Hosted by the Mental Health Awareness foundation, this week (May 18th – 24th) is Mental Health Awareness Week with the theme this year being ‘Kindness’.
With data from the Office of Statistics published by Public Health England showing that more than 4 in 5 (84.2%) of us are worried about the effect that the coronavirus pandemic is having on our lives and around 50% saying it is affecting their wellbeing and reporting high levels of anxiety, it lead me to wondering if kindness to others should extend to being kind to ourselves.
For many of us, the last 9 weeks have probably been one of the most challenging times experienced in our lifetimes. The initial shock of the significant changes to our lives may have passed but we are now left grappling with a new kind of normal that many people find hard to manage.
Everyone in the country has been affected by COVID-19 in some way – be it through enforced staying at home and being separated from friends and family, uncertainty about work or education or knowing someone who has been taken ill or sadly taken from us with the virus. Some of us are furloughed or working from home, others are unemployed or doing a totally different kind of job.
We hear stories of brave key workers putting their lives on the line, we face the challenges of home schooling, we hear conflicting news reports, we deal with life under lockdown, the lifting of lockdown, confusion, gossip and speculation – the list of challenges to our mental health goes on and on. The normality as we knew it already seems a distant memory, and with no fixed date for its’ return, it is easy to get caught up in longing for the familiar and feeling anxious about the future – both of which can both negatively impact our mental health.
Mentalhealth.gov says that our mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood and never more so than now.
With so much going on, it is important to take time to look after our mental health – and following the Metal Health Awareness Week theme of ‘Kindness’, as well as looking out for our children, our family, our friends and our colleagues, we should make sure to take some time just to be kind to ourselves. It can be easy to neglect our own mental health, assuming that we can just keep plodding on and we will be fine. But actually, if we’re not fine, that’s OK and it is important to acknowledge it. Mental health and wellbeing are as much a part of our genetic makeup as our physical health and capability and everyone will have their own levels of tolerance, adaptability and resilience. Just because one person finds their current situation perfectly fine to manage, it doesn’t mean you will be able to too. So, as well as looking after ourselves physically, it is just as important to find the time to look after ourselves mentally and emotionally – especially now, when we’re dealing with such challenging times.
To help the needs of our clients and the people around us, the team here at REALSENSE has been working in partnership with Mental Health experts at Zentano and developing our ‘Mental Health’ interactive online learning course. We’ve also been trying to focus on looking after our own mental health. Different things work for different people and a quick (virtual) office poll showed that we all have different ways of looking after ourselves. Some of the simple steps we have found help look after our mental wellbeing include:
Establish a routine. Whether that’s doing some work before home schooling, splitting the day between the two or just writing a quick to-do list on a post-it note, breaking tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks and feeling a sense of achievement upon completion can be beneficial to mental health.
Stay connected. It’s easy to become isolated very quickly when working from home or if you’re stuck indoors in isolation. Zoom, Facetime, Teams, Skype, all of these can keep us in touch with friends, family and colleagues. Even making sure you say ‘good morning’ to one another in the company group chat can make you feel like you’re still a part of a team and have human connections. Have a virtual team coffee morning with your colleagues or get your book club together (virtually) for a glass of wine and a chat. New normal can still feel normal when there is a human connection.
Get some exercise. This can vary from a gentle walk, a Joe Wicks PE session or a full-on Body Combat session on your gym instructor’s YouTube channel (although try not to kick your husband’s pride and joy TV by accident like I did).
Do something nice for yourself. Whatever it might be. Make time to read a book or watch a movie, or have a good home pamper.
Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is great for helping our brains function and keeping us feeling more alert. My Mum would say ‘nothing beats a good cup of tea’ (although be careful not to overdo caffeine).
Sleep. It’s not always easy to come by lately, with so much going on in our minds; some people find it hard staying asleep, some people find it hard getting to sleep as it can be difficult switching off in the evening. There are some links below that can help with various techniques and suggestions. Personally, I like reading and using Headspace whereas a colleague (naming no names) confessed to watching the Twilight movies at 5am! Being aware and trying to find things that work for you is what matters as sleep is so important in maintaining good mental health.
In a world where you can be anything, be kindJennifer Dukes Lee
One of my favourite quotes is “In a world where you can be anything, be kind”. Clearly now is the time for coming together with kindness but amongst all the amazing acts of kindness we learn are done every day, this week how about taking some time out for your own mental health and being kind to yourself?
Our Mental Health and Stress Awareness training courses form a part of our growing Health and Wellbeing training suite. For more information visit www.real-sense.com or call 01332 208500.
All the links below also offer help and advice to support your mental health and wellbeing.