15 Apr The path to mental wellbeing during COVID-19
Written by Kirstie Edwards, Founder of A Path To Follow, who provide customised mental wellbeing support for young people and their families, and businesses.
Maintaining your mental wellbeing during COVID-19 is crucial. If you’re anything like me, your head will be spinning from the flood of information on the COVID-19 chaos. Throw in the emotions of confusion, grief, fear and isolation. As a person and a small business owner you may well be feeling quite an emotional mess. You are not alone.
There has been an abundance of information on COVID-19’s prevalence and maintaining our physical safety. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for mental wellbeing. In due course, that information did arrive. I feel like the well-intentioned, but often random wellbeing advice flew in from all angles. My response has been to breathe through the storm, knowing the importance of maintaining my own mental wellbeing, and supporting the mental wellbeing of my family and clients during this time. I had to continue to do what I do well – navigate the mental wellbeing maze into some form of sense.
The pretty much sums up the task Beyond Business Groups gave me – to search, sift, read, digest, untangle and reframe mental wellbeing during this uncertain time.
What is different during COVID-19?
So what have I learned and what has changed in terms of looking after our mental wellbeing during COVID-19? Well, nothing and everything. The principles of prevention, early intervention and customised response (the three principles of A Path To Follow’s evidence-based model) remain exactly the same. In fact, they are more important now than ever. We need to continue to invest meaningfully in prevention, early intervention and customised response for the wellbeing of our whole community. What has changed is how we apply the practices of these principles; for ourselves as small business owners, as parents and as human beings.
In our model prevention is about connection – to family, friends, community and workplace. Essentially, when one feels socially and emotionally connected there is a greater chance more serious mental health challenges can be averted and/or mental health challenges detected and intervened with early, within a safe and protective community.
So, what can you do in the prevention space in your business and home during isolation? First and foremost, if you do nothing else (which I hope is not the case) practice self-compassion. Everyone is new to this maze and being hard on yourself at this time will only serve to put your wellbeing at risk and make you feel worse. Maintain connection – to yourself and to your community. The social and emotional connection to our people is the protective factor in preventing or intervening early with mental health challenges.
Here are a couple of my ideas – there are a world of others on the Internet you can squander hours researching, then ignoring or adopting.
Connection to self
- Gratitude or mindfulness journal: Evidence shows we can rewire the connections in our brains to more readily see the small positive and beautiful things around us.
- Your space: A place to meditate, read, look at the meaningful items you have arranged, have a wine. You decide.
- Meditation: Until I came across Thich Nhat Hanh meditation/mindfulness and I were not great friends. He has taught me how to integrate the practice into any moment of my day. My favs are currently my mindful walks.
- Downtime: You know what you like – movies, walks, photography, magazines, eating, a bath, a little nap … Do not fall into the trap of working additional hours because you are home.
Connection to your community
Not only does connection to the people we value most help us to feel good about ourselves, it protects and supports us when we experience challenges. When we have such a community we are more likely to reach out or be willing to be reached out to. Please keep this connection up any ways you can.
- Text messages/emails/phone calls: Some people are not going to be automatically comfy with Zoom, Houseparty, etc. If you are one of those, all good. Connect in a way that is most comfortable to you – text, call, email, pop a postcard in the mail, yell over the fence to your neighbour, maybe even sit on a deckchair inside your front gate and give hellos and smiles to passersby.
- Video calls: Seeing the face and gestures of your people might be the magic you need and you being able to eyeball a loved one might just be their magic (or their intervention). Just ensure whatever you use, you do so with security in mind (passwords, open in your browser rather than downloading to your PC, delete history on your browser settings when finished, etc.)
- Online webinars: There is an abundance of quality free webinars related to wellbeing and working remotely. If this is in your wheelhouse, shoot me an email and I can recommend some.
- Exercise: Exercise for exercise’s sake is great and the cardio is especially helpful for positive mental wellbeing. However, what I love about exercise at this time is the connection we can make with others. I have loved going for a walk and giving passersby a big smile and hello before moving on to find more teddies and rainbows. Try it if you haven’t. Leave the headphones at home, get ready to make some eye contact and shout your happiest hello.
Although prevention is the pinnacle it is clearly not always possible. In fact, our real work as a community is learning enough about mental wellbeing so we can detect wellbeing challenges early, have the conversation and get the right supports in place before they progress to more serious concerns.
During this time, continue to be vigilant about your own needs. If you feel yourself struggling, please don’t get on board the ‘well everyone else is in the same boat’ sinking ship. Do reach out to get what you need. You don’t need to be rocking in a corner or staying in bed all day to get help. In fact, the earlier you seek help the quicker you can get back on track.
Although service delivery has somewhat changed during isolation, wellbeing services are still widely available, just largely without the face-to-face interaction. There are online courses, webchats, text messaging, video therapy and phone call services. A Path To Follow’s service includes connecting you to the most appropriate service, so if you cannot find what you need on A Path To Follow’s website, reach out to me (details below).
In our model, customised response equates to the support we lend people experiencing more complex and ongoing wellbeing challenges. For the purpose of this piece, what is important for you to know is that you have a right to receive support in a customised way (in fact that should be true at any stage of service). You will find that some mental wellbeing services are still conducting some face-to-face sessions for people in more complex situations. If you feel your prevention or early intervention efforts are not working as planned, feel free to request something different from your provider or reach out and we can assist and navigate this maze with you.
COVID-19 mental wellbeing resources
- Impact Consulting
- Beyond Blue Resources
- Black Dog: General and business COVID-19 resources
- Council support: Check out your local council website for support services and resources.
- Government Business Support
- A Path To Follow resource and service list (south east Melbourne)
General mental wellbeing resources
- Tutorial on Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace
- Safe Work Australia Resources
- A Beyond Blue and Partner Mental Wellbeing Resource for Small Business
- A Path To Follow: We can provide a customised wellbeing plan according to your workforce needs, provide one-to-one or group staff mentoring and mental wellbeing education forums.
Kirstie Edwards, Founder, A Path to Follow
0478 310 145
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