How do you fix a ‘broken’ brain?

Stress, anxiety and burnout are natural reactions to an accelarating work life. Psychologist Ditte Darko shares 3 secrets on how to help protect yourself and develop healthy coping strategies.

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Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash
Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

How do you fix a ‘broken’ brain?
As a psychologist, I meet people who are seriously affected by stress, anxiety and depression. It can be anyone – from the director to the unskilled, the young, the elderly, women and men. Stress does not distinguish between your level of education and can enter the lives of everyone – often the most loyal and hardworking employee.

In the wake of stress, feelings of guilt and blaming oneself of being “too weak ” are very normal.  In the worst case feelings of powerlessness and depression follows.  But the fact that stress is a problem for many is rarely due to the fact that most people are ‘weak’ – on the contrary, it is a natural reaction, to an accelerating and demanding working culture,  that is basically ‘sick’. Stress responses in people can be seen as  a natural reaction to a workplace in difficulties: A ‘sick’ culture, with ‘sick’ demands, ‘sick’ expectations and ‘sick’ goals of endless, sky-high growth, where the resources to solve the tasks are not sufficient – and where the individual must constantly make compromises on his professionalism and quality of work. Meeting those who pay the price is both scary, instructive, and thoughtful. And their major question is: How do you fix a ‘broken’ brain?

Photo by Arif Riyanto on Unsplash

The experience of unfairness plays a major role in the development of stress
One of the most widespread understandings of why stress occurs is about the imbalance between work place demands and our experience of control. In recent years, researchers have become aware that stress isn’t just about having high demands at work and little or no control of the tasks at hand.  Instead it is the experience of unfairness in the workplace that is at the heart of many stress issues. often referred to as “Stress as offense to the Self”. Maybe you experience unreasonable tasks, unfair treatment, unreasonable demands, withheld information or discrimination that forms the bottom of the iceberg.

Typical causes of stress are not found in people but in:

• The experience of injustice and unfairness
• High emotional demands
• Excessive demands on control and influence
• Too little recognition for efforts
• Role ambiguity and role conflicts
• Unpredictability
• Bullying & harassment

3 strategies to protect yourself from stress and burnout

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Seek social support and have honest dialogues

Prevention of stress and burnout requires cultural changes at work places – but first and foremost, it allows for open and honest dialogues on issues and challenges in working life and perhaps in the discovery that you are not as alone as you think, if you experience stress. Social support is one of the major protective factors that contribut to a positive work environment . That means, that if you experience difficultis at work, don’t be afraid to share your thoughts with a colleague or your leader.

Ask your self what you can control and what you can’t control – acceptance is key

Many people experience changes at the workplace, that they did not choose themselves. Often we don’t welcome change, since it requires energy and scares us, since we don’t now the consequences. When you are in a situation, which is difficult ask your self what factors you can’t control? When you know them – leave them and start focusing on what factors in your environment are under your control at the moment? It might be very small things. It doesn’t matter. Just start focusing on what you actually can control. It makes a big difference.

Slow down – do something fun and relaxing

Many people don’t like to slow down, but science has proved that breaks are good for the brain. According to Positive Psychology, it is when we relax and have a good time that our minds open up to new ideas, that we broaden our scope of life and solve problems better. So whenever you’re trapped, try to slow down and allow yourself to do something completely different. Dare to try it!

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