Week 6 of our Mental Health Series – Titanic Thinking

3 mins

The current news cycle of the war in Ukraine, a recession and the rising cost of living have...

The current news cycle of the war in Ukraine, a recession and the rising cost of living have collectively added to a sense of the floor shifting under everyone’s feet. They might be manageable individually but the building feeling of uncertainty for the future is not so easily quelled.

Unease is not helpful for our mental wellbeing or for our ability to navigate the usual ups and downs of daily life. Even during normal times, situations that on most days you can easily take in your stride, such as constructive criticism from a colleague or your car failing its MOT, can tip the scales towards feeling out of control.

Stress can impact our way of thinking and of coping. When things are difficult, everything can become tinged with negativity so that it feels like nothing is going right, when in fact, some parts are.

For employers, speaking to their staff regularly, having wellbeing initiatives in place such as access to a financial advisor, and looking out for tell-tale signs that someone is struggling, will go a long way to ensuring that staff feel supported. But what our mental wellbeing champion Rhonda focuses on is people’s mindsets. And one of the tools in her coping toolbox, is the ‘Titanic Thinking’ coaching framework she created.

The infamous Titanic disaster story is well known. The ship’s uniquely designed hull was comprised of 16 watertight compartments – the logic being that these would keep her afloat even if up to four of them were flooded. Unfortunately, what the engineers were not prepared for was the iceberg that ripped a 300-foot hole in the hull and flooded six of those areas, leading to her inevitable sinking.

Rhonda’s framework draws comparisons from the ship’s structural engineering to that of personal resilience and strength of mind. Considering that whilst some individuals can deal with multiple setbacks and manage very full compartments, others spill over and start to sink.

If one or two parts of your life are challenging, this can easily overflow, making it harder to cope in other areas. We tend to fall into this ‘all or nothing’ frame of mind, which can cause self-limiting beliefs and be difficult to shake.

And, like the Titanic, often this is all happening beneath the surface – maybe we don’t even realise it’s happening – let alone our employers or HR managers.

One of the exercises which Rhonda uses to help identify if you or someone else is beginning to 'spill over’ is to draw 16 compartments on a piece paper, labelled as different areas of your life; issues you are struggling with and areas that are going well. Perhaps work life, relationships, hobbies, etc.

Taking each compartment in turn, consider how you are feeling and how flooded the compartment is. Mark where the flood line is and from there you can identify if emotions are high and about to spill over or if they are a low and manageable.

Rhonda highlights several key benefits of an exercise like this:

  • Asking these questions engages our neocortex; the logical part of our brain. This action slows our lightning-fast emotional hub down, helping us to regain control and manage our feelings.
  • It can also help to break the cycle of negative thinking as it allows you to factually assess multiple areas rather than the sum of all parts. This, in turn, will help people to gain perspective and feel less overwhelmed.
  • Using a visual illustration helps to give a clearer understanding of what needs to be addressed to strengthen our compartments, allowing us to attach specific actions to each area.
  • It also serves as affirmation that positive things are happening too, ensuring that they do not get lost amongst negative cognitive distortions.

Individuals can use this to identify, understand and analyse thoughts around what is happening in their lives and/or what they’re struggling with inside the workplace.

Identifying the areas in which you are struggling is the first crucial step to tackling the causes of stress and improving your wellbeing at work and elsewhere. From there, there are numerous options available to you. For example, your employer may be able to help you to put together a Wellness Action Plan to map out any triggers of stress and make changes to help you to navigate these.

Everyone deals with stress differently, so take time to find methods and coping techniques that work for you. There are a multitude of resources and ideas out there from charities and organisations such as Mind and the Stress Management Society.

Whilst techniques such as ‘Titanic Thinking’ should never replace medical advice or employee initiatives, they can help to facilitate conversations in the workplace, raise awareness and give people a self-help tool that will help them to regulate and improve their thinking.

Find out more about Rhonda’s work by visiting her LinkedIn profile and checking out her not for-profit Mental Health In Recruitment. Want to join our team? We’d love to hear from you – get in touch today.