7 things you need to face change resiliently

20 Sep 2017 Uncategorized

Facing change sometimes requires a big dose of energy and resilience.  So I have come up with the 7 main things you need to successfully deal with change in all it forms (whether it is a change you choose or you don’t want):

  1. Take extra care of yourself – times of change can be physically and mentally taxing, so even 10 mins of uninterrupted ‘me time’ can benefit your whole body, have a look my busy is the new black blog for some practical tips.
  2. Ongoing curiosity and flexibility – wanting to learn more is essential to transition well through change. So approach change with a scientific, curious or childlike fascination. Be open to the different directions that the change may bring.
  3. Acceptance and readiness – this does not mean opening your arms without question, but being ready to face what the change will bring. This may require courage and an openness to face discomfort
  4. Be prepared to change habits – this is the hardest step at the beginning, as we are creatures of doing what we have become accustomed to. But remember once the habits have shifted then it will become much easier, as you will have established a set routine.
  5. Desire to grow – it’s OK to stumble, and to get stuck, but learning happens when you expose yourself to new experiences and different ways of doing things. Be prepared to develop your growth mindset.
  6. Sustained effort – unfortunately ‘hope’ and ‘finger crossing’ alone won’t bring you over the line. Like all good things in life effort overtime is needed.
  7. Believe you can change – Sometimes we hold onto our fears from the past when we are faced with change: Will I be able to cope? Is it going to be too hard for me? If you are stuck on your negative beliefs, counselling can help you address your blocks and help you to a shift to mindset that promotes change.

What to do when change is not a choice?

Take a deep breath. Ask yourself what is the cost-benefit of getting on board with the change?

Take the time to map this out.

Now be honest with yourself and assess your openness or resistance to this change.

It is sometimes hard to admit you just don’t want to change because it may mean changing habits, changing roles or even moving on. Remember it takes more effort to be open to something new, than it is to find fault and reject it. Successful change means you need to be open to learning and doing things differently or expanding on what you already do.

Ask for support – You don’t need to adapt to change on your own…

Working with a coach or counsellor can be beneficial to help you:

  • Develop growth mindset
  • Come to terms with and accept change
  • Implement a change
  • Develop strategies to resiliently move through a change.

Thank you for reading my blog and my personal account of what change means to me.

I would appreciate your feedback and look forward to sharing further tips to enhance your resilience and wellbeing in future blogs.

Contributor: Nicole Plotkin is an experienced corporate wellness trainer and principal psychologist at the Emotional Health Centre. She is passionate about working with individuals and workplaces to promote, enhance and restore wellness at work and at home through team based resilience, mental health and stress management training programs and individual counselling sessions.

What mindset do you need to successfully deal with change?

20 Sep 2017 Uncategorized

Well, that’s the easy part, you need a ‘growth mindset’, the simple belief that learning is ongoing, your intelligence and capabilities are not fixed, change and challenges bring new opportunities and self-development, loss is a part of life and goals are achieved through dedication and sustained effort.

The ground-breaking idea that all people have a fixed or a growth mindset was put forward by Psychologist Carol Dweck after years of research in the field of achievement and success.

The great news is we can all develop a growth mindset. So changing your fixed mindset from “I hate change” to a growth mindset of “I can handle it”, “I can learn through it”, and “embrace it and/ or grow from it”. This is achievable and can help you live a more resilient life, move through change successfully and enhance your emotional health and wellbeing.

My journey of change, moving from fixed to growth mindset

As a child I would have referred to myself as being “painfully shy, someone who would watch from the side lines and often was too scared to say what was on the tip of my tongue”. I would have also described my marks, due to missing some of the foundation skills in English at school as much to be desired and this further depleted my self-esteem. I had a fixed mindset, thought “I was not smart”and “I could not change my intellectual capacity”. Though, I was curious about human interaction and my shyness allowed me to spend more time listening and learning about different behavioral and communication styles. When I met with the school career counsellor and mentioned that I wanted to become a psychologist – you could imagine how I felt when she virtually laughed at me and said “now we need to be realistic” and proceeded to shoot down my goal, purely based on my academic reports. I finally had the courage to speak up about what I wanted and then in one sentence she had brought me back down to earth.

Something inside me finally said “no” to the negative self-talk, to the people who did not believe in me and I decided to finally prove myself and everyone else wrong and learn” I could grow”. I didn’t have any false hope. I knew I wouldn’t achieve my goal straight away but “with hard effort, I would get there”. I was going to change my fixed mindset around “not being smart enough” and being “too shy” to a growth mindset.

And I proceeded to do so….

Shedding my unwanted cloak and developing a growth mindset

With sheer determination, I decided to make the biggest of change of my life when I left high school and that was to shed my ‘shy’ cloak and learn to change and believe that I could learn to have a voice that mattered. I decided that for my own wellbeing, this change was worth fighting for. I was on my path to develop a growth mindset and I started to make changes in my life. I would challenge myself to speak up in group situations. Even if my discomfort levels could be described in the red zone and the worst I could think of, I still proceeded with my challenge as I knew with time I would grow and gradually become more comfortable. I managed to get in to Uni, but was faced with lots of obstacles and comments on my reports like “you have great ideas, but don’t know how to express yourself, your grammar and ability to write is poor”. But with support, I am still continue to grow in the writing space and have achieved my goal to becoming a psychologist. A career that I continue to grow and develop through.

So when I reflect on successful change in my own life, I can confidently say it occurred when I rubbed my hands together and said, “OK, what do I need to do to make this work?” Then I developed the goals, habits, skills, qualities and beliefs that I could change and be resilient.

Thank you for reading my blog and my personal account of what change means to me.

I would appreciate your feedback and look forward to sharing further tips to enhance your resilience and wellbeing in future blogs.

Contributor: Nicole Plotkin is an experienced corporate wellness trainer and principal psychologist at the Emotional Health Centre. She is passionate about working with individuals and workplaces to promote, enhance and restore wellness at work and at home through team based resilience, mental health and stress management training programs and individual counselling sessions.

What hoops do you jump through to adapt to change in your career and personal life?

18 Sep 2017 Uncategorized

For most the answer is a lot. There are many aspects of your life that you may find are constantly in a state of change. Adapting to change may mean you will need to challenge your way of doing things, from making decisions, changing habits and how you even view yourself.

You may be required to:

  • Change your mindset
  • Weigh up the pros and cons
  • Make a choice
  • Upskill
  • Face loss and grief
  • Alter your expectations (increase or lower)

The reality is change can happen in the blink of an eye. But other times it can be slow, planned and expected. In some situations we don’t always have the luxury of time, and in other situations a fast forward button may not be available. Even just the word ‘change’ may trigger an emotional response, memory, experience and plan ranging from joy to the worst discomfort imaginable.

You may also be required to face unwanted change. For more information read my blog on

7 things you need to do to face change resiliently which also discusses what to do when change is not a choice.

So having healthy ways to deal with change in all it’s forms is needed at home and work.

Please check out my blog on what mindset you need to successfully deal with change, which expands on:

The ‘growth mindset’, the simple belief that learning is ongoing, your intelligence and capabilities are not fixed, change and challenges bring new opportunities and self-development, loss is a part of life and goals are achieved through dedication and sustained effort.

Ask for support – You don’t need to adapt to change on your own…

Working with a coach or counsellor can be beneficial to help you:

  • Develop growth mindset
  • Come to terms with and accept change
  • Implement a change
  • Develop strategies to resiliently move through a change

Contributor: Nicole Plotkin is an experienced corporate wellness trainer and principal psychologist at the Emotional Health Centre.

Balancing Work-Life pressures

30 Mar 2017 Uncategorized

Why it’s so hard to keep balance in your home life and working life?

Ever increasing work demands around the globe rank as one of the most challenging factors to sustaining positive mental health for the working population. These demands, and consequential over-working syndrome and work related stress responses, often result from work pressures and long working hours. They are partially cultural in that some corporate environments expect so much from an employee, and with cut backs and mergers, there’s always more to do than YOU can master, no matter how talented or how well your time management skills are. Also, you may feel that work is the priority over your personal life. But if you don’t make time for pleasurable experiences, social interaction, foster family relationships or just to exercise and eat well your emotional health and well-being will suffer. According to many health researchers, there is a need to balance work and home life, or work responsibilities and our personal endeavors.

In fact many employees in Melbourne and around the world, experience ‘back to work blues’, struggling with stress, post-holiday let down and uncertainty of the year ahead. Will I have enough time to fit everything in? Will another year past with me not having enough time to enjoy life?

Is a work-balance possible to achieve? 

Early in my career as a psychologist, I was given a worksheet for coaching clients called “Get a life, Get a balance”. It included a pie chart to dissect how much time was being spent in different areas of their daily life.  The term ‘balance’ never sat well with me. Why? Because it is an impossible pursuit to strive for a perfect, ongoing equilibrium between competing areas in our life. And let’s face it – our lives are very full these days, and our work, our children, our partners, friends and exercise regimes – as well as unexpected emergencies or family or business crisis points – all compete for our time. There are only 24 hours in each day, and you need to sleep for best health and well-being. Trying to get a balance feels like a hamster in a wheel trying to get out.

But while ‘balance’ never sat well with me as a term, I DO like the idea of paying attention to the areas our lives which deserve more effort – and to focus on the activities that are working best for you. It’s all about getting a work-life fit. Fitting in the things that you may be neglecting but are essential for your well-being.

Q: How do you go about carving time out for yourself? Are you working too much? Each start of the year is a great time for stock taking about our lives, our goals and our work-life priorities. 

Mental Health Coaching:  Some signs of poor work-life balance

If you’re like most workers today, you may find yourself stressed when you feel you need to work long hours to get your responsibilities done. Along with working extended hours, you may feel you get little, if any, free time to really enjoy life, spending time on your hobbies or with friends, loved ones and family members. You may feel you don’t have enough ME time, which is essential for mental health – and over the long term, essential for workplace productivity.

A lack of beyond-work activities like games or hobbies or free time to do the things you really love doing, outside of your office, may also lead to unwanted weight gain and many other health issues. Over time, these factors interact and can leave you with high levels of discontentment and even chronic depression.

Well Being at Work and home: So, what can be done to improve your work-life dynamics and find more pleasure in your life?

For the employee and individuals who are feeling burnt out by their jobs or a lack of work/home life fit:

  • Discuss your work-life fit requirements and openly share it with your manager. It may simply be that at lunchtime instead of working-through you will be going for a 20-minute power walk and/ or go to the park to do some mindfulness exercise.
  • Do some regular body exercises, try to go to the gym for a weight-bearing workout at least three days a week.
  • Use working tricks that ease your tasks, for example, automating some of your tasks using the present technology. This requires an investment of up front time, but is well worth it over the longer run as it WILL save you time in the months to come.
  • Talk and share any concerns, barriers to getting a healthy work-life fit, rather than keeping quiet and struggling with the problems
  • Be prepared to change habit

Work-life fit is important for ME and YOU…

Everyone is susceptible to burnout and I am no exception. As a psychologist, mum, business owner, wife, daughter and friend I often find myself asking “where has the time gone” or “when will I exercise or have time for me?”. So, mapping out and following a work-life fit that suits me has been essential. I must admit this has not always been easy and I have had periods where my body has got to the point of exhaustion before I stopped and listened. Now on a regular basis, actually daily for me, I reflect on what is imperative for me to fit in. I do this by completing a daily diary entry where I reflect on what has worked for me and what hasn’t. I then try to do more of what makes me have a better work-life fit. For instance, exercise is important for me, especially on counselling days when I sit most of the days with clients. I find either walking to work (when practical), walking in the evening or making sure I power walk during my lunch break.

I have learnt through my work-life fit reflection time, what work and home expectations I can reasonably and effectively take on. I have also learnt to say no.

But every so often I forget my own limits and my body ‘loudly’ reminds me that it is time to STOP.

STOP and work on your work-life fit:

S -Stop what you are doing and take a few deep breathes

T – Take a few minutes to reflect on your current work-life fit

O – Outline what is working and/ or not working for you

P – Pause and give yourself permission to fit something in for yourself: call a friend, go for a walk, smell some roses, have cup of tea etc.

So, I strongly recommend that you take the time out of your ‘busy day’ (busy is the new black) to reflect on your own work-life fit, negotiate this with others around you and then be prepared to change habits to fit in the aspects of your life that are essential to enhance your emotional and physical health and well-being.

Contributor: Nicole Plotkin is the principal psychologist at the Emotional Health Centre, who works with individuals and workplaces to work on wellness: resilience, mental health and stress management.

Discover the 3Ps to Reinvent, Launch or Grow Your Career…

3 Feb 2017 Uncategorized

The 3Ps are your Passion, Purpose and Personal Brand

These are critical factors in guiding your career ‘journey’ and will help you to answer the following questions:

  • ‘What am I going to do when I grow up?’
  • ‘What’s my next career step?’
  • ‘How do I change, improve, or adjust my current role so that it’s more fulfilling?’
  • ‘How do I work out what I want to do and what lights me up?’
  • ‘How do I get noticed?’

Part of looking at both passion and purpose is about looking at what’s right with you, what lights you us, what provides meaning in your life. Traditionally we’ve been told to look at what’s wrong with us and to develop these areas. Yet it’s what’s right with us that’s going to guide our journey, and what’s right with us is our strengths, our values and our skills, and this all underpins our passions and purpose and allows us to be authentically us – which is our personal brand.

In this blog, the key focus is the role of passion in your career journey. We’ll look at purpose and personal brand in upcoming blogs.

So what is Passion?

Passion’s a word that gets thrown around a bit these days. But what is it really?   Passion is your drive, your motivation, your zeal.   When you feel passionate about something, you bring a lot of energy to it and you also get a lot of energy from it.

Whichever way you understand it and whatever passion looks like to you, if you can tap into your passions and apply them in a work context, you tend to find yourself in ‘flow’ –  a positive psychology term to describe when you are totally absorbed in what you’re doing to the point that you lose all sense of time. It’s worth thinking about what you’re doing when you get into a state of flow as this can be a good indicator of your passions. Feel free to refer to passion as ‘strong interests’ if you feel more comfortable.

The next question is, how do you tap into your passions and what happens if you feel like you don’t have any?

Tapping into your Passions

Some people can easily tell you what they’re passionate about. Others have to think a lot harder and for some people, they may even feel they don’t have a passion, or they may feel like they used to know, but that they lost their mojo somewhere along the line. This might be due to getting lost in daily routines, or having children and taking on different roles. Whatever the reason, you can sometimes lose sight of your passions.

There are many ways to tap into your passions. One method is to use mind mapping. On a piece of paper, write down ‘passions’ in the middle of the page and then brainstorm all the things you enjoy doing around the outside. Then dig deeper. What is it about those things that you enjoy? For example, you might have passions around guitar, drawing and writing. If you dig deeper, you may discover that the common theme is creativity, or it could be a love of learning something new.

It’s the underlying theme and what it means to you that will help you identify what you could take into a new role, or even ‘recraft’ into your current role. That is, you may discover that any role you take on needs to allow for continual learning.  If you would prefer to stay in your current role, you may be able to ‘recraft it’ to incorporate a greater level of learning. You may choose to ask for stretch assignments, or you might look for other on the job learning opportunities.

Coaching sessions

You may also benefit from individual coaching sessions at the Emotional Health Centre to help you to identify the multi-faceted elements of your current personal reality that contribute to your passion and career journey.  This incorporates reviewing what ‘is working’ and ‘not working’ for you in terms of your work and home situations, values, goals, wishes, weaknesses, coping strategies, strengths, emotions, gut instinct and internal feedback and relationship with others.

At the Emotional Health Centre we use a lot of tools to help with this process.

A good starting point is the:   VIA strengths finderfree online positive psychology survey

So passion is your drive and motivation, it’s what interests and excites you and gets you into flow.

If you would like to find out more about tapping into your passion or other aspects of your career/ life journey feel free to contact us at EHC

Contributor: Laurenne Di Salvo – Coach/ facilitator/ Learning and Development Professional (Emotional Health Centre)

A Fresh Start: Reduce stress and make New Years Resolutions Stick

31 Dec 2016 Uncategorized

Reduce Stress and Bring About Positive Life Changes: How to Make New Year Resolutions that Stick

Whilst I sip on my virgin Mojito packed with fresh mint and lime, I am ready to turn up the heat and embrace change.  I am going to be healthier and wiser, stress less and socialise more, and make more of an effort with the important people in my life.  I’ll be more engaged and increasingly efficient at work, but still make time to take on new and exciting hobbies, projects and adventure. I will finally make more time for me.  Yes, it is time to shake the stress off from this year and welcome the new year with open arms.

For many of us, the fare-welling of a year to make room for a new and improved year is not an uncommon ritual. In a sense, the celebrations and rituals of the New Years Resolutions give us an  opportunity for self-initiated changes.

Reinventing and growing yourself is like shedding an old cloak, well-worn and in need of replacing. It’s challenging yet therapeutic, and there’s often no better time than at an important change of time – a seasonal change, a birthday or the turning of time into a New Year.

You may have loved the cloak, or hated it, but either way – old habits that do not serve your mental, physical or social health NEED TO GO, no matter what.

Why bother? Do New Year’s Resolutions actually work?  How to make New Years Resolutions that Stick.

New Year’s Resolutions are often a great way to reflect and re-evaluate some of your life choices. It’s also a way to help you learn to decrease stress by mapping out where you want to make your biggest changes.  New Year’s Resolutions have become a cultural and psychological ritual for many people. Interestingly, most of us tend to make the same resolutions each year.   In fact, according to Psychologsist and behavioural change expert,  John Norcross and his colleagues (2002), over 40-50 percent of people annually make New Year’s Resolutions.

The most common New Years resolutions are around health changes: exercise, quit smoking and weight loss.

I have personally found it has only been when I have been truly ready to change a behaviour that a New Year’s Resolutions has come to fruition.

The Psychology of Change – 5 key components to successful changes

# 1:  Recognising the need to change (acknowledging how current patterns of behaviour or thinking are NOT helping you reach your dreams or goals)

# 2:  Being willing to change (essentially this is “Readiness to change“)

# 3:  Understanding the upside of change i.e., making a list of the potential rewards of changing your behaviours or thought patterns

#4:  Planning to START on a specific date and sticking to it – or better yet, beginning immediately.

#5:  Sticking with the changes for a minimum of 21 and ideally 45 to 60 days  – at which time you may not even remember what it felt like before you changed.

Why resolutions are easy to make, but sometimes difficult to maintain

There is a reason why people make and break resolutions in short order.  The main reason appears to relates to a tendency called False Hope Syndrone (Polivy, J & Herman, P, 2002). We sometimes believe the change we set for ourselves is going to be easy and effortless.  When we set high expectation that aren’t actually realistic, or have too short a time frame to achieve them, we may set ourselves up to fail before we begin.  It’s often better to set several baby steps and give yourself enough time to get there, so that you’ll know you’re ‘winning’ in your New Year, New You self-improvement and change management strategies.

(Click to read more about the False Hope Syndrome).

New Years Resolutions and Weight Loss

The dieting industry thrives of False Hope Syndrome and makes big promises for people to lose weight fast.

Getting back in shape and losing weight are often at the top of most of our lists each New Year when we’re making resolutions.  Yet if we approach our “getting a new body” regimes in an overly optimistic – or rather, unrealistic – way, we’re apt to be disappointed, and can even feel like giving up entirely.  It’s too easy to throw in the towel when you set yourself up for unrealistic time frames or weight loss goals.

How to avoid False Hope Syndrome

7 Tips to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick

  1. Address any barriers to the resolution sticking (negative mindset, external conflicts, lack opportunity, excessive goals and/or not-linked to values).  FEAR of failure is the most common barrier, and needs to faced first – as this fear will be the basis of whether you feel or believe you can change your behaviour or thought patterns.
  2. Prepare for action. Focus on one resolution at a time; and set a realistic goal around something that you have spent time contemplating and have decided you are READY and WILLING to change or overcome.
  3. Action leads to change.
  4. Keep returning to a positive statement that you can identify with: e.g “Anyone can talk about changing, I am taking the steps to change.”
  5. Keep a diary log. Remind yourself – a resolution deserve respect. You are changing a behaviour and it takes commitment, time and energy, before it becomes a habit.
  6. Don’t do it alone. Weekly check-ins with a support buddy is invaluable. A great opportunity to reflect and report your high and lows relating to your resolution.
  7. Maintenance – ensure gains made are maintained through reflection and rewards, otherwise new behaviour can be distinguished and old behaviour resurfaced.


“I am currently working to achieve my optimal weight of 65 kilograms, which means I working on loosing 15 kilograms.  I have already lost 7 kiolograms and am no longer struggling  with the effort to change my eating behaviour.  One thing that has helped me each week is to celebrate my success between milestones.  I have enjoyed focusing on my new healthy relationship with food.  Food continues to be a source of pleasure for me, but I no longer need to over-indulge, I am loving savoring my food and respecting my body. This means I have had to change my behaviour at the supermarket, when I go out  and how I actually eat my food in the moment, mindfully.  I am not depriving my body, but refueling it. I still eat chocolate most days but no longer stuff it down but enjoy the eating experience slowly with appreciation.  I have got myself into the habit of kindly but firmly say to myself “that’s enough when I have had a 1-2 pieces of chocolate.”

Blog Themes:

  • New Years Resolution

  • Stress

  • Change

  • Self-help

  • Psychology

  • Mental health

    Contributor: Nicole Plotkin is the principal psychologist at the Emotional Health Centre, who works with individuals and workplaces to enhance wellness through team based resilience, mental health and stress management training programs and individual counselling sessions.


Sisters are doing it for themselves!

6 Dec 2016 Uncategorized

International Women’s Day is coming up on Sunday the 8th March, and on this day, women are being recognised and praised for their achievements all around the world. This is a day where people come together across all cultural backgrounds to celebrate the rights of women and girls. Woman across the world are achieving amazing success whether it is in their work-life, family or social life and these accomplishments are a testament to their sheer determination and will power. Whether they are studying, parenting, and/ or working …They are making it happen!

As a mother, wife, colleague, mentor, trainer and psychologist, Director of the Emotional Health Centre, Nicole Plotkin reports “I am faced daily with the challenge of juggling family, stress, work and pleasures. I am aware of the many ‘hats’ women chose or out of necessity must wear and how important it is to celebrate personal achievements”. Nicole is excited to be a part of AWU Working Well with Woman event (11 March 2015), presenting on Empowering Woman in the workforce.

Even in times of struggle, we can learn how to turn any challenges into opportunities for growth and learning. It is during these tougher times women must stick together and support one another. Women have worked so hard for their rights and positions in society; they deserve all the recognition and praise for their efforts in making the world a more equal place for women.

Ladies, take the time to think about:

A woman in your life that has inspired you…who are they…how have they impacted your life? What do you want to achieve? What do you want in life?

You have to the power to achieve anything you wish – set your mind and heart to it and go! But the essential ingredients for success is remembering to take time out to look after yourself and use resources and supports around you. You are not alone!!

Purple is the official colour for International Women’s Day as it symbolises justice and dignity – two values strongly associated with women’s equality. So to show your support, wear something purple on Sunday 8th March.

Get involved and support the cause. Use your voice through social media with hashtags #MakeItHappen, #womensday, #paintitpurple on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Valentines Day Vs. Technology

15 Nov 2016 Uncategorized

Time to say I love you…..

It is often easy to feel like we now live in a world where….

• Friendship has changed from feeling comfortable ‘popping into a friends’ house at any time of day to wondering when it is convenient to call.
• Giving someone a hug and a compliment for doing a great job to receiving a compliment with a simple thumbs up.
• Writing and sending a birthday card to receiving an E-Card of a dancing dog.

Ask yourself:

• Is today’s technology making life easier or is wasting our life by trying to keep up with the Zuckenberg’s of the world?
• Are we creating a society of selfish, robotic individuals that spend most of their day walking with their heads in their phone?
• One question that is hard to measure is are we happier as a society today or were we happier before the evolution of today’s technology?
• Should we all continue to be on the same escalator of life or should we create happiness and love without Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

If we can do one thing this Valentine’s day, let’s all switch of our IPhones, IPad, Galaxies and look at your partner or loved ones in the eye and say I LOVE YOU.

Busy is the new Black: tips to manage stress at work

11 Oct 2016 Uncategorized

The modern workplace is a source of constant change, stimulation and challenge. For many people in the workplace, busy is the new black!

Are you working on overdrive and can’t seem to get any balance in your life?  Do you find yourself having to constantly switch your attention to juggle competing tasks? Do you end your day feeling totally drained and feel there is not enough time in the day?  Do you neglect to look after your health? Do you find yourself often saying “I am busy!”? Then please read on…

In this blog, Nicole Plotkin, Psychologist at the Emotional Health Centre in Melbourne, will share some tips to stay calm, manage your stress and keep a clear head – even when it feels like chaos is all around you.

My interest in the topic of busyness at work was first sparked when I noticed that so many people around me: my clients, my colleagues, friends and family all described their typical day as busy.  I noticed too, that being busy was my normal default response and I did not like the feeling that I was falling down a rabbit hole.  It was no longer a good enough excuse for not looking after myself and not having time for the important people in my life.   I wasn’t going to just accept this for myself or the people around me.  This was not ok.

Lesson from emergency services about managing workplace stress:

 I have always been fascinated by the fact paramedics are trained to come out of their ambulance calmly and not to rush to an accident scene, to allow them to think clearly and see the whole picture. I have come to realise this clear headed approach applies to ‘most work’ situations.  We all need to be able to step back and take a birds-eye view of our situation to make informed and rational decisions.

Alarm bells: When people are too scared to be anything ‘but busy’ when it comes to modern work environments

Workplace stress does not usually discriminate.  I work with a lot of medical, allied health professionals and people from all walks of life in both a counselling and training capacity.  It alarms me how many people feel they are too busy to take a break at work or feel guilty when they do.  One nurse told me she didn’t even have time to stop, check in with herself and slow down her breathing whilst she was on duty because there was too much to do.  Just like her, many employees (and you may relate) spend their days in a state of perpetual stress and report symptoms of anxiety on a daily basis.  Even the thought of slowing down, walking rather than jogging to the next client, customer, patient or task can make some people feel they would be wasting time.   But really to think clearly and to reduce errors, this is exactly what is needed.

I know it is a cliché…but to ‘stop and smell the roses’ in whatever work you do is necessary.  I call it the pinch technique (just like children and some adults do when they are sleeping to check whether or not they are dreaming), where you STOP and review your current situations: e.g. check your breathing rate, energy level, how fast you are moving and where your thoughts and emotions are at, etc.

Cold statistics: Negative impact of Busyness on Mental Health and Quality of Life

But what effect is this culture of ‘Busyness’ having on our working lives?

Did you know…sixty-five percent of Australian employees report moderate to high stress levels that not only impact work productivity but day-to-day functioning and quality of life. If that’s not scary enough, 2/3 of the world’s employees feel overwhelmed and only 13% of employees around the world are actually engaged at work (Bersin, 2014).

Where was I? – Busyness and poor attention

More and more people in the workplace struggle to focus their attention on one thing for an extended or even short period, due to working in a fast paced, hyper-kinetic workplace – where their attention is constantly shifting.  “So what?” you may say. But this is where ‘use it or lose’ it applies to brain functioning… if you don’t work on your attention than your capacity to focus will diminish, leading to an increase in adults presenting with attentional issues and ADT (Attention Deficit Traits).   The negative consequences of poor attention are:  decreased productivity, increased errors, difficulties with working memory and more accidents in the workplace.

 5 tips to shift from feeling busy to being calm:

Step #1  Energy boosters (20-60 minutes per day)

A wise woman put a spotlight on this for me recently, and reminded me that you can’t continue to put all of your energy into what you do, without replenishing your own energy and expect to thrive.  As a mum, wife, friend, psychologist, trainer and business owner it is so easy to forget I am not a superwoman and need to stop for fuel, otherwise I will burn out.  This is why daily energy boosters/ self-care activities is so essential.

We are all different in terms of what energises us. You may not have to think too hard to work out what fuels you.  It may just require reflecting back over the last week, but for others it may require looking back over months or years to highlight the activities that have energised you in the past. This is such an important part of your self-care.

Remember to start the day planning the energy booster + self-care activities that will work for you!

The good news is energy boosters can be done in 5-10 minute blocks, they do not need to be done all in one go.  Any exercise, including a quick power-walk in the middle of the day may also be great way to clear your head and energise you.   There are so many ways to energise yourself: meditation, mindfulness activity, prayer, eat healthy food or catch-up with a friend. You just need to make it a priority for you.

Step # 2  Change your language

 Busy is a dirty four-letter word that needs to be banished!

 The problem with saying you are always busy is that it will not be great if you are speaking with a prospective client and want to show you are feeling in control.

Saying “I’m busy, overworked…..”:


  • make you feel more overwhelmed by focussing on all the challenges and tasks you are faced with
  • imply you have too much on your plate – not capable on taking on more
  • lose its potency when repeated
  • promotes a culture that being ‘busy ‘is normal


  • do much for your personal brand
  • instill confidence in your ability to stay calm and manage your work

Replace busy with one of the following statement:

  • I have a solid client base
  • I am having a productive day
  • I need a break to get some clarity on some of my projects
  • I have a steady flow of work
  • I have a lot on, but excited about where it is going
  • I expect things to slow down when X is completed

 The reality is that it is hard to find a professional who doesn’t feel stressed, busy, tired, or overworked. Though, omitting such responses from your vocabulary, except when they’re truly needed, will make you feel calmer and appear more capable.

 Step # 3  Reflection time – reflect on your day and declutter your mind!

 A reflective writing exercise that has helped so many of my clients to monitor and provide an emotional compass to direct their efforts: 

Put 10 mins aside to check in with yourself each day and keep a log/ diary of your mood for the day and document what has worked and not worked (list all the contributing thoughts, statements, activities, experiences and moments) that has made your day what it was.

This is a habit that can help you declutter, give your perspective and highlights what energizes you.  It is a very good tool to look back over your week and see that not every day is bad! It is also a great way to get things out of your head!

 Add in a few drops of gratitude – list 3 or more things you are grateful for each day to foster a positive growth mindset.

Step # 4  Mindful work and mindful play

Instead of doing a bit of everything and a lot of nothing, use all of your attention (all of your senses) to focus and do one thing wholeheartedly.

It is important to realise that Multiskiling is really multi-shifting.  Make a planned decision to set time to work (or play) on set activities and commit to the time allocated as best as you can.  Also try to be engage and be in the moment when undertaking the activity.  This is important to decrease the development of attentional issues, e.g. Attention Deficit Trait (ADT) that are a bi-product of juggling too many tasks and not giving yourself the time to do each task properly.

Why not try out the free Headspace meditation trial (10 mins of meditation for 10 days!): www.headspace.com

 Step # 5   Its OK to Set boundaries!

Most of us feel overwhelmed because we don’t acknowledge the limitations of our work capacity, and leave ourselves vulnerable to ‘burning out’. Being able to say ‘no’, once in a while, in a respectable manner does not reflect your incompetency, it will however communicate to your colleagues, manager, team what you currently have capacity for.

Changing point:

Changing your relationship with how you pace yourself at home and at work takes time.  So start of by choosing one of the steps outlined here to help you start to move from feeling busy to feeling calm, more focussed and energised! Please remember when you try to change too much too quickly, the changes are short-lived and you will end up where you started.

Take the time to change, one step at a time.

Contributor: Nicole Plotkin is the principal psychologist at the Emotional Health Centre, who works with individuals and workplaces to work on wellness: resilience, mental health and stress management.

Are you hooked on technology?

4 Oct 2016 Uncategorized

Mobile phone dependency increasing at alarming rates….

The Ebola-like spread of mobile dependency throughout the world crosses the gender divide, affecting all age groups and statistics are confounding.  According to mobile app startup, Mobifolio: the average adult checks their phone  110 times a day or once every 13 minutes, while for most,  usage peaks to once every 6 seconds in the evening.  The creators of the app, Break Free, helps its users maintain a ‘controlled digital lifestyle’ by monitoring phone and app usage.  The approach is not heavy handed – when usage goes up, Sata, a friendly Buddhist monk- like character gives users a gentle warning to ‘chill’.

Closer to home at the Emotional Health Centre, Psychologist, Nicole Plotkin sees mobile dependency as commonplace, with dire consequences for some:  ‘The danger is that users can be too dependent on their phones for social interaction and self esteem.  The phone becomes a vehicle for staying connected to others.  So if you don’t get the anticipated number of text messages/emails in an evening you can be left feeling quite low’.

Social Connectedness vs social Isolation

Ironically the device which enables social connection in some, can also become a tool for avoiding social contact in individuals with social anxiety.  Now almost everything can be organised online – from pizza to University study and this creates another kind of dependence for those who are not socially adept.  An extreme version of social withdrawal in Japan is coined ‘Hikikomori’, individuals who drop out of society and live a hermit-like existence.  Reasons for Hikikomori are complex but profiles of many show that within their secluded existence, many are highly dependent on technology.  Here in Australia our rapidly advancing digital technology allows for similar avoidance and escapism in vulnerable individuals.

Limitations of our digital fixation…

The negative consequences of our digital fixation can be considerable.  Recent studies show that artificial light from tablet devices when used at night may affect the body’s ability to produce melatonin – the sleep hormone, contributing to sleep disorders.  While at a practical level using digital devices for long periods of time takes focus away from important things – work, study, and family and dependency on the mobile for social connectedness can contribute to anxiety and depression.  Nicole also sees a more insidious side effect of the mobile age: ‘One important aspect of   personal wellbeing involves an individual’s ability to engage themselves in the moment doing whatever allows them to do that- be it engaging in work or a hobby, or learning a new skill.  But digital devices like mobile phones can sometimes take us away from the present, so that we are forever waiting for our next fix – for the next text message from a friend or for that email.  So our consciousness is being directed forward, away from the present.’

Ask yourself: do you control your mobile or does it control you?

The signs of possible ‘technology addiction’?

  • Inability to turn off technology, always connected
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and social interactions
  • Keeping devices near or at easy access all the time
  • Online interactions dictate your mood and sleep patterns

Begin a regular Detox process:

Start by setting boundaries and recognising when phone/internet use is useful versus habitual.

Remember to take a break from technology – So instead of always taking your mobile with you on an outing with friends, you could leave it at home.  Or if that is too onerous, you could start small by leaving your phone at home when going out to get milk instead of having it with you.

Communicate detox with others – Once you decide on your strategy for your preferred level of technology use, try telling friends, family or colleagues of your plan, e.g. that you are only checking email at certain times of day so  they don’t expect their usual quick response.  Then try turning phone/ IPad off for certain hours during the day.

If you are still hooked on technology and it is interfering with your quality of life, it is important to reach out and ask for help or share strategies with others.

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