Tree and grass

This week (18 – 24 May) is Mental Health Awareness Week.

As a trained mental health first aider I am very aware that at this uncertain time many of us are feeling unsettled and anxious.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives and is affecting us all. Many have had symptoms and have to stay at home. Some have additional caring responsibilities and others are apart from friends and family. Unfortunately, some have lost loved ones to this dreadful disease.

Time to reflect

We are all doing our best to just get by, and the days may feel increasingly longer. This can heighten our anxiety and impact our mental health. However, it can give us time to reflect on the important things in our life, and encourage us to focus on these in the future.

I am currently on maternity leave, trying to juggle schoolwork for a 5-year-old along with a young baby. Initially I had great plans to cover a variety of subjects and teach many new things. However, I now focus on quality over quantity with light reading and numeracy in small doses, mixed with lots of baking, painting and crafts. It’s amazing what you can make by recycling milk bottles and egg cartons! My daughter also took part in VGC’s art competition with her ‘unicorn constructor’.

rainbow craftworkKeeping in touch

I have been continuing my learning journey by attending webinars throughout my maternity leave, as well as keeping in touch with friends, family and colleagues through Zoom meetings and quizzes. These have been a great way to interact when we cannot meet up.

One event I recently attended was the Safer Highways mental health virtual summit, ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ It was a great session, sponsored by Morgan Sindall, with some interesting discussions on how we will work in the future. Some of the takeaways were that there is no better time to assess the culture and behaviours within our business, and make changes if we need to.

VGC has adapted our previous ways of working. All staff working from home have access to Microsoft Teams to enable constant communication and receive daily updates. Senior staff host meetings, with regular updates on the situation. We’re sending daily emails, and our head of safety has recorded a version of our monthly Be safe brief. We feel this regular contact is crucial to maintaining positive wellbeing for all.

I’d like to offer a few tips on getting through these difficult times:

  • If you’re working from home, you’re probably into a good routine now, even if you’re improvising your work space. Ensure you take regular breaks and go for a walk. I’ve been out and found some local hidden beauty spots I didn’t know about. (Like the photo above)
  • Stay in touch with friends and family via phone call, text message or email. Try https://www.kindnessbypost.org.uk
  • If you feel listening to the news first thing in the morning has a negative effect on your day, avoid it if possible. Instead, find a way to start your day with something positive to keep good mental health. For example, go to Huffington Post (good news section) or Good News Network, or Positive news. Or the NHS advice for maintaining good mental health.
  • Use the time to do or learn something you may have put off! Now is a great time to start.
  • The most important thing is not to suffer alone if things are getting on top of you. If you need to talk to someone in confidence, the Samaritans are available 24/7 on 116 123. Or contact one of our mental health first aiders for other places you can get help.

I’m looking forward to watching more comedy, and setting some fitness goals for charity events when they resume. I’ll also be taking part in various webinars and online learning to keep my mind occupied. Here is a selection if anyone is interested in joining:

 

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