You may be aware that last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, with this year’s theme concentrating on kindness. Mental health is not an easy topic to approach, but I really wanted to get involved and join the conversation – despite this late upload! Mark Rowland (Chief Executive, Mental Health Foundation) shared an anecdote of just how powerful the simple act of kindness is, particularly in today’s circumstances. He recalled how whilst he was waiting in line to enter a supermarket, “One of the staff noticed we were getting wet. He scurried away to find a pile of umbrellas, carefully disinfected the handles and passed them out with a smile. To my surprise, my eyes started to well up. At a time when I felt alone, I suddenly felt connected”. This story really resonated with me and reminded me of a moment I had earlier last week. I woke up on Monday morning momentarily feeling disheartened at the challenge of getting through another week. Another week, working from home, not being able to go out and see family and friends. Yet again. Working as a Recruitment Coordinator, I really enjoy meeting new people and having a direct impact on the candidate experience. I miss not physically seeing any new, as well as the regular faces around the office! It was 8am and I was sat by my desk in my bedroom, drinking a cup of tea. I was checking my work messages from colleagues based in America and Asia, to see if they could support with some upcoming interviews. Over the weekend, they had come back promptly, apologizing for the delay and gladly expressing their support, as well as their gratefulness to me for getting these organized so quickly. At this moment, I found my eyes welling up. I felt really moved by this simple thank you and the mountain that was the week ahead, suddenly felt easier to climb.
I tend to get a lot of my energy from being around people and so have often found it quite difficult having limited social contact during lockdown. Some days I experience brain fog, lack of concentration, and some days I am just caught in the motions. I have beaten myself up for not using every waking moment of this time to be my most productive, creative or <insert your own superlarative!> self. If I’m honest, I’ve been so up and down I could be my own roller-coaster. However I’ve been trying my best to be open and transparent about these feelings; acknowledging them, riding them out, sharing them and it turns out I am not alone. And you know what? The saying, “A problem shared, is a problem halved” is really true.
It may be the start of another week, but I hope you make some time today to check in with yourself and acknowledge whatever it is you may be dealing with. No matter what battle or challenge you may be facing, particularly during this pandemic, your feelings matter. Ignore the small voice in your head that tells you that person x has it “worse” or “harder” than you. Your challenges are yours alone and the intensity of them may be heightened during this very abnormal time. Give yourself the love and kindness you deserve and would give to others.
If you are in need of a bit of self-kindness, I thought I’d share just a few of the things I’ve been doing more regularly, that have been helping me cope over the last 10 weeks and look after my own mental health:
- Goals; I jot down daily/weekly goals that are achievable. Simple things like reading for 20 minutes or painting my nails have been on this week’s list. This helps find a sense of direction for the day
- Go outdoors; Whether it’s for a walk in your neighbourhood, in a park or even just sitting in the garden! Going outside really lifts my mood and helps clear away some of that brain fog
- Listening to podcasts or the radio; I miss physically socializing and podcasts are great to help you feel like you are a part of a conversation and keeping you engaged
- Read; One of my best friends bought me the book, Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and it has been really beneficial in changing my perspective and regaining some positivity – I’d highly recommend this book for anyone who likes a bit of Psychology mixed with Self-Help
- Exercise; I’ve been prioritizing my physical health this year and have been making time to exercise more regularly. I have chosen to do workouts that I enjoy and thus am more likely to do again. I haven’t worried about how “easy” or “hard” they are, or personal bests etc. Instead, I’ve been focusing on how they make my feel and it’s the first time in a long while I have stuck to exercise regularly and have definitely noticed results!
- Challenges; Pre-covid life, the freedom of choice, trying and experiencing new things and places was plentiful. Some days, lockdown has been exhausting as it can seem like one day merges into one. Therefore to establish some differentiation (like my life pre-covid had), I’m trying to initiate new challenges for myself, such as taking time to bake or cooking new meals. Last week I cooked a chicken katsu curry for the first time!
- Talking; Making time to Facetime friends, family and even co-workers just for a chat like I would have done in the office has helped cheer me up. On the flip side, I know how meaningful these check-ins have been for them too
- Alone time; Importantly, I’ve also really enjoyed spending time with me! The pandemic has removed a lot of noise and distraction, that my life used to have and has forced me to spend more time on my own more than ever. Yes, it’s cliché but I’m getting to know myself and am identifying the things I both want to and don’t want to do in the future
Although there are days I can be self-critical I try to recognize this behaviour, flip my perspective and be kind to myself instead. According to the MHF, “Kindness is an antidote to isolation and creates a sense of belonging… it reduces stress, brings a fresh perspective and deepens friendships. Kindness to ourselves can prevent shame from corroding our sense of identity and help boost our self-esteem”.
I hope that you are each looking after yourselves the best way you can and that you make a special effort to be kind to yourself.
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