When the world throws hate; don’t throw back, just be kind

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Following the Manchester terrorist attack at Ariana Grande’s concert on Monday night; I am astounded yet not surprised at the response of the people of Manchester.

Manchester is a unique and beautiful city that has been rocked by this attack, but a clear unity and defiance of it’s people has created a stronger bond that evil will not be able to break apart. My heart goes out to the victims families, friends and colleagues in this time of tragedy.

Another element of this is the incredible response of the emergency services who have worked tirelessly to support those injured and the bereaved families. These services should never be taken for granted and to face these circumstance would take tremendous courage and bravery yet they carried it out with the utmost professionalism.

Out of the darkness came acts of heroism from all backgrounds, even homeless people gave everything the could to help save lives as the emergency response arrived. This is a time when everyone should look out for their local communities.

I sit here writing with my usual cup of tea and on my desk is a picture of my husband and I with my two beautiful step children, Charlie and Sophie who are the same ages of those who attended the concert on Monday. Sophie is a huge fan of Ariana Grande and we can often be found dancing along to her music around the house or watching her on Nickelodeon TV; Sam and Cat is one of Sophie’s favourite shows.

I also sit here looking at their faces and thinking how blooming lucky I get to see them soon when there are parents out there who will not see their children again.

It’s easy to get caught up in the media headlines and forget about what really matters in life, I guess one of the lessons we should take from this tragedy is not to take anything for granted.

The good people of Manchester will stick together and love will always overcome hate.

Taking care of your mental health wellbeing #MHAW17

Whilst it is important to promote the wellbeing of others, you cannot adequately support other people without having your own mental health as a priority. This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and on the blog I am releasing some quick references to generate awareness of the subject but also to present practical advice for you to use, regardless of your profession.

Mental health awareness is something we can all promote and actively be a part of, whether it is for you or to support someone close to you.

How we are feeling can vary in our day to day lives, it often depends on circumstance in that present moment, or it can be impacted by significant events such as the anniversary of a bereavement. According to the Mental Health Foundation statistics; one in three of us will experience a traumatic event at some point in our lives, this is not just an incident, it is something that stays with us for the rest of our lives.

When we are in good mental wellbeing, we are able to cope with the stresses of everyday life, are able to adapt to the environment and situations around us and feel engaged with the environment around us. If we are not in a good mental state, it is easy to feel detached from people and the environment, lack confidence in our abilities to cope with daily life and most of all, unable to freely express emotions and maintain relationships.

Keeping this in mind, it only underpins the importance on supporting your own mental health, here are some quick and easy tips to help you support your mental health wellbeing:

  • Talk about your feelings; if you are experiencing a difficult time, having an open conversation with your friends and family can halve the problem and they may be able to offer help and guidance to support you. Just by having a conversation can make you feel a lot better
  • Learn to accept yourself; this is such an important part of our mental health wellbeing. Don’t compare yourself to others, this only damages self-esteem. This is so difficult with the influence of social media and this “perception of perfection” is not realistic, be yourself and acknowledge your positive qualities
  • Exercise; I run three times a week now and have done since January. I’ve never felt better, I’ve never been a gym bunny but getting out in the fresh air can really change your perspective on things and has a positive impact on my mental health, I find I worry less, sleep better and most of all, it’s an activity I enjoy
  • Diet; having a well-balanced diet has really complimented my new exercise routine and it makes me feel healthier and happier
  • Relax; as with everything these days there is an app for that! You don’t need expensive yoga classes or massages (although these are great too!) try Buddhify which can really help you to switch off and relax. This app has really helped me especially on those days when it’s difficult to clear the mind of the working day

Coping with grief at work

Dealing with grief is incredibly difficult but how can we approach grief in the workplace?

Grief is a subject which I’ve been fortunate enough not to encounter for many years, that was up until recently when our family tragically lost someone we never imagined we would.

Those close to me are currently facing one of the most awful scenarios you could possibly imagine, their pain and loss is something that no one should have to face. I have been supporting the family a lot during this awful time and will continue to do so over the coming months and years. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank those who helped us publically search and those who sent messages of support.

Sadly my family are not alone, so many other families are going through hard times; losing loved ones to terminal illnesses, people who’s relatives are missing and whilst the age old saying “when you turn up at work you leave your personal life at the door” is used all too often the reality is very different.

The only way to describe grief without feeling it yourself is “raw”.

It begs many questions, why don’t we talk more about when a life ends in the same way that we would when a new life begins? Should we stop treading on egg shells and support people when they need it the most head on?

Grief is not easy to deal with as it is such a sensitive subject that has two distinct factors:

  1. People who have suffered loss may not want to talk about it
  2. Managers/employers are unsure on the best approach

It is all well and good enforcing a company policy on bereavement leave, but when the situation arises is the policy fit for purpose? is it flexible? does it provide adequate support and consideration to the on-going effects? are managers adequately equipped and understand it?

Grief can impact of every element of the affected employees life, anxiety and stress are common and this can impact significantly on their working environment. Therefore, employers need to assess the situation carefully upon the employees return to work, by being aware of the support offered, this can minimise the anxiety  and stress they may be experiencing.

It’s often asked if close team members should be made aware of the situation, I have read horror stories where colleagues have unknowingly asked a bereaved employee if they’d been on holiday. These situations can easily be avoided when holding open and empathetic conversations with the employee and being lead by them.

Long term effects of grief can escalate into mental health difficulties, anxiety or depression so it is important to be guided by the employee in terms of how much support they need. Understandably it is a difficult balance to get right as you want to support in everyway you can but you also don’t want to smother them either, so just simply letting them know that you’re there for them and maintaining a good level of communication will allow that support without intrusion.

In 2014 ACAS published their guidelines on how to deal with bereavement at work in a best practice format so that employers have an increased understanding around the long term effects so they can support the employee and workforce as part of their working practices. Their guide can be found here.

Grief is so much more than a policy. Moving on is the most difficult part.