The Smiling Mind Podcast
The Smiling Mind Podcast

Season 1, Episode 3 · 1 year ago

Working through uncertainty with Marc Fennell and Lucy Brogden


This episode explores work in the era of Covid-19. How to deal with job loss, work insecurity and strategies to keep our mental health strong through the uncertainty of it all. Smiling Mind's CEO and host of the podcast Dr Addie Wootten speaks with award winning podcaster, author and journalist Marc Fennell about learning to separate self worth from career success. Also, the chair of The National Mental Health Commission Lucy Brogden AM joins the podcast to discuss how employers, partners and carers can support those struggling through a tough time. For more resources on how to Thrive Inside your mind, head to the Smiling Mind website or download our leading app. This podcast was produced by Elsa Silberstein.

Hi, Addie, wouldn't hear. I'm the CEO of smiling mind. On today's episode of our thrive inside series, we're exploring work in the era of covid nineteen, how to deal with job loss, tips for working effectively from home and strategies to keep our mental health strong during the uncertainty of everything that's going on. We thought we'd be under lockdown for a bit longer here in Australia, but as government restrictions ease state by state, we're still experiencing a multitude of different challenges in our work lives. Some of us don't know what the future holds, waiting for a recession to hit, some of us are relying on government support for the first time ever in our lives, and some of us are still cooped up at home trying to be productive. Around seven hundred thousand Australians across a multitude of industries have lost their jobs due to the fallout from the pandemic, and we shouldn't underestimate the psychological impact of this. Today you'll hear from television and radio broadcast at Mark Finnell about learning to deal with career uncertainty and separating identity from success at work. It took me a long time to process why it was so hard and I think in large but what it came down to was the fact that I had been relying on that job to define what I thought I was going to become come next right now, though, I'm so happy to introduce you to Lucy Brogden, the chair of the National Mental Health Commission. Many of you may not have heard about the mental health commission or even know that we have a national mental health commission. It's an independent government body that oversees all things mental health, from education to suicide prevention and research, and it's the peak body that informs government and guides the industry. Lucy Brogden has worked as an organizational psychologist and been a champion for wellbeing and suicide prevention in the workplace for more than twenty five years. She was even appointed a member of the order of Australia for all her hard work in this space. Lucy has also had a personal experience with mental illness and she speaks openly about being the care of for her husband, former New South Wales opposition leader John Brogden, who attempted suicide in two thousand and five. She's been there with him since then and today I'm really happy to have lucy here talking with us. So welcome Lucy. Thanks for joining us on the PODCAST. Today. We're talking about work and mental health and I be really interested to hear your perspective on job loss see the impact of job loss at the moment in terms of the impact of mental health and our broader community. Katy, it's a really good question and it's a very time the question. We know that good work is good for us and we know that work is a strong protective factor in our wellbeing, but I think we need to acknowledge that with job loss or with root juice styles or whatever it might be, will come things like financial stress and it's important that if that is something that's keeping us awake at night, we reach out think about what else might give us a sense of purpose and belonging at this time. It might actually be being a great friend, being a great participant in our community in some way, thinking about how we might find alternative social interactions. And as the rules are getting a bit looser, that's going to be a bit easier for people. In my career coach and work. I try and encourage people to see this as a golden opportunity to really think about where they want to be, how they might want to work in the future and use this time to start shaping that that new identity. I think we know that that job lost situation is going to be different across different sectors and so at the moment...'s very much a lot of personal interaction sector, so hospitality travel, that are really feeling this the most. But we're going to see the implications across various sectors as the months roll on and industry bodies and they are coming to the FDA really help their members of their industry grapple with some of this. Do you have any advice around how we could support our loved ones if they are going through a difficult time, either in relation to their work or even just in terms of their mental health? More broadly at the moment, how would you advise that we support those people in our lives? Look at it? I'm going to draw a bit on the science and my own experience. We need to be gentle with each other at these times. As a care my husband's been out of work a couple of times and it's a scary place for a family if you've got a mortgage, you've got children, whatever it might be, and I think sometimes the partner can be probably more anxious than the individual it's lost their job or got reduced workouts. So I think care is need to and support people and partners need to listen a little without judgments and to actually back off a little bit, and that can be hard when you are reed. You want to be quick, find that new job and and just be gentle hear what concerns they have, what's making them fearful and anxious in this new situation. When might be able to encourage them to form a new routine so they're not going to work every day, so they're not needing to log onto the zoom meetings that we're all well tired of. What else can they do? What can then new routine look like? What can give them a sense of purpose and also be the emotional mirror if you are worried about someone that you love and care for that might have lost their job or be struggling, actually help them see if they are not coping as well as they might be or if it's the grief, the distress, the depression, the anxiety is just going beyond something that you think is in their normal range and help them and guide them and perhaps encourage them to talk to the GP to reach out from many of the supports that are available. I think that's really great advice. I think seeing someone you love going through a really difficult time is such a hard thing to go through and I think backing off a little bit and making sure that you're supporting in a constructive way can be really great advice and it's obviously really hard when you can see someone you care for that struggling. What would be your advice at the moment for workplaces or businesses who are looking to keep this their staff engaged and support their mental wellbeing? Look, I think there's a few things that that organizations can do and we are really seeing some great examples out there. But I think the first thing is to acknowledge that it's really hard for all of us and this is a really different space of rapid and constant change. Human beings like routine and they like connection and they're two of the things that are gone for us or very change at the moment. So we need to to recognize that. I think it's important that organizations team leaders pay attention to how people are working together and really support that the differences and check in with people. We know that team leader catchups with their staff. Team leaders often think it's for them, but it's not. It's for the individual. So regularly checking in with people on how they going, or even having a covid free catch up with staff to just talk about life in general can be really important at this time. Taking self care seriously, really encouraging people to step away from work. The boundaries are really hard to maintain at the moment between work and life, and so it might actually be for work to turn the systems off for a while...

...rather than expecting employees to have that discipline, and I think it's important that we recognize that some people won't cope so well at the moment and give them that little bit of flexibility and check in and see how we can help them. HMM, that's really interesting. I think you've taught you've touched on like the structural things that businesses need to do, but also the human side of work, especially at the moment where there's your right, there's such a blurring of the lines between work and home and we're all juggling multiple things and I suppose that there's also that sense of uncertainty about the the future as well. So you know that some of US might be working from home, some of US might be returning to work. We don't know exactly when it's going to get back to normal or what normal will look like. So I think, yeah, that though, all of that advices is really, really important. Do you think businesses should be investing in in mental health support proactively at the moment? Do you like it seems as though there's are such higher levels of worry and anxiety. Do you think actual like investment of money into into services for employees is useful at the moment? But I think rather than the workplace being too caught up on the mental ill health side of the conversation, because I think the community and the system is really beefed up there is actually focusing on the well being of people and thinking about being in more of the prevention space at this time, and so it is making things available like the smiling mind at to people, encouraging different ways of maintaining connection and routine and thinking about what they can do to help reduce the level of anxiety and their employees, rather than feeling they've got to get out there and be part of the treatment program if we can all collectively bring the temperature down in the environments we touch, that's going to be really powerful right across across the board. Yeah, we're human beings and we should be empowered to work in the way that's best for our own mental health. I love that idea of supporting people to enable them to work how they know works best for them. Lucy, I'm asking everyone at the end of all of our interviews for this season, a couple of quick key questions to see how you're going. What are you watching, what are you reading and what are you cooking right now? So, Addie, I have to confess that I did see this on a meme that I used to think my house was untidy because I didn't have time. Now I know that's not the case. Haven't been overwhelmed by the domestic goddess urge. Finding reading really hard. I have to confess I'm reading, I guess, what I need to read for work, but finding it hard to engageing in fiction, and I don't know why, because normally I love to have a few novels on the go, and also finding it hard to to watch a lot, because I think I've had so much screen time in the day that my brains just saying be gentle turn me off. And I have to confess, without being cheesy, that it's meditations that are really helping me at the end of the day to just quiet the mind and help me drift off to sleep. The first few weeks, and I know I wasn't alone, I was having coronavirus sleep, waking up at one and till clock in the morning and just buzzing, and it was only when I really gave myself a sturn talking to and seel practice what you preach, that some gentle meditation really has shifted that back to a comfortable pattern. Lucy, thanks so much for your time, pleasure. Thanks, Daddie. Last episode we asked you to call us with tips, tricks and experiences in this crisis on our phone,...

...which is one eight hundred ninety five, five seven hundred. He's some of our favorite messages. Hi, I'm cal from Wa as an artist, my line of work is very unstable, but I feel like I cope with that by making sure that I have connections to stable things outside of work, people that I see that I'm open and honest with and places that I can go to get out of my head and get some clarity. I'm hut. Day's a ride and, like everyone else, I've been working from home. Truth is, it's not business as usual anymore. It's business as unusual. My top tip for you to work from home effectively is to give yourself a break. Mark Fanelle is a journalist, author and presenter. He makes a ward winning podcast about finding the hottest Chili's in the world, brings young people to the news on SPS and sometimes interviews the likes of Ryan Reynolds and Tom poose. So mark works a lot and work means a lot to him, but his career hasn't been an easy road. He's juggled the uncertainty of the media industry, the cutting of shows and being a dad to two little ones. Welcome mark to our thrive inside podcast. Thanks for coming. The pleasure is entirely mine. We are very inside at the moment, very just in different places. We are very inside, but we are hopefully thriving. So today we I want to talk to you about work and mental health. I thought I'd start with asking you a tricky question actually. How do you cope with uncertainty in your work? You work in media and there are many things that happen in that space and I can imagine one job can lead to another, but sometimes they might be gaps in those jobs. How do you, how do you look after yourself in and amongst that uncertainty? I guess to really answer that question I sort of have to go back a little bit. I had an unusual career. My first job in TV was when I was eighteen and my first TV show was the movie show and it got acts before I turned twenty one, and that was really instructive for me. It's like I didn't ever have enough time to generate a drug habit like young Teo, like child stars in the Hollywood. So I concluded pretty quickly that I needed to have multiple streams of income like otherwise it was going to cause me all kinds of anxiety, and so I set up a way of working for myself, and I was really young, now that I think about it, where I always had a sort of diversified in come stream, so I would have I'd work on doing things for radio, I work, and doing things for TV. I you know, I found one of the things that was really creating an enormous amount of anxiety for me when I was very young. Is that my selfesteem, my sense of forth was extremely bound up in other people's decisions. That stuff I had no control over and that made me really uncomfortable. Now, in some sense that's true of everybody and there are going to be things in your life you cannot control, as I like to explain to my kids all the time. But my way of mitigating it was to was, I guess, to not put all your eggs in one basket. I mean, to put it in the simplest terms, it's just like things fall over all the time and the important thing is when that happens, if something doesn't get up or you don't get the thing that you want, there's always two or three other things you can look forward to it. Yeah, wow, so, and I mean identities are really interesting piece in that it sounds to me like your your identity is tied up in in working, but it's not the specific job or the person that you're trying to convince to take on that job. It's more around the creativity of creating what's happening next and the new opportunities, which is a really interesting way to look at work, because you're interacting with lots of different, different factors and it actually sounds like you're drive...

...that you're in control in a lot of ways, although many things are out of your control or unsaid list. In my mind, no, but it's true and it's really important distinction you've made there, which is I a lot of my identity is count is is is built or couched in work, but it's not couched in a specific job, and I think that's the the really important distinction for me, and I think anybody that has a career that is built on inconsistent works, anybody that self employed, anybody that's employed in to some except the GIG economy, I think, falls into that as well. But it's anybody where you cannot guarantee your income for, you know, twenty years, which I think increasingly is becoming all of us. It's important for me to be caught up in the what I do, but not the specific, you know, not not to have my entire identity caught up in like I am the host of blar or I am, you know, this particular thing that it's a wily distinction, but I think it's a really important one. Yeah, I think that's really how insightful is it? Does that approach to work help you accept the uncertainties as well? So you know, we we talked to experts that a mental health experts at talk about this idea of sort of riding through the uncertainties and being resilient. I think acceptance is part of that that. You know, life is full of uncertainties. Does that play a role for you in terms of managing all of those different options and opportunities and and letting some of them go sometime, so accepting that they might not come to fruition? Absolutely, it's huge. I remember when I was younger, I was a bit about twenty six or twenty five, and I somebody offered me a job. That was like, Oh my God, this is an amazing job, it's really exciting, and then two weeks out from the start of that job, the job got pulled and I really fell apart, like I really fell a button way. That even surprises me now to think about how badly I fell apart, and it took me a long time to process why it was so hard, and I think in large part what it came down to was the fact that I had been relying on that job to define what I thought I was going to become next, and it was a real big red flag that that experience to me that you cannot allow your personal mental health, your mood and, by extension, the impact you have on the people around you, your friends, your partner, because you remember, like when you go through something horrific, there is a ripple effect on everybody around you, and I remember like just looking at my I think she's well married at that point. I remember look at my wife and she's just looking at me, just going, okay, well, that's it's shit that you lost that job, but the way you're reacting to it is absurd. And she was right and I realize that that was the moment was like, okay, well, let's never do let's never put all our faith, in all our our hope in like a fairy godfather sort of job that's going to like give you everything. And so, yeah, it's been it's been a really key thing for me to be able to make sure that I don't I don't invest too heavily in things that I cannot control. And that's really hard, I think, for a lot of people. Often it takes an experience like that, to kind of learn how to relate to work in that way. I think it's a really it's a skill that we kind of have to learn or develop. Yeah, and I learned it the hard way. Yeah, exactly, and lots of people do and I you know, I think at the moment, unfortunately, lots of people will be going through similar situations like that, where work might be falling away or people might have lost something that they really, really love doing. Do you create boundaries between your identity as you and your work? How do you how do you separate out those specific jobs as opposed to you as a person and maybe you as a husband...

...or a father? Are there the actual boundaries that you've tried to create, or is it has it just sort of happened organically for you? It's interesting, certainly when it comes to being a dad, I have always found it very hard to dad and multitask. You know, I will say, and I've been pretty open with this, that I don't think parenting necessarily came naturally to me. It was a it is a learned skill set. You know, I have some friends who like I watch them parent, it's like watching the dad from blue. They are just like natural's at it. If that's amazing, I'm like I these are learned skills. For me, I have to learn. You know, what is a method of communication that works for a four year old? In the six year old I sound like a robot thing as hell that. So I made a made a concerned decision that I would just as I saw emails come in, I would add them to a to do list. If for something quickly, I could just say that's fine, but anything that required more than a one line response, I would park and just shift to the other end of the day, and I do when they went to bed or I do it the next day, because it was just creating an enormous amount of anxiety because problem solving three different jobs. Plus why you two fighting over Plato? You have the exact same amount of plate. I like. It's that kind of stuff. It's just it created all kinds of anxiety that I just didn't think I need it. Well, like you are, you're a human. We all like everyone. I think that's a really important thing for up, for us all to bear in mind. None of us are perfect. You know, there's lots of trial and error that goes on with most things in our life. What about your mental health? What do you do practically to look after your own mental health? Are there strategies or routines that you have that help you? It was getting really good until coronavirus, because exercise. I was exercising every day and that was amazing in the sense that it was a it is like an hour out of my day where I could not think about a work problem, I couldn't think about a parenting problem, I couldn't actually hold my phone because it had to put it in another side of the gym like that was amazing and it was you know, you felt better about your body and everything about that was was making my head space better. With the advent of coronavirus, m it got a lot harder. Obviously, exercise, I think for millions of us, became a lot harder and kids were bored out of their mind over the last couple of months and that created all kinds of conflicts that you just didn't need and then all your pet or your insecurities as parents going to come out in that situation of like who was the wrongest and who did this the rightest and all that sort of stuff that's so normal and all of us go through. All that sort of just tumbled out. Plus the the baseline level of a like a pressure exactly. And then, of course you do that, that that thick layer of anxiety that sat over everybody for the last couple of months. It was like how bad is this thing? And you know, every time you turn on the news, you turn on the phone. So you basically had this like this really appalling trifle of awfulness. So trifle of Pertha. I can never go the right one there. So yeah, so the last couple of months has been hard and peace and quiet has been in short supply. But when you have it, it was like you wanted to hug the silence. Wow, that sounds dark, but it's like a nick cave song. Well, it's it's a I mean it's a beautiful, well way of illustating how hard it's been over the last few months. I think, yeah, a lot, so many people will connect with that. So it sounds to me like physical exercise and having that time out to wind down and just zone in on something different has been really important for you, which is which is really I think within the confines of our own home, finding that space is really really hard. So well, time for finding it. We s which take a little bit. I know you're a bit of a Tech Geek, if that's a polite way to say it, and you I'm curious about your thoughts about the future of technology. You know how we given I suppose we're moving into a post covid world, whatever that might look like.

What do you think? How do you think this new world is going to shape up in terms of technology and the way we work, all the way businesses work, and do you know? Have you got any insights into we're we're heading? I think the workplace everywhere in the world is going to change really drastically because now we know, we know how much we can and how much we cannot do from home technically. I think we're also now suddenly very live to the mental health impact being alone, being confined, being isolated, because we know what technology can actually allow us to do. Now we then need to have a conversation about all right, that's what technically we can do, but what is the right thing for us to do as humans now that we know this is a possibility? Personally, for me, I realize I actually really miss officers. Like it's so funny. I would come in on a Monday, because I've been in the office on a Monday and a Tuesday and Wednesday and I would come in and I just sort of like stand a meter and a half from somebody and just like smile, which is like what's happening, and they're like, Mike, you okay, I just need adults so badly. Yeah, and I think I'm not alone in that. So you know, yeah, I think now that we know what we can do technically, is great, but let's work out what we should do, not just for health reasons but for mental health reasons. Yeah, and it's that that blending of technology and human nurse, if that's a word, you know. How do we bring really amazing technology into the ways that we work that will actually help us as humans feel good and connect with people and feel productive and empowered in our working environment? I think, yeah, that's a really important thing to consider totally. And, like, can you imagine if this had happened even ten years ago? Like you and I, just to break the fourth wall, you and I talking from completely different locations. We've got fancy microphones in front of us, and yet we can still see each other pretty crystal clear through through video conferencing like if this, if this had happened even ten years ago, I reckon the impact would have been so much just from a mental health state standpoint, not even looking at the the the the epidemiology end of things, but just on a mental health gal like the ability to do video chat to stuff about, I reckon, has been huge for a lot of people, myself included. Yeah, agree, I think it's. Yeah, it's amazing how technology can help us, but we have to learn how to use it to its full potential but also look after ourselves as well. Mark, I'm we're going to have to get wrap up. I know you need to get onto your very busy day. I'm asking everyone three questions at the end of our podcast. What are you reading, what are you watching and what are you cooking at the moment? So the moment I'm reading this really beautiful book called fourteen. It's written by a gun, I'm Shannon Malloy. It's about growing up being bullied as a young gay teenager in Queensland's beautiful book, Bit Traumatizing, really good. I'm watching way too much at the moment. I'm actually watching we've been watching on a Netflix but you know, there's master classes, the ones where, like a famous person teaches you things. I don't know why I signed up, but I've like I've done Ron Howard teaching directing, Malcolm Gladwell factual writing, and Shonda rhymes writing television, and I don't know why, like I don't aspire to write a television show, but she's fascinating and her process is a really good and in terms of cooking, actually it's I should have mentioned it earlier because I cook all the time, but it's been a really useful and last couple of weeks to make stuff, because you can either do it by yourself or you can do it with the kids, and so we've been doing lots of pies and making pizzas. No sour dough, because I feel like that would make me a millennial cliche. But yeah, but not lots and lots of cookings from manual. I like it. Yeah, amazing. They're pretty mindful, like ativities as well. If you can engage the kids in focusing on one thing, then that's that's amazing mindfulness practice for your whole family. Mark. Thank you so much for joining us today. I am sure that our listeners will have taken a whole lot of different things away from that conversation. I really appreciate your time. Thank you for joining us, thank you for having me,...

...thanks for listening. To thrive inside this series of the smiling mind podcast to accompany you through covid nineteen. We'd love you to rate and review our podcast or tell a friend. It all helps people find the show. You can find hundreds of guided meditations in the smiling mind APP. In our work section of the APP you'll find a program called meeting starters. The mindful mindset meditation teaches us how to tune into our senses and helps us get out of autopilot, that sense of wandering off and not knowing where our mind is. You can use it before meetings or presentations or any time you need to mentally reset. Our next episode explores a mind field of parenting. In this crazy time of covid nineteen, working from home and schooling from home. Let us know how you're coping with your kids on the pod phone on one eight hundred, nine, five, five, seven hundred. We'd love to hear from you.

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