Friday, 29 June 2012

Co-workers from hell - part I

Your boss may be incompetent, but hellish co-workers can bring turmoil to your working life, as well as your emotional and physical well-being. Every organisation has one, if not many, and they come in different guises; the bully, the know-it-all and the suck up, to name a few. But don't worry, help is at hand with some useful advice on how to cope with these nightmare colleagues, and reduce stress at work in the process.

Predict and prepare

Work colleagues may be annoying but they tend to be pretty predictable as well. For instance, the work gossip will always gossip and the complainer will always complain. Although it is difficult to predict what people will do in every situation, we can anticipate the theme of this drama or conflict and prepare a response. Without this preparation, we are likely to react with anger or annoyance which will only make the situation worse. Role playing with someone you trust, and trying out a few responses can help you find the most effective way to resolve the issue.

No to bad behaviour

Much like children, the behaviour of hellish workmates will be reinforced if you become embroiled in their games. It may be tempting to react, particularly if you feel under attack, but this will just give them leverage so try hard to resist otherwise you will just sink to their level. By keeping responses short, polite, rational and void of emotion, the bad behaviour will extinguish or they will simply get bored and move onto someone else, who is willing to play a part in their drama.

Remember, it's not personal

Sometimes work colleagues are difficult because they lack social skills or have issues of their own and use conflict to mask these. There is no excuse for bad behaviour but at least if you think about it like this it gives you a reason for their behaviour, which is often more likely about them than you. In this instance, don't take it personally and try to find some shared interest so you can understand one another better and work alongside each other more harmoniously.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Male bosses judged more harshly

With the recent, alarming statistics from the USA that women earn 84.6% and 78.3% of their male counterparts, in accordance with the number of hours they work (41-44 hours and over 60 hours respectively), it seems that women are still getting a raw deal in the workplace. However, men are getting a hard time in another way it seems.

According to a new study, conducted by the Pennsylvania State University, male bosses who make mistakes are judged more harshly than women leaders who make the same errors.

We all make mistakes but it seems the consequences of these errors can damage the perceptions of leaders who make them, for some more than others. Indeed, male bosses who make errors were deemed less competent and less effective as leaders and, as a result, employees were less likely to trust their decisions and were less willing to work for them.

The findings, published in Springer's Journal of Business and Psychology online, went further to evaluate the effects of gender when the domain of work was considered to be traditionally male (construction) or female (nursing). Researchers discovered that male leaders were judged more negatively than female leaders for mistakes made in a male domain of work. This suggests male bosses are not reaching expectations of performance in this domain, but women are not expected to succeed in 'man’s work' anyway.

Although it is advisable to avoid mistakes altogether this isn’t always possible because we are only human. It is important however, particularly for male bosses it seems, to consider how these errors affect the way workers view you.

First Psychology Scotland has centres in the following locations:
Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440,
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411,
Borders: 01896-800-400,
Aberdeen: 01224-452848,

Friday, 22 June 2012

Men are more social when stressed

According to a popular belief held for over 100 years, humans always exhibit the ‘fight or flight’ response to stress. This is a physiological, primitive, inborn reaction our bodies experience in order to prepare us to ‘fight’ or ‘flee’ from a perceived threat or danger. It has been common belief that when men experience stress they become aggressive. However, in line with our blogs on men’s health, it seems researchers at the University of Freiburg in Germany have discovered stress in men does not always lead to aggressive behaviour. 

It has always been assumed men demonstrate aggression under stress and since the late 1990s, scientists have suggested that women exhibit a protective and befriending reaction to stress, which they labelled the ‘tend-and-befriend’ response.

More recently, researchers revealed that positive social contact before a stressful situation reduced the stress response in men but they wanted to investigate whether stress could produce other behaviour in men than aggression alone.

Using a tool to measure stress in public speaking engagements and games to measure pro-social behaviour, such as sharing and trusting, they found that men were indeed more social in their response as a direct consequence of stress. These findings however, suggested than negative behaviour, such as punishment, was not affected by stress.

The results of this study, published in the journal Psychological Science, therefore refute the age-old belief about our reactions to stress and have significant consequences for our understanding of coping strategies and the social role of stress.

First Psychology Scotland has centres in the following locations:

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440,
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411,
Aberdeen: 01224-452-848, opening soon! 
Borders: 01896-800-400,

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Men and eating disorders

Many people wrongly assume eating disorders only affect teenage girls when in fact they are not exclusive to any age, cultural/racial background or gender. They usually develop around the age of 14-25 but can appear in middle age, and 10-20% of those diagnosed with an eating disorder are male. This figure however, is likely to be higher as the symptoms are less likely to be recognised in men and in addition men are less likely to seek help. Therefore eating disorders go largely undiagnosed in men and boys.

We use food when we are bored, anxious, angry, lonely, stressed, unhappy and struggling to cope with relationship and work problems, grief and traumatic events among other things. Many people develop an eating disorder because they feel ‘too fat’ or ‘not good enough’ and believe it is the only way they can feel in control of their life.

Eating disorders are often not the product of a single cause, but a trigger commonly cited for men is teasing or bullying about weight and body shape. Eating disorders can often be recognised in males when they become obsessive about fitness and over-exercise. This can put excessive strain on their heart and lungs and too much pressure on joints which in turn, can lead to muscular ailments. Another side effect of eating disorders, as well as lack of energy in the long term and osteoporosis more generally, is impotence and erectile dysfunction in men.

Genetics have been found to play a small part in the probability of an individual developing an eating disorder but equally, the attitude that key members in their lives have towards food can also affect them.

If you have a problem with your relationship with food and would like to talk to one our experienced practitioners, please contact your local First Psychology centre in the following locations: 

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440,
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411,
Aberdeen: 01224-452-848, opening soon! 
Borders: 01896-800-400,

Friday, 15 June 2012

A not so Happy Father’s Day

Fatherhood for the vast majority of men is filled with joy and happiness. According to a study, conducted at Melbourne’s Parenting Research centre however, new dads are just as likely as new mums to suffer from the ‘baby blues’.

The ‘baby blues’ describe a condition which includes symptoms of anxiety, worry, stress, feeling unable to cope, feeling blue and despairing that things won’t get better.

Surprisingly, research published in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology revealed the rates of these problems were the same for both fathers and mothers with 9.7% of fathers reporting symptoms of post-natal depression in the child’s first year of life, compared to 9.4% for mothers. This risk of ‘baby blues’ in men also changed with age and income. The younger the father, the higher the risk and men on lower incomes were reported to be 70% more likely to experience post-natal depression.

Furthermore, when they compared new fathers to childless men of a similar age and background, they found that new fathers had a 40% higher rate of these problems.

Historically, post-natal depression experienced by mothers was believed to be related to biological changes, but these findings seem to contradict the idea that only women can suffer from the ‘baby blues’. Therefore services should be geared towards men as much as women, and fathers should be offered the same support that women receive in their child's early life.

Happy Father’s Day to all you Dads out there! If you are struggling with fatherhood and would like to talk to one of our experienced practitioners, please contact your local First Psychology centre in the following locations: 

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440,
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411,
Borders: 01896-800-400,
Aberdeen: 01224-452-848, opening soon!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Men’s Health Week

It is well documented that men seek psychological help far less than women even though they encounter as many mental health problems. Each June in the run up to Father’s Day we celebrate Men’s Health Week with the sole purpose of trying to increase awareness of preventable health problems and to encourage early detection and treatment of disease amongst men and boys.

In honour of Men’s Health Week this year from 11-17 June, we are going to look at how some mental health issues, which are traditionally thought to be women’s problems, can affect men too.

While the rate of self-harm is higher in women, it is four times more likely to lead to suicide in men. Although the triggers for men and women are similar, i.e. abuse in childhood, domestic violence, breakdown of a relationship, problems with alcohol and employment, self-harm is becoming a growing issue for men, particularly those aged 20 to 35.

Self-harm includes overdosing, swallowing chemicals like bleach, and cutting, gouging or scratching the skin and it is used by many as a way to cope with painful or emotional events.

Some attribute the rise in self-harm among men to a confusion about their role in society. Others believe the difficulty for young men to get jobs over a long period of time and the culture of men keeping their emotional problems to themselves, are to blame.

Whatever the reason, new guidelines have been issued to doctors and nurses, who often struggle to understand self-harm, to treat these patients with as much respect as others. Often health professionals are unsympathetic to self-harmers in a bid to discourage them from repeating their actions, but this often has the opposite effect, making them feel worse and more likely to self-harm again.

If you would like to talk to someone about self-harm or would like to book an initial session with one of our experienced practitioners, please contact your local First Psychology centre on: 

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440,
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, 
Aberdeen: 01224-452-848, opening soon!
Borders: 01896-800-400,

Friday, 8 June 2012

The power of mindfulness

How many times have you driven somewhere to arrive without remembering anything about the journey? Quite often probably, because our lives are so busy and we have so many conflicting demands to juggle that we often go on automatic pilot to cope. In doing so, we lose awareness of the present moment.

Our last blog discussed the idea of happiness in relation to a balanced time perspective, but the founder of modern day Mindfulness, Jon Kabat Zinn, suggests the key to well-being and happiness is to be more present in our own lives. He reasons we are too easily distracted by thoughts of the past and the future that we are too self-critical and fail to notice the good things happening around us.

Mindfulness involves paying attention to our thoughts, feelings and sensations in the present moment in a non-judgmental and purposeful way which allows us to step back from our automatic responses to everyday events and see things how they really are. In doing so, it is believed we can improve our quality of life.

Over the last three decades, mindfulness has been primarily used for stress reduction (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction - MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) which is known to have greater efficacy than antidepressants in preventing relapse in depression. More recently, mindfulness has been found to aid in the recovery of addictions and a study undertaken at the University of Rochester Medical Center has suggested that the quality of primary care for both practitioners and their patients can be improved if physicians are trained in mindfulness meditation and communication skills.

First Psychology Scotland has centres in the following locations: 

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440,
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411,
Borders: 01896-800-400,
Aberdeen: 01224-452-848. opening soon!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Is the key to happiness a balanced time perspective?

Some people regularly look back to the good old days whereas others can’t wait to see what’s around the corner and some just focus on the here and now.

According to researchers at San Francisco State University however, the happiest people are those with a balanced time perspective. That is to say, individuals who live in the present, look fondly towards the past, and anticipate the future, are more satisfied with their lives.

The findings of this study, reported in the Journal of Happiness Studies, reveal that relying too heavily on any one time dimension can make it difficult for us to move forward, can limit our cognitive flexibility in certain situations and also lead to destructive behaviours. For instance, a very hedonistic, live in the moment attitude could lead us to over-indulge or live to excess.

Living in the past may keep us from enjoying the present; living too much in the present may stop us from achieving future goals; but at the same time, looking to the future too much may lead us to miss out on what’s going on in the present moment. So it would seem that a balance needs to be struck in order to maximise well-being.

The benefits of this balanced time perspective have been extended to the area of consumer choice. Researchers have applied the idea of how having a balance of the past, present and future can help individuals make better consumer decisions and have also investigated how purchasing habits and values relate to happiness.

First Psychology Scotland has centres in the following locations: 

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440,
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411,
Borders: 01896-800-400,
Aberdeen: 01224-452-848, opening soon!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Protecting yourself from job burnout

We all feel stressed at work and have bad days from time to time, but burnout is different.

The term ‘burnout’ was coined in 1974 and has since been described as a condition ‘induced by chronic stress that is characterised by emotional or physical exhaustion, cynicism and a lack of professional efficacy’.

According to psychologist Christina Maslach, burnout results from a significant mismatch between our beliefs and factors in our lives such as workload, sense of control and reward (or lack of), and fairness. One factor on its own might not be a problem, but a combination of too much work and a boss who treats you unfairly might cause burnout.

Burnout is a silent condition that creeps up on us slowly. Here are some tips on how to identify the warning signs and prevent burnout before it takes hold.

  1. Recognise it – Do you dread the thought of going into work? Are you passionate and motivated about things or is everything just a burden? Are you irritable with co-workers? Are you engaged in your work and do you take pride in your achievements? If not, you are probably suffering from burnout. 
  2. Assess the situation and try to resolve it – do this by asking yourself what your passions are and whether you are pursuing these, why you do what you do, what you would change and what actions you need to take to change your situation for the better. 
  3. Make time for yourself – this might involve going for a walk, reading your favourite book or taking an hour to just do nothing. These things may help to prevent burnout. 
  4. Ask for help – talking about your feelings with someone you trust can help. 
  5. Check yourself – be sensitive to your feelings/needs throughout the day and respond to these. For example, if you work better in the morning try to organise your schedule around this.