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Strenghten your mental health

Topics, Tipps and Tools

 

On this page the workplace health management team provides you with a series of workshops, researched knowledge and useful tools.

Furthermore, the information from past workshops are recorded in writing and upcoming events in which you can participate are listed.

Structure and Breaks

Eine Seite aus dem Wörterbuch, auf der das Wort Fokus fokussiert wird. alles andere ist verschwommen

Structure

“Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.”-Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Can you estimate how many hours you really work productively during an 8-hour workday?

Research has shown that focused and effective work can only be done 3 hours of a working day. Especially in times of a global pandemic, it is often difficult not to be distracted by the familiar environment and to get into a really focused workflow.

A workshop in collaboration with Dr. Nadine Binder on the topic of  focused work took place on March 17th, 2021.

It is important to plan your day-to-day work in order to get the most out of these 3 hours. Stay flexibleso you can be able to react to possible delays and unexpected events.

How do I approach this?

For further Reading

1. Get rid of distractions
  • Ask yourself: what's distracting me right now?

Write all your thoughts on a piece of paper and put it out of your field of vision (e.g. in a drawer). This will allow you to come back to these matters later and they will not limit your ability to work.

  • Put your Phone away / switch it off

If possible switch your mobile phone to "Airplane mode" or "Do not disturb mode" and look at it at scheduled times. Especially in the home office your mobile phone is a big distractor.

  • Designated "Worry Time"

Cognitive behavioral therapy has shown that a planned "Worry Time" clears the mind for more important things. Take 15-30 minutes a day to write down any worries you have (no pressure). At the end of a week, you can reflect on your worries and are able to work more effectively in the long run.

  • E-mail reading and responding Times

If you set certain time slots to read and answer your E-Mails you will not be distracted in your workflow. Besides, you can take time to answer E-Mails properly, rather than in a hurry.

  • Use Website Blockers

You can use website blockers that prevent you from accessing certain websites, for a given period of time. For example: NuClear, Mindful Browsing, Go f *** ing work.

  • Break down Tasks

If you have large and sometimes overwhelming tasks ahead of you, it can be useful to break them down into smaller subtasks. When it feels like you are doing more tasks and you can tick things off faster, it will keep you more motivated, focused and improve your self-efficacy.

  • Take enough Breaks

It is quite simple: If you take enough breaks, you will work more efficiently. As already described in the previous chapter The Power of Breaks there are techniques that will help you to optimize your work-break balance. To do so, take a look at the Methods to organize your Break tab.

Numerous studies have shown that music promotes concentration. Classical music in particular has a positive impact on your ability to focus. The so-called "Mozart Effect" occurs for instance when you hear Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons".

A specific study from Great Britain, in which neuroscientists worked together with sound therapists and musicians at the "Mindlab" published a piece of music that had an enormous influence on the well-being of the study participants. 35% said they were able to relax more quickly; 65% said that feelings of fear were reduced (brain activity, heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate were measured).

Here you can search for suitable concentration music:

Auf einem Holztisch steht ein großer weißer teller mit einem café crema und einem chocolate chip cookie auf einem dunkelblauen extra teller von le creuset

Breaks

"Nothing gets us better on our way than a break." Elizabeth Barret-Browning

 

In order to be able to work in a focused way, breaks are essential!

A study by the University of Illinois (2011) found that even very small breaks have a huge impact on how well one can focus.

But what is a "good" break? How do I structure it and what methods can I apply?

A workshop in collaboration with Dr. Nadine Binder on this topic took place on March 17th, 2021.

The bundled information from the workshop and other tools that you can integrate into your everyday life can be found in the following tabs.

For further Reading

What could you do to help you take better breaks?
Here are some examples:

  • 100% Recovery

Which means: no work-related distractions such as emails, calls, etc.

  • Eye Pause

Staring at the screen can make your eyes tired and irritable. Give them a break and close your eyes for a moment or walk around without screens (including cell phone screens)

  • Move

Get up, go to another room, get a coffee, go for a walk, or do light exercise (like the activity break). Whatever it is you like to do: just get going. 

  • Fresh Air

An active break with fresh air is energizing. If you are one of the lucky garden or balcony-owners: stand outside for a moment and take a deep breath. It is also helpful to ventilate your home office so that you can focus better afterwards.

1. The Pomodoro-Technique

The Pomodoro-Technique consists of five steps:

  • Write down your tasks
  • Set the alarm clock to 25 minutes
  • Complete the tasks until the alarm goes off, then cross out done tasks
  • Take a 5 minute break
  • Continue until you have completed 4 Pomodori (then a longer break of 15-20 min.)
2. The 52/17 Technique

The 52/17 Technique is structured as follows:

  • Make a daily plan with the most important tasks
  • Bundle work packages for the 52 working phase
  • Set the alarm clock to 52 minutes
  • Work through the tasks until the alarm goes off, cross out completed tasks
  • Take 17 minutes break
  • Continue until you reach your daily goal
3. The Pulse & Pause Technique

The Pulse and Pause Technique is derived from our sleep rhythm and works like this:

  • Make a note of your daily tasks
  • Set the alarm clock to 90 minutes
  • Focused work until the alarm goes off, cross out completed tasks
  • Take a long break
  • Continue working until you reach your goal for the day

If you want to take good breaks after which you can return to work more motivated, exercise is very important.

Targeted exercises at work or a walk with some fresh air can counteract one-sided strain and tension.

It is quite the custom to offer ones employees a sporting program at work. Either through company fitness or other fitness offerings at the workplace.

The General German University Sports Association for example has collected Activity Break Offers from various universities. You can see the collection here.

The Workplace Health Management of the University of Bremen also offers corporate fitness for 35 € per month in over 800 studios of the leading corporate fitness provider Qualitrain.

The Activity Break is another offer for employees of the University of Bremen in cooperation with the Techniker Health Insurance.
As a team, you will take a 15-minute activity break with a trained multiplier twice a week.

It takes place every Tuesday and Thursday at 11:45 AM via Zoom and you can take part without registration.

Here you can read more about the Activity Break and register for free!

Boundaries

Ein ordentlich strukturierter Schreibtisch, mit einem Laptop auf einem Laptopständer, einem aufgeschlagenen Notizbuch auf dem ein Stift liegt, einem Mousepad mit einer Apple Maus und mehreren Pflanzen auf einer Fensterbank.
"Compared to the ability to organize the work of a single day in a meaningful way, everything else in life is child's play." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

A structured day is half the battle to successful work.

Especially during the pandemic the lines between work and private life are becoming increasingly blurred and quite challenging.

Identifying important things and paying enough attention to them is not always easy, but it sure can be learned.

Besides a feeling of control and structure gives us the security that we need in order to feel comfortable in our environment.

A workshop in collaboration with Dr. Nadine Binder on the topic of structured work took place on April 21st, 2021.

For further Reading

With this simple exercise you can practisc mindful breathing in order to start the day less stressed and also prevent headaches, sleep problems and postural problems.

You can do this exercise for a few minutes - the longer, the more salutary:


1. Find a place

This place may be your bed, the desk chair or the floor. Sit up straight and pull your shoulders back.

2. Take a deep breath

Now breathe in deeply through your nose until your abdominal wall rises. Then breathe out again through your nose.

3. Breathe more consciously

Now place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest and take another deep breath. Feel the stomach rising and lowering.

4. Repeat the process

Take three more deep breaths in and out through your nose while holding your stomach and chest.


Benefits of this exercise:
  • Promotes oxygen exchange
  • Can slow heartbeat
  • Can lower or stabilize blood pressure
  • Can lower Cortisol (stress hormone)
  • Can help to be more present in the moment

You can download instructions for Relaxed Breahting from this website or listen to them online.

You can choose from three techniques here and use the instructions with or without music:

  • Counting breaths
  • Breathe in a word
  • Observing the breath

Click here to get to the instructions page.

Nowadays we take our work everywhere on our cell phones and laptops. Thus, the line between "work" and "life" is becoming increasingly blurred.

A study on this topic identified two types of Work-Life-Balance-types. If your type matches your work environment it i proven that you will work happier. 

Why don't you test yourself? Which statement describes you better?


1. The segmenter

"I draw a hard line between my career and my non-work roles, I don’t want to mix them, and try my best to keep them separate. When I’m on the clock, I’m focused on my job, so that I don’t have to think about sending any late-night emails once I’m done for the day."

2. The integrator

"I like having the freedom to blend my work life and nonwork life, and move back and forth between the two as needed. I’m at my best when I can be flexible —taking a work call after dinner seems like a fair trade to be able to run an errand during work hours. "

What are the advantages of this assessment?
  • You can communicate what you need to work successfully and are able to demand it respectfully
  • You can develop work routines that suit your work-type
  • You do what's good for you and you are happier
  • You can create your own Work-Life-Balance
Here you will find inspiration on how you can start the day:

✗ Enjoying tea or coffee
✗ Mindful breakfast
✗ Walk before starting to work
✗ Get “dressed for work”
✗ Check news headlines first
✗ Check agenda or to-do list
✗ Read and respond to emails
✗ 5-Min. Meditation

You can possibly finish your workdaylike this:

✗ Change environment
✗ Walk
✗ Exercise
✗ Meditate
✗ Unplug from all devices
✗ Do chores
✗ Fun with kids, pets, …
✗ Cook

Gratitude

Ein rosanes Notizbuch auf dem "I am grateful" steht auf einem weißen Tisch. Dahinter liegt ein Farn und auf dem Buch liegt ein rosaner Stift
"It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich" - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Especially during the pandemic conscious gratitude can help us to achieve a more positive attitude which can affect all areas of life.

While the importance of gratitude and its psychological effects used to be located in social sciences and philosophy, it has found its place in psychology for about 20 years now.

Research from the University of California for example has shown that gratitude is good for ones health and can reduce the risk of illness.

Therefore a positive mindset helps you to be generally more satisfied and less likely to suffer from burnout or similar.

A workshop in collaboration with Dr. Nadine Binder on the topic of The Power of Gratitude took place on May 19th, 2021.

For further Reading

A gratitude meditation can help you start or end your day well, but it can also help you be free from negative feelings in general. With the help of this tool you will be guided through the mediation in just a few steps.

1. Take your time and space

Find a quiet place and allow some time for your meditation. About 10 minutes is sufficient, but you can also do the meditation longer.

2. Are you sitting comfortably?

A relaxed posture is important. You can sit on the floor, a chair or a sofa, whatever feels good at this time.

3. Close your eyes and breathe calmly

With your eyes closed, watch your breathing, drop your shoulders, and relax your face and jaw.

4. "I am grateful for ______"

Visualize the sentence "I am grateful for ..." in your mind's eye and fill the gap with the most important things in your life. This can be something more general, such as your family, friends or health, but also more specific things, like an experience of today.

5. Come back

Open your eyes and slowly come back. Take a few more deep breaths in and out and sit for a moment before starting your day.

Letting more gratitude into our lives is good for the body and mind! If you practice gratitude regularly, you can benefit in many ways:

1. You lower your blood pressure and strengthen your immune system

2. You build more resilience and are less prone to sleep disorders, anxiety and depression

3. You can "undo" effect of stress, anxiety or sadness on cardiovascular system

4. You strengthen friendships

5. You fuel your creativity and flexibility

Fill your Gratitude-Jar with the following questions:

1. What made you laugh or smile today?
2. What’s the best thing about your home, and have you taken the time to enjoy it recently?
3. Have you had a chance to help someone recently, and how did that make you feel?
4. What’s something you look forward to in the future?
5. What’s something enjoyable you get to experience every day that you’ve come to take for granted?
6. What’s a hard lesson that you were grateful to learn?
7. What about today has been better than yesterday?
8. What’s an aspect of your physical health that you feel grateful for?
9. What’s an aspect of your personality that you’re grateful for?
10. What relationships are you grateful for?
11.What’s one thoughtful thing someone did for you recently?
12.What happened today/yesterday/this week/this month/this year that you’re grateful for?

You can easily incorporate gratitude into your everyday life with these two exercises:

1. Make a "stop sign"

A Stop sign in this matter means that you create a reminder to appreciate what you are grateful for.

Examples can be:
✗ A Gratitude Stone (a washed, beautiful stone on which you can draw a heart, for example)
✗ A picture which you particularly like
✗ A small note on your desk
✗ An alarm clock in the cell phone

2. Write it down or say it

Write down one thing you are grateful for or say: "I'm grateful for ____" each day.

Examples:
✗ A Gratitude Journal
✗ A Gratitude Jar (in which the written notes go)
✗ A Gratitude Meditation (e.g. when brushing your teeth)


See what works best for you and make it a part of your daily routine.

Inner Allies

Auf einem rosanen Teppich steht ein weißer Becher mit einigen Stiften drin. Ein aufgeklappter Kaptop mit grünen Kopfhörern liegt dort ebenfalls. Außerdem eine Tafel auf der You've got this steht
“If you want to be a good communicator, then look‘ inside yourself too ”- Friedemann Schulz von Thun

In order to communicate clearly, we first have to clarify what is going on within us.

Because how we behave externally has always something to do with how we are positioned inside.

Identifying internal saboteurs and allies, ordering these inner voices and then making authentic, satisfactory decisions leads to greater complacency.

Learn to set up your Inner Team and become more self-satisfied.

A workshop in collaboration with Dr. Nadine Binder on the topic of Building your inner Team took place on June 16th, 2021.

 

For further Reading

The concept of the inner team was developed by the psychologist Friedemann Schulz von Thun and is a widely applicable personality model.

Your inner team is made up of the totality of your inner voices and represents your beliefs.

These can be beliefs about yourself or about things like money or success. These beliefs are your team members who release different impulses (like opinions).

In order to be able to communicate successfully, the inner team leader (so to speak, your superordinate "I") listens, sorts and coordinates the voices of the team members in order to then make an authentic and clear decision.

So if you pay attention to your inner voices, you can become more self-content.

Our inner saboteur is the sum of our limiting beliefs. He:
  • limits our perception
  • makes us overlook, reject, or ignore opportunities
  • limits what we believe is possible for us
  • forms throughout life
  • is reinforced by experience
     
Examples of limiting beliefs of the inner saboteur are:
  • “I am not good enough”
  • “I am too old/too young”
  • “I don’t have enough credentials/experience”
  • “I am too quiet/too loud/too …”
     
These statements often lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy:

"I'm not good enough" → So I better do not even try" → Seeing others succeed & Social Comparison→ "I knew it! I'm not good enough"
     (Inner Saboteur)                           (Action)                                                 (Observation)                                                           (Confirmation)

 Meet your inner Saboteur: 
  • Find a comfortable position
  • Turn your attention inwards for this
    exercise
  • Choose your style:
    1. Closed eyes, exploration in your mind and
    body
    2. Open eyes, exploration through taking
    notes
Now ask yourself: 
  • What is the saboteur saying to you?
  • What does the saboteur sound like?
  • What does the saboteur want for you?
  • How does the saboteur serve you?
  • And what does it cost you?
  • What does it look like?
Now that you have visualized it, you can shake your inner Saboteur off! (In front of your inner eye or in a movement) 
The inner Ally forms the counterpart to the inner Saboteur and feeds on strengthening beliefs. He: 
  • strengthens our confidence and empowers us
  • makes us more open to see opportunities and
    believe in ourselves
  • allows us to align with our values and flourish
     
Examples of strengthening beliefs of the inner Ally are:
  • “I can do it”
  • “I am strong”
  • “Things will work out somehow”
  • “I am calm and grounded”
     
These beliefs lead to a positive self-fulfilling prophecy:

"I can do it" → So I try → I experience success → "I really can do it"
  (Inner Ally)   (Action)         (Observation)               (Confirmation)

 Meet your inner Ally: 
  • Find a comfortable position
  • Turn your attention inwards for this
    exercise
  • Choose your style:
    1. Closed eyes, exploration in your mind and
    body
    2. Open eyes, exploration through taking
    notes
Now ask yourself:
  • What is this Ally saying to you?
  • What does this Ally sound like?
  • What does this Ally want for you?
  • How does this Ally serve you?
  • What does it look like?
  • How can you access this Ally?
     
Now you can identify and visualize your inner Ally and use it in the future!

Via this link you can listen to an abbreviated reading of the book "Talking to Each Other Part 3: The 'Inner Team' and situation-appropriate Communication" by Friedemann Schulz von Thun. 

Total duration: 4 hours 15 minutes.

Language: German

If you fancy a podcast, you can listen to this episode on the Inner Team via this link

Total duration: 19 min.

Language: German

New Perspectives

Auf einem schwarzen Tisch steht eine kleine Pflanze in einem terracotta Topf, rechts daneben eine Texttafel auf der steht: difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations
“The art of happiness is also the art of suffering well.” - Thich Nhat Hanh

In order to live happily and mindfully we must learn to face situations of crisis. Because even a lotus flower needs mud to thrive.

The direction of our perception plays a big role here.

If we train ourselves cognitively to use challenging situations and to learn from "mistakes", we can achieve greater satisfaction.

You can learn to make the best of critical situations and go through life happier.

A workshop in collaboration with Dr. Nadine Binder on the topic of No mud no Lotos took place on July 17th, 2021.

For further Reading

By asking yourself certain questions you can activate your inner appreciator and perform cognitive reframing.

If a situation occurs, where you struggle to make a decision or are in doubt, ask yourself: 

✗ What is here for me to learn?
✗ How will I feel about this in a year from now?
✗ What am I grateful for?

This way you change the way you think and 

There are many more questions you could ask yourself. Just pick some of the ones beneath, write them down and anser them: 

✗ What can I learn from this?
✗ What am I grateful for?
✗ Do I really have a problemat this very moment? Or is it more a problemin my imagination/future that I am expecting.
✗ Why did I panic? Did I make assumptions that seemed to be true?
✗ Does one bad experience REALLY make me a "loser"?
✗ How did I manage to be successful so far?
✗ What is the worst that can happen? Would it be so bad?
✗ Am I panicking because I'mcomparing my success/failure against others'?
✗ Did I have panic situations before? What happened in the end? Did the sky fall?
✗ Who is actually judging me? 
✗ How have I solved similar issues in the past?
✗ What is the worst thing that could happen if I've failed?

How do you feel now about that doubts?