As World Kindness Day gets under way, statistics show that one in every four adults will experience at least one mental health problem per year, and in this fast-paced, ever-changing world, how often do we take time out to nurture and care for ourselves?
When was the last time you stood still to savour the moment, pause for thought or take time to truly look after your mental health and wellbeing?
There are only 24 hours in a day, yet in modern society, it often feels like we are trying to cram as much as we possibly can into our waking hours. We talk on our phones whilst walking, grab a ‘quick bite’ to eat at our desks, sit transfixed at our computer screens without taking regular breaks, and constantly juggle working life and family life in a manner that would make a circus performer proud! We are constantly bombarded with unrealistic images on social media and receive a daily overload of messages on how we should look, talk, and feel. It’s often difficult to take time out and just breathe!
As children, we embrace the simple things in life. We learn to splash in puddles, build sandcastles, lose ourselves in imaginary worlds and keep ourselves entertained in a variety of ways, but as we grow older, we begin to face more and more challenges in life, and our ‘stress buckets’ start to overflow. We all face a multitude of demands on our time each and every day and it’s no wonder cracks begin to appear and both our mental and physical health begins to suffer.
Mental health is just as important as physical health and in order to function properly, we need to maintain a high level of self-care. By creating a wellbeing toolkit, we can begin to put steps in place to look after ourselves and others. Self-care is not selfish and as a result, we will begin to see many positive outcomes, not only for ourselves but also for our surrounding family, friends and colleagues.
We spend the vast majority of our lives at work and as employers, we have a duty of care to look after our staff and their mental health and wellbeing and provide them with the necessary tools to look after themselves. The journey of life is never a smooth one and the events of 2020 have certainly highlighted this. Major life events, such as redundancy, bereavement, family separation, relocation, and chronic illnesses can all take their toll and just any one of these events can throw us off balance. No one should ever feel like they have to suffer in silence, and it is vitally important we let our teams know that support is always available in times of need.
While we do not always have the power to change what happens to us in life, we can certainly lookout for the warning signs, both in ourselves and those around us. It is important for employers to take steps to invest in mental health and raise awareness so that when problems do arise, we can be there to listen with a non-judgemental ear, provide advice and offer the correct level of support and guidance.
When discussing mental health and wellbeing, the ‘Four Pillars’ of mental health – exercise, good nutrition, relaxation, and sleep are often referred to and at the Oakland Group, we have been investing time to look into these areas and learn how we can embrace the principles.
Earlier this year we introduced Dr Sarah Hattam, a General Practitioner and the Director of Concilio Health https://www.conciliohealth.com/ to our team and asked her to conduct a well-being survey. We invited all our employees to take part in this survey and Sarah also conducted some 1:2:1 interviews, so we could gain a better feel for how we were supporting our team and where we could make improvements going forward. Sarah then ran some online sessions for everyone on the topics of Sleep, Recharge, Move and Mind Matters and she has also recently rolled out some Mental Awareness training to our employees and associates, to extend the learning and provide everyone with the tools to look after themselves and others around them.
We have also enlisted the help of other experts in the field, such as Lucile Allen-Paisant, the Director of Mind-It https://www.mind-it.co.uk. Lucile supported us recently with the continuation of our wellbeing programme and also ran a fantastic session for us in September on stress management, providing additional guidance and tips on how to deal with stress. Lucile also recently arranged for us to have an online Chair Yoga session with one of her experts, Helena. This session proved really helpful to our team, particularly whilst we are all currently working from home and our movement is somewhat limited!
So, once we have covered the principles, what can we do when things don’t go to plan or we feel ourselves veering off track? This is where our well-being toolkit comes into play and where practicing resilience can really help. It is so easy to beat ourselves up when we have a bad day and our inner voice pops up to berate us and remind us how we could have done things better or said something differently!
It really is ok, not to be ok and natural to feel anxious or apprehensive when facing new challenges and in times of uncertainty. We will all experience fear and failure and encounter various setbacks throughout our lives, but with the right level of help and support, we can get back on our feet and gradually move on.
Mental health is not a ‘one size fits all’ cure and it really is finding whatever method works for you when it comes to self-care. Some people like to practice calming methods such as mindfulness, meditation, or yoga, or go outdoors and be at one with nature. Others like to document their thoughts and feelings by writing a journal or practicing gratitude and positivity or by helping others by doing some voluntary work.
At Oakland, we have a real passion for mental health and wellbeing, and our mental health awareness journey has only just begun. We do not see this as a ‘tick-box’ exercise and we will consciously continue our learning and development into 2021 and beyond, so we can continually invest in and engage with our employees to ensure that they are looked after and their voices are heard.
Office Manager and Mental Health Champion