Practice what you preach this Mental Health Awareness Week

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness week, Rebecca Murch, Head of Internal Communications and Engagement at NHS Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (BNSSG CCG), shares with us some top tips that she finds useful to keep her mentally well.

Awareness of mental and emotional health in the workplace is greater than ever right now and this week we will all be pushing out messages of resilience and wellbeing to our workforces. It is well known that if we have any hope of getting through this crisis intact mental health and emotional wellbeing needs to be top of our organisations agenda, both now and in the months ahead as we try to return to some sort of new normal.

Us internal comms pros are the ones behind the scenes making sure everyone else has the tools, information and support they need but my question to you is – how are you doing? Now I’m going to ask you again – how are you really doing?

Eight weeks of working at breakneck speed will take its toll on the best of us alongside the added challenges of only having a digital support network, which doesn’t quite live up to the human interaction we all thrive off. Perhaps you are homeschooling, have financial concerns, or are just generally frustrated with being cooped up in your home – it’s going to take its toll. I haven’t spoken to anyone recently who isn’t feeling well quite frankly just fed up.

But, and I know I’m guilty of this, whilst we write the brief, plan the activity and deliver the messages, which we will be doing this mental health awareness week, we’re the ones that often forget that it also applies to us. Internal communications has and will continue to play a fundamental role in this pandemic, and it has finally put staff communication where it should be – at the top table. This is a significant milestone for the industry but with that comes a lot of pressure to deliver at pace, in a difficult and extremely challenging environment.

So whilst reflecting on that here are my top tips to ensure you look after your own emotional wellbeing. They aren’t ground breaking or revolutionary but they are grounded in experience and learning from my own mistakes. My challenge to you is to take this week as an opportunity to reflect on what you need to ensure you and your team have resilience as we head into this next phase.

1.       Give yourself a break – I’m sure you’ve heard and probably used the term ‘this is a marathon’, well actually I think it now qualifies as an ultra marathon. And I am no runner but to be able to go the distance you need to pace yourself.  The idea of taking annual leave might not sound appealing right now but it is important to give yourself time to switch off. And you will be better at your job for it.

2.       Put boundaries in place – knowing the boundaries can be difficult when the office and home merge. The temptation is to start at breakfast and keep working until bedtime. I highly recommend going for a walk in the morning to emulate your commute to work and mark the start of your day. The same applies in the evening, always power down the laptop and do something to switch off. Personally I love a good kitchen dance  – absolutely no dancing skill is required. You need to keep your hours in check.

3.        Check-in with your team – I’ve never been so connected to my team. We check-in and say hi at the start of every day, as we would in the office – three times a week we run through priorities but the other days we just have a coffee together and make sure everyone is OK. These really help keep us connected and supporting each other and not always talking about work.

4.       Stretch those legs – get up and move around. I don’t know about you but my step count has plummeted since working from home. On conference calls you don’t have to switch on the camera, pacing back and forth can significantly increase your steps, but make sure you get fresh air at least once a day – pop some music on and get the blood pumping, it’s a great mood boost and you will feel more energised for it.

5.       Finally and perhaps most important Be Kind to yourself – if you take one thing away from this week it would be this. These are exceptional times and you are doing an amazing job. Give yourself a helping hand and when you get some great feedback to write it on a post-it and stick it on the wall where you can see it, positive affirmations are a great way to refocus when things get tough.

You’ve totally got this!

Rebecca Murch is Head of internal communications and engagement at NHS Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (BNSSG CCG). A former small business owner and young entrepreneur with a background in PR, Rebecca is passionate about staff experience, employee engagement and wellbeing.

Outside of work, Rebecca loves cuddles with her 11month old daughter, going for long walks and reading, particularly non-fiction.

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