May saw a week designated to Mental Health Awareness, promoted by the Mental Health Foundation. It’s great that a once taboo or shuttered subject is now very much in the foreground of our lives, and more and more of us are now aware of how important our mental health is. The government also recognises the importance of mental health and is making sure that each workplace not only has a medical first aid person, but also a Mental Health First Aid person. This is someone who is there for you to speak to in complete confidentiality, on anything that is troubling you and affecting your mental health.
As we start to emerge out of this pandemic and our immediate environment starts to open up, it’s as important as ever to make sure we are taking time to mentally relax and digest the changes that are happening in our lives. The second stage of unlocking saw us taking one step closer to a little bit more connection with the real world, which in itself is both euphoric but also daunting to some – and that’s perfectly ok. We have all been wrapped up for such a long time and have faced a real rollercoaster of emotions in the past year – something that will in itself take a period of time to process. Some will do this quicker than others, so you shouldn’t feel pressured to have to leap back into the ’new’ until you are ready to do so. Important to reflect that you have faced the worst head on, you have got through it and you are now stronger because of it. The other thing to digest is that – and this is the most extraordinary thing – absolutely every living person on this planet has experienced this pandemic, so you truly are not alone and globally we are getting and WILL get through this.
While some are still working from home – be it a couple days a week, or more full time – it’s important to remember to take time out for regular breaks away from the computer. The good ol’ commute which was a good time to wake up and slowly start or end the day has been replaced by extended time in front of the computer. So – give yourself some guilt free time out. Grab a cup of tea, make a call to a family member, pop in a new laundry load, play with the cat – anything that will occupy your mind with something other than work. It’s also important to have a lunch hour, just because you are at home doesn’t mean you can’t take breaks.
Working from home, especially if you live alone, can create what you might call the ‘Big Brother House syndrome’. This is where the smallest of work issues can quickly escalate to big stress moments – things which might not have bothered you in the past suddenly become overwhelming and a cause for anxiety. It’s important in these situations to remove yourself from that moment, take a break, go for a walk around the block or take the dog out, have a cup of tea or coffee and then come back and look at the problem again. By doing this circuit breaker you will be able to have a think about approaching the issue from a different angle. Don’t ignore the problem tasks – don’t let them fester and cause you anxiety. Deal with them first and you will feel less distracted when the task has been dealt with – and that headspace can then be occupied with less stressful tasks.
If you do find yourself in an overwhelming mindset then please reach out to a friend, colleague, your companies Mental Health First Aider, a family member or indeed call the Samaritans on 116125. There is no problem that can’t resolved so please talk to someone if you are struggling.