Self-Care & Mental Health During Difficult Times – for you and your teams

Self-care is generally the first thing that gets sacrificed when life is busy and stressful.  We tend to think that taking time for themselves, especially in such crazy times, is indulgent and doesn’t feel right when there are so many other things to do.

However, looking after your own wellbeing will help you get through this challenging time and will help you to better care for others. 

So, what is self-care?

Self-care refers to any activity or practice that we deliberately choose to engage in on a regular basis to maintain and enhance our health and wellbeing.  It helps to prevent stress and anxiety.  It’s a process that requires attention and effort every single day.

It’s individual, meaning what works for you, might not work for your team/s.

By making self-care part of your regular routine, such as walking the dog, going for a walk/run, you give your body and mind time to rest, reset, and rejuvenate, so you can avoid or reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety.  It gives you more energy to meet the extra demands in front of you right now.  It makes you more productive and better equipped to manage stress related issues.

Ensuring your own self-care, puts you in a much better position to support others, ie, your team/s.

So, what can self-care look like for your team/s?

It doesn’t need to be extravagant or expensive.  You just need to work out what might be most appropriate right now given your situation, ie, do you still have office-based staff or home based workers.  The purpose is letting them know that you are there and that you care.  It can be as simple as:

  • Having a cuppa  – sit down with them to enjoy a cuppa – this can be done in person or virtually too.
  • Appreciation email – send an email to your team thanking them for being so flexible given these extraordinary times (a simple thank you goes a long way with many people!)
  • Sticky/Post-It notes – a little note on their computer/keyboard.  This could be a thanks for helping out yesterday, have a great day or, you got this!
  • Care packages – these are super popular right now and can include a range of items such as tea (so you can have a cuppa with them), chocolate, homemade muffins, fruit, a book –

You get the gist!  It’s really about the gesture, as opposed to what you give them.

What about Mental Health?

The term Mental Health is often used to describe mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, etc. 

The World Health Organisation describes mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, is able to cope with the normal stresses of life and can work productively.

Given the extreme situation we are facing today, I’m looking at the things that I can personally control and what I can do for myself and with/for my staff.  

What can you control?

Whilst it’s hard not to be concerned about what’s going on, there’s a couple of key things you can do and control – you can:

  • Encourage yourself and others to find a healthy balance of exposure to the media
  • When you look for information, stick to reputable and credible sources

What about if you and your teams are in self-isolation or quarantine?

  • Remind yourself, and them, that this situation is temporary, with the aim of slowing the spread of the virus and protecting others in the community from contracting the virus
  • Stay connected via phone, email, video conferencing and/or social media
  • Encourage daily self-care practices including physical activity and healthy eating
  • For those working at home, encourage structure/daily routine, a dedicated workspace, if possible; regular breaks (stretching is good); regular catch ups, etc.
  • Avoid things that increase stress and anxiety levels, ie, constant media coverage, etc

It’s important to understand that everyone can deal with difficult times differently to you, so right now it’s important to keep an ear and eye out for changes in people’s personality and/or behaviour, do more check-ins with people (not less).  

If you notice any differences, check in with those people individually.  If you have an EAP (Employee Assistance Provider) provider, offer this support to your team.  We’ve also included some links below to sites that have a lot of other information available to support you and your team/s.

Useful links:

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