So, here we are in week 9 since lockdown was introduced. And many of us will be struggling to remember what day it is and trying not to recreate Groundhog Day!
Working in Civil Service Employee Policy, I swing between feeling proud of my recent contribution towards producing HR guidance, and humbled when I measure that against the contribution of frontline civil servants who are making a material difference by maintaining benefit payments or protecting our borders.
However, I also recognise that the guidance CSEP produces is enormously useful for those frontline workers and their managers, as it provides clarity around the principles, rights and responsibilities for all employees of the Civil Service. This helps me put my role into context and appreciate that each of us is making a worthwhile contribution in our respective areas, despite the difficulties we are facing.
Our resolve is being tested, and we are likely drawing on our usual coping strategies.
When a wealth of information exists about mental health and wellbeing – not least in this, Mental Health Awareness Week – it can be difficult to know which are the best sources.
There is, of course, the resource provided by the Mental Health Foundation itself, which hosts MHAW. And there is a whole range of sources of information, support and guidance available specifically to civil servants (see the end of this post).
Another resource is Public Health England’s Every Mind Matters website. This includes up-to-date NHS expert tips and relevant advice on looking after mental wellbeing and supporting family and loved ones. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge support the Every Mind Matters campaign and have narrated a powerful new film to encourage people to look after their mental and physical wellbeing.
From the website, I recommend 10 tips to help if you are worried about coronavirus. There are also practical tips and advice about other areas.
I feel it also helps to recognise that I am not alone. Along with my colleagues, who I speak to regularly about the pandemic, everyone in the country is likely to have been affected by COVID-19 to some extent.
This could be because they are staying at home, know someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, or cannot visit family members or friends! These and other scenarios come with their own stresses and challenges and will affect each of us in different ways.
For me, regularly taking some time out of my working day to go for a walk does me the power of good. Having been blessed with some good weather recently, I have discovered, after 10 years in my current home, that there are some very picturesque places within a mile radius that I may not have discovered had it not been for the current situation!
The Every Mind Matters website, along with COVID-19 mental health support, encourages people to complete a personal Mind Plan, which starts with a short quiz
On completion of the quiz, the website will provide some simple ideas based on your answers. I really like the fact that, if a particular idea is not for you, it can be swapped for another – although, despite my best efforts, the site still hasn’t made the suggestion that I should eat more cake! (However, the last time I did the quiz, one of the ideas was `Reward yourself when you achieve things`, so I’m sure I that can include allowing myself cake as a reward!)
Within the ideas, there are also some videos on a range of topics, from reframing unhelpful thoughts, to home workout videos (helps to burn off the cake!), and a wealth of other information. Why not take a look for yourself?
A wide range of staff networks, information and guidance are available to civil servants to support their health and wellbeing, including specific assistance and advice for during the coronavirus pandemic.
Your departmental occupational health and employee assistance providers
Departmental subscriptions for mindfulness apps
Your HR teams can download the HR coronavirus guidance from the Civil Service HR Collaboration Hub
Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on
Thank you Julie for your personal refections and for promoting this important topic.
I have certainly seen a significant shift in the Wellbeing Space over the past 6 years and would agree that colleagues can now access a wide range of resources that can help them to maintain their wellbeing and that of the families and friends.
However, it is important to remember that that there are still colleagues out there who may already have a mental health condition and are struggling to cope during the Covid-19 pandemic and feel unable to reach out for help.
It is therefore key that we make the effort to reach out and contact colleagues, family members and friends to make certain that they are coping.
Time to Talk is not just a key date in February but something we all can do throughout the year!