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Blog Mental Health Awareness Week May 2020

22.05.2020

By Jemma MacLean

It’s week 8 of lockdown, or is it week 9…?? Does it really matter anymore – it’s been going on for ages. We’re all missing life BC (Before Coronavirus) and that way of life is unlikely to ever return. Many have adapted to the new routine of home-schooling and working from home; for some that has always been their ‘normal’. For others it’s a daily battle to regain some sort of control over a situation for which nobody is in control. The days seem to be flying by although some hours can feel endless. How is it making you feel?

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, so the spotlight is ever brighter on how we are all coping. Schools are working with parents to provide support to children of all ages to help them whilst they are at home. Workplaces have been looking at mental health and emotional wellbeing for some time but the current situation is presenting further challenges. Everyone is under pressure, from individuals adapting to WFH, key workers who are having to step up and put their jobs before their families, and furloughed employees who wondering what this means for them in the long run.

We’ve highlighted in previous newsletters how the brain responds to uncertainty and change. Just as we are getting used to the ‘new normal’ of being at home, the lockdown rules are starting to be relaxed and that brings more change. How are you working with your teams to prepare for a return of some sort? When was the last time you checked in on your managers and HR team on whose shoulders a lot has been placed? Are managers feeling equipped to have conversations with team members who are not coping? Do they know where to go to access support if they need it? Do they know it’s OK to not have all the answers?

I’m not sure anyone will ever have all the answers and I wouldn’t expect them to. What I do hope is that we all work together to make it a bit clearer for each other. This isn’t a time for ego or one-upmanship. Taking this year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness week – it’s a time to be kind.

It’s also a time to re-evaluate our priorities, take advantage of the opportunities presented and work together for mutual benefit. Little things can make all the difference and give you a boost – shopping local, chatting (at a distance) to a neighbour, getting through a working day and feeling that you’ve achieved something – what have you found that helps?

For those who don’t know where to start, I’ve pulled together a few ‘rules’ from my experience of lockdown so far:

1. The first rule of COVID Coping Club is that there are no rules… These are unprecedented times for everyone. We’re all making it up as we go along so don’t try and be all things to all men/women/children/pets…

Having said that, there are a few things that we can all do to look after ourselves and those we care about.

2. Be kind to yourself.  Easy to say and easy to post about on social media, but it really is important. Everybody is trying to muddle through so you have to make time to give your brain a break from the constant news updates, uncertainty, home-schooling, WFH, life…. For some that can be as simple as looking out of the window with a cup of tea, for others it’s going for a walk, making a plan or learning a new language*. Find out what works for you and build it into your day. It’ll be worth it.
*I’m not one of the many to task myself with learning a new language and I’m fine with that….

3. Be kind to others.  Check in with friends, family, colleagues and neighbours. Ask them how they are. Then ask them how they really are. Everyone is finding their way to cope in these challenging times and will have good days and bad days. And the bad days can creep up unexpectedly and make you feel rubbish. The opportunity to share feelings or concerns can make them less personal and more manageable. Then we can be stronger together and find a shared way through this.

4. Ask for help if you need it. There is no shame in not knowing what to do and there will always be someone who can point you in the right direction. Know who you have in your network that you can call on – your boss, a friend, a doctor – and call them. They’ll be glad to help and you’d be glad to be asked if the situation were reversed. And if it involves wine and/or chocolate, even better.

And finally, I’m not one for a snappy quote, but this one struck a chord with me:

Some days are better, some days are worse,
Look for the blessings instead of the curse.
Be positive, stay strong and get enough rest.
You can’t do it all, but you can do your best.

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