What Type of E-Leader are You?

What Type of E-Leader are You?

What kind of leader are you or how do you lead yourself in virtual environments? I ask you this question and not simply what kind of leader you are because at this point and after years of tsunamis of theories and talks about coaching and leadership, surely you have already identified with the charismatic leader, the authoritarian, the democratic, the inspiring ...

But suddenly, a global pandemic arrives that does not seem to end and if it does it will be after a technological sprint and having turned our work environments into virtual environments. With this new board and new rules, we are forced to redefine our leadership style, both with our teams and with ourselves.

Perhaps redefining is not the exact word but ADAPT, adapt to the new digital ecosystem, and adapt those factors of our leadership that gave us identities such as social skills, empathy, teamwork or ways of providing feedback.

An interesting bibliographic review carried out among universities in different countriesContreras & Baykal, 2020) shows how teleworking can offer numerous advantages both in terms of the well-being of employees and their productivity, but only if effective e-leadership is present. On the contrary, moving to remote work can involve numerous risks. These changes include both the adaptation of structures, trying to make them less hierarchical, and fostering trust and quality personal relationships among team members as well as a genuine interest in people's well-being.

When examining this research, I thought how applicable this is not only for leading teams but also for self-leadership, especially in self-employed workers or in those who start a new project alone. Training our cognitive flexibility, prioritizing our well-being, and maintaining contact with other people in our sector will be decisive both for the telework experience and for quality and success.

Leading remotely poses numerous challenges, but here I show you 3 of the ones that we have been able to observe the most in recent months both in fieldwork and research:

  1. Maintain team spirits and productivity.
  2. Manage uncertainty.
  3. Successfully management of new hires.

Obviously, the technological factor and digital skills have played a key role in adapting to teleworking, but in my experience with greater or lesser effort and with the necessary support and motivation, even the profiles with less prior exposure to technology have finished adapting.

It is therefore not surprising that we put the greatest focus on people. In the era of technology and precisely due to the automation of processes, some think that a wave of dehumanization of work will come, but it is precisely this automation that gives greater importance to personal skills and social relationships. Skills such as emotional intelligence, creativity, collaboration, and of course identity and purpose have become essential both in telecommuting and in the job market.

Emotional intelligence is a differential variable when it comes to recognizing both how we feel and the state of mind of our team, which will allow us not only to be more empathetic leaders but also better communicators since people tend to prefer to listen to those who listen to us to those who show a coherent communication with how we feel, this makes us feel validated. A study carried out with 138 managers from 66 different organizations showed the relationship between the emotional intelligence of leaders and the creativity of their teamsRego & Sousa, 2007), a skill that for any company has become one of its main assets thanks to the need for constant innovation.

How do I do it in a virtual environment? There are multiple ways to develop emotional intelligence, from the labelling of emotions and their regulation (in this blog you will find a fantastic explanatory article written by Amanda Blanco about it), to the planning of informal meetings in small groups or there are even organizations that implement their own "mood thermometer" to be aware of the team's mood.

Collaboration is another of the capacities that we must train in the online environment, not only because feeling part of a team's work gives us a greater identity and affinity with the organization but because, like emotional intelligence, it stimulates innovation and creativity. The University of Ludn, in Sweden, published in 2019 a study on the organizational climate and the promotion of creativity and innovation of employees, showing how environments that favor a space for entrepreneurship and in which challenges are shared are capable to foster these skills.

How do I do it in a virtual environment? The ease of convening meetings and being connected has made many people feel like they are on a constant journey from one call by zoom, teams ... to another, with an endless list of tasks and with high feelings of guilt or inefficiency in their breaks. . An alternative is to respect these breaks, to promote behaviours on the part of the leader at the end of the workday that encourages the team to enjoy other tasks or areas of their life, thus allowing ideas to emerge in moments of “unfocus”.

Finally, and concerning the purpose and identity, perhaps this is the most difficult part to adapt to the online environment, especially in cases of new incorporations or in times of high tension and uncertainty, but it is precisely that identity and purpose one of the variables that it correlates more significantly with the commitment and satisfaction of people in their jobs (even at the same level as salary and flexible hours). Therefore it is also one of the fields that have most attracted neuroscientists to research.

How do I do it in a virtual environment? Some of the ideas are the construction of the team objective and even the construction of the dynamics and the work organization that will be followed. A dynamic aimed at achieving objectives but above all COHERENT with the expressed values. For this, we can look for workspaces without sharing documents, where we can simply see each other, get to know each other, and share how we feel most comfortable working and how we each want to develop our talent during this project.

Just a few weeks ago at Sinews, we gave a group training to leaders of Everis, an organization as digital as it is people-centred, about Neuro-leadership in Virtual Environments and these needs for “reskilling” and adapting to our social relationships, to promote feedback personal and fostering group identity and purpose came to light.

Even in this training, which was online, we were able to observe that elements such as participation, emotional involvement, and looking beyond our ego were the best antidote to combat the impossibility of conducting these workshops in person.

Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Leticia Martínez Prado
Psychologist and Coach
Adults and couples
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé

Love at a Distance

Love at a Distance

"Long-distance relationships have a 48% failure rate."

"Long-distance relationships have a 48% failure rate." Almost one in two long-distance relationships fail as a result.

It is clear that globalization and new technologies have brought us closer to the point of forming multicultural families and couples. Thus, we create more diverse, enriching, and creative environments.

But it is also true that more and more couples have long-distance relationships because they belong to different countries or because work or study circumstances make them live separately.

We all know short distance relationships (neighbouring cities or a few kilometres), medium distance (different locations in the same country or nearby countries), or long-distance (in other continents and time zones) but who was going to tell us just ago a year that we could have a long-distance relationship being so close because we are confined to our homes or that we would have to change plans and plane tickets three, four or even five times..

Of course, 2020 has left us many things, but one of them is the constant challenge to our ability to adapt and in the romantic sphere it was not going to be different.

When I was asked to write this post, my immediate response was that I was delighted to do it as a professional, since I work in couples therapy and I have learned a lot about these problems thanks to each of them. But I also have to admit that I was excited to do it from a personal point of view since I have lived for years and first-hand love at a distance.

Today I share with you the ABC of long-distance relationships or as this post of love in the times of COVID titles. I hope that after reading it you can start putting these 3 tricks into practice both in your relationship with your partner and with yourself.

Acceptance: one of the most repeated concepts in psychology, meditation, mindfulness, interpersonal relationships, and above all one of the most important tools that 2020 has left us.

Accepting means 2 things in the distance relationship:

  1. Accept circumstances that are not within our control, such as regulations, unexpected events, flight cancellations, or job opportunities that appear by surprise and change our plans. It hurts us to accept these changes because of the expectations that we had created of what they would be like and that we have to give up and because of the fear of their consequences. It is normal and more in a long-distance relationship that we spend time thinking about how our next meeting will be and it is also normal that we fear that if something negative does not occur, it will happen.
  2.  Accept our difficult thoughts and emotions.This costs even more. It is many occasions to want to avoid feeling uncertainty, insecurity, lack of attention, or even wanting to avoid "waiting" is what guides our behaviour and generates tensions and conflicts.

Let's start with three tips for acceptance:

  1. When a change of plans or a difficult emotion comes, let's try not to react immediately, if there is no urgency, why am I going to have to respond NOW
  2. Let's focus on the present moment, I know this sounds very easy but we can try to do it from the capacity of adaptation  trying to be creative in the couple and to look for an alternative.
  3. Communication without criticism.In this blog you will find another article about the horsemen of the apocalypse in the relationship and one of them is the tendency to blame the other. My recommendation is to communicate to look for alternatives but focused on the problem, avoiding criticism, and placing the responsibility or blame on the other person.

Building Bridges ”or create bridges. This is what will keep us together in the relationship and for this, here are examples of some of them:

Communication bridges:  We must take care of the channels and schedules through which we are going to communicate, but also the rules and flexibility within them so as not to generate misunderstandings. Differentiating an appointment even online at a specific time which we must respect and organize as if it were in person, from communication during the day through chats or messages. So that this communication does not produce frustration, we must agree on it, reaching a common agreement in the couple.

Bridges of affection:in the same way that we take care of our plants, maintain cleaning routines at home, or maintain attention to certain details with our clients, we can do it with our relationship. These displays of affection can range from sending messages or details to other simple actions such as preparing a Spotify list depending on the mood of the other person or updating the common one with songs that are meaningful to the couple. Think that what people regret the most at the end of their lives is for not having said or shown what he felt to their loved ones, distance limits us but also offers us opportunities to create more creative and personalized bridges of affection.

Bridges of entertainment: Sharing interests, hobbies, and pleasures are according to different studies one of the key pieces in successful relationships. Although the distance does not allow us to make a route together, spend a weekend, or discover a new restaurant, technology opens the door in a simple way to take care of this bridge. Over the past few months, I have seen fantastic ideas from couples who have virtually travelled online together to destinations they would like to go to, have learned new skills, or even taught each other in different disciplines.

Discovering is always exhilarating, so why not do it together also in the distance. 

Commitment is what guides our persistence, our ability to succeed in the things we value. Even in the most difficult moments, we can try to remain committed to:

  1. Our partners and their well-being
  2. The relationship as a common and constantly growing creation
  3. The previous bridges
  4. Our own emotions, to commit ourselves to accept them and develop compassion towards them, giving ourselves time, calming them, and also taking care of our own well-being.

Returning to the initial statistics ...

In order not to put our relationship at 48%, maybe you cannot change the situation but you can work on acceptance, common bridges, and commitment. 

Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Leticia Martínez Prado
Psychologist and Coach
Adults and couples
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé

The Four Horsemen Romantic Relationships and How to Manage Them

The Four Horsemen Romantic Relationships and How to Manage Them

When does love end and become friendship?
Is there a time limit or happily ever after?
Why do some couples seem unaffected by the passage of time?
Why do other people repeat the same patterns in different relationships?

These topics are probably nothing new; most of us have discussed the secrets and obstacles of dating relationships on multiple occasions.

It is not surprising that it is one of the topics with the highest demand within psychology sessions or that it is something that worries us and in which we want to work and learn more.

We are social beings and dependent on the group (even for our survival) and probably due to the way we have articulated our relationships throughout the history of humanity, the romantic relationship is the chosen group in which we spend the most hours and in which that more projects we share.

These topics are probably nothing new; most of us have discussed the secrets and obstacles of dating relationships on multiple occasions.

It is not surprising that it is one of the topics with the highest demand within psychology sessions or that it is something that worries us and in which we want to work and learn more.

We are social beings and dependent on the group (even for our survival) and probably due to the way we have articulated our relationships throughout the history of humanity, the romantic relationship is the chosen group in which we spend the most hours and in which that more projects we share.

Studies that try to discover which are the variables related to greater happiness, well-being, and even longevity have shown that, above aspects such as economic, labor, or social class, what most influences our subjective well-being are the relationships we have with other people and more specifically with close family.
How can we not worry about our romantic relationships then? How not to try to learn more about building and maintaining a healthy, exciting, and long-lasting relationship? But above all, how can one not be aware of difficulties and learn to navigate them?

Thanks to advances in fields such as neuroscience, today we know that our brain behaves similarly when it "falls in love" as it does in addictions, we also know that we tend to positively value everything familiar to us and that after a rupture we experience physiological processes similar to those we feel in a grieving process.
For this and many other reasons, it is clear that romantic relationships and, above all, their well-being within them, is more complicated than we thought, from the beginning of the relationship to its maintenance over time.

As a therapist, I consider it fair and fundamental that we recognize and stop trivializing these difficulties since each relationship experiences them, and normalizing them is the first step to get rid of that feeling of "what is the problem with me?" and continue to evolve. This is the main objective of this article, to raise awareness and show common obstacles in couples from current scientific knowledge.

In the classes that I teach in Personality and Individual Differences, we usually talk about the relationship between personality traits, the duration of the relationship, and emotional and sexual well-being. Different studies and meta-analyses have shown aspects such as extraversion (due to the ability to communicate love and needs), openness to experience (which leads us to try new things and learn), awareness, and perseverance (for orientation to long-term goals) positively correlate with maintaining a stable and lasting relationship and with perceived happiness within it.

But we must not forget that all these behavior patterns can be trained and also that they are only correlations, that is, we do not know what was before if the chicken or the egg. Do we show ourselves in the most communicative questionnaires, open to experience, and focused on having a healthy and positive relationship, or are these variables the ones that make us have a satisfactory relationship?

Going deeper into what we know in the field of science as possible keys to a happy couple, we know that at first, we worked on the idea of ​​“Quid Pro Quo”, that is, those people who had a sense of justice in their relationships were better able to last over time than those who did not feel that way.

But thanks to the advances in research and studies such as those of John and Julie Gottman (couples therapists, professors, and researchers at the University of Texas), we know that this need for "equality and justice" only appears in couples when they are already They find themselves going through bad times when they are in a state of alert due to not being comfortable in the relationship.

The Gottman method has shown high efficacy in couples therapy, probably because it approaches the relationship holistically, it focuses on the joint-life history, but also takes into account the learning and personality patterns of each of the members of the couple. Likewise, this method works on behavior, but without neglecting emotional regulation and patterns of thought and interpretation.

What we call the four horsemen of the apocalypse in a romantic relationship have thus been identified, these being the following:

  1. Criticism:An attitude of criticism and centered on blaming the other member of the couple for every little detail or problem, accusing their behavior, personality traits, or aspects of their family and/or life history.
  2. Defensiveness:The tendency not to assume responsibility and to be defensive in the face of possible criticism (which is usually perceived as an attack on my person and not as a behavior to modify). This attitude is closely linked to criticism since in addition to blaming the circumstances, the easiest way for the couple to defend themselves is usually to put the responsibility on the other.
  3. Contempt:A pattern of behavior both behavioral and verbal that delegitimizes or devalues ​​aspects of the other member of the relationship.
  4. “Stone-walling” : The tendency not to establish communicationnot to deal with problems, and / or turn away from them, which in many relationships is perceived by the other member of the couple like turning your back on that person or the relationship.

 Obviously, these 4 riders do not appear simultaneously in all couple problems, but one of them is usually found playing a leading role in the conflict.
It is right here where we find one of the main keys to understand and start working in a positive relationship. We know that the difference between a happy and satisfied couple and another that is not satisfied is not the number of conflicts that appear but their handling since we are capable of making a small conflict a big problem if we let any of these four horsemen between in Game.
But, now that we know a little more about scientific studies, about the evidence, and about these four attitudes as protagonists in romantic problems, what can we do with all this? How do I put it into practice?

  1. Real consciousness:As obvious as it may seem, it is as obvious as it is useful. We must cultivate awareness and try to identify these four horsemen, not only now when reading this article but in our day-to-day relationship. It is important to pause the conflict or before it begins and see if one of these riders is taking the helm and navigating the problem.
  2. Time out:Especially due to the difficulty of the previous point, since when anger, anger, or sadness are very active, it is more difficult for us to become aware and think more coldly.
    Something that we can try to practice is to take time out (it can be to take a walk, go to another room ...) trying to perceive that the problem does not have to be solved NOW and above all that it will not do it if we do not handle it rationally. In many couples, this time out is a source of conflict since there are those who “need” to resolve or conclude immediately. It is therefore important that this technique is consensual and is not interpreted as an estrangement but as an individual space to reflect and then work together again in the relationship.
  3. Emotional regulation:In the same way that we work on managing emotions in the couple, we must do it individually, first being aware of our emotional handicaps (which we all have) and then applying different psychological techniques such as cognitive restructuring, relaxation, acceptance, and subsequent distancing from emotion through mindfulness, self-compassion...
  4. Focus on common goals:Focus attention and behavior on common goals, nothing transcendental in principle, go from less to more, from sharing time together focused on a common interest (a walk, visit, series, talk about a book ) to the joint design of more medium and long-term projects.

As I said at the beginning of this article, our well-being is closely linked to the type of relationships we build, so how not to work on them, and give them the importance they deserve. It is true that our relationships are complicated by the fact of trying to fit two pieces of a puzzle that come with different forms created by the previous life, family models ... but it is also true that the handling of daily conflicts or the fact not handling them ends up being a much greater risk factor for the breakdown or discomfort in the relationship.

How many times have we ruined a pleasant moment or day by expressing ourselves from criticism, contempt, or taking a defensive attitude? How many times have we regretted not having communicated with our partner, having faced a problem, or expressed our needs?

The main problem with handling conflicts in this way is not only the amount of negative affect that we express but since time is limited and the day continues to have 24 hours and the week seven days, we are left with much less space to share positive affect and to enjoy the relationship.

Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Leticia Martínez Prado
Psychologist and Coach
Adults and couples
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé

Cuidar de Los Que Nos Cuidan

Cuidar de Los Que Nos Cuidan

El deterioro cognitivo y otras enfermedades neurodegenerativas son cada vez más prevalentes en nuestra población actual, una población más longeva pero también con mayores niveles de estrés y desconexión del momento presente.

Cada vez más personas somos conscientes de estas problemáticas pero hoy vamos a hablar de otro colectivo, un colectivo a veces silencioso (o silenciado), un colectivo que disfruta, pero también sufre y que es tan demandado como necesario.

Hablamos del rol del cuidador o cuidadora, esa persona que acompaña en el día a día a quien sufre alguna dificultad como el Alzheimer y en la que diferentes estudios han mostrado la alta frecuencia con que padecen “burn-out”, es decir, el síndrome de agotamiento y estrés laboral, problemas de ansiedad y de estado de ánimo o depresión.

Obviamente el bienestar psicológico de esta profesión está altamente relacionado con otras personas: a la que cuida, la familia de esta y su familia o relaciones personales fuera del trabajo.

Desde Sinews queremos prestar especial atención a esta dinámica interpersonal ya que será una profesión cada vez más necesaria, importante y probablemente a la que muchos o nos dedicaremos de una u otra manera o de la que seremos clientes en un futuro. Vamos a ello, por tanto.

Como si de una pieza de piano se tratase, para que la melodía de la relación entre cuidador/a y cuidado/a suene tranquila, agradable y llena de bienestar hay al menos tres acordes que debemos de tocar:

1. El vínculo personal

Cuando trabajamos con personas debemos priorizar la importancia del vínculo terapéutico, por ello es importante que más allá de las labores diarias como cuidador/a se reserve un tiempo para conocerse, tanto con el resto de la familia como con la persona a la que se acompaña.

Conocer la historia de vida, los intereses personales, gustos y también las dificultades por las que pasamos nos ayuda a ser más empáticos, a entender mejor los comportamientos inesperados y las emociones.

Además poder compartir actividades e historias es una de las mejores formas de trabajar la estimulación cognitiva.

Conseguimos un 2×1 en este caso, reforzar el triángulo familia-persona acompañada-cuidador/a mejorando el bienestar y la comprensión en esta relación interpersonal y por otro lado se podrán estar trabajando áreas como la estimulación verbal, procedimental y de la memoria.

¿Cómo hacerlo?

Estableciendo un tiempo tanto al comienzo de la relación para conocerse como durante la misma, pequeños encuentros semanales dentro de la rutina o pequeñas actividades diarias en las que se comparta conversación o actividades placenteras para ambas partes.

2. La desconexión y el descanso

Precisamente por la alta carga física y emocional de esta profesión es necesario respetar los horarios de descanso del profesional, asegurando dos tipos de tiempos, uno para el descanso y la recuperación y otro para que ya recuperados puedan disfrutar de su vida personal, familia y otras actividades placenteras y significativas para ellos. 

Aunque esto parezca obvio debido a la actividad frenética del día a día y a las facilidades que nos proveen las herramientas de comunicación instantánea no es siempre tan sencillo de llevar a la práctica.

La desconexión (lo cual implica como decíamos tanto descanso como tiempo para disfrutar de la vida personal) es una de las variables que más peso tienen en la satisfacción laboral y especialmente por el trabajo que realiza el cuidador/a debemos de prestarle especial atención.

¿Cómo hacerlo?

Durante el año laboral: Acordar entre las partes periodos de vacaciones.

Durante la semana: Contar al menos con dos días consecutivos de descanso y desconexión de las tareas de cuidador/a.

En el día a día: Respetar los horarios de finalización de tareas asegurando unas horas de desconexión laboral.

Pero ¡OJO! no olvidemos en qué consiste respetar esta desconexión:

  1. En caso de que la persona que cuida sea un miembro de la familia, el resto de ella deberá organizarse para asegurar los puntos anteriores, en caso de ser una persona contratada se deberá asegurar una sustitución.
  2. Cuidar no es solo la tarea en sí sino también la logística, por tanto esto debe quedar realizado dentro de las horas de cuidado, evitando así enviar mensajes o llamadas habituales para sobre citas, procedimientos, qué hacer…Evitemos por tanto la comunicación fuera de las horas de cuidado y respetemos el tiempo de desconexión y descanso.
  3. En cuanto a la persona que cuida, te animamos a que te concedas esa desconexión y que compartas con tu familia o círculo social lo importante que es ese tiempo para ti, tanto para descansar como para disfrutar de tu vida personal y otras actividades placenteras o de ocio.

3. El propósito de la tarea

Otra de las variables que han mostrado mayor peso en la satisfacción tanto laboral como en la satisfacción con vida en números estudios es el sentido por el que hacemos las cosas, es decir el propósito de nuestro día a día y de nuestras tareas.

El rol de cuidador/a puede llegar a ser muy rutinario pero podemos tratar de establecer objetivos como la estimulación física y cognitiva y el bienestar general de la persona cuidada. Para ello será especialmente relevante el punto uno, conocer con qué disfruta o disfrutaba esa persona antes de la aparición del Alzheimer. Las capacidades que se conservan durante más tiempo a pesar de la enfermedad neurodegenerativa son las procedimentales (como la cocina, tocar un instrumento, dibujar, la artesanía…).

¿Cómo hacerlo?

Podemos por tanto establecer actividades diarias enfocadas en ese bienestar emocional y estimulación cognitiva, con el objetivo de reforzar ciertas capacidades, como decíamos anteriormente esto además mejorará el vínculo interpersonal.

Estos momentos diarios o semanales en los que se comparte un café o comida y se intercambian historias de vida o que se realiza algo placentero y procedimental marcarán la diferencia en cuanto al propósito del trabajo y permitirán un tiempo más creativo y emocional dentro de la jornada de cuidado. 

No nos olvidemos tampoco del papel de la GRATITUD al respecto, como bien sabemos toda conducta reforzada tiende a consolidarse. Reconocer el trabajo y los objetivos del cuidador/a no solo de manera económica sino con tiempo de descanso o simplemente a nivel verbal mejorará la relación y por tanto el bienestar de todas las partes.

Un breve resumen gráfico para recordar esto y que nos ayudará a ponerlo en práctica

Cuidar de Los Que Nos Cuidan
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Leticia Martínez Prado
Psychologist and Coach
Adults and couples
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé

Diary of a Global Therapist Part 4

Diary of a Global Therapist Part 4

It has been three months since the last post in which I shared my experiences working with expats from different parts of the world.

Three months of uncertainty, of continuing to hear very different stories, and of working hand in hand in managing difficulties.

They have also been three months marked by many changes, some due to the COVID-19 pandemic and others to social movements. But of course, a time in which we have not stopped working and learning.

From Sinews (and I imagine that from anywhere) we have been aware of two important and relevant changes in the day-to-day life of international companies and institutions, on the one hand teleworking and on the other the importance of respecting and empowering diversity.

Teleworking seems to have come to stay and that as a country we are approaching the European percentage of working hours from home. Although we are beginning to envision a new law to regulate it, there is much work to be done to get the most out of this new alternative.

A few weeks ago I was talking with an employee of a multinational in one of our follow-up and emotional support sessions about this new situation and it seemed very representative of what many of us live today, perhaps even because I felt deeply identified.

The employee we will call Mrs. P is working outside her home country. In her case, she has the company of her partner and children, which on the one hand appreciates and enjoys the time she can spend with them thanks to saving it on work-home transfers, but on the other hand, it has made her face difficulties, such and as she verbalized “We have been used to having a routine for so many years in which I travel, work and he takes care of the paperwork, the house, the transfers, that this situation has been almost like starting to know other parts of our relationship ”.

Mrs. P has not faced major problems with her partner, but she has experienced situations in which she has had to manage both her time and stress levels. As we mentioned in our session, despite the benefits of working from home, there are weeks in which “a waterfall of difficulties” arise in different areas.

This is how we address the importance of maintaining routines and setting limits to work. I think we have all heard a lot about this topic and about the difficulty of disconnecting when we work from home, but if we want to tackle it we should go further: what is it that makes me not disconnect, not respecting certain limits that I create myself?

For some people it may be the uncertainty and fear of the future job, for others, they need for recognition, certain personal beliefs, judgments ... or as in the case of Mrs. P the need to have everything under control, to "micro-evaluate" every detail, every possible little achievement or failure.

In our biweekly session, we talked about it and how to handle it, as well as about trying to train a kinder and more assertive communication with your family when time is required "as if by being at home you are not working" in her own words.

The session is interesting because of how representative it is of what many of us feel while teleworking, but also because it can normalize these difficulties and emotions.

I decided to write this post because the same day that I had the session with Mrs. P, in the afternoon I connected again to our online platform for the first interview with another employee of a multinational, whom we will call Mr. Q and after the two sessions I thought how much our current work and social panorama showed.

With Mr. Q I had the opportunity to address the discomfort and difficulties that he anticipated in his next project due to working with a very diverse team.

It seemed extremely sincere to me, we all know the virtues of diversity, as the famous Italian phrase "Il mondo è bello perchè è vario" quotes (the world is beautiful thanks to its variety), but this diversity is not free from difficulties and bad times.

If we want to enjoy and respect these differences, the first thing we must do is be aware of the biases we have, such as familiarity, we all tend to better evaluate what is known to us, or self-serving or group biases. , for which we will always make judgments that benefit our group and our own identity.

There begins the true work of respect and appreciation, acknowledging our evaluations, prejudices, and behaviors.

Mr. Q had a bad experience in the past with a language-related issue and acknowledges that it affects him emotionally. On the one hand, it makes him angry at the fact that he is judged for "a simple set quote" and on the other hand, it makes him feel tense in case this happens again.

During our session, we work on that discomfort and how to regulate it.

It is normal that we feel angry or in need of reaffirming our position since as Mr. Q says “I feel judged and I have to defend myself”, but I can differentiate between reacting or responding.

That is, before letting my anger and defensiveness grow I can try to give myself some extra time and to turn down the volume of my emotion in order to respond in a more rational way. Emotional regulation exercises through psycho-education, Mindfulness, and relaxation are very useful for professionals and people who work in diverse environments.

We also work not only on how to reduce discomfort and manage those difficult emotions but also on learning from the positive, that is, from the amplification of our personal strengths. Mr. Q considers himself an empathic person, in fact, he assures that his friends and family would describe him as someone who "knows how to listen".

So why not take advantage of that strength you already have? When the idea of ​​another person or their position collides with ours and makes us feel uncomfortable, we can always turn our attention to curiosity and empathy. This is one of the practical exercises that I propose to Mr. Q:

  1. Identify the discomfort, accept it and try to "turn down its volume"

  1. Putting ourselves in the shoes of a researcher, asking the other person, gathering information, and finally trying to understand why they feel this way.

As we discussed in our session, these exercises help us not only to improve our emotional regulation in interpersonal situations but also to cultivate an open and empathetic mind.

We conclude the interview with a series of practical guidelines for the real management of diversity and with the possibility of having another session if necessary. 

As I said at the beginning of this post, these two sessions are very representative of the problems that we currently encounter and of which we are increasingly aware of our services to international companies, educational institutions, and individuals.

For this reason, at Sinews we work to develop programs aimed at continuing to grow in this digital and inclusive “new normality”.

I finished that working day, before going on a well-deserved vacation that would last three weeks, writing the report for Mr. Q, in which in addition to detailing some practical recommendations, I recommended the wonderful book "Talking to Strangers" by Malcolm Gladwell.

Back at work and remembering those two sessions I realize that this September is different but also a new beginning in terms of opportunities and challenges in the area of ​​mental and organizational health.

Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Leticia Martínez Prado
Psychologist and Coach
Adults and couples
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé

Diary of a Global Therapist: Third Entry

Diary of a Global Therapist: Third Entry

It is 5 pm in Madrid and 10 am in the United States city where the person with whom I have a session today is. It's my "tea time" and her morning coffee.

Today's session is a follow-up session with an employee of a multinational company in the Gas & Oil sector, she is an expatriate in this American city and today's session is not so simple.

Mrs. X has been going through a difficult emotional situation for months but it was three weeks ago when she summoned up the courage to ask for help and that is why we are here today, in our third session together.

Mrs. X arrived more than a year ago at her new destination; she was traveling alone since after two months her partner with whom she had a relationship for 5 years would join her.

As she told me in the first session in which we met and began the evaluation, the first two months were difficult since she had to adapt to new tasks and in a language that despite being proficient was not her mother tongue, she also felt considerably alone outside of work. Still, Mrs. X was encouraged thinking that her partner would arrive soon and they could explore the area and make all the plans together that she was organizing.

Days before the first two months in that new destination, she received the news that her partner wanted to end the relationship, he had not felt the same for a while and these two months had helped him to understand that he no longer saw Mrs. X as the person with whom to share his life.

Since then her mood and well-being went through ups and downs but it is especially since three months ago that Mrs. X feels daily sadness, sleep issues at night and the need to spend the day in bed, she has altered her patterns of physical activity and eating and all this is affecting her work performance.

From the department of international mobility, they have told her about the possibility of returning to Spain if she continues like this since there are days when she does not go to work and if she feels hardly concentrate and very irritable with her colleagues.
What I have just described, the alterations in routines, mood, sleep, and concentration are clear symptoms of a depressive episode but I consider much more interesting the thoughts and emotions that are feeding these symptoms and that we have explored in previous sessions.

Thoughts related to decision-making to travel to the destination where she is since she would have preferred another project that was offered to her in another country where she knew the team and was more interesting to her, but she chose this American city since it made it easier for her ex-couple could travel with her. She is disappointed with the situation and with herself for having made this decision but also for the possibility of having to return before having learned and grown everything she expected.

Thoughts on the other hand related to guilt and comparison at a social level since she had previously had two similar breakups and the idea of ​​“What is wrong with me? ; "The same thing always happens to me." Adding to this an absolute feeling of loneliness since most of her coworkers lived in family and she felt out of the plans they were making and without the possibility of having a support group.

All these emotions and thoughts of guilt, sadness, loneliness and disappointment with herself and with the situation make Mrs. X live on a roller coaster of constant decisions (which has a lot to do with the alteration of rest and concentration) on whether to going or staying and what to do in both cases. It seems like every time she makes a decision a voice flares up in her head in favor of the opposite and she ends up feeling hopeless at the feeling that whatever she does she won't feel better.

I began this post by saying that it was not a simple session since, on the one hand, it may not be time to make a decision taking into account your mood but on the other hand the well-being and health of the employee and being in a place where she feels alone, without her family and in a stressful environment is not the ideal environment for her mental health.
These types of sessions also produce a waterfall of emotions in me, not only because of concern for Mrs. X's health but also for others like empathy.

Although each experience is unique and personal I think that all of us who have lived outside at some point have had similar thoughts and emotions such as nostalgia, the feeling of loneliness, guilt for not enjoying as much as we should, the comparison with the experiences of other ex-pats and disappointment with certain situations.
I have also experienced weeks in which those monsters in my head did not stop appearing at the least opportune moments and I have also had the feeling of changing my mind several times a day regarding my future.

Of course, almost all of us have also felt anguished after a breakup and blaming ourselves for what happened, thinking about what we have done wrong.

But not all the emotions that appear in me during the session are so difficult, I also feel curious and comfortable.

It is curious that before starting to work on this type of projects with multinationals and of course before the COVID-19 crisis, I thought that online therapy was a way to replace face-to-face if there was no other possibility but today the I find it very interesting and pleasant not only because of the possibility it gives us to help people who are far from us but also because of what we learn from each other.

Mrs. X, like many other clients, has our sessions from home and unless I am in Sinews' office, I usually do them from mine as well.

I see behind her a set of different photos framed in what looks like three white-painted weathered wood frames, they are symmetrically arranged and especially beautiful. In them I can see Mrs. X in what seems like different trips, in one of them she is skiing with some mountains and snow-covered pines behind her, in another she seems to be in a swamp doing a kind of water skiing and in another, I think she is with a group of people. It is curious that although I have asked her in our sessions about her interests and hobbies she has not mentioned any of these activities.

But she can also learn a little more about me on a personal level after these sessions. Even though I try to have a neutral and distraction-free environment when I work from home, there are things that we cannot avoid such as the appearance of my dog, a mastiff as large as it is affectionate during sessions whose head is common to appear or one of his huge legs asking for love. I have also seen the dogs and cats of different clients over the past few years and have occasionally heard relatives or Amazon dealers calling home in the middle of the session. At first, this made me a little uncomfortable, nowadays and as long as it is not a great distraction, I think that these details humanize us, help us to get to know each other and connect us much more despite the distance.

Besides, doing the session from our home, with our favorite tea and mug and the comfort of a rug or the wood under our feet creates a feeling of safeness and self-care very optimal for therapy. Today at the beginning of the session Mrs. X tells me that she wanted to have it, that this morning she returned to do a little exercise, she had breakfast and made a coffee with her favorite vegetable milk to take it with me in session because she has thought that this is a morning that she wanted to dedicate to herself and to take care of herself physically and mentally. This attitude on the one hand surprises me and makes me very happy and on the other it makes me feel similar, comfortable with her, and willing to share and work together during this hour.

We will work together on the importance of normalizing certain emotions, of giving them space but trying not to give them all our attention, we will talk about emotional regulation and we will begin to carry out certain practical exercises and we will also try to incorporate behaviors and activities very little by little and progressively that she used to enjoy.

It is still too early to know how Mrs. X will progress and experience tells me that it is better to be cautious and go step by step, but we will try to learn from this experience and finally decide what to do.

We finish our time together and I send her by email different materials to practice, that, and the invitation to the next session.

See you next week for our next coffee/tea time together. Thank you for sharing so much with me, Mrs. X.

Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Leticia Martínez Prado
Psychologist and Coach
Adults and couples
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé

Diary of a Global Therapist: Second Entry

Diary of a Global Therapist: Second Entry

Madrid, 4 pm

After a morning with interviews prior to expatriation processes and writing the corresponding corporate reports and recommendations, my afternoon begins again on the Sinews-online platform. I have a follow-up session with an employee of a multinational in the Oil & Gas sector.

These follow-up sessions that large companies make available to their employees are intended to help them with the emotional management of expatriation processes, their adaptation to a new life, and the prevention of problems or assistance. Today it is Mr. H who is waiting for me connected to the other side of the screen and the Indian Ocean!

Mr. H is already in his new destination, he has been in it for more than three months, he is in an Asian country and despite the fact that at the beginning his adaptation was simple, in recent weeks it has been complicated and his mood has suffered.

Mr. H has established good social relations and meets his family at the destination, they have also adapted without major problems, but his discomfort comes from another route, actually two different paths:

1) On the one hand, the tasks you perform are not exactly what you thought you would be assigned and, although you like them and see them as an opportunity for growth, they consume much more time than you expected.

2) On the other hand, before moving he had some expectations: travelling to nearby places, different family activities, learning the country's language ... and due to the process of adaptation and tiredness, he does not have time or energy to carry out all these activities.

All this generates in Mr H the feeling of "not taking full advantage of the experience" and of feeling disappointed with himself.

After years of working with expatriates, this problem is familiar to me, sometimes, very positive and enthusiastic people create high expectations and it is not that they are not met, but that they are not met at the exact time we want. Mr. H and I reflect on the need to be patient with yourself and to be consistent with the moment you are living. The image you created of what the experience would be like is probably not wrong, but it may not be realistic for the first few months. In this way we try to work to be kind to ourselves and consistent with the situation we are living in, assuming that other stages of adaptation will come in which your dreams will be more viable.

On many occasions, we need to normalize the discomfort. Understanding that all emotions have a function (for example exhaustion is our signal that we must rest and recover energy and stress alerts us that there are new stimuli and we must be vigilant to learn how they behave and thus be able to react). When we are able to understand what is happening to us and accept it, we can begin to make it easier for ourselves, be compassionate with ourselves and allow ourselves to live what we have to live.

Thus, after reviewing the functions of emotions together and sharing with him some strategies for managing discomfort, we end up laughing at the "pressure to do, do, smile and smile" that we often impose on ourselves and begin to think together about other ways to enjoy of current learning and set realistic goals for activities to do with his family. Instead of continually being concerned with “getting the most out of it and having to enjoy it” we can simply feel the experience day by day.

As I said at the beginning of my diary, the most globalized and diverse world of work we find ourselves in is an exciting challenge and a wonderful source to foster learning and commitment.

As in any challenge we need to incorporate the tools to face it in our luggage, here I share some of those who work in our services to companies in expatriation processes, we hope they are as useful as they have been for us:

1. Consciousness, the first and main. the knowledge of the difficulties that we will encounter due to the characteristics of the destination but also due to our personal characteristics.

2. The ability to create meaning in each task we do and experience we live, why is this important to you? What impact does it have on your personal growth? What impact does it have on the lives of others and on society?

3. The preservation of our habits and our identity, since only by being better with ourselves will we have a clearer and more open mind to understand, empathize, and adapt to differences.

4. Normalization and management of difficult emotions such as frustration or uncertainty

5. The amplification of our personal strengths, both innate and those created in previous experiences.

If we travel with a suitcase ready with resources to enjoy and others to handle the difficulties, without a doubt our experience will be easier and more exciting.

Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Leticia Martínez Prado
Psychologist and Coach
Adults and couples
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé

Diary of a Global Therapist

Diary of a Global Therapist

Madrid, 9 am

Today I start my morning by connecting through the Sinews Online platform with an employee of a multinational company who is going to be an expatriate in northern Norway.

As usual, the interview begins with our respective presentations and exploring where in his professional career this assignment to the international mobility program arrives and what his expectations are. Right there the routine ends.

I enjoy this work above all because of that, each case is different, not because of the destination, not because of the job, but because of the person.

Today the employee who is on the other side of the screen and who speaks to me from Canada has vast international experience, he worked in Latin American and Arab countries and in his country of origin, but he has always done so accompanied by his family, in this new assignment it will not be like this, his children start college and the place where he is going to is considerably isolated so he will travel alone.

Throughout the interview we discuss his experience so far, he shares what he knows about where he will reside for the next three years and what he knows or needs to know about his new tasks. We also go over the personal resources he has from his previous experiences (many! I love to see such competent people) and we analyze his personality traits, those that will help him adapt and those that can give him problems and reflect on the difficulties which he anticipates he will face.

Mr. Z takes responsibility and he is looking forward to make the most of this new challenge but he is also aware that it will be very different since he will miss his family, he will be more isolated than on other occasions and the weather and food will not be the best.

In this increasingly global world of work, with more mobility and with more diverse environments, accepting the challenge of moving to another country for work can be, at the same time, the most enriching work experience of your life and one of the most complicated. We know, getting out of the comfort zone costs but helps to widen your borders

By now, you may be wondering about the purpose of this interview. First of all, let me clarify that I am a General Health Psychologist and that I work for SINEWS, a company that since its birth has been dedicated to caring for expatriates and their families in their native language. Companies that move employees around the world ask us for these psychological accompaniment programs because of different reasons:

  1. They help both the company and the employee to assess the risk that their mood and mental health may be in making such a significant change.
  2. They encourage the professional to explore the possible difficulties that may arise at the destination and to be more aware of their coping strategies: what previous learning can be useful to them and what personal strengths and coping styles they have to handle these difficulties.
  3. They improve the link between the company and its workers since, far from being a human resources process, it focuses on the well-being of the employees. Putting the focus on people's well-being and not only on their productivity, we know that it is one of the best ways to retain talent and create a climate of trust and commitment.

As the interview progresses we also explore the social areas and relationships with other colleagues and here comes the most interesting part that will probably be the key to the adaptation of our client today. Already in the psychometric personality evaluation that he went through before conducting the interview (a super complete test that is done online and that I carefully review before contacting the employee), I found a high score in social indifference and in difficulty in managing interpersonal situations. Mr. Z affirms that he is not very proactive when starting social relationships and that he has not trained him in previous expatriations since traveling with his family it was not necessary because they frequently did sports or tourist activities on their own.

It is interesting that despite not considering himself a person with high social capacities, he admits that his well-being depends largely on relationships with other people since the best thing he has taken from his previous destinations is the people he has met and the feeling that you can trust the team and create a "small family".

To be completely honest this does not surprises me, neither in the case of Mr. Z nor in any other case, I apply it perfectly to myself. As human beings we are social beings, inevitably and despite our differences, we all depend on our state of mind and well-being on the quality and warmth of our relationships with other people.
The company Mr. Z works for is from the Oil & Gas sector and his next destination is a very isolated one, so generating a good social climate a working environment there will be crucial.

In my conversations with employees in the international mobility program, when we review what they have learned from their previous moves, a very high percentage of professionals talk to me about how “you learn that your way of seeing or doing things is not that it is more or less correct than others, it is only yours and you have to understand and learn that there are other equally valid forms ”, many also mention the power of listening as a key tool for adaptation and for creating bonds with other people.

But there is a question from these interviews that excites me and from which Mr. Z and I will propose a social adaptation strategy in his new destination. It is a question about the personality traits that facilitate our day a day. Throughout the scientific literature, they have been called personal strengths, virtues, values ... but I find it very useful to speak of them as facilitators. We all have traits of our personality that complicate our daily lives, which makes us feel bad ... but we also have facilitating traits, those that make us grow and bring us well-being. We found out that one of the most important for Mr. Z is curiosity, perhaps he is not very outgoing but his eagerness to meet different people and realities and his desire to learn may serve to create new relationships with those who will be his "little family" at his new destination.

We are already finishing our conversation and now we explore together life habits and strategies for coping with stress and emotional management . Finally, we end the interview reviewing the information we have seen and reminding Mr. Z that if problems arise at his new destination we are at his service for sessions online, proving him psychological support if needed.

I was delighted to meet Mr. Z and I am sure that he will do well, he is a flexible person and he has clear strategies. The plan that we have drawn together will help him.

Now it is time to put in writing the results of the test and the interview, I am now with Mr. Z's report, both the one that I will write for him and in which he will be able to read our plan and see a list of readings that I have given him. This report includes recommendations on how to deal with distance with his family and how to improve his interpersonal skills. I will also do a brief report with suggestions for the company.

I confess that this part is a bit more tedious, but I find it very useful and that helps me roll up my sleeves. I know it is important. I write with one thought in mind: Good luck with your new stage, Mr. Z!

Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Leticia Martínez Prado
Psychologist and Coach
Adults and couples
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé

Mindfulness para cuidar de nosotros mismos

Mindfulness para cuidar de nosotros mismos

El self es el autoconcepto que tenemos sobre nosotros mismos, cómo pensamos que somos, qué mensajes nos mandamos y por supuesto está altamente relacionado no solo con nuestro estado de ánimo sino también con nuestra salud mental.

Múltiples cosas que realizamos están orientadas a equilibrar o a “cuidar” ese self. Incluso el modelo del profesor Richard Bentall plantea y evidencia que la  autoestima  implícita se ha identificado también como un proceso que nos puede ayudar a entender mejor el delirio persecutorio, es decir, la paranoia, el síntoma más común de la psicopatología mental severa (Bentall et al., 2008; Fowler et al., 2006).

Bentall y cols. (2001) plantean que los pacientes con paranoia tratan de evitar creencias negativas sobre uno mismo asumiendo que los fracasos en su vida son causados intencionadamente por las acciones de otras personas llamando así a este modelo el modelo del sesgo-auto sirviente.

Así probablemente a muchos de nosotros mientras leemos esto nos vengan a la mente un gran número de conductas que realizamos o de pensamientos orientados a cuidar ese “self”.  Estos mensajes que nos enviamos pueden ser positivos para nuestras vidas o no serlo tanto.

Por ejemplo, si queremos cuidarnos del sentimiento de haber fallado podemos tender a culpar a otros, a la suerte o al contexto, algo similar ocurre con conductas típicas de los celos, la alimentación inconsciente, las relaciones negativas con los otros… todos tratan de calmarnos y darnos sensación de control a corto plazo a pesar de perjudicarnos a largo plazo, es decir, en nuestra auténtica trayectoria vital.

Entonces…¿cómo cuidar ese self? ¿cómo mejorarlo y hacerlo más fuerte y positivo?

Los 3 pasos del Mindfulness tal vez puedan ayudarnos con esto:

Cultivar la conciencia y la capacidad de estar en el momento presente.
Obviamente todos sabemos donde estamos física y temporalmente, pero ¿cuántas veces hemos vivido en nuestros pensamientos en lugar de en el momento presente? ¿cuántas veces hemos “desconectado” de lo que está ocurriendo aquí y ahora para estar centrados en una preocupación acerca del pasado o del futuro?

MINDFULNESSS, ese término tan popular últimamente no es otra cosa que cultivar la capacidad de vivir en el aquí y ahora, tomando conciencia de todo lo que viene a mi cabeza para “boicotear” esa presencia, reconocer esos pensamientos y emociones y desde la aceptación y la amabilidad (ya que todo humano se distrae con preocupaciones sobre el pasado o el futuro)  y finalmente volver a llevar la atención a ese momento presente, sea como sea, sin juzgar.

Self-compassion o la cuidar de nosotros mismos.
Ya hemos reconocido los pensamientos que vienen a nuestra mente para sacarnos del momento presente y también somos conscientes de su naturaleza, especialmente de cuando son pensamientos y emociones difíciles y dolorosos.

Debemos cuidar de esas emociones difíciles, porque cuando las cuidamos nos cuidamos a nosotros mismos, pero no desde un punto de vista paternalista, como dice Kristin Neff (una de las creadoras del  programa Mindfulness Self Compassion )Auto-Compasión no es victimismo y no es autoindulgencia porque el objetivo es totalmente contrario a fusionarnos con la emoción negativa o a comportarnos al estilo Bridget Jones: “estoy pasando una mala época asique voy a sentarme en el sofá todo el día a ver películas tristes y comer un litro de helado”. No es eso….el objetivo que persigue es el de hablarnos bien, cuidarnos y desde ahí impulsar un bienestar a largo plazo.
En ocasiones creemos que enviarnos mensajes duros y agresivos va a motivarnos, pero realmente la única utilidad que tienen es aumentar esos sentimientos negativos y desagradables.

Loving-Kindness, Amor y Amabilidad hacia los otros
Cuando somos capaces de vivir en el momento presente y de aceptar nuestras emociones y pensamientos y aprendemos no a cambiarlos sino a cambiar nuestra relación con ellos, entonces podemos realizar lo mismo hacia otras personas, somos capaces de aceptar defectos, controlar la impaciencia, controlar el feedback y disfrutar plenamente de la compañía de los otros, teniendo también hacia ellos una actitud de cariño, amabilidad y cuidado.

Barbara Fredickson, una de las psicólogas más influyentes según Forbes, demuestra en sus estudios que al cultivar esta capacidad de amor y amabilidad hacia otras personas aumentan diferentes marcadores de salud, incluso asociados con la longevidad (Fredickson, 2015).

Así que…anímate a estar presente, ser amable contigo mismo y con otras personas y vivirás MÁS Y MEJOR!

Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Leticia Martínez Prado
Psychologist and Coach
Adults and couples
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé