By Lindsey Appleby-Flynn, Mental Health Expert for Connect2Care
Today is known as ‘Blue Monday’ coined as the most depressing day of the year. We’re mid-way through January, all the Christmas and New Year excitement has fizzled out, which often leaves us feeling a little low.
However, this year, we’re facing a lot more than just the January blues. Our daily lives, work and relationships have experienced huge upheaval from the impact of COVID-19 throughout the past ten months.
These unprecedented times are affecting us in different ways and bringing a range of challenges for us to overcome. We’re now in our third national lockdown, meaning social distancing, self-isolating and restrictions to the reasons for leaving our homes are the biggest changes we’ve had to adapt to.
Being away from friends and family, as well as abandoning our daily routines and responsibilities can lead us to feel lonely, frustrated and a bit lost. This, combined with health worries, financial anxiety and uncertainty about the future, can result in underlying mental health issues coming to the surface.
During these unsettling times, protecting our mental health and those of our colleagues is of utmost importance. To help you navigate these tough times – on Blue Monday and further, we’re sharing five ways you can support the mental wellbeing of your teams. This includes ideas for managing difficult conversations, providing a support system for the workforce and helping to boost morale.
- Offer a listening ear
While it’s more essential than ever to check-in with colleagues to see how they’re coping, it’s also important to remember that people may find it difficult to come forward and express their worries or ask for help. By offering a listening ear and regularly checking-in shows that you care and makes it clear that you’re willing to talk when the time is right for them.
- Focus on a positive future
During these times of high-stress, it can be difficult to see the wood from the trees. Offering your workforce the opportunity to boost their professional development by investing in your employees’ career, will show your teams how much you value their hard work and keep them motivated. Many of our employer partners offer higher level apprenticeships as a way for their workforce to progress up the career ladder with on-the-job learning. Our industries thrive on Continuing Professional Development, so highlighting the CPD opportunities available can help upskill and reengage workers.
- Someone to turn to
Embracing mentor schemes is a great way to encourage team members to talk to one another and feel supported. Businesses should ensure mentors are briefed on the latest information and have undergone relevant training, such as Awareness of First Aid for Mental Health, so they feel equipped and empowered to support others.
- Check ‘fine’ really means it
We all know that if someone says they are ‘fine’, it isn’t always the case. When we are going through challenging times it’s no surprise that people don’t want to burden others, which can lead feelings of anxiety or stress to build up.It might sound simple, but by double-checking if someone really is fine, or by saying “no, how are you really feeling?”, can encourage them to open up. If someone does express any feelings of worry or anxiety with you, it can help to relay what they’ve said back to them, to show you’re actively listening and make sure you’ve understood them correctly.
- Remember we’re all different
We all react differently to difficult situations and it’s vital to remember that people will be impacted in different ways. While we’re all uncertain about the long-term effects this outbreak will have on our lives, some of us will have increased anxiety about the health of loved ones, others will have decreased job security, financial worries, and some of us will have concerns about the effect on our children’s education.
In periods of uncertainty, the workforce will need to focus on childcare, supporting those who are high-risk and other demands outside of work. Introducing or promoting flexible working hours will help to ease pressure on the workforce by helping staff manage other commitments – as well as maintaining business continuity.
There’s no question that our adult social care and early years industries rely on its people. And now more than other our teams are going over and above to provide outstanding support and care as the nation’s keyworkers.
Our businesses thrive as a result of excellent teamwork, hard work and collaboration. During these challenging times, it’s never been more important to look after our mental health and wellbeing and listen to each other’s concerns. By continuing to support each other, as an industry, we can remain resilient and weather this storm together.
To help you introduce a positive approach to mental health in your workplace, we’ve created the free to download e-guide: ‘Creating a mental health inclusive workplace’.