A good job and a career should have a positive influence on your health and happiness. However, various circumstances can arise making your job a source of stress and potentially even illness.  Causes of work-related stress Work-related stress and other health issues have become a very common consultation for me in the GP surgery with a whole range of workers affected. Workload There are many factors that can cause work-related stress but 'workload' is often the biggest cause and something accounting professionals at all levels are incredibly familiar with. Tight deadlines, too much pressure or responsibility or simply too much work will certainly cause stress. Unfortunately, the lifestyle that goes with overwork is detrimental to our health; working late, missing breaks and eating on the go. All of which forgo things which can be protective of resilience and our ability to survive and thrive.  Work-life blend Work-life blend is another key issue. To be well both psychologically and physically you need time for rest and leisure outside of work. If work takes up too many hours it can rule out these protective aspects of our lives, which can lead to illness. We all need that time to recuperate, so when that balance goes amiss we suffer the mental and physical health costs. Sadly, digital connectivity allows us to stay connected to work far longer than we need to and there is an expectation to work increasingly longer hours.  Having time in a normal schedule to take care of yourself, nurture relationships and recuperate allows you to foster resilience and build stronger mental and physical health. It gives you the capacity to cope with busyness as well as stress and challenges at work. This can seem like an overwhelmingly difficult goal in the face of a busy and pressured job but opportunities to look after yourself can be created.  Building up your resilience, both physically and emotionally, can play a large part in creating less stress for yourself. Resilience is the ability to cope, survive and thrive when difficulties arise. Some of that is inherent, but resilience can also be built and developed. We know that resilience comes from positive relationships and a support network as well as certain lifestyle aspects such as relaxation, positive thinking and taking control.  Power of the micro-action Small changes in your lifestyle can amount to a big difference in your resilience. These can seem trivial – changing your commute for example or what you have for lunch, but actually they can be essential.  It is often impossible to change the big stuff when it comes to your working pattern and the lifestyle that goes with it, so exploring some seemingly small changes, could be hugely valuable. These are known as micro-actions and are easy to adopt, sustain and succeed at. Learning how to build these into your day to day routine is incredibly valuable for good emotional health.  As an example, when scheduling your week, even a busy working week, make room for the people in your life that make you feel good and spend quality time with them. This is proven to improve your mental health and reduce your stress levels.  Likewise, a proper night's sleep is absolutely vital to good physical and strong mental health. It is so fundamental to us as humans and such a mundane, inconsequential part of our routine that it is easy to forget just how important and restorative it can be. For most people, with some simple ideas and guidance, better sleep is possible and hugely beneficial as it can make you feel so much better, physically and mentally.  Building resilience is about small changes that even the busiest of us can make time for and go on to reap the benefits.  Written by: Dr Ellie Cannon Dr Ellie Cannon is the resident GP for the Mail on Sunday and Mail online but is probably most well known as the on-screen GP for Sky News Sunrise and Channel 5 news. After a decade in NHS general practice, seeing the massive prevalence of work-related ill health, she published her second book Is Your Job Making You Ill? in January 2018. She uses the ideas of micro-actions and self-driven personal changes to help combat illness and build resilience without jeopardizing a career, and is now working with select firms to help build their emotional wellbeing and people strategy. She is a headline speaker at the inaugural This Can Happen conference - an innovative and solutions-led conference for companies who recognise that staff need support to deal with mental health issues affecting them. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 05, 2019

Self-compassion is the ability to treat yourself with the same care and kindness as you would a good friend who was going through a difficult and stressful time. 'Unlike self-criticism, which asks if you're good enough, self-compassion asks what's good for you, what do you need?' Kristin Neff Showing compassion to others When we are compassionate to others, we have an intention to be with them through the difficulties they are experiencing and to alleviate their suffering and stress in some way. This can often be very different to the way we treat ourselves through the challenges of life. How often have we provided support for someone we care about and yet end up criticising ourselves endlessly for our various perceived inadequacies or shortcomings. Many of us have been taught to put others first. But neglecting ourselves in order to do this isn't an effective or sustainable long term strategy without considering what we need to keep emotionally well. Maintaining the inner capacity to be there for our family, friends and colleagues is reliant on looking after ourselves well. Self-compassion means you are understanding and kind to yourself when confronted with personal failings and mistakes – after all, whoever said you were supposed to be perfect? Why we need to be compassionate towards ourselves Feeling stressed and being hard on ourselves is very common, especially in a culture which is increasingly performance and target focused. Loneliness and isolation are also increasing in our ever digitally focused world. If you are finding it difficult to manage the many challenges, threats and distractions of our modern world, you are not alone. With current figures of one in four people developing a mental health difficulty in any given year and the rising levels of distress within young people, many people are struggling to align life with their deeper values and needs. A self-critical and unkind stance towards yourself when you are going through testing times will only serve to activate the fight or flight stress response, clouding the minds ability to remain calm. Some people may feel reluctant to develop self-compassion as they might feel the notion is self -indulgent or self- pitying. But developing the ability and strength to face and manage our difficulties, without isolating ourselves from others and becoming absorbed in our own pain is the essence of courageous living. Being able to attend to your own difficulties and challenges wisely will enable you to have the spare emotional capacity to engage with others and life in a more helpful way. According to Kristin Neff there are three key elements to compassion: Self-kindness An ability to relate to ourselves with warmth and kindness. Common humanity The appreciation that we all suffer at times and you are not alone in these feelings. Mindful awareness The ability to view our difficulties in a balanced perspective so that we can keep engaging in life. How to develop emotional resilience There has been much interest in the effects of developing compassion within ourselves from a scientific perspective. Research has shown that people who score high on self-compassion: Cope better with adversities Take more personal initiative and responsibility Are less fearful of making mistakes and being rejected Are more emotionally intelligent, happier and more optimistic Take better care of themselves physically and emotionally The good news is that our compassionate self can be developed and enhanced through training and practice so that we become more attuned to supporting ourselves through the difficulties of life rather than sabotaging ourselves and making situations more unmanageable than they need to be. How to be kinder and more compassionate to yourself Be aware of your internal voice Becoming aware of how we talk to ourselves, the tone of voice we use and language we use gives us the opportunity to move from harshness to supportive tendencies. Noticing the good Being able to notice and celebrate moments of the day and our good qualities is an essential part of managing and balancing difficult times. Each day ask yourself: When have I been at my best today for someone else? What has been my best moment of today? Give yourself encouragement It is more effective to become your own internal ally and support system rather than your own harshest critic. Written by: Kirsty Lilley Kirsty has delivered mindfulness and self-compassion courses to a wide variety of workplaces during her career and is also a trained psychotherapist and coach. She has worked at a strategic level within organisations developing wellbeing policies and been responsible for developing training courses on improving mental health and wellbeing. Kirsty is committed to an integrated and compassionate approach when helping others to fulfil their potential. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 24, 2019

Rejection is a regular part of life – even for those who never seem to put a foot wrong. But it can be painful too. Studies involving volunteers having their brains scanned suggest rejection activates the same neural pathways as those triggered by physical pain. This might explain why many people describe rejection in physical terms such as a slap in the face, a kick in the teeth or a punch in the stomach. Every time an opportunity comes your way, you risk being rejected. Indeed, every day most people face rejection of some form or another, whether the circumstances are professional, for example, applying for a promotion, new assignment or project, or personal, such as the break-up of a relationship. The fact is you simply can’t avoid most circumstances that have a potential for rejection. After all, few people land a job they always wanted without risking rejection. And how many of us would have loving relationships if we didn’t risk rejection when approaching potential romantic partners? But while rejection and failure are inevitable for all of us, the way you handle them – and whether or not you can learn from them – can make all the difference. Here are a few things that may help you feel more comfortable whenever you have to deal with rejection: Manage your emotions Even the most self-confident person suffers a psychological blow when they’re rejected. But while some react calmly, others may lash out at, argue with or blame the person responsible for their rejection. Think about a time when you were rejected: did you manage your emotions, or did you get angry and hostile? If you let your emotions get the better of you, there’s a good chance all that negative energy is still affecting you. Accepting your feelings may help you move on more easily than if you bottle them up. Staying calm and understanding that rejection is a natural part of life may also mean you’re more likely to get constructive feedback that could be helpful. Also try to avoid making assumptions about your rejection, and resist the temptation to talk negatively about it to others such as friends or co-workers. Remember you’re not alone Being rejected can make you feel isolated. But it’s something that happens to all of us. Most writers for instance have to deal with professional rejection regularly. Even the most successful authors have had more rejections than they’d probably care to remember, before going on to have a string of best sellers under their belt. One of the world’s most popular writers, Agatha Christie, spent years receiving rejection letters before her first novel was published – and that’s just 1 of many examples from the literary world (the business world is littered with similar stories). Learn from failure Try to remember that every rejection is an opportunity to learn something or for self improvement. Professional rejections can help you to take a step back and ask yourself if your career is going the way you want it to, or whether you should try making a change. A rejection may also lead you to question whether you could do things differently the next time you face a challenge. Consider asking for feedback about your rejection too. Your aim isn’t to change the other person’s mind about you, but to learn why you weren’t successful in that particular situation. If the rejection is a professional one (such as a job application) you could try to schedule a meeting with the recruiter to talk about the qualifications and job skills they were looking for. Keep things in perspective You may be able to make yourself more comfortable with rejection if you make yourself aware of your chances of success. Experts have looked into the number of people who receive replies after applying for an advertised job. And the figure may be lower than you imagine. In fact studies show that as little as 2% of applications receive responses. If you keep this in mind, a rejection just might seem more tolerable. Stick at it Finally, just because you’ve been rejected it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying. So learn from your rejections, make any necessary changes or adjustments and challenge yourself again. Chances are you’ll achieve a better outcome in the end. Having a growth rather than a fixed mindset means you may have a more positive attitude towards failure and rejection. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 11, 2019

When it comes to mental wellbeing, you often hear the term resilience. But what is it and why is it important? Resilience is your ability to cope with change and adversity. By strengthening your resilience, you’re better able to maintain your mental wellbeing through all of life's ups and downs. Being resilient doesn’t mean that you won't ever feel overwhelmed, under pressure or stressed. But it does mean that your behaviours, habits and emotional health allow you to handle that pressure more effectively, reducing its negative impact on your overall wellbeing. The good news is that resilience is something we can all learn. We’re all capable of establishing new behaviours and habits that promote resilience and empower us to remain calm, confident, healthy and effective in the face of new challenges. Here are 5 ways to boost your resilience: 1. Find a new perspective As humans, we have a natural negative bias, which means we tend to assume the worst about every new situation. This was a useful natural survival instinct thousands of years ago when dangers and predators lurked around every corner. Nowadays however it can mean we’re more likely to feel anxious or stressed about new situations and makes it difficult to see or make the most of new opportunities. The next time you find yourself dwelling on the negatives, ask yourself the following questions: Is there another way of looking at this situation? Do I need more information? How will I benefit from the way I am thinking/feeling/behaving? You might find that when you allow for a more positive interpretation of events, things naturally feel a little easier. 2. Get the rest your body needs Without sufficient sleep, we find it more difficult to challenge our natural negative bias. We’re also more likely to make poor decisions, be irritable and struggle with poor concentration. It’s not hard to see why a good night’s sleep is crucial for a more calm, considered and resilient approach. But it's not just sleeping that matters. It’s important to take regular breaks throughout the day. These brief pauses allow your brain space for more creative thinking, help you retain and process information and improve your focus. This clarity and productivity helps you to feel in control and reduces stress. As little as 5 minutes away from your computer or phone every 90 minutes or so will make a big difference to how you feel. 3. Fuel your brain and your body What we eat and drink can have a big impact on our resilience levels. Simple things like staying hydrated, reducing your caffeine intake and eating three balanced meals each day can help. But it’s also important to pay attention to changes in your blood sugar levels, which can affect your mood and your energy levels. Eating slow-release carbohydrates such as oats, brown rice and quinoa help to stabilise your blood sugar levels, meaning you’ll avoid the energy slump, loss of focus and irritability that often accompanies fast food and snack fuelled sugar crashes. Top tip: Dark leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds contain high levels of magnesium, which helps to regulate the production of the stress hormone cortisol and assists with the release of GABA, a calming neurotransmitter. 4. Celebrate your success Noting down your achievements or things that have gone well and made you happy has several benefits for your emotional health. Reflecting on our successes improves self-confidence and helps us to feel positive about ourselves. Writing down your achievements can also serve as a tangible reminder of your personal strengths whenever you feel insecure about a new situation. 5. Practice mindfulness The underlying principle of mindfulness is that we can simply observe and notice our thoughts and feelings without letting them impact our wellbeing. This focus on emotional regulation and self-control is essential for resilience. With regular practice, mindfulness can help you approach new and challenging situations with a sense of calm and clarity. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 10, 2019

Assessing a disaster, whether in your personal or professional life, can be difficult if not put into perspective. Leanne Hoffman explains how we rewire our thinking to build resilience. We are living in volatile times. Some would even call it a crisis point with divisions over Brexit, distrust in our political systems, a shift towards to nationalism, a rise in terrorism, seismic changes in technology and climate change. Events like these can take a toll on a person’s wellbeing, but it is important to have perspective: we are also living in relatively safe times with less poverty, less crime, better healthcare, fewer childbirth-related deaths, and lower infant mortality than any time in recorded history. So, how do we assess a genuine crisis and separate it from terrible, but not existential, events? Rewiring our mindset Our emotional state is affected when our resilience is tested, creating a negative feedback loop. However, we have more influence than we might imagine over how we make sense of our world. We have the agency to take back control and stop any feelings of powerlessness, whether it’s because of Brexit or a disaster in the office. This is not simply about having a positive mindset. Tell a person to ‘look on the bright side’ when they are staring down a career crisis and you can rightly expect an aggressive response. However, if you separate the emotive feelings from realistic observations of what is actually happening, a person can learn to focus on behaviours that will help them cope or even make things better. Struggle is an integral part of life and we are wired to respond more to the bad than to the good; our successful ancestors did not spend their days admiring the flora or fauna, or even their offspring. They were anticipating and watching out for the kind of threats that could potentially kill them. It makes no sense for modern-day stresses to evoke the same chemical reaction that flooded our ancestors when a tiger leapt into view, but it still happens. This physical response is not negative thinking, it is an error in thinking and we need to rewire. We cannot control every situation we face, but with work, we can influence our responses and the emotional state these ‘threats’ evoke. For instance, vocabulary matters – we need to stop saying that things are ‘a nightmare’ or ‘devastating’ or ‘awful’ unless they genuinely are. Understand your world So, what can we do when things feel hard, when the news is unrelentingly gloomy or when you think your career is in peril? Understanding your emotional world can help discern what is truly awful (losing a loved one), and what is just incredibly unfortunate but fixable (a boss that makes life hard). Doing this internal work before we are faced with adversity puts us in better shape when life takes a difficult turn; if the mental tank is empty, the experience will be even worse. Being able to separate our current feelings from past feelings can pull us out of the well of despair and stop us from getting frozen in melancholia. Recently, Jacinda Arden, Prime Minister of New Zealand, focused on bringing the community together and supporting the mourners after a terrorist attack on two Mosques in Christchurch. She skillfully avoided knee jerk reactions to blame, scapegoat and build a wall that would be based solely on fear, confusion and devastation. Her humility, compassion and humanity is a lesson to us all on how to be resilient in truly volatile times. Leanne is a coach, trainer and psychotherapist. She is also a founding partner of the company Healthy Minds @ Work. Leanne also wrote a CPD course, Building Resilience for Professionals, available to take online.

Mar 30, 2019
Careers Development

January the beginning of a fresh new year with hopes, goals, aspirations and resolutions.  Often that spills over from personal into professional life and it's an opportunity to reflect on how the previous year has been but also a good time to put some structure on the coming year. Regardless of where you are in your studies you may find you are being stretched in your efforts to manage a busy audit season, or perhaps year end or even just to complete study and exam prep along with managing life and all of the things that can be thrown  at you. Historically the phrase work-life balance has been bandied about as though it was something we should all strive for - however, one size does not fit all and so we now know that everyone's 'balance' can be different and can differ at various  career stages. This 'balance' is being replaced with a more personalised concept of 'blend' so whatever the work and life blend you choose the key is that it is healthy and manageable for you. Furthermore in creating this blend, traditionally we talk about well-being and resilience to last the distance.  Career coaches, hr practitioners and even individuals have developed this concept further and have found that too much resilience isn't necessarily a good thing. In a 2017 Harvard Business review study on resilience the writers look at the potential negative side of our increasing resilience.  Showing up every Monday morning in dark winter months to do a role you know isn't for life but is just for now is admirable and indeed a trait that is necessary at many stages in life and career.  However, when every day feels like a cold wet windy Monday morning, and where the work is neither stimulating nor challenging your resilience could in fact be holding you back from moving on to something more exciting and positive in your life. Conversely you may find that each day is too challenging, that each decision is too demanding, that requests are bordering on unethical or immoral or the hours of work are dangerously high - resilience is not your best friend here.  The article goes on to highlight the blinding nature of pushing on and ignoring the warning signs not just for yourself but possibly also for your team - not reading the signs or expecting too much are not good leaderships traits . So what can you do? Begin to monitor your work, your energy, your health and your downtime, if you feel that any of them are suffering begin an audit of what can change, even the smallest tweaks such as cycling into work can mean you get some exercise, head space and still get in on time.  Perhaps you haven't had a Saturday off in months, is there an opportunity to do something about that, even a conversation with your manager to confirm an end point for constant weekend work can in itself be a light relief.  Reflect on what it is that you need to do to ensure that your long term health, positive mental health and well-being are maintained. A shift from dogged resilience to well-being and self-care can in the long run last the pace and can ensure that you enjoy the journey and view it as a marathon with the odd sprint thrown in - it's where the entire journey mirrors a sprint is where your perseverance can take a bashing. Far from the days of chin up and put your best face forward, we are increasingly reminded that the ‘always on’ mentality and environment in which today’s generation exists should be managed with care rather than become something to be endured.  Long term this mindful approach to self-care will pay dividends that far outweigh salaries or status. Ciara Tallon Career Coach & Recruitment Specialist 01 6377322

Jan 16, 2019