I will be writing here about taking care of the mental health of staff working from home, as well as your own wellbeing during this period of social isolation.
So let’s start by visualising yourself no longer walking into your workplace, your finances are uncertain, suddenly your not able to see your friends or attend all the places that you usually visit. Your routine which normally keeps you well you can no longer carry out. All your usual support networks have stopped as everyone is worried about their own families, you check facebook and its full of news stories that are making your anxiety increase. You have been told to stay at home, your manager is busy, your mental health is starting to feel worse, you don’t want to get out of bed … this would usually sound like a case study but today its a lived experience hard to believe in so may ways a few weeks ago.
We all have mental health so this virus is having a huge impact on how we think, feel and behave. Its also going to have an impact in how we feel about each other so start by checking in with those you work with, make sure you have all your staffs emergency numbers up to date and ask when you connect about their health and wellbeing. We recommend using the WAP Wellbeing Action Plan
In this plan you could come up with an agreement around how to look after your mental wellbeing so if your managing someone you have some feedback on what to look out for with that person if they start to decline. Its a really good tool something we use in our Mental Health Awareness for Line Managers (Online Training) A4 Promo v4 LORES
The WAP Wellbeing Action Plan are a personalised, practical tool we can all use – whether we have a mental health problem or not – to help us identify what keeps us well at work, what causes us to become unwell and the support we would like to receive from our manager to boost our wellbeing or support us through a recovery. We all have mental health just as we all have physical health and this WAP has been designed to support us all to manage our mental health, wherever we are on the spectrum.
How can we quickly check in on those workers in remote situations?
Tell someone how you are feeling
Many businesses now have Mental Health First Aiders ask your HR department who your Mental Health First Aiders are. Schedule in a call with them, tell them how you are rather than pretend to be OK. We can often manage psychologically if we feel there is an end in sight. This is hard when we are currently not given any end to what’s happening. It puts us into living a day at a time. Bringing yourself into the here and now can be helpful when we are unable to fix a date in the future for certainty.
I really likes this quick check in form it simply asks
“How are you today?” the FormScore is a safe way of letting colleagues and family members how you are doing today, out of ten.
Have a go yourself and share your score. We have done this a few times in the past and I find that it really helps people feel a little bit more connected and allows you to check in on yourself.
It feels at the moment as if we are giving everyone a message which we know is a risk factor in mental health
- STAY HOME
- DO NOT PHYSICALLY CONNECT WITH OTHERS OTHER THAN FAMILY MEMBERS WHO LIVE IN THE SAME SPACE
Staying connected with your social and family networks via technology ive heard of someone who set up a social hangout online space called the Covid Arms like virtual pub and popular Apps like Houseparty allowing easily for group video chat.If my mother at 87 has mastered messenger chat there is hope for everyone.
Keeping your daily routines as much as possible.
Routine and structure
Set a schedule and stick to it. It’s so important to work designated hours, and then stopping when those hours are up, this will give your brain time to work and time to rest. While working remotely does mean that there is added flexibility with your personal life schedule we are by nature creatures of habit sometimes our daily routines are like touchstones that might be having a cup of tea at a set time or playing with the cat, make sure you create the daily structure.
Your personal space has suddenly become your office and its easy to loose your daily routine. There are plenty of exercise videos popping up that can help you take advantage of exercise and stretching as and when you need it.
Just like any working environment, giving yourself breaks is incredibly important to let your brain and body relax. Take a 15-minute walk, go make some lunch or catch up with a loved one on the phone whatever you do, though, do not work yourself to the bone without letting yourself take a break away from screens, meetings and work.
Exercising regularly and practicing habits that you enjoy and find relaxing. Its really stern I’ve never been someone who has ever done much exercise but now I’ve been told I can only have one walk a day im gasping to get out like reverse psychology. Lots of people at the moment saying how brilliant the daily Joe Wicks Workout weekdays at 9am.
SASP our local Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership have put together an activity pack for older people and people with long term health conditions who may be self-isolating or spending a lot of time at home. My mum tried it out and ended on BBC Somerset Sound talking about it.
The pack includes:
- Elastic resistance band (Latex)
- Helpful booklet with exercise instructions
- We Are Undefeatable postcard
- Self-isolating sticker (stick in your window or on your door if self-isolating created by Carly Press who donated the stickers.
SASP have also created a web page with over 500 free fitness videos
Balance your viewing of the Media Positive News
Make sure you are seeking practical, credible information at specific times of the day not all day and definitely not from facebook. We need to limit news that makes you feel anxious or distressed, and amplify positive and hopeful stories’, this is recommended by The World Health Organisation during the coronavirus crisis.
We need to ‘Shift narratives away from number of deaths toward number of recoveries.’ There often seems to be a dearth of positive stories about coronavirus and those who recover but we don’t easily see this. If you’re responsible for sharing news or maybe you compile the workplace new story make sure you take a shift away from the number of deaths towards the number of recoveries. What other positive news have you heard of that you can post about?
Talk about hope and move the conversation away from being fear based. Mental Health First Aiders are trained to be hopeful it’s such an important part of helping people recover.
You can also link people into the Positive News Stream which I will put into chat for you to make use of right now.
Stay balanced, with a subscription to Positive News magazine
Move from Fear to Trust
What we don’t know in life we fear. This leads to fear and mistrust in each other and a safety-seeking response along the lines of ‘every one for himself’. Or as we like to call it lack of toilet rolls and panic buying . In reality, we are all in this together and we need to take a collective and shared responsibility to care for and look after each other. We know deep down that good comes from bad but that doesn’t mean that bad is good.
Pay attention to your thoughts
Unhelpful thinking patterns such as catastrophising and ruminating keep us stuck in an anxious place our heads these are so circular in nature. If you notice you’re caught up in this type of thinking then in , ground yourself by placing your feet firmly on the floor and really notice how that feels, see if you can feel your feet on the ground. Another technique is to look around you and name five things you can see. This technique is often used if someone is feeling panicked.
The idea is to bring your attention to the present moment, rather than being lost in your thoughts. If you’re speaking to someone and you can hear them catrophising its important to bring them back into the here and now. Ask them to focus on their breathing to use it like an anchor we need to reassure them that these thoughts and bodily sensations are normal and understandable.
Get a restful night of sleep
Sleep plays a huge part in maintaining a healthy immune system, mind, and body. Mindfulness can help you achieve a naturally healthy, restful sleep – especially when it can be impacted by heightened stress during the day. A ‘good’ night’s sleep has a lot more to do with the quality than the quantity of it, and quality of rest has a lot to do with the quality of mind.
Make sure you’re not stimulating the mind late at night by doing last-minute chores, scrolling through social media and answering emails. Cut down screen time and ensure you’re truly disengaging from your day; this can be difficult to do when working from home, but Sleep by Headspace offers content designed to help you drift off and stay asleep. It’s a useful tool to help unwind and nod off.
While you’re at home, it can be easy to go to bed or sleep in later than you typically would. Breaking your normal sleep routine can have negative effects on your overall mental well-being, so you should try to stick to your typical schedule as much as possible.
Here is a sleep instruction video
You can locate additional sleeping tools in the App section of Every Mind Matters
My Whole Self
My Whole Self is a campaign launched by MHFA England it aims to create a healthier working culture built on respect and collaboration. They are encouraging employers to create a culture where people can be themselves at work. Whether online or in person, bringing your whole self to work is a mindset that’s better for mental wellbeing and better for business.
They have produced a PDF where they talk about working remotely Supporting your mental health while working from home. Here are some ways to support your mental health, reduce feelings of isolation, and feel connected with colleagues while working remotely.
Coping – Being Kind
Action for Happiness has created a with 30 things we can do to increase kindness and ways to look after ourselves.
How are we coping with family being around?
How to start a conversation. There is a useful resource that MHFA produce called Take 10 Together at Work
Just like in your normal everyday life, boundaries matter in a time of crisis, too. If you don’t want all conversations at home (or on the phone or video chat) to be dominated by COVID-19 topics, request the conversation goes in a new direction: ‘I know we are all very focused on this right now but I would love to take a break from thinking about it constantly. Can we take the next 10 minutes to talk about how your book your reading or how your planning a get together when all this is over? This works because it allows you to remind yourself—and others— that there is much more to your lives than worrying about the outcome of something you can’t control.
Check in with your partner and I can recommend creating an imaginary co work who you can blame things on when you start to get irritated. This co worker might keep leaving dirty dishes or things that don’t normally get on your nerves but now suddenly do.
Think for a moment – what was the last thing about which you felt motivated? Is motivation the drive which encourages you to feel or to move into action. I like the idea it can be the reason for action in our lives.
This led me to consider what are our motives for change in our lives? Whats moves us into action. I meet many people who wish to loose weight but lack the motivation to do so. They will often find something triggers them to change. Ive created a recording called Motivation you can access it from my website.
I like to encourage people to look at their own reasons for change that gives them total control of the situation.
Managing Stress – Learn to Meditate
You are going to be craving some calm and gentle relaxation time. Im going to suggest trying to meditate. Im going to offer you a recording called Simply Meditation is a recording, which will teach you how to meditate and pull some of that inner calm back into your life again.
Meditation is a life skill, which is easy to learn and with practice brings great benefits. Some people find meditation brings a clearer and more creative mind. Others report it increases their effectiveness, helps them to sleep, improves health and brings greater happiness and an inner state of calm. This recording offers a down to earth approach to help you gain those practical benefits. I recommend that you don’t eat just before or just after meditation and please do not listen to this recording whilst driving.
Managing Increased Anxiety
AnxietyUK suggests practising the “Apple” technique to deal with anxiety and worries.
Acknowledge: Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.
Pause: Don’t react as you normally do. Don’t react at all. Pause and breathe.
Pull back: Tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling. Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts.
Let go: Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don’t have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.
Explore: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right now. Then shift your focus of attention to something else – on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else – mindfully with your full attention.
We are stranded by fate but we do need to burn up some of that nervous energy it might be something as mindless as scrubbing out the bath, deleting old emails, or making a new recipe. Make sure you take some action, any action to use up some of the nervous energy that is building up.
Learn a new skill is essential. I would like to encourage you to think about how this might be an opportunity for your furlough workers to partake in some training. They are allowed to do this. A furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work or training, as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation.
However, if workers are required to for example, complete online training courses whilst they are furloughed, then they must be paid at least the National Living Wage or Living Wage or National Minimum Wage for the time spent training, even if this is more than the 80% of their wage that will be subsidised.
We will be delivering our Line Managers Training via Zoom which we will be advertising soon or they can just attend the certificated Mental Health Awareness Half Day Course this is such a great chance to learn what is a much needed skill at the moment. This will however not be a one day course instead we will be breaking it into 3 x 2 hour slots.
There is a strong link between diet and mental health . A recent study found that a Mediterranean-style diet (a diet high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil.) supplemented with fish oil led to a reduction in depression among participants, which was sustained six months after the intervention.1
Its so easy when working from home to start to graze the biscuit tin but now is a great opportunity to change what we eat.
Healthy dietary indices and risk of depressive outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies
Where to go for help?
In Somerset we are recommending Mind as they are being funded to provide additional calling hours and support.
If you feel it would help to talk to someone, please contact Somerset Mindline – 01823 276 892 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 11pm and Saturday and Sunday 8pm to 11pm
Somerset County Council have created a webpage for mental health advice on Covid 19
The Samaritans is still a 24 hour helpline 116 123