The second lockdown: The importance of the long lunchbreak

Article from Brenda Brunsdon, Occupational Health and Wellbeing Team Manager:

How did you feel last Saturday night when the Prime Minister announced the Second National Lockdown?  I was surprised by just how annoyed and dispirited I felt.  My life is structured well to deal with the challenges the coronavirus crisis represents but I know that many people face far greater pressures and adverse factors.  I am sure that the month long lockdown ahead is hanging over many people and weighing them down.

How can you best approach the new lockdown?  Pretty much in the same way as the last: try and keep some structure to your day; ensure that you don’t let work invade your personal space and time; keep up communications with friends and family as best you can; keep getting outside in the fresh air and sunshine; keep being active and exercising; don’t turn to self-medication by increasing the food, nicotine or alcohol intake; be kind to yourself and others in terms of expectations; don’t fret over what you can’t control.  Try reframing any despondent thoughts you might have.  Instead of thinking ‘It’s a whole, long month’, try ‘It’s only for one month’.

The Government is encouraging us to work from home as much as possible.  Many of us have remained working that way since the first lockdown started.  Working from home gives us flexibility.  There are doctors and health experts who are specifically encouraging us to take a longer lunch break so we can get out for fresh air and exercise in the middle of the day.  With the shorter days that late autumn brings, it’s more difficult to go out after dark and feel safe.  That is why the longer lunch break is such a good idea throughout this second lockdown.  It might not be possible every day, due to either work commitments or the weather, but it’s still possible to make it a priority, whenever possible.  Sunshine gives us that all important vitamin D; exercise is good for physical and mental health; a break in the working day is researched to increase creativity and productivity; it will help against symptoms associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder.  These are all excellent reasons to work flexibly and get out and exercise in the middle of the day.  It doesn’t have to be highly strenuous; a good walk will do.  It’s surprising how quickly you build up your stamina.

There is research published by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) which found that most people (64% of those researched) are coping well with the coronavirus crisis, including the need to lockdown.  You can read the full detail in the link below; it is a very interesting report.   It does, however, highlight that people with a pre-existing mental health problem have been less likely to cope well the demands of the coronavirus crisis.

If you are struggling from a mental health perspective, remember all the support put in place for staff by the University.  This link will take you to the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP); details to log on are USERNAME: uokent |PASSWORD: university; the Freephone number for the service is 0808 168 2143.  If your home issues are impacting on your ability to work then discuss with your manager or contact HR or OH.  Corporate Comms publish the EAP’s webinar schedules each week.  All of these, for current and previous weeks, can be found on the University’s Staff Health and Wellbeing website; this also has physical and mental health information including past blog posts.

Useful links

Resilience across the UK during the coronavirus pandemic’: assessment of the research, ‘Coronavirus: mental health in the pandemic,’, led by the MHF in collaboration with University of Cambridge, Swansea University, the University of Strathclyde and Queen’s University Belfast

‘How to look after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak’ on MHF website

‘Facing a winter during the coronavirus pandemic’ on MHF website

‘UK employers told to allow for ‘hugely beneficial’ long lunch break to cope with lockdown’; by Aurora Bosotti on express.co.uk

‘7 ways to support your mental health during lockdown’ on mentalmovement.co.uk

‘”This too shall pass”: Mental health tips for lockdown two’; on shropshirestar.com

‘Lockdown in the dark brings so many new fears and challenges’; by Megan Murray on stylist.co.uk

‘Pandemic, Lockdown & Mental Health and Wellbeing’ by Tina Abena Oforiwa on YouTube.  This is a longer clip than I use but it is very accessible, articulate and comprehensive.  So, for those who prefer watching a video to reading an article, it could be very helpful!

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