Tips on being kind at work during the lockdown

Featured article - 21 May 2020
By Michaela Gray, SCIE's Corporate Governance and HR Officer

Michaela Gray, SCIE's Corporate Governance and HR Officer

Rather embarrassingly, I hadn’t actually realised it was Mental Health Awareness Week until it was pointed out. Like a lot of people, I’m finding life under lockdown presents a unique set of challenges to which wellbeing and mental health can often take a backseat – which is of course precisely when it’s most important.

When I was asked to write this blog, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I could say that might be helpful. There are so many great wellbeing resources out there being shared and I wasn’t sure I could add anything to them. At SCIE, we’ve used the evidence-based framework Five Ways to Wellbeing to promote wellbeing and good mental health, but the challenge is how to apply this to our new way of working.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about a recent tweet I saw which said “You are not working from home; you are at your home during a crisis trying to work”, and I agree with the tweeter this is an important distinction to make. It is very difficult to continue doing ordinary things in extraordinary times, and we should recognise this.

This ties into the theme of Mental Health Awareness week this year, which is kindness: “Kindness is defined by doing something towards yourself and others, motivated by genuine desire to make a positive difference. We know from the research that kindness and our mental health are deeply connected. The research shows that kindness is an antidote to isolation and creates a sense of belonging. It helps reduce 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. Kindness can even improve feelings of confidence and optimism.”

I really want to emphasise that kindness is something we should direct to ourselves as well as others, and it doesn’t necessarily come naturally.

It’s easy to feel like we shouldn’t have negative feelings because others may have it worse, but instead try to recognise this is a hard time for everyone in different ways, and yes feel happy for what you have but also allow yourself to feel sad for what you don’t. There are lots of hollow platitudes out there about being positive, but taking care of ourselves often takes real effort – and that effort is worth it.

Take an e-learning course or a long bath...

Try to carve time out of your day for self-care, whatever that looks like to you – maybe it’s going for a walk, having a virtual drink with a friend, connecting with colleagues on the Teams Noticeboard, meditating, taking a long bath, or even doing a part-time e-learning course. Hell, even scream at the moon if you think it’ll help (although maybe muffle it with a pillow so as not to alarm your neighbours!) Whatever will help relieve the tension.

I think we tend to have unrealistic expectations of ourselves at the best of times, and these are not the best of times! So try to be kind – like my nan used to say, treat others the way you’d like to be treated yourself, but also flip that around and treat yourself the way you treat the people you love.

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