The dearth of emotional intelligence skills means too many employees are subject to unnecessary stress. This isn’t good for emotional health, productivity, and innovation. At a time when people need to keep whatever employment they can find, how do you stay psychologically healthy at work?

The easy answer is to choose a psychologically healthy workplace. They have a minimal amount of unnecessary stress. In my research, I’ve observed why so many workplaces are psychologically unhealthy.

At the root are cultures that place a disproportionate focus on the shareholders. Author Duff McDonald, outlined how Harvard abandoned a 75 year old philosophy, articulated in 1951 by John D. Rockefeller: ‘The job of management is to maintain an equitable and working balance amongst the claims of the various directly affected interest groups.’

Instead, Business Schools are teaching the philosophy of economist, Milton Friedman, that profit is king. This inspires shareholders to make demands that are solely in their own self-interest, creating cutthroat cultures.

The Bully Boss
Another dynamic in the workplace that creates a toxic environment is the abuse of power by bully bosses. Fox News spotlights the barbaric nature of this, during the many years the company pushed aside allegations of sexual abuse.

These cultures are psychologically unsafe, which creates unnecessary stress. Unnecessary stress kills. According to a 2015 Harvard / Stanford study, 120,000 deaths annually may be attributable to workplace stress. Add to this the impact these deaths have and workplace stress becomes one of the most significant issues of our time.

Staying Psychologically Healthy
Here are some tips to help employees stay psychologically healthy:

• Use the tools of emotional intelligence. The first and most important step in psychological health is understanding the power of emotional intelligence. According to Dr. Marc A Brackett, Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence: ‘Emotions matter a great deal at work. They guide complex decision making, help people build and maintain positive relationships, and influence psychological well-being.’

• Don’t deal with it alone. Talking to someone about your emotions will reduce the risk of your health eroding further. Also, having the benefit of another person’s perspectives will result in a better strategy on how to reduce or even eliminate stress points.

• Build your sense of self. Unnecessary stress can consume you, and erode your confidence. An effective way to counter this is work on your own sense of self. Understand who you are and what you offer. Many people withdraw when they are dealing with stress. Do the opposite, become a better person to the others. Feeling good about who you are will help you immensely in dealing with stress.

• Take care of your physical health. It’s easy when you’re under stress to develop bad habits. Exercise and a healthy diet are essential ingredients for health.

• Help others. A therapeutic method to stay psychologically healthy is to help others. If you are going through a tough time at work, odds are that others are going through the same thing. You are in the best position to intervene because you can relate. Where you are a bystander to unnecessary stress, become a protector, and activist. Action is empowering.

• Focus on positive energy. Not dwelling on the negative will help you reframe from the situation and improve your emotional health.

• Adopt an animal. Journalist Chris Colin, in the Smithsonian Magazine wrote: ‘Man's best friend could be life savers for veterans. Rollie, a Weimaraner, was my companion during one of the most stressful periods of my life. I adopted Rollie when he was a puppy and he was the neediest dog I ever encountered. I soon discovered what it really meant to be needed and, as he was dependant on me, I became even more dependent on him. I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but Rollie lifted all of the negative energy. Just watching his tail wag on our long walks and runs, his absolute joy when I came home, his constant need to be close, and his unwavering love and trust gave me such happiness. There is no question he helped me survive a horrific time. Rollie made me a better person. On December 2, 2012, Rollie passed away in my arms. An astonishing 95% of those who are severely bullied in the workplace suffer from PTSD. Canine therapy is as a way to deal with the most difficult situations. I encourage those who are going though life’s traumas to adopt a true healer.’

Andrew Faas is a management consultant who has led major corporate transformations. He is also a philanthropist and founder of the Faas Foundation, which supports not-for-profit organisations in health care, education, and research.

Photo credit goes to Walter Psotka Photography