Looking After Our Mental Health
Before too long, it will have been a full year since I was last in the office with all of my colleagues, cramming myself onto a packed train into London in the morning and then home again in the evening, going for a walk around the streets of London Bridge at lunchtime amongst the hordes of people, be they other office workers popping out for a bite to eat or tourists taking in the sights. A full year of working from home looking at the same four walls, having the same things for lunch every day and seeing and talking to the same three people and the dog.
I should add that I do love my wife and children very much and love their company, so I am not complaining about that at all. The dog and I have also formed a very close bond and he is happier to see me every morning than anyone else in the house, spending the day literally at my feet, although he is not particularly helpful when I turn to him for his thoughts on a case I am dealing with, instead throwing me a very puzzled look.
I therefore consider myself very lucky, firstly to be able to still do my job at all during this terrible pandemic and to be able to continue to provide the best service I possibly can to my clients, but also to see more of my wife and children than I ever otherwise would do. However, a workplace is mixed bag of people and personalities, all of whom have different wants and needs and I am very conscious of the fact that for every person who is coping relatively well with the current circumstances we find ourselves in, there are others who are struggling.
When Covid-19 first hit the country and we were put into lockdown for the first time, we were heading into summer and warmer months, which enabled us to be outside a great deal and not be too confined to our homes, subject of course to being cautious whenever venturing outside. Even then, huge numbers of people struggled with their mental health and issues of isolation, financial worries, being kept away from loved ones and in the most tragic of cases, losing loved ones to this horrific disease.
As a middle-aged married father of two, with responsibilities to my family, my employer and my clients, working at home for almost a year now has worked out for me on many levels, as I have been able to manage all of these responsibilities much more efficiently than I have ever been able to do before. If anything, I have been more efficient, more productive and have worked harder than ever before as I have adapted to this new way of working.
There is, however, a clear dichotomy between myself and, for example, a 20 year old single man or woman just starting out in their professional career, perhaps living in a small one bedroom flat on their own with no or minimal human interaction and not getting the level of training and assistance they need to help them to develop professionally. Contrast that again with a single parent trying to juggle work with raising a child and home-schooling, or the parents with multiple children of different ages who are all being home-schooled on completely different timetables and lesson plans, but who all need computers, internet access and help from mum and dad, who are trying to do their own work too.
Whatever the individual struggle, having entered yet another national lockdown and with winter now upon us and the weather keeping us indoors much more, there is no doubt that this will be taking a huge toll on the mental health of so many people. Some will speak up and ask for help, but that is a very hard thing to do and so many more will suffer in silence. It can be so difficult for others to spot the signs that someone is struggling, so what can we do to help our families, our friends, our colleagues?
At Anthony Gold, we have a team of Mental Health Champions, of which I am one, and we have made it known to the firm who we all are and that we are all available to talk to anyone if they feel that they need to do so. We have had training on how to help our colleagues and we have regular meetings to make sure we are doing all that we can and to come up with new ideas and new ways to assist.
At home, as a family, we talk every day and we let our children know that they can come and talk to us about absolutely anything. Obviously, we know our children better than anyone, so it is easier for us to spot the signs when something is wrong. However, we may not know our colleagues quite as well as we think we do and being so detached from them makes it even harder to see the signs that they might be struggling. We also do not know what is going on inside our friends’ homes in these testing times so again, whilst we may think everything is OK, it might not be.
I believe that the key is communication. I appreciate that communication comes much more easily to some than it does to others, but by opening up channels of communication and just letting someone know that you are there for them if they need you, it can get the ball rolling and break down some barriers. In the age of Zoom and Teams, it is easier than ever to see and speak to anyone at any time. In a work capacity, set up video meetings with colleagues but spend some time talking about things other than work, which is exactly what you would do if you were in the office and popped into the kitchen to make a coffee and bumped into a colleague there. Socially, send a quick text to your friends to check in on them and see how they are doing.
Beyond communication, having a routine is also crucial and this should incorporate some form of exercise wherever possible. It is all too easy to fall into some bad habits and become lazy when living in this very confined, restricted way and there will be some days when you just don’t feel like doing anything at all, but the sense of accomplishment you feel when you break through that lethargy and end up being very productive is fantastic. My dog has never been on so many walks, hence why he loves me so much at the moment! When I log off at the end of the day and get changed, he knows what is coming next and whatever the weather, I am out the door, headphones on listening to a podcast and breathing in the fresh air. That to me is probably the most important part of my day for my own mental health. Be sure to find yours, whatever it might be and if you are having a bad day, as we all will do at some point, never be afraid to ask for help.
*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*