Looking After Your Mental Health During Lockdown and Beyond….by Norman Webster

Norman Webster

Looking After Your Mental Health During Lockdown and Beyond….by Norman Webster

Mental Health has become a bit of a catch all phrase in lockdown; like many other physical illnesses, mental health can be broken down into dozens of different conditions, with a variety of causes. We need to be aware of this when addressing mental illness in its many forms. Recognising different types of mental illness early on, is key to initiating timely interventions to care for yourself, staff, your family and your business. 

In the next few blogs, I will highlight some of the causes of anxiety and depression and offer some possible tools to help. Whilst anxiety and depression are different conditions, they often occur together and can be treated in similar ways.

Feeling a ‘bit down’ now and again is perfectly normal. We all feel anxious from time to time, especially when facing stressful situations. Severe or continuous feelings of depression and anxiety can be a sign of an underlying mental health issue – remember help is available.

As Dr Craig N. Sawchuk, Ph.D., L.P. says, “Anxiety may occur as a symptom of clinical (major) depression. It’s also common to have depression that’s triggered by an anxiety disorder, such as generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder or separation anxiety disorder. Many people have a diagnosis of both an anxiety disorder and clinical depression.”

He goes on to offer solutions, “Symptoms of both conditions usually improve with psychological counselling (psychotherapy), medications, such as antidepressants, or both. Lifestyle changes, such as improving sleep habits, increasing social support, using stress-reduction techniques or getting regular exercise, also may help.”

Early support is critical, so always seek expert help early on. This is not a sign of weakness, rather a sign of strength in recognising a difficulty and seeking external support.

Men, in particular are reticent to seek help, which is perhaps why suicide rates in men aged 45-49 years are the highest in the UK. Rates amongst young women under 25 have risen substantially in recent years. Keep an eye on your friends and stay in contact, as we work our way out of this current lockdown. A telephone call, some flowers or, in my case, some biltong through the post, or an old-fashioned card to say hi, is all it takes sometimes, to help a mate or an employee as they ‘beaver away’ in isolation at the kitchen table.

Lack of exercise and isolation can be a major cause of depression, so it is good to get out daily – there was sound reasoning behind government advice back in Lockdown Ver 1.0, to take an hour outdoor exercise daily. With snow on the ground that might not be an attractive proposition but join an online exercise group or fish out that old exercise DVD you swore by in decades gone by. Get up in the loft, you may discover all manner of exercise equipment discarded until now. 

If nothing else, have a clear out and make a stack of things to go to the tip, recycling centre or charity shop. We have all been indoors for months so, for a different perspective, move the furniture, change the curtains, or paint a wall. Move your computer to another room, so you can look out of a different window as the season changes. 

Larger companies have a human resource and management structure in place, where workplace help can be sought, but when you are the MD, CEO, CFO, HR and Sales and Marketing Departments, there is nobody within, to provide care and support when you need it. 

Help is available from your GP practice; they are now recognising the importance of Social Prescribing and Wellbeing, so ring and ask if you can have an appointment with the Care Co-Ordinator. They will put you in touch with their Social Prescriber or signpost you to Mid Sussex District Council’s Wellbeing Team. They are specially set up to allow longer appointment times of 20 minutes or more, so there is ample time available to share your concerns. 

MSDC’s Wellbeing Hub is a “one-stop-shop” for Health and Wellbeing services for adults. It provides signposting, guidance and advice to local people. Additionally, it is a source of information for people who refer into Health and Wellbeing services as part of their work. 

All the members of the Wellbeing team are well qualified; they work one to one with clients to provide non-medical advice. They use Motivational Interviewing techniques to support people with complex health and wellbeing issues in order to make long term lifestyle changes.

Our Wellbeing Coaches can help you reduce alcohol consumption, stop smoking, reduce weight, set goals and get back to exercise. These are issues that often contribute to stress and anxiety in the workplace and cause imbalances in work life balance.

They can also signpost you to a host of services that deal with family relationships, financial worries, loneliness and isolation, housing issues, becoming more active, meeting new people and getting involved in your community. 

Even in lockdown, there are volunteering activities available with a host of different charities. The Mid Sussex Voluntary Action group operate an excellent matchmaking service, to hook up volunteers with opportunities to suit both parties. In East Grinstead and wider Mid Sussex, we are blessed with excellent sports facilities, so make contact and see what is available for when less restricted and better times come. East Grinstead Sports Club is amongst the best in the South East. Our Rugby Club is well known, and we have East Grinstead Football Club located on the East Court Estate, alongside over 40 hectares of beautiful woodland and open space. The town is surrounded by ‘Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, which is protected under current planning laws. It is there to be enjoyed and it is free to use. Just a short ride away is Ashdown Forest, another outstanding area of open space.

If, on the other hand, you need business support get in contact with the East Grinstead Business Association and join. Membership is very reasonable and includes networking, even in lockdown, online events and advice about a number of grants available from Mid Sussex District Council. Just because you have already had a grant, your company is not precluded from receiving further grants. Don’t sit in isolation worrying about future finances; government is doing all it can, through the district council networks, to support businesses until we manage the effects of Covid.

Sadly, we all know someone whose family has been touched by Covid. There are specialist bereavement services available and we have a brilliant charity in Mid Sussex that deals with children who have to face the death of a parent, family member or close friend. 

Some final advice; don’t stress over Covid; limit the time you spend thinking about Covid each day; do some routine stuff daily; try and do something new, exciting or different each day. If you or a staff member needs help, please reach out. Help is at hand. 

Next time, I will touch on the pressures of home schooling, raising happy children and other topical issues.

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