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Mental Health & Wellbeing with West Kent Mind

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Rap Interiors

Mental Health and Well-Being During COVID-19 With West Kent Mind

Our Marketing Manager Franki had a chat with West Kent Mind’s Business Development Officer Lorna, to discuss the challenges we are facing as a result of COVID-19. 

They talked about stresses you might be feeling, ways to manage those stresses and also where you can find help if you need some support during this time. They also touched on how businesses can support their employees who might be used to working in an office environment, and are now juggling home/family/work life all under one roof.  

We completely transformed Maidstone Mind’s office by creating a completely new office design as well as the office refurbishment too. The mood of the centre changed dramatically from it’s outdated office design to a new vibrant space for it’s employees and clients.

See the project here 

You can read all of their conversation by downloading it here

but we have broken it down into a Q&A format for a quicker and easier, to the point read.

Self-Care & Routine

The first thing to say that is when we talk about mental health people assume we are talking about mental ill health and we’re not. Everyone has mental health and it’s on a continuum and you can move around that continuum on a daily basis.

Routine for mental health and wellbeing Routine for mental health and wellbeing

How can people practise self-care at home?

  • Take time each day to do something that gives you enjoyment and pleasure.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself – this is not a time to strive for perfection or set yourself unrealistic goals.
  • Take a bit of pressure off of yourself and look after yourself without feeling guilty about it.
  • Build a new routine that works for you because structure and routine is actually really important.

How can we implement some structure into our days without putting too much pressure on ourselves to do everything?

Simple things, such as, set your alarm for the same time every day.

Get up at the same time as you would if you were going to work because it’s an easy trap to fall into.  You can say “Oh, I’ll have a lie in today” and then the next day you have another lie in and then before you know it, a week has gone past and you’ve been in your PJ’s till midday. It’s so easy to slip into unhealthy habits. 

You don’t have to set yourself mammoth challenges or tasks. You could just say to yourself that every day I will get up at the same time and build structure that way.

Families

It is about finding what works for your situation that  provides a bit of stability and balance and remembering that actually it’s ok to loosen the reins slightly at the moment. We might find that we are doing things that we maybe usually wouldn’t allow or usually wouldn’t do, for example giving your children extra iPad time or to use FaceTime, but these are exceptional times and we can readjust when this is over. 

Family well being during COVID-19 self isolation Family well being during COVID-19 self isolation

How can parents communicate with each other to have some time for themselves?

We are all in situations that we may not comfortable with but we must respect our own need for space and self-care, while also recognising the needs of others around us. It is a time to be a bit easier on each other. 

Take some time out. That could be sitting in another room reading a book, going for a walk round the block on your own, or it could be having a bath.  It’s about taking the time out and allowing that for other people, too.

Taking a bit of time each day to focus on ourselves may seem impossible with a house full of people but it shouldn’t feel self-indulgent, instead viewed as essential. 

You might want to do meditation or mindfulness but, equally, it could be something as simple as sitting in the quiet with a cup of tea and a book or going for a walk.

It doesn’t matter what it is, just as long as it’s time for you.

Parents that feel like they have now been given the role of a teacher while still having to do their job as well, how can they juggle all of these different roles under one roof?

When you say we have been given a role as a teacher, actually we haven’t. We haven’t chosen to home-school our children. This is an emergency situation and we just need to keep our children happy, healthy and engaged.

Every child is different and so will react to this situation differently. There are some who are super keen and eager and will sit and do all of the work and then there will be others who won’t even pick up a pencil. 

This is not a time for having a family feud and that is the last thing your school would want. We aren’t home-schooling our children, we are supporting them through a time which is actually really unsettling for them as well.

There’s an increased sense of anxiety amongst children and so our role as parents is to do what we can, when we can, without putting too much pressure on yourself or your children. 

We must also understand it’s very hard for the children as well, so it’s all a bit of give and take. For most children, school is about seeing friends and playing and this has been taken from them, so they too are adjusting. If it takes a little bit of bribery or learning on technology, then so be it. Just whatever it takes to get us through this. 

What can we do with our children to keep them at ease and entertained while still learning?

Obviously the age of your children will have a bearing on what you  do with them but, in general, keep them focused on the core subjects and any other areas that your children respond to well.  Some schools are sending out lots of work, other schools send out hardly any so it’s about finding a balance that works for you and your family. Try not to make an area of contention. 

Children strive off on routine and structure, so ensuring there is focused time each day is important and remember that and they can be learning in different ways too. They can be out in the garden planting things or learning to cook. They are so many other life skills that they probably don’t get a chance to do at school so embrace that side of it, while putting some structure around it. 

Exercise

Exercise is great, especially in the fresh air because isolation is not just social isolation but it is isolating us from nature as well which plays a big part in our mental well-being. 

We all know how it feels to force ourselves to do a workout we really don’t want to do but then actually feel pretty good afterwards and it’s also a self a sense of achievement too.

exercise at home during COVID 19 self-isolation exercise at home during COVID 19 self-isolation

Is there a good amount or type of exercise for people to do?

It doesn’t really matter. As long as you can do something for 30 minutes a day to get the blood pumping around the body.

If you are able to combine this exercise with fresh air then even better.

If you can’t get outside, just do something that gets you moving. Have a dance around your living room, do some spring cleaning, pop on an exercise DVD.

What would you say to those who are cautious about going outside for a walk?

If you go for a walk, don’t look down, look up and see the people around you and take notice of the world. You can’t stop and hug them but smile and say hi. That is social connection and it can really lift your mood.

We’ve got a sign up on my son’s room and it says “smile, and the world smiles with you” and I really believe in the power of human connection

Well-Being

We often refer a lot of our work around the principles of the 6 ways to well-being. They are

  1. connect
  2. be active
  3. take notice
  4. give
  5. learn
  6. care for the planet
face time during self-isolation face time during self-isolation

They are evidence-based things that are proven to reduce our risk of depression, lighten our mood and just make us happier. They work and are so easy to put into our day. Due to the situation we are in now, we might need to adapt the way we do these things they are still so possible. We would urge people to take a look at these and try to incorporate them into your day.

Those who are living at home, with little social contact, what would you would advise them as they are alone and really probably feeling that self-isolation as such?

  •  Technology: try to make face-to-face connection as much as possible or at least to hear someone’s voice. Texts and emails are great but they aren’t quite the same so pick up your phone to hear someone’s voice or have a video call.
  • Go for walks and make sure you take notice of the people around you.
  • Maybe for those who are older and in isolation, just watching your favourite daytime TV show is a sense of social connection too.
  • Learn something. Keep your minds active. Even if it’s just reading a book, watching a documentary on a subject you have always been interested in, or e-learning.

You can focus on that this a point in time where we need to adjust and that this is only temporary. 

Now we are forced at home, we are responsible for everything we do and don’t have any external factors to blame anything on. How can we control that self-discipline? Whether that’s around food or, like you said, watching the news etc.

It is so easy to reach for the biscuit tin and that second glass of wine. It’s about healthy boundaries and reminding yourself that actually when this is all over, you need to emerge out the other side healthy, fit, well, motivated.

It’s about balance because it’s not a time to strive for perfection either.

Remember your boundaries, don’t watch BBC News 24/7 if it makes you feel overwhelmed or anxious. Watch it only once a day and really take care of yourself, know what your trigger points are for feeling low and try to avoid them.

And say you are struggling with over eating or you’re finding yourself still eating lunch in your pyjamas, ask for help. There’s no shame in that and, instead shows strength. There is so much support out there and we’re calling on our friends, family and our community even more so than we ever have.

Conversation

It is so important that we ask how each other are and that we’re honest with each other too. You are much more likely to open up if somebody asks you how you are, or if you ask someone how they are, to have it reciprocated. Don’t sugar-coat how you are feeling because we are all struggling, so have an open and honest dialogue and get the support where you need it.

west kent mind counselling service west kent mind counselling service

How can people spark up conversations with people that don’t suffer with mental ill health and so might not 100% understand your anxieties?

For a start, as we discussed earlier, we all have mental health and have experienced physical manifestations of worry or nerves, so we can all relate.

I think we are all becoming a lot better at talking and listening. You know within your network the people that will understand and so choose who you talk to.  We all need to show empathy. It is not about saying “oh well when that happened to me and I did this…”, it is about putting yourself in that person’s shoes and really empathising with what it feels like for them, because you don’t know. Even though you may be going through the exactly the same situation, everyone experiences everything differently. 

As a society we have to become better at listening and not being judgemental, as well as becoming better at just sitting back and letting someone speak without interjecting or interrupting. A lot of the time just getting if off your chest makes you feel a whole lot better.

For Businesses

It is your responsibility as a business to look after the well-being of your employees to ensure they feel safe, valued and appreciated. Just because they are now at home, working or furloughed, doesn’t mean this responsibility is lifted from you so ensure there are things in place to offer support.

Hopefully the below questions and answers will spark ideas and opportunities to add, replace or put things into place to help your employees during self-isolation because of the impacts of COVID-19.

Culture

Any sort of culture change that we see in workplaces around mental health awareness, has to be led from the top. It has to have the buy-in of the top people to show that they can be open and honest about how they are finding it difficult because nobody is immune. When you see people at the top share with their employees that they are struggling too, it opens up the conversation around it and it makes it ok.

business culture during covid 19 lockdown business culture during covid 19 lockdown

It doesn’t make the person at the top look weak does it?

It’s a sign of strength that you can stand up and say “I’m the boss, but do you know what? I’m not ok with this and these are the kind of things that I’m doing and let me know what you are doing that might help me”

Conversation and Support

Opening up those channels of communication and have face-to-face contact as much as possible because it’s important to hear someone’s voice. It’s also a time to trust your staff and let them know you that they should make it work for them. There needs to be a level of trust and flexibility because it can increase your anxiety levels if you think you have to do all of your work in a set amount of time but actually, in your household, it is just not feasible. 

employee mental health and well-being employee mental health and well-being

31% of managers feel confident enough to spark up a conversation with their employees about sensitive conversations around mental health. What is happening to the other 69% of managers? Where is that conversation?

People are scared of the answer. If you ask someone how they are and they tell you honestly what is going on for them, what do you do with that? That’s where people struggle. 

We provide a lot of training around mental health first aid and so when we go into workplaces, we always say that we are not training you to be a mental health professional. We are training you to connect with people, to signpost and to listen. Listening is something people take for granted but it’s actually a learned skill.

What can a business do right now to support their employees through this difficult time?

  • Recognise that it’s a time for flexibility. It’s a time for understanding that everyone is juggling not just work, but so many other commitments in their home life and  everyone’s situation and home set-up is different.
  • Keep it at a level where it’s not overwhelming. If somebody is trying to fit their actual work around a day while also juggling childcare, it can put too much pressure on that person to join a social chat at 3pm. 
  • Implementing one or two things that are mandatory for people and then having some optional extras available where needed or wanted is ideal.
  • We are seeing great initiatives from companies. For example, Friday drinks at 5, team meetings etc.

West Kent Mind’s Services

Our duty line is still open for calls and our website is updated with a list of resources and signposting to talking services. In terms of community support, this is now all happening via telephone and video conference. We are also still taking referrals for our affordable counselling service. 

For workplaces, we are offering a series of workshops, awareness-raising sessions and training via remote means. 

All information about our current services can be found on our website or social media platforms.

www.westkentmind.org.uk

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West Kent Mind, like all local Mind branches, are facing the biggest challenge in their history as they migrate all of their vital community services to remote platforms in order to continue to provide much needed support to clients and the wider community. This comes at a time when our revenue streams have largely been stopped.

If you would like to support us by donating to our emergency funding appeal, then please visit:

https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/WestKentMindNeedsYou