With increased expectations from club managers, members and players, it is no wonder that turf professionals are experiencing high levels of stress, but where can help be found? STRI consultant, Richard Wing, speaks to those in the know during Mental Health Awareness Week.
On a personal level, both inside and outside work, I have experienced the devastating consequences that mental health issues can cause for individuals and families, friends and colleagues. This has been the driving factor behind me becoming more involved in raising awareness for different mental health initiatives.
Mental Health in the Turf Industry
- The nature of management structures within golf/sports clubs
- The changing economics of the golf industry
- Extreme passion in achieving unrealistic targets in times of budget, resources and weather constraints
- Social media
Here I will focus on what can we do to help ourselves and others when feeling under stress. I think most of us at some stage in our lives will experience an emotional reaction to the challenges in life, be it anxiety, depression or stress.
Once the stress response has been identified, it is important to try and take control. By not doing anything you allow the stress to manifest and it can have a severe impact on your well-being. So, take control, seek help, and build your own stress management mechanism.
Duty as an Employer
Work-related stress accounts for an average of 23.9 working days lost for every person affected 1. Employers can take preventative action to reduce the risk of stress on employees, but it may still affect certain employees. It is important for employers and managers to not be presumptuous, or try to be an experts on the area, but have the awareness that they can and should provide support. Employee traits to be aware of can be:
- Changes in a person’s behaviour, mood and interactions with colleagues
- A difference in the standard of work or level of focus
- Lack of interest in task previously enjoyed
- An appearance of tiredness, anxiousness or withdrawal
- Appetite changes including increased unhealthy habits e.g. drinking and/or smoking
- Increases in absences and/or lack of punctuality at work
There are a variety of useful online resources around the subject of stress in the workplace. As a starting point for additional information view the HSE online guide Working Together to Reduce Stress at Work, the ACAS publication Stress at Work and the Stress, and the anxiety and depression pages on the NHS website.
I think as an employer it is important that you can point your employees in the right direction to gain the support and specialist knowledge that you may not possess. With this in mind, I have met up with some industry professionals who have provided advice and opinions on methods of how employers can help others to cope with stress responses.
We all know, jobs and tasks in the turf industry can take place in isolated places, resulting in many hours spent with your own thoughts and often working long hours. Having a support network of colleagues, friends and family can be an excellent release of this stress. But there are some of us that don’t have that network, or feel uncomfortable discussing our stress. I went to meet John from Mind the Men to find out how they can help.
Mind the Men is “a talking group, a place for men to come together in a safe environment and talk about issues they have faced or are facing with others in or have experienced similar situations”. John has the following advice for people suffering:
What not to do!
“Man-up”, telling someone or yourself to get on with it, is the worst thing you can do. Often people suffering don’t understand why they feel the way they do and being told to get on with it leads them to keeping the issues within.
Maintain a positive outlook
We always encourage people to find the positives in the day. Even on bad days it’s important to have a reflection on the good points in your day. Becoming mindful and creating gratitude can help put the stressors into perspective.
It’s important that we speak out about our mental health because it’s the first step to coping.
Our groups have responded saying, speaking to people facing the similar situations helps you identify with each other and learn different coping mechanisms. I think it’s important to know that you cannot “cure” or “recover” your mental health. It’s all about finding mechanisms of coping and we all respond to different things, be it visiting places that make you happy, doing something or being with people that make you feel good or doing some exercise.
Evidence has shown that there is a link between being active and living a healthy lifestyle and mental well-being. I discussed the topic with Nick Buchan from Golf Fit Ltd to gain his views and advice on how a healthy lifestyle can promote a healthy mind.
Nick said “Studies have consistently shown, for a number of years now, that participation in regular physical activity can increase our self-esteem and can reduce stress. It also plays a role in preventing the development of mental health problems and in improving the quality of life of people experiencing mental health problems.
“Put simply, if the mother-in-law comes to visit, the kids are screaming, and you have pressures from work your brain will function more clearly and positively, be more able to put problems in to perspective, and maintain better relationship with those around you when exercising than your brain without.
A job such as greenkeeping/groundmanship is a physically demanding job how does this affect our stress management?
“Many of the mood boosting effects of exercise are derived from the release of a neurochemical called endorphins into the body – these are responsible for the ‘runners high’. Whilst most active jobs involve a high volume of exercise, it is often light to moderate intensity exercise (i.e. walking or loaded walking). It has been shown the greatest endorphin releases are produced by high intensity exercise.
“Even if you are in a physically active job it is worth adding some high-intensity interval (HIIT) and resistance training a few times a week to get those endorphins releasing.
“Further, part of the mood boosting effects of exercise are due to a change in environment and the ability to focus solely on achieving a different task. In other words, the positive effects of additional exercise are greater than just the physical benefits, allowing you to ‘unplug’ from work.
How can your diet impact on your mental health?
“Eating well (i.e. a well-balanced diet, rich in vegetables and nutrients) may be associated with feelings of well-being. The reverse association has also been found in research too – those experiencing mental health problems are more likely to be eating a poorer diet.
“A recent study found that a Mediterranean-style diet (a diet high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil.) led to a reduction in depression among participants, which was sustained six months after the intervention.
It is important that all of these factors are functioning well and in tandem to maintain a healthy mental state. The pressures of the turf industry increase year-on-year and it is important that we are at the forefront of driving the importance health and well-being in our industry.
I hope the article provided an insight into what we can do both from an employers and an employee’s perspective and outlined some pathways for helping create your stress management mechanism.