Looking after our mental health and wellbeing has been vitally important over the last year, and we’ve unfortunately seen the damage the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns have had on the mental health of many within our society.
According to a recent study by the Stress Management Society, 65% of people in the UK have felt more stressed since restrictions began in March last year.
- Be active
- Be curious
- Keep learning
As our ways of living, working and being changed drastically over the past 12 months, the NEF shared their suggestions of new ways to carry out the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’. And now, as we ease out lockdown, we need to continue to be mindful of how we connect, stay active and curious, keep learning and give to others. Some people will be feeling excited for “normal” life, however others will, understandably, be feeling more anxious.
“Connect with the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.”
Connecting with others has definitely felt more difficult to do over the past year, but it’s certainly remained important, if not more so. We’ve seen the rise of Zoom, the emergence of the virtual quiz and the resurgence of letter writing. As we ease out of lockdown, connecting will become much easier, but it’s important to remember that others may still have concerns about meeting in person, so be certain to still follow the Government guidance around social distancing.
2. BE ACTIVE
“Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness.”
Being active is probably now the easiest its been for many months with the opening of gyms this week. Keeping equipment clean and social distancing from other users is, of course, key, but for those who find comfort and enjoyment from the gym, this is a sure fire way to boost your activity levels.
But if that isn’t for you, lockdown has showed many of us the joys of the great outdoors, whether it’s taking up running or exploring your local area on walks. Finding ways to keep active that suit you and are sustainable for you is so important.
3. BE CURIOUS
“Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.”
How often do you stop and really take notice of what’s around you or how you’re feeling? Being mindful and curious about the world around you, helps your mind to be more active. Our minds are muscles and the more exercise it gets, the stronger it will become.
Plus, curiosity can also help us to help others. When we're curious, we will question things more often rather than seeing things as black and white. In turn, this helps to expand our empathy and strengthen our relationships with others.
4. KEEP LEARNING
“Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. As well as being fun, learning new things will make you more confident.”
At Bruntwood, we encourage all of our colleagues to continue learning, no matter what stage of their life they are at - and that goes for personally as well as professionally - offering learning loans to all of our colleagues. Learning gives us a sense of achievement, increases our self-esteem and improves our ability to cope with stress.
“Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.”
Whether you feel comfortable being around others at the moment or not, there are many ways you can still help others while following the restrictions. Whether it’s keeping a local allotment tidy, having a cup of tea with an elderley neighbour or providing virtual support offering your skills and talent, there’s plenty of ways to give to others and make a difference to your community. You can always contact your local volunteering community (a quick search on Google will help you find them) or check out Do-It, the national database of volunteering opportunities.
If you do feel comfortable volunteering in public facing settings, our partners at Manchester International Festival are currently recruiting for volunteers for this year’s Festival.
Most importantly, looking after your wellbeing is about finding things that work for you and that you feel comfortable doing. What works for you might not always work for someone else and vice versa. And if you find something you love, make sure you make time in your schedule. With our busy lives (even in lockdown!), it can be all to easy to push opportunities that make us feel good to one side, but even just an hour a week can make all of the difference.