It was so great to have Birmingham Mind CEO and all-round nice human Helen Wadley, give a talk at our first ever virtual Fusion Meetup. We are passionate champions of this organisation and the work they do in supporting people in the region to maintain good mental health, and given the strange and often uncertain times we find ourselves in (2020 is fun right?) we felt that some practical tips on looking after ourselves and our mental health would be useful.
Helen started her talk with a reassuring definition of mental health; it’s not black and white, one or the other, it’s a spectrum. At times in our lives we’ll feel great and at others we may be under pressure and find we feel less great – this is normal.
So, what were the key take outs? There was some practical advice (which we’ll come to next) along with some things to look out for that may signal a need to reach out for support, and some information on where to find that.
Practical Advice on staying well, when working from home.
When we work remotely, and especially during this pandemic – we can often find our work encroaching into our homes and personal lives whilst simultaneously feeling increasingly isolated from our peers and colleagues, who we may be used to seeing more of than it’s possible to at the moment.
It’s therefore really important to recognise that those things can throw you off kilter and to put in place boundaries in your space and your routine that signal when, and where you are working as well as making the time to stay connected with colleagues, friends and family.
- If possible, create a designated space for work – and if you don’t have an office or spare room for this be sure to put away your computer and your notes when the working day is over. Avoid allowing the boundaries to blur, protecting your time and your space prevents burnout.
- To provide purpose and structure to the day, it’s helpful to create a routine; incorporate activities that are good for your mind and body. Helen takes a ten-minute walk before having a coffee and starting her day, find something that works for you and make it a habit.
- A simple one, but something we all can fall foul of – make sure you have everything you need. Contact lists, notes, a decent internet connection. This kind of simple yet crucial preparation will set you up for a frustration free day.
- Get dressed. This one goes back to routine and structure but not only does getting dressed in your working clothes (or a comfier version of them!) give you a subliminal cue that you’re at work, it’s good for your self esteem to get yourself ready for the day to a presentable standard.
- Remain connected – ensure you make time to attend video calls and stay active on group threads. Communicate clearly and ask for help if you need it!
- Stay focused with a set working pattern and achievable goals – working in this way will allow you to get things done without the day drifting off with you.
- Take breaks, get some exercise, hang out with your pets and generally be sure to get enjoyment out of the silver lining this period of working remotely allows you.
If you find yourself responding to certain situations in a way that feels out of character for you, struggling to switch off, or if you feel more anxious than normal Helen had some tips you can apply to every day life that may help.
- Get outside. Fresh air and natural surroundings are a real mood booster and can help to ground us when we feel overwhelmed.
- Get moving. Exercise is scientifically proven to have mental health benefits.
- Be Mindful. Live in the moment and be present – yoga/meditation classes and apps like Headspace can help with this.
- Reduce the amount of time you spend on social media and online; set limits and turn off notifications. Unfollow anything that doesn’t make you feel great and set limits on the amount of news media you consume when feeling anxious.
Getting good quality sleep is also a big help for maintaining good mental health and Helen’s advice on that was simple and easy to follow – we will definitely be giving these a go too.
- Establish a routine, signal to yourself that bedtime is coming. That might be reading a bit of your book, taking a bath, or having a warm drink (drop the caffeine though!)
- Give yourself time to relax and wind down before getting into bed – simple but effective.
- Make sure that where you sleep is comfortable, that might mean different things to different people, but we opt for a clutter free, tidy space and the cold side of the pillow.
- If there’s something on your mind, either resolve it before hitting the hay or write a list so you can forget about it until tomorrow.
- Ditch the devices a minimum of one hour before bed, nothing messes with your body clock like a little blue light guys!
- Be mindful of what you eat and drink before bed, avoid caffeine and sugar.
We’re so grateful for the time and advice Helen gave Fusion Meetup and we hope those of you who joined us, got as much out of it as we did. We saw some really great examples of workplace initiatives that many of you are benefiting from being discussed throughout the talk, and we love to see it.
If you’d like more information on good mental health from Birmingham Mind, you can visit their website and if you’re feeling like you may need some support please do reach out – the helpline provides quick and confidential support including self-care packages and help to arrange counselling. The number to call is: 0121 262 3555*
*Please note that this number is for Birmingham and Solihull only, you can find UK wide support here.