From Brenda Brunsdon, Occupational Health and Wellbeing Team Manager
In spite of all our hopes and wishes for 2021, we have started the year in at least as difficult a position as we finished 2020. For many people, now faced with home-schooling younger children for the next 6-8 weeks, it is a worse position.
We are now experts at dealing with Covid 19 lockdowns but that only makes them somewhat less arduous to live through. With this one, probably the worst aspect is the length of time the politicians are projecting it will go on for. Mid-February, the end of February, the end of March? The weeks feel as if they lay heavily on us, like layers of blankets on cold nights in winter. They are there to keep us safe and warm, but they press down on our very being. But, as with the blankets, as spring approaches, they can be discarded as the weather improves. One by one, as the weeks pass, we can start to feel less oppressed.
This does feel like the beginning of the end. As one person I spoke to today commented, ‘There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it isn’t a train.’
It’s important to continue doing all the good things you’ve been doing so far. Keep exercising; keep getting out to do this when you can, despite the winter weather. Be gentle on yourself, lowering your expectations of what you might be capable of, especially if you are juggling lots of additional Covid triggered pressures. Keep connecting with others as you can. This may be telephone calls or virtual meetings, but these contacts are essential at a time when the lockdown can make us feel alone and vulnerable.
In the other article I prepared this week, I’ve noted the health themes for January 2021. One of these is ‘Brew Monday’, scheduled to coincide with, the now infamous, ‘Blue Monday’. This year, it’s 18 January. This is a campaign organised by the Samaritans encouraging us to connect on that day by taking some time to share a virtual cuppa. You might want to use the day to reach out to a family member or friend for a natter over a hot drink. Workwise, it could be an excellent day to schedule in a group catch up. The emphasis is on connection as a way of supporting good mental health so maybe the agenda could be how we’re all doing in lockdown rather than specific work issues.
The Samaritans’ website emphasises that you can have a Brew Monday any week. Maybe the one in January could be the first of a series to help people cope with pressure and isolation while working remotely.
If you are finding life overwhelming, do speak to your manager so that consideration can be given to adjusting your work commitments, if this would help. You can use the COPE framework to do this. Your manager may believe that referring you to OH for assistance could be beneficial. If your issues and problems are inherently non-work related, remember that the Staff Employee Assistance Programme is available to take your call at any time of the day or night. The telephone number is 0808 168 2143 and it doesn’t cost you anything to call.