A mental health roadmap out of lockdown
To coincide with the Government’s latest relaxation of Covid restrictions this week, we’ve created a three-stage roadmap to help Brits navigate increased back-to-work anxiety and acclimatise to the uncertainty around a post-lockdown world.
Sanctus Mental Health Roadmap out of Lockdown
Ben Graham – Head of Coaching at Sanctus
From 12th April
Government roadmap: re-opening of outdoor hospitality, non-essential retail and leisure facilities
Mental health roadmap: create safe spaces to explore your emotions and start honest dialogues with your employer
Sanctus advice: Now that more social environments and shopping facilities are opening up, and Government guidance indicates it is not mandatory for people to work from home, it’s likely that many organisations will start to speak to their teams about returning to work – either on a part time or full time basis. This is likely to bring up a mixture of emotions for employees – whether it’s worries about the practicalities and safety of getting to and from work; a loss of control now that their working environment is changing once again or even concerns around how this still doesn’t feel ‘normal’ even though it’s being positioned as so.
Likewise, as people are having to change their habits once again, this may cause us to reflect on the past year and the emotional impact of what we have been through. Reliving this experience can evoke strong emotions that feel out of place at work – but the more people try to hold them in, the more anxiety this can create.
If you are experiencing a range of confusing emotions, try setting time aside each week to allow your feelings to come to the surface and attempt to articulate those different emotions. Do this in an environment within which you feel safe – whether that is on your own, or with someone you trust such as a friend, manager or therapist. It might be sadness, excitement, anger or fear – whatever it is, recognising and accepting that these feelings are valid and justified is an important step.
Starting an honest and open dialogue with your employer is also really beneficial. If you have questions about what your new working environment will look like, what safety precautions will be in place, or even how they can support you if you don’t feel ready to be back in the office – ask them. Getting clarity – especially in the wake of a period of sustained uncertainty – will help you find more comfort.
From 17th May
Government roadmap: outdoor gatherings of 30 people allowed, rule of six applies indoors, indoor hospitality returns and large scale events return with Covid-secure measures
Mental health roadmap: be patient with the transition and explore new and constructive outlets for your emotions
Sanctus advice: At this point in the lockdown roadmap, most aspects of society will have reopened to some extent and many people will find that the conversations they were having with their employers about returning to their place of work may now have become a reality.
Although your place of work was once a normality, for the past 12 months it has not been, so it is important to understand that returning is a big transition. Transitions can take time to adjust to, so try to be as patient with yourself and your feelings as you possibly can be.
It is also understandable that now you are back in the workplace, whether that’s full or part time, your emotions are likely to intensify as you continue to adapt to the changes in your routine. At this point, finding a constructive outlet for your feelings is a beneficial step forward. At Sanctus, we often use journaling as a creative and therapeutic medium for noticing the ebb and flow of emotions, and putting words to their felt experiences. Taking as little as ten minutes each day to write down whatever is on your mind can have a big impact on your outlook. If journaling isn’t your thing, there’s lots of other techniques you can try – from meditation and mindfulness, through to art therapy and gentle exercise. Whatever it is, aim to find something that allows you to pause, reflect in a way that helps alleviate those feelings of anxiety and stress.
From 21st June
Government roadmap: the removal of all legal limits on social contact
Mental health roadmap: regularly check in on your emotions and feelings, and incorporate proactive mental health practices into your routine
Sanctus advice: The removal of all limitations on social contact may mean a lot of people’s sense of anxiety intensifies even further and as they settle into their new routine any long-term psychological impact from the pandemic may start to become apparent. Just because the pandemic restrictions may have gone, doesn’t mean your worries and concerns will have too.
While you may have been back in your workplace for some time now, it is okay to admit that you still might not feel totally comfortable with the situation. When you combine this with the pressures general working life can sometimes bring, it’s easy for those feelings to manifest into something that then becomes overwhelming. However, by this point you will have hopefully started to incorporate some of the previous roadmap practices – like creating safe spaces to explore and articulate your thoughts and finding creative forums to help relieve some emotional tension.
Now it is important to ensure that these good practices become a part of your regular routine. Remember, taking care of your mental health should be viewed in the same way you view your physical health – it takes ongoing commitment and proactivity.
Consider speaking to your boss or HR team about how positive mental health practices can be brought into your working environment and used as a resource for everyone in your team. At Sanctus, we run a wide range of sessions in organisations – from group events and interactive workshops, through to 1-2-1 coaching sessions – that are all designed to not only help employees address their mental health needs, but remind people that investing time in their wellbeing should be part and parcel of their working and personal life.