Prioritising our mental health

Lockdown and uncertainty are the name of the game right now and how we manage it will also be the key to our ongoing mental health.

The mental health challenges in this time are huge, with uncertainty surrounding the duration of isolation, job security, and possible recession. We are in unprecedented times, with no idea how this will impact all of us for generations to come or how this may affect our daily lives in the future.

Most notably is that good mental health comes from human contact so, what detrimental effect will there be in this lockdown period? Humans are relationship seeking beings, we are born into the group or family and we naturally exist and live amongst larger groups or societies/communities. This will be the biggest challenge for workers facing this extended period of working from home. While this brings various challenges with child rearing and home schooling, there will be many who face this alone with little or no contact with others.

The question becomes how do we maintain healthy contact at a distance? And exactly what kind of contact will be good for our mental health? When contact is limited or even prohibited, then we have to start thinking in terms of connection. How can we get meaningful connection, that fills us up enough to deliver a suitable substitute for physical contact? 

 

There is of course a big difference between contact and connection, and perhaps this lockdown is making us more aware of this fact. Isolation is highlighting that what we’re most lacking and what is most needed right now is connection. Connection can be scary for a lot of people, it requires vulnerability and putting yourself out there despite the fear of rejection. However, connection is what we all crave and have always craved.

Staring at our same four walls is likely to increase our anxiety – of getting work done or having a lack of structure or connecting to others through the premise of work. Work structures our time effectively, with much of our time spent at work our lives naturally evolve around it, socially and otherwise. Without the social routine of work, there is the chance of falling into bad or unhealthy habits, that are distractions from our difficult feelings around being isolated – such as over-consuming food, drink, TV or even social media (all in their excesses can be harmful to our mental health). 

Social media has created this idea of virtual connection but in reality, there is no real meaningful connection at all as we discover there is a difference between visibility and vulnerability, between faking and authenticity. Both vulnerability and authenticity are important elements in making meaningful connections.

So, how exactly do we get it?

 

Create a routine

It’s simple, but it is also one thing that can be overlooked or that “slips” easily. Making routines, especially morning routine routines, be beneficial in maintaining good mental health, for instance exercise or meditating. It creates time and space to connect in with yourself, to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, a journal is helpful in this endeavour —get your feelings out and onto the page, rather than bottled up and repressed. Also, consider routines around connecting – weekly or daily scheduled meetings will be helpful to form a working from home structure.

Take the time to check-in

Lone working can be difficult for some, while others relish it; what is important is for some form of contact within teams. Working from home will bring its many challenges depending on each individual’s lifestyle or family life. I feel we are fortunate to be living in a time where we have the advantages of technology, so there are many ways in which virtual meetings can and are now operating. However, it’s important to not just get straight down to tasks and projects – take the time to check-in and have casual talk, for some this will be the most interaction they get for many hours, so laugh and have the usual “coffee-time” chats. Laughing and interacting on a social level is so important right now, perhaps more than ever.

Release the pressure

Now is a time when perfection goes out of the window. Release the pressure to feel like you ‘should’ be doing all the things because you are home. What is more important is ensuring you have healthy coping mechanisms when you feel particularly anxious or stressed – like meditation or journaling, doing something creative like a puzzle or reading, even listening to music or podcasts, even calling a friend. Meaningful connection means we’ve got to just show up – call that friend when you’re not looking or feeling your best, nobody has it together all the time, so don’t feel like you have to.

Reach out

If you’re struggling, don’t feel you have to manage on your own. Yes, we have to social distance and stay home but that doesn’t mean we have to emotionally distance. Call a friend or friends – better still videocall. However, if you feel that your mental health is really declining there are many counsellors available online. My new motto is: virtual doesn’t mean impersonal. Counselling and therapy work online because real connection isn’t dependent on being in the same room, connection is formed between two people and that is all.

Lastly…

Limit your exposure

To unhealthy connections or things that increase your anxiety. I know we all want to be informed and know what is happening; however, having the News on in the background while you’re worrying won’t be good for your mental health. In fact, over-consuming on the News is likely to raise your anxiety. It’s the same for social media, while it is a somewhat good distraction or time-filler, it can also raise our anxiety as we compare ourselves to how we ‘should’ be coping or what we ‘should’ be doing in this time. Be conscious of who or what you are following and unfollow anything that doesn’t inspire or feel good. 

Kezia Okafor

About the author

Kezia Okafor is a Psychotherapeutic Counsellor and Art Therapist running her own private practice at Zia Counselling. Kezia specialises in supporting women through infertility, helping them to manage stress, their mental and emotional health and the emotional trauma that they experience.

As a mental health advocate, and through her work at Zia Counselling, Kezia aims to be a voice for those suffering from depression, anxiety, or any other disorder. Shedding a light on what is commonly misunderstood and bringing much needed awareness to the misconceptions and discriminations that those with mental health issues face, while disseminating a message of hope and support.

Kezia supports her clients to find their autonomy and to live their lives fully.

You can get in touch with Kezia using any of the platforms below, she’d love to hear from you.

➡️ LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kezia-okafor/

➡️ Website – www.ziacounselling.co.uk

➡️ Email – info@ziacounselling.co.uk

➡️ Instagram – www.instagram.com/theinfertilitycounsellor 

➡️ Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/ziacounselling/

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