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Mental Toughness in the Workplace

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Every employee, at some point, would have experience work-related stress. After all, any job (no matter how much you love it) can bring stress. So how do we deal with this work-related stress? Mental toughness could potentially help us tackle this. 

Mental toughness  involves having the ability to cope under pressure with self-belief and focus. However, given that working practices are long in duration (e.g. frequency of the day and working year) mental toughness requires rigorous training and preparation to be effective. One aspect that can enhance mental toughness is through the implementation of specific mental skills.

  • Process goals – Setting goals is a common strategy that we set in order to maintain our motivation and desire to meet targets. The ability to set process goals and meet these can only strengthen confidence levels and increase self-belief. Too often, as performers we set goals that consider the end outcome. For example, we may set a goal to complete a set task. This goal is not useful because if we realise halfway through that we are struggling to meet demands it can be detrimental on performance and mindset. Therefore, one should consider setting process and performance goals. Using our initial example we could decide that in order to complete the task we will set a time frame. For example: I will complete this task within five days. Further, the task can be broken down into simple processes that will enable shorter goals to be achieved. Reaching shorter goals will facilitate positive mindset and enables us to maintain the inner drive to achieve our overall outcome goal.
  • Positive self-talk – There is no doubt that working practices are rigorous and contain many stressful aspects. Therefore, we can encounter an array of emotions and thoughts that occupy the mind. To help support and facilitate this process one can use positive self-talk. Positive self-talk replaces negative thinking. For example, I am suffering and feeling like I won’t complete this task. can be replaced with I am going to complete this task within the time frame I have set. Positive self-talk enables the neural pathways in the brain to function with more positivity than with negative thinking. In fact, negative thinking will impact on the neural pathways that confuse the brain and associates to creating anxiety that impairs performance. Think of your mind-space. You can either have a mind-space that is clouded with barriers and obstacles or a mind-space that is clear of clouds and full of sun.
  • Resilience – The nature of working practices and their demand mean that resilience is integral for performance. Resilient workers can cope with adversity and have a desire to complete tasks. Resilience is about knowing what to do and how to pace working demands. Resilient workers have the psychological ability to cope with both physical and mental demands of working practices.

The use of mental toughness has been underestimated within working practices. However, companies should be encouraged to implement mental toughness training in order to support their employees. Such training can potentially help workers with demands of work but also make them stronger in mindset and support their well-being.

Gobinder Gill is a Lecturer in Further Education who teaches on Psychology and Research Methods. He has been promoted to a Teaching and Learning Coach and helps with the performance of fellow peers within classroom practices and quality drive. Gobinder has produced research articles and published books on emotional intelligence. Further, he has conducted workshops and presented at conferences. You can follow him on Twitter @psychedge01



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