Taming the black dog

Are stress levels up in your business? Here are some practical tips on how to manage. TIM SHARP

Timothy Sharp Happiness Institute

By Tim Sharp

Let me tell you something you almost certainly already know; times are tough!

It might not be the end of the world as we know it, and we, here in Australia, might not suffer as much as some in other parts of the world, but there’s no doubt it’s going to be a difficult 2009 (and beyond).

And as a result, many of you and many of your colleagues, and many of your staff and many of your friends, will be experiencing higher levels of stress than they’re used to.

Now let me tell you another thing; stress and depression are very real problems and they need to be actively addressed and constructively managed, just like any other problem.

They won’t just go away on their own if you close your eyes and hope! I’m not saying it’s easy to face up to problems such as these, in fact many find it very uncomfortable to talk to people about emotional difficulties, but the cost of not doing something will be far greater than the small cost of doing something.

For the last two decades I’ve spent literally tens of thousands of hours helping people who’re going through rough times. Most recently, in the last decade or so, I’ve spent most of my time working with managers and executives, within organisations – and do you know what? I’ve never seen anything like what’s going on at the moment!

My clinical psychology practice is not just busy, but we’re seeing far more “businessmen” and corporate types who’re struggling with the combination of organisational change, uncertainty regarding job security, and in many instances personal financial losses.

We’re also seeing many business owners challenged by the current economic climate, and sales of our self-help manuals are up significantly.

At The Happiness Institute we’re focusing a bit less on “happiness” per se and more on resilience, and how to apply the principles of positive psychology during difficult times – and despite most businesses tightening their belts, many are wise enough to know that if they don’t find something in their budgets for looking after their employees they’ll suffer even more in the longer term.

So what can you do?

Well, I hope you find the following tips useful for managing stress and depression within your workplace:

  • Don’t ignore the cold hard realities
    If you and your colleagues are stressed and depressed, acknowledge it, openly.
  • Try to empathise with others
    If you’re coping well then that’s great, but others might be struggling and it will almost certainly help them to know that someone (maybe you) is listening and cares.
  • Try to focus on constructive solutions
    Talking about distress is helpful, but on it’s own it is only a first step; once you’ve acknowledged the problem move quickly on to finding out what you, and others, can do to make things better.
  • Support each other
    Resilience and getting through tough times shouldn’t be a solo-pursuit but rather a team-sport. Sticking together and helping each other will benefit all involved.
  • Don’t forget to look after your health
    During difficult times we often forget to take care of ourselves. Don’t! Remember to eat well, try to exercise, and ensure you get enough rest and sleep.
  • Try to find the light at the end of the tunnel
    Although it’s important to face the cold hard realities it’s also important to find something to look forward to. Remind yourself that the current difficulties won’t last forever, that your work and your finances are only parts of your life, and that you can only control what you can control (which isn’t everything).

And finally, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Finding someone to help you (or your colleagues) is not a sign of weakness; far from it.

Instead, appropriately seeking help will benefit everyone (yourself, your loved ones, your colleagues and even your business) because when you’re on top of things then you’ll be in a better position to productively help others.


Dr. Sharp’s latest book (out now) is “100 Ways to Happiness: a Guide for Busy People” (Penguin). You can find out more about corporate programs, presentations, and coaching services at www.drhappy.com.au and www.thehappinessinstitute.com. You can also ask him questions using the Comments panel below.

For more Dr Happy blogs, click here.



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