Not too long ago, the thought of lining up at a bar, without a mask, and with people all around, was a far-off memory. Now, when gazing through my bedroom window at the pub opposite, I can almost picture strolling through the doors, hugging friends and sipping pints. It’s a funny feeling, being on the verge of a shift back to what we might call normal, when social distancing has become such an integral part of life. I still can’t see myself being completely comfortable with crowds in the near future because they’ve been no-goes for so long. My social perceptions of what is normal have been reconditioned like a kind of Pavlov’s Dog, and in a way, this may stand as a symbol for a wider issue. Experts warn us about the other effects of the pandemic’s hangover – that many could be left with mental ill health that outlasts the pandemic.
Of course, lockdowns are a necessity when it comes to protecting health during a pandemic, but at the same time they can have negative psychological outcomes; socialites who used to frequent coffee shops and conferences, football games and dance classes, are stuck inside, meanwhile job losses and financial difficulty together may leave scars that will take more to solve than just going ‘back to normal’. The simple fact may be that we should not take the foot ‘off the gas’ when it comes to protecting our mental health. Not now, not in a month’s time, and definitely not on June 21st, when crowds will be out and about again in force.
One of the things that I find myself sometimes struggling with of recent is motivation, which is a common theme for people working primarily at home – the extenuated time that we’ve spent indoors can really exacerbate this, and it’s completely normal to feel like your mojo is flagging at this stage in the pandemic. As an extrovert, I find having limited people to interact with can be draining, which inevitably can spill into my work and other bits of life. Though it’s important to accept that aspects of life are inevitably tough, and that this might affect how you work and relax, there are in fact ways to work on your motivation levels. One of our courses, ‘Working from Home: 5 Ways to Wellbeing’, is totally free and is a great way of helping you rediscover that ‘spice for life’ by making the most of what we have at the moment. It’s an easy way to ensure your staff and yourself are still taking mental health seriously in these important months! Take the course here
Another problem that may arise as we leave lockdown is the social anxiety many may feel at the thought of a packed pub, a busy gig, or a heaving shopping mall. Though many are excited to jump headfirst into such activities, an underrepresented minority may see the next reunion as something daunting rather than a thrilling idea. Going from 18 months of relative isolation to a constant and loud environment can be overwhelming, especially for people that may experience social anxiety. It’s important that we find the time in these new moments to reach out to friends, but also to pause if things are getting too much. Mindfulness exercises can be a useful tool in these situations, helping you manage thoughts and feelings, and providing a much-needed pause. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for your free one-minute mindfulness audio.
We must also realise that engagement and satisfaction will inevitably drop if workplaces neglect their duty of care when it is most needed upon exit of lockdown. It will be easy to take the foot off the pedal when things are looking up, but it is crucial to maintain a consistent approach of continuous evaluation and improvement. One of the ways you can do this is by looking at your wellbeing strategy as we exit lockdown. Will the goals be the same? Will it achieve those goals in the new way of working? How should it differ to what you had in place a year ago? Do we need any added features? If you’re a Stoke-on-Trent or Staffordshire-based business, you have access to fully funded training. In partnership with the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Suicide Prevention Board, and funded by NHS England, Altruist Enterprises are offering free Mental Health First Aid training to organisations in the area. This is an unmissable opportunity to upskill staff with an invaluable qualification which will enable them to be the first port of call for anyone experiencing a mental health issue. Book your free places here
Otherwise, be sure to check out our free strategy guide, for anyone looking to develop or reassess their strategy.