Mental Health post Covid-19 - what can we do to support ourselves and our staff?

Mental Health post Covid-19 - what can we do to support ourselves and our staff?

 17 Jun 2020

We’ve been hearing a lot about mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, as we celebrated Mental Health Awareness Week in May, we were all in lockdown.

Even for the most seemingly robust people, everyone has had a “moment” or several, whether they admit to it or not. To quote lyrics from Linkin Park, “I’m strong on the surface, not all the way through”.  What you see on the outside is rarely the full picture.

We can all identify with the rollercoaster of emotions we’ve had since this pandemic became our reality too, rather than just something that was happening to someone else in another part of the world. Our routines have been turned upside down and we have had to find new ways to navigate our daily lives.

A huge part of our mental wellbeing hinges on the positive relationships we have and our interaction with others. Many of us were starved of this during lockdown as we were forced to stay at home and keep our distance. Our lack of connection and human touch with family and friends during this period could perhaps be likened to a brain being starved of oxygen. The question is then, what effects will this “starvation” have on our long term mental health? What can we, as individuals, and as employers do to support ourselves and our staff in the aftermath of the pandemic?

There are a myriad of challenges that we have all faced, but we will each of us have coped and dealt with them very differently. Everyone’s experience is personal to them. 

The financial worries, the loss of self-worth, the health concerns, depression, loneliness, boredom, battling the virus itself, bereavement, grief, fear. The overwhelm. A breeding ground for PTSD.

At some point we will come out the other side. Life always wins, as they say. But what will we be left to deal with in its wake? What can we all do to lay foundations for positive mental health going forwards? 

 

What can employers do to help staff who are struggling?

Fostering a supportive professional environment without judgement will be paramount for employers going forwards and they should look to embed this into the culture of their firm as far as possible. 

There are a number of practical measures that can be considered too. For example:

  • Ensure staff have regular one-to-one meetings with their manager to discuss any issues or perceived problems, so these can be resolved quickly. 
  • Have a “go-to” place where employees can access emotional support. This could be as simple as appointing mental health champions within the workplace that employees can talk to and confide in. Or consider signing up to an employee assistance program with a 24 hour helpline that staff can call.
  • Encourage social interaction between staff and organise regular social events so that those without their own support network don’t feel isolated.
  • Run mental health training and workshops regularly. If you create an environment where mental health can be talked about without stigma, issues are less likely to build up.
  • Promote work life balance where possible.
  •  Offer flexible working to accommodate staff needs and lessen pressures.
  • Be practical and pragmatic in addressing any issues; always do this with compassion.

 

Mental health should be treated in the same way that you would address someone’s physical health. Encourage staff to speak up if they are having problems. Show your support by taking this seriously and putting steps in place to gently steer your employee back to a more positive footing. 

 

How can we help ourselves?

Do what works for you. Everyone is different. Don’t feel pressured to read self-help books or take up running just because someone else is doing that, if that very thought increases your anxiety. Do whatever brings you a moment of peace and calm and do as much of it as you can. 

Be kind to yourself. Whatever that means for you and whatever is achievable given your personal circumstances. Take things a day, an hour or even a minute at a time if you need to. 

Put your energy into things you can change and don’t dwell on the things you can’t control.

Let go of your expectation that you have to be all things to all people at all times. You don’t. 

Don’t judge yourself by other people’s standards. You’re enough as you are. Learn to accept that.

Learn to recognise when you are feeling low or at risk of spiralling so you can take steps to cut it off at the pass.

Don’t be an island. You are not alone, even if it feels like it. There is always help to be found, sometimes in the most unlikely of places, if you are open.

 

No-one knows the lasting effects that any kind of prolonged or acute trauma can have on an individual person’s wellbeing, nor the impact this will have on them and those around them.

But we can be understanding, and we can be kind. That’s a great place to start.

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