I deliver a lot of training about stress, so it feels kind of silly to admit that I find myself in a situation during week ten of lock down where I have cultivated such a stressful working from home environment, that I have to check my diary – and yes I have made myself that busy, that I have needed to keep a diary, to see what zoom call, meeting, webinar or training session I might have on next, with a “why not” mentality of “I have nothing better to do”.
As someone who has wellness in their business title, I usually pride myself on work life balance, no emails after 6pm or at the weekend, there are so many hours in the hour day and what can’t happen today will happen tomorrow, so in other words I practice what I preach.
However, the corona-coaster has swept us up and took us all for a ride and the usual working pattern of Monday- Friday becomes blurred when you do not even know what the day is anymore. When even the guidance being published from the government arrives on Friday evenings, bank holiday Sunday weekends and late at a night, it is a wonder we have not just decided to work seven days a week and be done with it.
So perhaps there had never been a better or much needed time for Mental Health Awareness Week to arrive. Somewhat ironically the content I put together for Mental Health Awareness Week 18-24 May, takes a lot of time and the pressure I put myself can impact negatively on my own mental health. How ironic that whilst trying to raise awareness and support others, I do not take care of myself. This seems a recurring theme not only of my life but the role of working in the early years sector in general.
How many others find themselves under their own home-made pressure and stress? Some made from circumstance and some derived from their own making?
Last week I got off a two hour online session delivering mental health training where I had encouraged delegates to address their stress, identify their stress signature and consider who around them can recognise their stress signature, and then proceeded to have what can only be described as a meltdown after an argument with my husband over something so insignificant, that neither of us can now recall what it was.
That is what ten weeks of living and working on top of each other with no respite during an actual pandemic can do for you! It is the not always how much you have got going on, it is the length of time you have been dealing with it for.
Near to the end of last week I was tearful, overwhelmed and overworked and I had nobody else except myself to blame. I was guilty for filling every moment of my time, so I had blocked some time out for me to wind down, relax and chill out. Or so I thought.
Instead, a horrific accident at home involving my gentle, loving and trusting eight year old King Charles Spaniel, Betsie happened, and because I was operating on such low levels of mental wellness and fitness I know that it affected my ability to deal with it both in the moment and the impact afterwards. I will not go into the mom guilt here, but I will say it is one of the worst experiences of my life.
If you have ever had the joy of loving and cherishing a dog – welcoming them into your family, you will know only too well how wonderful, loving, and loyal they are. Betsie and her brother Buddy are a massive part of our family and are always by my side, my constant and comforting companions – my best little mates. Never I am more happy and content then when we are all safe and snuggled up at home together or out enjoying a walk in the fresh air of the countryside.
Another lesson learned. Do not wait for the overwhelm to continue creeping up, even if you are typically good at taking care of your wellbeing, we are not usually experiencing a pandemic. Do not allow yourself to just get through stuff to rest later. Make time for it now or pay for it later. I learnt the hard way before, and I am having to remind myself the hard way again. None of this is ordinary, none of this is normal and none of us have ever experienced a life changing situation like this before.
Covid-19 is an unexpected life event that none of us were prepared for, it landed in our laps and some of us did not have the capacity to deal with it when it arrived ten weeks ago, and so it makes sense that the rest of us are going to have less capacity to deal with it now we have been dealing with it for so long. Add on top other unexpected life events that are also happening during this time and it is a recipe for a mental health disaster.
Some people, celebrities mainly, have stated that if you do not learn something new during this pandemic like a new language or write a book then you are lazy. I will be happy if I am healthy – mentally and physically and despite the tougher, harder, and most painful parts of this life in lock down situation, that I continued to learn, adapt and adjust and not be too hard on myself. I hope the same for you too.
They say there is only one happiness in this life, that is to love and be loved, and with the theme of #MHAW being kindness, surely that love must start with ourselves. After all, are we not all learning this one big important life lesson at the moment, there is nothing more important than our health, that means both physically and mentally and never has it been so important that we all learn how to love taking proper good care of ourselves.