As we reach the 2-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 lockdown, we face additional adversity with the increase of the cost of living and the conflict in Ukraine.
Add this to the demands of our personal lives and work pressures it is not a surprise that our resilience and mental health has been and continues to be challenged. This can feel uncharted, worrying, exhausting and for some this can be more serious than for others and getting the right medical support is essential.
Individually, we cannot control the ongoing and substantial impact that the pandemic is continuing to have nor can we control the crisis that the Russian invasion is having on civilians in Ukraine.
We can however be mindful of how these things affect our resilience and mental health and this blog looks at ways in which we can support our mental health in difficult times.
Be strict on your news intake
Immediate access to worldwide news can be both positive and negative. In times of crisis we naturally seek information but we should try to limit this to protect ourselves from becoming consumed or overwhelmed by it.
What is happening in the world is frightening and it is normal to feel fear or worry but excessive scrolling can cause uncertainty and panic as different sources can have opposing views or information. Make sure you use only trusted resources to lessen the risk of fake news and choose a specific time once a day that you will dedicate to keeping informed.
Find ways to relax
Whether you already have well oiled relaxation techniques or are trying something new, find what works for you. Meditation, reading, listening to music, crafting or even just taking a long bath. Find something that is quiet and personal to you to help you switch off and have some downtime.
Exercise isn’t for everyone but we all need to look after our physical health. The benefits of this are not only good for us physically but exercise can support our immune system and our mental health as well. Whether you enjoy the gym, participating in a sport or simply taking a walk if you do something you enjoy it will not feel a chore.
Make healthy lifestyle choices
It is not a secret that eating healthily and refraining from counter-productive stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol will be of benefit to us both physically and mentally, but, when we have busy and demanding lives and jobs, is this always easy to achieve?
Try and plan ahead with meal preparation, think about alternative options and be realistic in what is achievable if you are trying to lose weight or quit smoking for example. Setting small goals or milestones is much more manageable and gives you a greater sense of achievement along the way.
Switch off your devices
Social media has a lot to answer for when it comes to our resilience and mental health. Immediate access to anything we want can be addictive and unhelpful. Make an effort to put away devices after 9pm, leave them downstairs, turn them onto silent or turn off notifications so they don’t tempt you when you should be resting and avoid using them for the first 30 minutes when you wake up in a morning.
Now that the days are getting longer and the weather is improving try to make time in your day to be outside. Our bodies and minds start to feel the benefit of being outside within five minutes so even when we are busy at home and work make time to be outside even if just for a few minutes.
Whilst COVID-19 is still present and the worry and uncertainty of how the situation in Ukraine may or may not escalate we still need to keep moving forwards and make plans to look forward to.
Approach this gently, we have all spent so long apart that it is tempting to fill up every gap in the calendar but be mindful that this can put us under pressure so should be balanced with having time to ourselves to relax.
Be realistic in ways you can help
Research shows that in times of crisis our own mental health can benefit when we are able to help and make a positive impact. Whether you are able to donate money or resources or are able to offer your home to a Ukrainian refugee, be realistic in how you can offer to help and do not let it become something that over burdens you. Times are hard financially at the moment so it is OK to prioritise your own self and family first.
If the feeling of helplessness or guilt is having an overriding negative impact on your mental health then look at alternative ways you can help. Can you offer to collect donations from your local community instead, as an example.
Finally, keep talking
If you are struggling with your mental health then talking to someone about how you feel is really important. Whether it be with family, friends, colleagues, support charities or a professional, talking helps us to organise our thoughts, it allows for us to process things and can open opportunity for advice and guidance when we are struggling.
If you are concerned about how to speak to children about the conflict in Ukraine then take a look at the recent Safeguarding blog by Ella McCalman & Sarah McIntosh.
Supporting staff wellbeing in schools is more than ever a top priority and we have seen so many amazing strategies and supportive initiatives that schools are embedding into their every day practice. For staff wellbeing to be wholly embraced it has to start from the top, school leaders are just as important and remember you cannot pour from an empty cup so look after yourself as well.
It is so important that we model good practice when it comes to self-care not just for our colleagues but for the pupils as well. If you are a school leader and want further advice on how you can support yourself and your staff with wellbeing at work then please do not hesitate to get in touch with me** firstname.lastname@example.org**