Over the past few weeks there has been just one headline dominating the news – Coronavirus (COVID-19). As we are all focused on the symptoms of the illness and the changes we have had to make to our everyday lives, it is easy to overlook how our mental health may also be affected. Later this month Mental Health Awareness Week has the theme of kindness – something which can help us all through these challenging times.
There is no doubt that the pandemic has had an impact on every single one of us. Mental health awareness means we should consider our own individual situations and the wider effects of COVID-19.
What effect has COVID-19 had on your job?
As a Chef or Catering Assistant you will fall into one of two camps: either you are unable to work because your workplace has had to close or you are in a key worker role, working in a healthcare environment.
Each of these situations comes with its own set of concerns and worries and everyone is experiencing things differently. It is important to ensure that you are taking care of your mental wellbeing as you cope with the unusual stresses that we are currently facing.
Mental Health and Wellbeing at Home during COVID-19
As a Chef you of course cannot work from home as others can, so if your place of work has had to close then financial worries are going to be forefront in your mind. You may also be worrying about staying healthy, concerned about going out for essential supplies, taking care of vulnerable family members or home schooling the kids. If you live alone, then not being able to go out and spend time with people can also take its toll on your mental health; on the other hand, if you live with others then being with them all day every day comes with its own level of stress.
Worry can be one of the biggest strains on your mental health so take whatever control you can of the situation. Find out answers to your concerns, keep yourself occupied, plan for the future. All of these can help you have a more positive outlook.
Key concerns you need to address:
1. Take care of finances
- If you have been furloughed you may still be receiving a proportion of your wages from your employer. In other circumstances you should be able to claim Universal Credit and could be eligible for other benefits.
- If you are unable to work because you have to self-isolate or have to stay home because you are high-risk, then you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay. The Government COVID-19 guidance for employees is a good resource to find out more about employment rights, benefits and support.
- Seek help to reduce bills – contact your providers and you may be able to lower your payments. But remember, any payment shortfall will need to be made up at a later date.
2. Take care of yourself
- Eat well and stay hydrated.
- Stay active – go out for your daily exercise, the change of scene and the activity will both do you good.
- Continue with any medication you normally take – order repeat prescriptions by phone or online.
3. Take care of your daily life
- Make a routine – try to keep some sort of normality, it can be easy to slip into late nights and sleeping in, but this is not healthy in the long-term.
- Keep your home clean, tidy and comfortable – this ensures a germ-free environment and will help keep you occupied.
4. Look to the future
- Practice your culinary skills by trying out new dishes at home.
- Research sectors that may still be employing Chefs and catering staff. Read our interview with a care home Chef and learn more about hospital Chef jobs. Check our live board for current hospitality and catering jobs available in the healthcare sector.
Mental Health and Wellbeing at Work during COVID-19
If you are working in a catering job during this time, it is highly likely that you are in a hospital or care home environment and so may be worried about coming into contact with infected people or about the possibility of you infecting your vulnerable clients, patients or co-workers. As a Chef you already practice good food hygiene, but this is something you must be even more aware of in the current climate. You could also be concerned about the safety of your own family when you come home at the end of the day. On top of that, staff shortages may mean you are having to work longer hours and are under more pressure than usual.
All of this can add up and you need to be aware of your mental health and work environment so that you can deal with any issues before they become a serious problem.
Advice for Mental Health and Work during COVID-19:
- Ask for help if you need it –any concerns you have about your job or work environment need to be addressed by your employer or Blue Arrow Consultant. You need to feel comfortable in your work environment and know that you, your co-workers and your boss support each other.
- Make sure to connect with people for support. Speak to your colleagues about shared concerns but also talk to friends or family outside of work to stay in touch with ‘normality’. Sometimes it’s just good to talk. If you need specific mental health advice you can contact the Mind helpline.
- Make time for yourself when you are not working so you can switch off. Exercise, practice a hobby, read, listen to music.
5 top tips for reducing the impact COVID-19 on your mental health:
- Don’t constantly read about COVID-19. Alot of information may not be accurate and continually reading articles and posts can add to anxiety. Find a reliable source and read it once a day to stay up-to-date. Try Gov.UK and the NHS website.
- Find a hobby or activity you can enjoy at home which will help you relax or learn a new skill to add to your CV.
- Stay in touch. Phone or video chat with friends to maintain some sort or reality. Catch up with old friends you haven’t spoken to in a while. This is especially important if you live alone and don’t get to see anyone.
- Get some fresh air and exercise. Take advantage of your 1 hour of exercise. While the weather is good it is a great opportunity to get out. Spring is a beautiful time of the year – it’s amazing how the sight of bluebells or a mama duck with her ducklings can lift your spirits. If you can’t leave home, get into the garden or open up the windows.
- Do something to help a friend, family member or neighbour. Mental Health Awareness Week this year is about kindness. The Mental Health Foundation’s website has some imaginative ideas for random acts of kindness during the outbreak.
Whether you are a key worker or staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic, here is a handy checklist of things you can do to protect your mental health and wellbeing:
- Find out what benefits and financial support options are available
- Research sectors that are still employing catering staff
- Contact your local Blue Arrow office to find out about job opportunities
- Plan a daily routine
- Plan your weekly or bi-weekly shopping trips or online shopping
- Eat well
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Stay active
- Try a new hobby
- Keep your mind active – eg. read, do a puzzle, play games, write
- Take time to relax
- Stay connected with friends and family
- Help others
If you have concerns about your mental wellbeing during this time, the Mind website has lots of good information and useful resources about COVID-19 and mental health.
The NHS site ‘Every Mind Matters’ also has some practical tips for mental wellbeing while staying at home.