Mental Health Awareness Week took place this year week beginning the 18th May. In 2020 we started that week having experienced at least 6 weeks of being in “lockdown”.
For many, our life and work experience changed significantly on 23rd March when lockdown began and for others, life changed forever. The scale of the COVID-19 pandemic was brought into sharp relief. The restrictions in our daily lives were put place to protect ourselves and others from very serious consequences, we didn’t find that easy and we continue to be affected.
- We are used to lives filled with personal choice, with freedom, possibility and opportunity.
- We have become practised at living with “social isolation”, which means standing 2 metres apart from our friends, neighbours and colleagues.
- We can reach out, but not touch.
- We clapped our hands together to show appreciation for those committed to caring for us.
- We remember the life we had but many agree that things will be different in the future.
“Social-distancing” has perhaps been the biggest challenge for us all and has dramatically affected our working lives and our home life. We are naturally sociable and being isolated from each other takes great effort and causes us to experience feelings of loss.
The majority of people will re-emerge physically well due to the supreme efforts and sacrifices made, but there will be many who aren’t experiencing mental wellness. This is a serious consequence of the measures taken and an enormous challenge for the future as we look to re-discovering our “new normal”.
There is no doubt that humans are amazingly resilient and have an enormous capacity to cope with challenges, but how can we be proactive about mental wellness and wellbeing right now?
The World Health Organisation offers some simple steps to help us in times of crisis:
- During a crisis it is normal to feel sad, stressed, confused, scared or angry. Talking to people you can trust can help. Stay in contact with your friends and family.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle – including a proper diet, sleep, exercise and social contacts with loved ones at home and by email and phone with others.
- Don’t use smoking, alcohol or other drugs to deal with your emotions. If you feel overwhelmed, talk to a health worker. Have a plan of where to go to and how to seek help for mental health needs if required.
- Get the facts. Find a creditable source you can trust about the pandemic that will help you determine your own risk and take reasonable precautions.
- Limit worry and agitation by lessening the time you spend listening to the media coverage that you perceive as upsetting.
- Use the skills you have used in the past that have helped you to manage previous life challenges and use to manage your emotions during this challenging time.
These steps are structured to help us individually in a crisis and offer very sound advice. They can be used as a simple set of guidelines to check-in on how we are doing, and how our teams are doing. Can we do more or less in any of the six areas described? How can we better support our teams and ourselves?
What else as business leaders, owners and managers do we need to understand? Gallup has studied global citizens’ worries during nearly every major crisis of the past eight decades. They have identified the four universal needs that people look for from leaders in a time of crisis to create the “rally effect”. They are:
These four needs can be used as a “check-list” for ongoing planning, communications and interaction with your team and they set a framework for supporting Mental Wellness and Wellbeing at work. Here they are in more detail:
Leaders demonstrate and communicate that they have a clear plan of action.
Leaders listen to and show empathy for the concerns and challenges experienced by their teams – leaders show through actions that wellbeing is important to them.
Leaders keep their teams informed about what is going on and ensure that they are well-prepared for the job they need to do.
Leaders express their optimism for finding solutions, resolving challenges and moving into the future and bring their teams into decision-making and planning.
Staying mentally well takes effort and commitment, just like the focus required to stay physically fit.
Mental wellness is affected by our skill at managing our emotions and recognising the changes that take place in our mood and response; this is called emotional intelligence. Emotionally intelligent leaders need the ability to be self-reliant in developing ideas and making significant decisions. They need to recognise that they have the power and responsibility to choose between options and make decisions. Recognising and nurturing our skill in self-reliance is a foundation stone in staying mentally well and nurturing our wellbeing.
As we all move into a new phase of discovering a “new normal” at work and in our lives, we will need to think and act creatively, find innovative solutions, be resourceful and fully adopt many changes already made. Leaders and their teams can only engage with those challenges and opportunities if their Mental Wellness and Wellbeing is at its very best – staying business fit. It is the key step in making progress.
For further advice and information on the support options available for teams, individuals and leaders email us to discuss how you can further develop your plan to support Mental Wellness and Wellbeing in your business.
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