4 Tips on building emotional resilience at work from new Pento customers, Spill

Team Pento
5 mins

Spill have just switched to running payroll with Pento to save them the manual hassle, and to free up their Ops team to focus on improving their service. Spill provides all-in-one mental health support through Slack, including video therapy. Read on for four key tips on how to build emotional resilience in uncertain times, collated from Spill therapists.


2020 has been a difficult year for many of us. New working lives, job market uncertainty and health anxiety have presented a unique challenge to our mental health. ONS stats suggest that twice as many adults in Britain are reporting symptoms of depression this year compared to last. Whilst vaccine progress does signal light at the end of the tunnel, the emotional challenges are not yet over.

So how can we stay strong, focused and energised? What can we do to stay mentally more level throughout the remaining ups and downs of the pandemic? Here, we dig into some sound advice from emotional experts, collated by mental health startup (and new Pento customer) Spill, which works with over 30 qualified therapists around the U.K.

1. Watch your media diet

💡 Understanding the psychology

From Covid press conferences to US election drama, the past few weeks have demonstrated how sensationalist headlines can raise stress levels, trigger anxiety and cause difficulty sleeping. At the same time, we know from cognitive science that a total lack of information can also cause anxiety. When we’re completely out of the loop, our brains love to speculate and arrive at worst-case-scenarios.

As we ride out uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to monitor where and when we get our news updates. If you know you need to kick your Twitter doom-scrolling habit, consider deleting the app. If clickbait news sites put you on edge, steer clear. And besides the quality, make sure you keep a handle on the quantity of your media intake with a media screen time limit.

👉 Putting it into practice

  • Consider limiting your news intake to once or twice a day
  • Try to time this after (not before) emotionally important events - e.g. playing with your kids, or a big work presentation
  • Try to avoid speculative stories, and source your COVID updates from quantitative news outlets like the ECDC

2. Find a state of flow

The State of Flow

💡 Understanding the psychology

Anxiety loves an empty mind. Anything you can do to keep busy in your free time will help, but finding activities where you reach a psychological state of flow is a bonus, and will help you maintain a calm approach to your days.

But what exactly is flow? Psychological flow is when you lose all sense of time because you're totally engrossed in an activity that's both difficult and achievable, so as to be both interesting and motivated. Video game designers know all about this; it’s their job to try and keep players in a flow state throughout the lifespan of a game.

You might find your flow whilst painting, making music, exercising, working, caring for your kids or volunteering. The best bet is to try a few things, each for at least five hours before giving up, to see which activity you get lost in most easily.

👉 Putting it into practice

  • Try a hobby you used to like doing as a teenager or young adult, but stopped doing. Dust off that drum kit, or find a new video game that takes your fancy.
  • Surprise yourself by trying something outside your comfort zone: an online hostage negotiation course, pottery, scrapbooking...
  • Don’t worry about productivity. Focus on finding an activity in which you could easily lose yourself for a few hours.

3. Remember: self-care is selfless

💡 Understanding the psychology

Does the thought of prioritising time for yourself leave you worrying about how your colleagues and loved ones will fare without you? ‘Self-care’ might seem like an indulgence or ‘just another wellness fad’. In a New Normal where it’s difficult to balance the needs of other people at home and at work, the idea of self-care might seem too self-serving. 

But science tells us that it’s actually crucial to emotional health. If you give too much of your headspace to your kids, colleagues, partner or parents, you will ultimately end up drained and unable to effectively help them anyway. 

Self-care is a regular, intentional process of devoting oneself to protecting and sustaining mental health. It can mean anything from good sleep hygiene to nutrition, exercise, spending quality time alone and with loved ones, finding time to relax, and practicing self-compassion. Take inspiration from the safety announcement you hear before an aeroplane takes off: "Put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others."

👉 Putting it into practice

  • Block out a time in your diary to write, draw, exercise or call a friend, and treat it with the same importance as you would a meeting
  • Put an out-of-office on one day every couple of weeks for deep work
  • Make sure you take 100% of your holiday leave, even if it means a staycation

4. Focus on micro-level decisions to give your brain the illusion of control

What you can and can't control

💡 Understanding the psychology

Will I be allowed to see my family this Christmas? How much longer will I be working from home for? How will the UK’s economic recovery play out? 

Right now, many of us are naturally focusing on things out of our control. It's tempting - stuck within our own four wall - to feel we less agency than ever. Dwelling on issues we can’t influence is natural, but it also leads to a feeling of being out of control, which in turn fuels anxiety.

The more we can bring our attention down to the micro level, the more we can see that we do have agency. By focusing artificially closely on these micro decisions - what to eat, what to read, who to call - we can give our brains the illusion of control and maintain emotional strength in the midst of uncertainty.

👉 Putting it into practice

  • Remember, you're in control of the meals you cook, what exercise you do, who you call
  • Remind yourself that you control the quality of work you do at home and the effort you put into hobbies and interactions

Spill lets employees book video therapy sessions in three clicks through Slack. See Spill's guide to preventing burnout for advice on how to avoid this common issue in startups.