Looking after your mental health during the pandemic
This month, LIVES were invited by oe:gen on a webinar to chat about looking after your mental health during the pandemic. You can catch the video recording of that right here if you missed it!
This webinar focused on having those conversations about mental health, spreading awareness, and providing tips and resources for looking after yourself and others during the pandemic – touching on balancing work and home life. With a live Q&A chatbox, attendees could ask our Education Support Specialist, Ian, any questions they had throughout the webinar, which he answers towards the end.
We thought we’d expand on the questions we were asked and share those answers here, too. There were also some that we didn’t have time to answer, so we’re going to try our best to help with those here, as well.
- How do I talk to my young children about the Coronavirus without worrying them too much?
Start by reflecting on what understanding your children have around catching bugs and being poorly. Think of a few simple messages you want to share around being clean and how germs/bugs spread. You could do it through an activity such as mixing some glitter in a little gel, put some on your hands then go round your room and touch some surfaces to show how the gel on your hands is then spread. It will provide a context to talk about germs spreading. Equally, there needs to be a balance. Being clean is ‘healthy.’ At the other extreme we don’t want to create excessive hand washing. There are some great resources out there too to discuss the Coronavirus with children.
- How can I manage my ‘fear of the unknown’?
This is something we all experience at present. It makes us feel that we’re not in so much control. I find asking a few questions of myself helps. What can I do that I can control and manage for myself each day at the moment? What’s my routine? Do I need to change my routine in any way to help? Try to focus on the now. As things change make any adjustments to suit you.
- (key worker) I’m going back to work soon and it’s really daunting for me, do you have any advice?
Employers have a duty to communicate with and support their employees. It is the right of employees to ask about the arrangements/procedures in place to maintain a safe working environment. Normal practice is for a ‘return to work’ meeting which may well be a phone call at present. If you feel you have a manager who is open to a conversation then contact them. Equally if you aren’t confident, do you have a colleague who is at work to chat through what is in place in the work environment?
- How can I manage the guilt I feel trying to balance work and homeschooling my kids?
Many people working at home feel this if they children or not. Establishing a routine is important. This will help you feel some control which can help you feel that you’re being productive as a parent and employee. Share how you’re feeling with your line manager. You may be surprised they have the same experience. Everyone working at home for the first time experiences similar feelings.
- My loved one is a key worker, do you have any advice on supporting their mental health during this time?
Being the ‘good listener’ when they want to talk. Offer the opportunity to talk if they want to. Try not to ask frequently ‘are you OK?’ as this may make them think is there something wrong. If and when they do want to talk, make the time, be non-judgemental. In preparation you could think of other people you could talk to for support and also where you might get help if you need it. This is for both of you. As the listener you need to look after yourself too.
- There have been lots of ‘endings’ and ‘goodbyes’ during lockdown, from leaving jobs to losing a loved one. But we’re not able to have the goodbye we want or need right now. Do you have any advice on handling that?
‘Grasp the nettle.’ What can you do right now that will help? What can we do when our circumstances allow? A positive example of a medical school graduation was shared on television early in lockdown; one of the students contacted their university and shared how they were feeling about missing the graduation. The idea snowballed and it ended up on zoom, on national television!
- I’m on furlough and I’m worried about my colleagues that are still working. How can I make sure my team are feeling supported right now when I’m unable to help them with their workload? Take the time to reach out to them. Share how you feel and explain that you understand you aren’t able to contribute at work but are there if they want a chat. As a start it could be simply a text to invite them for a ‘virtual’ coffee/tea just to catch up. Then see how the conversation goes. Or, if it’s possible, send a small team gift as an act of kindness to show they’re in your thoughts.
- I’m living alone and the loneliness and anxiety is really getting to me in lockdown, do you have any advice for someone like me? It may be that trying to ease your feelings is the first thing to do so that you feel more confident to move forward/reach out. Establish a routine if you haven’t already. Build some relaxation time into it. Search out some mindfulness activities. What physical activity can you do? It will have a positive impact on how you’re feeling.
There are many resources to help with anxiety. They can be found online. In my experience sharing how you feel can really help. Is there anyone that you can contact to have a catch up? If you have the option, can that be virtual.
Even better, within the government social distancing guidelines, is there someone you could meet and have a short walk with. This would bring a change of scene and you could chat and also have the security of being with a friend whilst outdoors.
Another way is to offer support to someone in the same position as you. You could check in on them and that may open the conversation about common feelings you both have. Helping or supporting another person helps you.
- Bipolar UK – https://www.bipolaruk.org/blog/staying-connected-during-covid-19
- Bupa – https://www.bupa.co.uk/newsroom/ourviews/stay-connected-family-friends
- The Child Minds Institute information/resources to support children at this time: