over time, is going to cause mental health problems, it's going to cause physical health problems as well. But really important, I think, and when I do my presentations to corporate clients is what happens to the the brain in those situations. So if I just kind of like simplify this, the brain is got an emotional centre, the amygdala and it's got a cognitive centre with all your problem solving, decision making perspective, taking all the things you need to operate well in business. That's your that's your cortex. Now, when you're stressed, the amygdala, the emotional centre is the most active part of the brain because it's like alert, don't worry, we've got to do to keep you safe. That means the cortex is the least active part. So therefore, for you to be able to operate and fire on all cylinders, it's not going to happen. So when the managers or employers don't allow that space for people to manage the stress, or maybe make workplace adjustments, which we'll come on to later, they're demanding the employers to perform at a level that they can't do, their brain has got the capacity to do that. So it's really important to be able to manage stress well, and manage that alert system that's going off.

Richard Buckle 09:47

Is there a positive case for stress as well? 

Lisa Gunn 09:49

Absolutely. I think stress is really good. It's actually a motivator. There's almost like you might have been in jobs before I'm not sure if you have where you're not stimulated enough and that can cause stress. And if somebody just sat there and there's not enough work to do that can be really stressful. So stress is a good driver, good motivator. And there's almost like a bit of a sweet point where you function really well and you've got enough drive. But then if you go over that, that's what gets into chronic levels. 

Richard Buckle 10:14

And is that where we almost looking at? So I can imagine situations where you say, Well, I've really, you know, we've got a big project or we've got something, we've got to get over the line. And that's going to, you know, that's not going to fit into a nine to five, which will be a common experience to many of our listeners. But like, if that's for a three month period, say, that's okay, I guess. But if it's gonna carry on, like, is it is there something where it's the end in sight, bit of stress is okay, 

Lisa Gunn 10:40

I think so. So the brain kind of needs to know that a break is coming. So that really helps us to operate better. And I think we spoken previously about how sort of back in the day factory workers they would work. They knew a tea breake was comeing, they'd work again, and then your lunch break was coming. So there was almost like this sense of the brain knew we're going to work now then we're going to stop. And if you think about heavy work now and I think particularly post pandemic as well, with people working hybrid working from home, people didn't plan the breaks. And I'm guilty of this myself, I'll put call after call. And then you know, three hours have gone by haven't eaten haven't been to the bathroom, there's there's always kind of like back to back mentality. There's not this kind of break coming in that can be very stressful.

Richard Buckle 11:17

Yeah, I guess we find that I guess it's we've kind of moved on quite quickly, back to face to face meetings, obviously, we're still using Zoom teams, things like that. But it was funny, I remember the first time like post pandemic, we actually had an actual face to face meeting, you know, obviously, you have two metres and masked up and all that whatever. But the bit that got me was, I think at the end of the meeting, you know, you almost have that kind of when you're face to face, in the lobby that bit of chat about just you know, shooting the breeze, what's going on. And oftentimes, that's when the biggest part of the relationships are formed. Because you've just got that little bit of like, it's not full on kind of problem solving or, you know, you're not on on sort of show as it were, yeah, you're just you're just sort of shooting the breeze. So well, we're fine with I suppose with the with, when you're in the thick of it among the pandemic working from home on Zoom calls, it was just like, call call call call. And it was very kind of clinical that cut off, wasn't it? It was sort of very different style of working that 

Lisa Gunn 12:19

yeah, definitely. And there was such a thing they called Zoom fatigue. So having a video on all day long and having to kind of look, the part for work was exhausting people as well. So there's lots of different things that came out of that, that we wouldn't really have known about before. 

Richard Buckle 12:30

Yeah. So. So if you've got that definition of stress in there, you know, understand a bit more about, you know, what stress is and can be negative and also can be positive. It's about managing kind of your exposure to I suppose, I guess, for SME business owners, people working, you know, within SMEs, there's different causes of stress. You know, I would say cashflow is probably the primary one that we see. But there are others. 

Lisa Gunn 12:57

Yeah, so I think we've particularly if you're a business owner, as well, as is time management is a big thing. So I think I've read a stat that about 35% of their work is admin. And if you think about how long admin tasks can take if you haven't got the right staff in place, or maybe people are off sick, that can cause another stressor. And there's also you might have heard this word, I think we spoke earlier about this as imposter syndrome. And people start their own business or running a business. When it's all on them, too. They can have this kind of undercurrent of almost like a crisis of self esteem of am I good enough? Are people gonna think that I'm a bit of a fraud? Or what do people think that I'm, I can't do this, fake it till you make it? Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And that can be a real barrier as well for people stepping out and confidence and doing things that they want to do. So there's lots of different things that are going on internally. But there's the external pressures, like you say, cashflow, time management, being able to switch off and saying, right, my day is done now, often, SME owners and business owners will carry on because it well, it's on my head, I've got to, I've got to finish these tasks. 

Richard Buckle 13:53

And it's not just the work side of things is it's the, you know, I think for a lot of business owners, work and life, home life as well, personal professional, all ends up blurring into one big bucket of you know, I think last time we spoke, you had a word for that. 

Lisa Gunn 14:13

We call it the stress bucket

Richard Buckle 14:14

Stress bucket. Tell us about the stress bucket. 

Lisa Gunn 14:17

So if you imagine, and just exactly what you said, you have the personal stressors, you've got work related stress, etc. But all of the stresses of your business flowing into the bucket, then you've got necessarily you might have things like, you know, conflict with the wife or needing to kind of make time for that relationship. You've got other friendships, you might need to maintain children, you've got other pressures, maybe there's bereavement, maybe a moving house, all kinds of things that can cause a lot of stresses in your personal life. And if you haven't got a sort of a valve to release that stress, that book is going to overflow. And that's where it manifests in things like mental health problems and some of the physical problems that you mentioned as well, when you were in your late 20s. So one of the key things that we say it's really important you have like a valve that you can just hit on the side of that bucket gets a release that stress. And that comes out in helpful coping mechanisms. Sometimes we go for unhelpful coping mechanisms such as a glass of wine every night, let's just have junk food tonight, let's sit on the sofa and do Netflix and not go to the gym and not meet with our friends. Those things in the in the short term give you pleasure, yeah, I'm going to get that buzz from the fat, sugar, salt, I'm gonna get the buzz from just sitting here relaxing. But over time, if we continue with those habits, they're not going to they don't build our resilience. Whereas actually having a healthier habits, things like making sure we eating well, you know, the brain gut connection is huge. That's really important, making sure that we exercise that we have good connections with people.

Richard Buckle 15:36

Yeah, I just like I was looking at that a while ago, that whole connection with the gut and the brain. And just, you know, diet and gut health and 

Lisa Gunn 15:43

Yeah, if we fruit and vegetables that produces neurotransmitters in the brain that so actually, it's kind of like our good mood is produced in the gut manifested in the brain, if that makes sense. If we're not eating good fruit, good vegetables, all of those good things. We're not having that brain gut connection that can I think the stat now is 60% more likely to get depressed if we're eating a high diet of processed food. 60% That's a lot.

Richard Buckle 16:10

That is incredible, actually,

Lisa Gunn 16:11

Big beige diet is gonna impact your mood.

Richard Buckle 16:14

Okay , so like, so we need to be, you know, providing people with fruit in the office.

Lisa Gunn 16:18

Absolutely. Yeah. What a good call. I'll tell them on the way out.

Richard Buckle 16:23

So, so there's those kinds of things like, you know, we talked a bit before about sleep as well. And you know, how that how that impacts the kind of, you know, stress, 

Lisa Gunn 16:35

Definitely sleep is a huge thing. So, I think, just moving on to what kind of ways in which stress manifests itself. So having poor sleep is a big one, it can impact your relationship, snappy, irritability, like you said, you offloaded to Saffron and cause the emotional reaction, being sedentary, disengaged from pleasurable activities is a big one as well. Alcohol, poor diet, but sleep it is quite fundamental, really. So that's our way that we restore ourselves. And a lot of people don't sleep because they're stressed, or they're having the what if anxious thoughts, it's on me what if this happens, what if that happens, as soon as your body's not stressed, so and again, it's elevating towards fight or flight is not the optimum space for sleep, you need to have your body completely calm for sleep. So that's where people struggle with getting into their sleep routines. 

Richard Buckle 17:17

And if you are struggling with sleep, so you know, what, what is the best thing to do there? So you know, it's we're all guilty of I'm, I'm really kind of, you know, thinking I need to move my phone away from the bed at the moment, because it's just too easy just to you know, middle the night, just you know, or just before you go to sleep, looking at your phone, that type of thing.

Lisa Gunn 17:39

Not healthy at all to do that. Yeah. So quite a good few pointers, I would say is having your room nice and cool. Okay, your body drops to degrees when you're sleeping. So try and again, create the environment that you're the same environment that your body is in when it's sleeping, having your room really dark is a good one. If you are getting up in the night, and I would say the rule of 15 is if you haven't fallen back to sleep again, after 15 minutes, get up out of bed, which can be hard when you're all cosy and tired. But if you're not sleeping, the analogy I use is you don't sit at your dining room table and wait to get hungry. So don't lie in bed and wait to get tired. If you're not tired. You want to strengthen that association between with your brain between bed equal sleep. So if you're not sleeping in your bed, get up a dimly lit room. Really boring, book until you start to get that tiredness, the brain learns Oh, this is where we go to sleep 

Richard Buckle 18:28

So if that's that's things you can do at home. So like the kind of diet like an exercise, sleep, that type of thing in the workplace. What if you've got staff or you know, you've got employees? What what do you you know, how can we help create a less stressful environment? 

Lisa Gunn 18:45

Yeah, well, there's a really interesting stat I saw earlier as well, though, 63% of employees deprioritise, the mental health for financial gain. So making sure that their business comes first, but they're not actually prioritising their mental health. So lots of things that we can do in the workplace, I think the way that we work might need to change that could be causing or contributing to stress. And I think also employers as well, the Equality Act 2010 states that if an employee has mental health problems, which can come on the back of stress or stress, and on stress comes illness, and they do have a legal obligation to make reasonable workplace adjustments. So it could be things like people starting later, if they're not sleeping, well, it could be having more breaks in the day. It could be anything that will be quite short term won't be contractual change or be a short term change. Again, thinking back to the brain and how the brain doesn't operate on stress very well, making sure people have enough room to bring their baseline down again, and they can operate better from there. And that can be done via techniques. So we just talked a bit about breaks in the day, sometimes. I have an app called Pomodoro. Have you heard of that? It's just a 25 minute timer. So you do a task for 25 minutes, then you have a five minute break. And this repeats then it goes to 25 minute breaks. It's kind of training your brain ready to see that break coming is another good way 

Richard Buckle 19:59

I remember reading a study about breaks, I think was Harvard Business Review talking about how there's an engineering company and, you know, they were trying to get cross pollination with the business of ideas and things wasn't really happening. And we had someone I think, was an intern or somebody came along, and basically just bought some biscuits to have with the tea. So it was one of these companies where there was an 11 o'clock break, but people just kind of, you know, either weren't using it or whatever, but just the fact there was like, some other reason to go and you know, get a biscuit and have a cup of tea or whatever, meant that people kind of hung around a little bit more. And they find that people were communicating more internally, in the business, they were, you know, obviously discussing what projects they're working on bit more, you know, collaboration. And what they find that as soon as the, you know, the person who's buying the biscuits and organising that, you know, finished their internship and moved on, was it that over time just kind of drifted away again. So it's back to that point about having those rhythms to manage stress, isn't it within the business, and, you know, I guess, we're probably I'm just thinking here, we're probably we don't have a set, you know, we're actually set tell everyone to go and do things differently in a different different times, almost almost suits the business in a way. 

Lisa Gunn 21:13

I think there's a lot of kind of self care techniques that people can do. And that's a great way to manage stress, I think sometimes people find every excuse in the world to not do self care, because it can take more time. And you think, well, the time I go to the gym or go for a run, I could have done these tasks, but actually, we're probably not going to perform as well, by continuing. And I had a great quote that I use when I present and it's states, if you don't take time for your wellness, you'll be forced to take time for your illness. So just not making those slots in the day to make sure that you stay well often will mean accumulatively you might need a big time being signed off work to actually get yourself better again.

Richard Buckle 21:51

And that's that's where I think it's like the what we talked about before is the new smoking stress.

Lisa Gunn 21:57

Oh, yes, sitting is the new smoking 

Richard Buckle 22:00

Yeah. And just kind of this whole, like, I suppose I'm trying to get there is it it sort of sits under the surface for a long time, doesn't it? You think you're okay? Because you're you're sitting there, kind of just working at your desk doing things and maybe it's, you're getting home, you're staying in the office 15 minutes later, or 20 minutes later, whatever, or you think you can handle it, or you can absorb it, you can do all of this. And I guess you know, I'm as guilty as anyone this just like, you know, broad shoulders crack on type of thing. I suppose that's the interesting kind of balance for me is to say, Well, where is that point where you think, actually, this is, this is something that I need some help with maybe it's kind of informal support is just going for a beer with someone after work or glass of wine or something called going for a run with somebody else, or whatever that is. And I suppose just to sort of relate to the story, and I'll try and keep this as confidential as I can. But it's I remember being in a networking group years ago with some pretty senior people. And we were talking about well, you know, just different issues affecting the business. And there's probably about 10 people in the room. And I said, Why don't we talk about stress. And at the time, I didn't, I wasn't particularly stressed myself, because I'd been through this episode before, which I talked about earlier, I kind of figured out, okay, this is what makes me kind of get stressed. And I'd learned to deal with it. But it was really interesting just to see in the room, the kind of physiological reaction of people, you know, people, if you took them out of that context, and put them in their businesses, they would be board level people who probably wouldn't react like that in the workplace. But, you know, some people were having physiological reactions, that was just really, I was surprised that nearly everybody in the room was dealing with serious levels of stress, which was basically manifesting itself in either overeating and drinking too much, just and it was really kind of shocked me really, I thought, why are we not talking about this more? 

Lisa Gunn 22:02

Well, it's such a common thing as well. And I think it coming back to what you said about you know, you generally do okay, and people generally just carry these things all right, until it's maybe talk about it and realise the impact I had another good quote, which I wanted to share, which is just because someone carries it well doesn't mean that it's not heavy. And again, you might not know that there's things going on inside of you because there can be site like this a blood pressure silent killer. Yeah, it's still a heavy strain on your body. And we don't always know but I think it's good to have a bit of an indication and we call this a stress signature. So what is it for you that indicates that I might be getting stressed and I know for me, I remember once watching it an advert on telly and and it was about chips, oven chips I think and there was a soft song in the background and I remember just weeping and thinking Lisa Why are you crying over chips and I think sometimes you think why why am I getting so emotional? Why am I getting so tearful and that's my stress signature will start to get overly emotional things that aren't you wouldn't usually trigger me.

Richard Buckle 24:52

I get that. And we've talked we've talked not about not about chips but you know, but we talked about this before. Um, you know, I didn't cry for about 25 years. And I still, you know, I'm not like, you know, I'm not blubbering into my pillow every night. It's all, but not anymore after the therapy. But no, but it's things like, like Cool Runnings, like every time, when that when that bobsleigh, when that sled, that sled comes off, is something about that. It's like the injustice of it, that that gets me or even like, you know, films, now I find that I get a much, you know, it's just, you know, kind of dust in the room sort of thing going on. But yeah, I guess that's probably some sort of repressed something or other that I need to work through, but it could actually be a sign of stress, just latent stress.

Lisa Gunn 25:42

Yeah, it could be it could be something suppressed. And it's just like you say, squeezing itself out. But I think with anything with stress, and I think you've mentioned earlier, what what is that tipping point? What how do we know then if it's kind of like a silent that creeps up on us? How do we know when it's really impacting and one of the key things is the impact on your functioning. So even with stress, and even with things that we deal with in life, we should roughly be able to function, okay, still with the things that we need to do. Now, when we can't function. That means the stress has become chronic, or we're hitting somewhere, you know, called burnout, where we're no longer been able to function or having a conversation, being able to be in healthy relationships, don't want to do pleasurable activities anymore, not sleeping anymore, don't want to cook don't want to get out of bed, often as well. And that's where you're hitting that state of burnout. And that's where it's really important, then to take breaks, because your body is saying, I'm not coping, I can't do what I need to do.

Richard Buckle 26:30

So that's almost like yeah, like the natural if you're finding that kind of app, like an apathy almost, 

Lisa Gunn 26:35

Apathy is a huge thing. So I remember when I was going around the country presenting and driving, and I will used to evaluate every session. And I remember going to through a phase of not wanting to give them out, I didn't care what the feedback was. And I thought, That's not me. And I told my boss at the time, I said, Do you know what I don't care, I'm not even giving out these evaluations. And he said, apathy is the first sign of depression, can be one of the very early indicators of depression, if you're stressed, you're tired is going to manifest in things like depression, anxiety. And so we set a kind of a schedule in place, I had to be home by seven in the evening, and so on. And it was really good. So I think sometimes you got to just catch yourself on it. Actually, you don't want to get too burned out, you want to get their way before. So that's why it's really important to know what your stress signature is, what I want you to step backward when we need to create the space because I'm gonna get ill. And then we're going to be forced,

Richard Buckle 27:18

is it like a useful exercise that people listening could actually do to evaluate the stress? Is it? Is it just as simple as sitting down with a sheet of paper and just being reflective and writing down? Or 

Lisa Gunn 27:29

do you know what I would do, there's actually like a bit of an exercise called a stress bucket. So I would actually get people to draw on a sheet of paper, a bucket, and write down everything in their life that has the potential or is causing them stress. So it could be some actually brings you a lot of joy could be the children, but there also could be a source of stress right now because of what's going on in their lives. And just kind of listing we don't often sit down and list what are my stressors? What are things that are potentially gonna cause me stress? And then I do another little boxing, healthy coping mechanisms and unhelpful for having a look at what am I doing? That's not serving me right now? What am I doing well, that I need to do more of. And I think that's a really good way. Another way we choose with my patients is to say, right, if I want my mental health to get really bad, what have I got to do. And it's things like, I got to make sure I don't exercise, make sure I eat a lot of rubbish, make sure that I don't see my friends. And then often we look and think, Oh, I'm not doing any of those things right now. So we can kind of see where it's going, and then plan to do the complete opposite. Right, I need to move, I need to connect to people, I need to make sure I do things I enjoy. So a couple of things there that can be quite good to highlight and make us aware of what's going on. 

Richard Buckle 28:31

So yeah, okay. And do we in terms of involving other people. So back to my, you know, networking group here, it was, it was a bit of a chance, it wasn't something that as a group of blokes, you'd be sitting there saying, let's have a chat about this, you know, over coffee or something. It just happened to come out of the conversation. And it was probably eight years ago or so. So even then it was it was not something that was really spoken about in terms of you know, it took a little bit of a little bit of trust still to do, I guess, are you seeing that attitudes towards stress is changing within the sort of business world?

Lisa Gunn 29:08

I think it's slowly changing. I think people are talking about it more and realising actually, what's going to happen if we don't address stress, or we don't address people's reaction to that. But I think you're right there is like a bit of a stigma attached to putting your hand up and saying, Hey, I'm struggling, or I'm not doing too well, or this is getting too heavy to hold. And there's also a thing called toxic positivity in the office. Sometimes we can glorify overworking. If I'm sending an email at midnight, oh, look at them. They're working so hard, but actually, that's really detrimental to their health. And is there a pressure then for that person to also be seen working that way. So it can be really damaging, and not actually positive at all. 

Richard Buckle 29:41

So I guess the other thing, like we said, we've talked about kind of like what is stress and what can trigger stress and you know that bit about the stress signature in terms of, you know, kind of identifying for yourself and maybe using the stress bucket. Now I'm learning I'm learning to kind of work through all that which I think, you know, hopefully people are taken away from that thing. That's actually something really practical we can do talking to other people around you, you know, kind of those things, at what point is it and this, this is kind of, you know, where a lot of what we talked about you can manage yourself. So it's all about kind of identifying what's what's causes the impact for you, and putting things in place to mitigate those or alleviate things. Where's the point? And what should employers particularly be looking at, in terms of going, this is now moved from something that is stressful situation that can be managed by the person to something that maybe needs a little bit more kind of intervention on a professional front?

Lisa Gunn 30:42

Yeah, I think again, coming back to how people are functioning and bearing in mind that out of stress comes illness. So particularly anxiety and depression are really common mental health problems that come out of stress. And I think if people are starting to struggle with things like it can be something like their worries, they're always thinking, what if, if you thinking what if the brain doesn't know if that's a future worry, or if it's happening now. So the anxiety response will kick off in the now then people will have a physiological reaction and they'll behave in accordance with that, then I'll go back to their thoughts are not performing well, what if I lose my job and they get into a bit of a cycle, and people and get stuck in that cycle very similar with low mood. So if people are getting depressed, like you say about my apathy, maybe then I can't be bothered to get up in the morning, maybe then I phone in sick, maybe I think I'm rubbish, not very good. And then my body reacts to that, and so on. And I get into a bit of a lethargic cycle. And people can stay stuck in those. So sometimes it's really good to have a professional whether that's a therapist, a lot of employees have EAP employee assistance programme, which is free therapy, or one of the the evidence based treatments for anxiety, and depression in particular, is cognitive behavioural therapy, where people can look at what cycles have you got into then how can we look at changing some of those things challenging for challenging behaviours? So I think if people are thinking I'm actually stuck in this, I can't stop worrying, oh, I'm feeling anxious all the time. Like you said, you're being physically sick. That's a huge physiological response, or why am I demotivated by it? And I want to answer my friends messages anymore, or meet anybody that could be getting into low mood cycles, they're having a therapist kind of explore some of those patterns where they can be really beneficial. Sometimes we function in the way that we've always functioned. And we need someone else to look in and go, Hey, did you know you could do it this way? You have no idea there was another way to do it, because we've always done it as we do ourselves, you know, so it can be really helpful.

Richard Buckle 32:23

Excellent. Well, I think that's probably draws a good line under where we've got to cover quite a big range of topics there. You know, really appreciate you coming in. I've always appreciated our chats about this thing, these this topic there. You know, it's always really good to be able to, you know, have good mental health, isn't it and we don't we're living in a in a much more kind of pressurised world, where increasingly that, you know, takes its toll on mental health. So, I think in a business in business setting, that's, that's true, you know, think what we've come through in terms of, you know, a lot of business owners from COVID, to, you know, inflation, all those kinds of cost of living all of that this, like it's taken a toll on everybody. So, yeah, we'd love to have you back at some point.

Lisa Gunn 33:10

I'd love to come back. It's been a pleasure to talk to you.

Richard Buckle 33:14

There's a couple of other topics we want to cover. But I think for now, this has been The SME Growth Podcast. Thanks a lot for listening. We've hope you found this episode interesting and useful. And you've been able to take something away from it that really helps you mental health or perhaps someone you know, so if you know someone who's who would benefit from this podcast, we'd love you to like and share it and repost it wherever you get your podcast from. So thanks again for listening to The SME Podcast and hope you have a great week of mental health ahead of you.

Further Resources

During the episode, Lisa mentioned "The Pomodoro Technique', as an aid for productivity and help manage stress, learn more here. If you'd also like more information on Stress Awareness Month and ways to help manage stress, click here.

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