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Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental health awareness week is the UK's national week to raise awareness of mental health and mental health problems and inspire action to promote the message of good mental health for all. Mental Health Awareness week has been run by the Mental Health Foundation since 2001 and this year its takes place from 18th to 24th May 2020.

Year after year, mental health awareness week helps to shine a light on mental health awareness and share techniques for maintaining good mental health and every year the Mental Health Foundation chooses a theme. This year the theme focuses on the power and potential of kindness. 

In light of current world events and the turbulent times we find ourselves in, this kindness theme seems all the more appropriate. Now more than ever, it is vital that we show kindness not only to other but also to ourselves. 

Evidence suggests that kindness and helping others can have a positive effect on your own mental health and wellbeing due to physiological changes taking place in your in your brain that are linked to happiness1. More than this, an act of kindness can improve feelings of confidence, control, happiness and optimism. 

As a society in these changeable times, we need to maintain connections, a sense of community and mutual support, what better way to do this than with kindness. Kindness comes in many forms, from a saying simple good morning to a neighbour, to saying thank you to the retail staff in your local supermarket. What may feel small to you, could mean to world to someone else.

Mental health awareness - Anxiety and worry in isolation

Just prior to the lockdown announcement, the Mental Health Foundation, in partnership with the institute of Public Health and the University of Cambridge, conducted a poll2 of 2,126 UK adults aged 18 and over. The poll revealed six in ten adults (62%) felt anxious or worried about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Anxiety can have a profound effect on your state of mind during 'normal' circumstances let alone during unprecedented times such as these. Staying at home, out of work, working from home, furloughed, isolated from your family, friends and colleagues, financial implications and career uncertainties all in addition to your normal routine being turned upside down can be a recipe for stress and feelings of anxiety or worry. 

Adjusting to this new and unfamiliar way of life can be difficult. As tempting as it is to stay in our pyjamas all day, regular routines are essential to our identity, self-confidence and feelings of purpose but personal care, mental wellness and self-kindness are just as important too. 

Finding a healthy balance between rest, relaxation, activity, routine and social interactions is essential to caring for your mental health while you are isolating at home.  

4 ways you can care for your mental health and reduce anxiety and worry while isolating

1. Sleep 

Changes to routine, uncertainty and financial pressures can compound feelings of anxiety and worry, having a dramatic impact on how well you sleep. It is vital that you try to calm your mind before attempting to sleep, the best methods for quieting your mind include reading a book or keeping a positivity/gratitude journal. 

2. Mindful relaxation

Focusing your mind on your breathing, your heartbeat or even some calming music can help to alleviate feelings of negativity, stress or worry. There are playlists, podcasts and audiobooks all dedicated to helping you relax. 

3. Connections

Social distancing and isolation can be lonely, you don't have to live alone for this to be true, it is still possible to feel lonely in a house full of people. Connections and relationships are what make all the difference so be sure to stay in touch with family and friends. Utilise video call features, start writing letters, emails and texts. Even participating in social groups or forums with those who share the same hobbies as you can help bridge the feelings of isolation. 

4. Movement

It is easy to forget how much we move around in the course of our normal day. Going to work, popping to the shops, walking around on your lunch break and doing the school run, we are constantly on the move. Being active reduces stress, increases energy levels and improves our mood. It is important to explore different ways to add physical movement and activity to your day. 

Working in isolation

Isolating and working is a difficult combination, especially for those of us who are not used to working from home. Feeling unprepared, disorganised and unproductive can take its toll on your mental health and put added stress and strain on to families. 

For some, being at home every day was an initial welcome reprieve from an otherwise busy lifestyle. Work from home jobs are often the holy grail for those who are used to a busy commute and a shared office. But once the initial excitement wears off and the reality of working at home every day settles in, the idea of getting back to a normal routine, getting dressed for work and being productive soon becomes all consuming. 

Dramatically swinging between the laser focus of working at all hours of the day and night to spending all day laying on the sofa watching Netflix is how most people will summarise their early experience of home working during the Coronavirus isolation period, but it doesn't have to be that way. There is a balance to be had and those who have successfully worked from home for many years will agree that the 'HOME' working list is the key to success.

The 'HOME' working list - the key to working from home success

  • H - Have a plan and stick to it. You need to split your week and days into set working hours. You can be flexible, if you want to work from 10pm to 4am then go for it providing your boss is ok with it of course. The hours you choose are not important, setting the hours themselves is the important step, it helps you to know when you are free to relax, watch and play and when you should be making progress on your tasks. 
  • O - Office space must be a priority. It doesn't need to be anything Pinterest worthy but a dedicated space where work gets done is the key. Having a dedicated office space, table, chair or even a precariously balanced laptop brings consistency to your routine and helps you to get into the right frame of mind. Being able to pack away and step away from your makeshift office is necessary for maintaining a clear balance between your home life and your work. 
  • M - Maintain connections with your colleagues. If you are used to working in an office then you are used to having close working relationships, conversations, jokes and discussions with a variety of people. Being at home and away from your colleagues and friends can be difficult to adjust to. Brainstorming ideas, working through a collaborative project, even just working side by side for an hour on a video call can help to keep you feeling in the loop. Being a part of a team or a community is not just good for productivity and focus but it is essential for good mental health and wellbeing too. 
  • E - Expectations vs. reality is a difficult lesson to learn when you start working from home. The idea that you will have all of the time in the world to get things done will soon seem like a myth. By the time you have done the washing, hoovered, walked the dog, made the dinner, washed up again for the millionth time, fought with your internet connection and looked for the pen you knew you just had in your hand, before you know it, it is time for bed once again and you can't really work out what you did for 8 hours. Try to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve, what you expect to achieve and what you can actually achieve. 

There is no doubt that we have all been launched into a tailspin of changes and challenges, everyone has had an unpredictable and uncertain few months no matter what the personal circumstances may be. Financial burdens for one, and furlough concerns for another. Loneliness for some and health concerns for many. No matter how social distancing has affected and continues to affect you, it is important to remember - be kind to yourself and be kind to others. 

Support

While many of the UK's workforce are self-isolating, social distancing or taking on work from home jobs, we at Blue Arrow are here to provide access to jobs as well as tips, tricks, advice and techniques, supporting of all of the temporary workers, the out of hours workers, the furloughed workers, the frontline workers, the home office workers and everyone in between. Take a moment to share this post with your colleagues, family and friends together we are stronger, even when we are apart. 

Speak Up

If you are feeling bored, frustrated, lonely, worried, anxious, depressed, hopeless, concerned about finances or the health of those you love, it is important to remember that it is OK to feel this way and to speak up, let people know how you feel and give them the chance to help. If you feel that you would like to talk there are many people waiting to listen. 

  • Samaritans - Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair. Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline). Website: www.samaritans.org
  • CALM - CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35. Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight). Website: www.thecalmzone.net
  • Anxiety UK - Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition. Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 10pm; Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 8pm). Website: www.anxietyuk.org.uk
  • Mind - Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems. Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm). Website: www.mind.org.uk

References:

[1] Post S. It’s Good To Be Good: 2014 Biennial Scientific Report on Health, Happiness, Longevity, and Helping Others. Int J Pers Cent Med. 2014;2:1–53.https://unlimitedloveinstitute.org/downloads/ITS-GOOD-TO-BE-GOOD-2014-Biennial-Scientific-Report-On-Health-Happiness-Longevity-And-Helping-Others.pdf 

[2]Mental Health Foundation | 26 March 2020 | Internet https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/news/millions-uk-adults-have-felt-panicked-afraid-and-unprepared-result-coronavirus-pandemic-new

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