3Pillars CEO, Mike Crofts discussed tips for managing your mental health in the coming weeks with experienced Army leader Steve Metcalf, who rose through the ranks from Trooper to Lieutenant Colonel. Between them, there is a fair bit of knowledge about operating in stressful situations. Steve set up a training company on leaving the Army and RobustMind Mental Fitness now work with 3Pillars to deliver wellbeing, mental health and resilience training.
1 - Stay in touch
It is really important to stay in touch with others (friends, family and colleagues), even though face-to-face contact might not be advised at this time of uncertainty.
2 - Be empathetic towards others
Seek to understand and accept that it’s okay for others to have different views about stressful situations, this is an important first step in managing mental health problems.
“We are all different and our mental health is as individual as we are, it can be affected by lots of positive and negative factors. What keeps one person mentally healthy might not work for someone else, so always ask what the other person thinks might help them, before we focus on what helps us”.
3 - A watchful eye for others
Look out for friends, family, colleagues and others within society who might be struggling at this time. Offering them support can help build their resilience, as well as lifting your own sense of wellbeing.
“Simple offers of help with work, access to support services, supporting stress reduction, and prioritising their issues can help people cope during periods of uncertainty, when many feel overwhelmed”. Consider video calling elderly or vulnerable family members and neighbours who may be isolated.
4 - Selfcare
Allocate some time each day to do whatever you find best helps you reduce stress in your life. If you have a partner or spouse, encourage them to do this as well.
“Activities such as: listening to relaxing music; catching up on a box set, cooking a special meal for someone, fun and laughter, connecting with nature/watching the day wake up, taking the dog for a walk or spending time with pets, meditation /mindfulness (download the Headspace app), yoga and relaxation exercises, pottery, woodwork, craftwork, painting and drawing. If you enjoy these activities, it relaxes you and clears your mind; thus helping us deal with and reduce stress’
5 - Stay active
We all have physical and mental health, they are strongly linked and affect each other. Exercise is one of the best forms of self-help when it comes to improving our mental health and it’s mostly free of charge. 3Pillars Fitness are posting free daily workouts on Instagram, every day Here: https://www.instagram.com/3pillarsfitness/
“Stay active! Try to fit in 3-4 sessions of 30-45 mins exercise a week. This means exercise which causes you to break a sweat if you can (this will counteract cortisol release - the stress hormones). Something suitable to your current shape, size, age and fitness level; such as: running, a brisk walk, dancing, cycling, squash, dancing and floor exercises, but also things around the garden can help, cutting grass, scrubbing driveways, painting fences to name but a few. Build these activities up and you will soon start to feel the positive difference”’.
How can I exercise if we go into lockdown? Whilst we aren’t in lockdown, consider walks and runs in the park, avoiding large groups. If you get stuck at home, 3Pillars Fitness will be posting a range of home workouts.”
6 - Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if life is becoming difficult and or overwhelming.
“Increasing stress levels drive our anxiety. This can become uncomfortable and affect the way in which we think, feel, our behaviour and even our physical appearance. Seek help through work if you have an Employees Assistance Provision (EAP). The NHS, particularly your local GPs will be busy at the moment, but the NHS Choices website, which provides access to self-tests and self-help strategies is a great source of help. Be prepared to seek the help of those close to us, family, friends and colleagues”.
This paragraph was a late addition because a friend got in touch to say “NHS Staff feel like they are on the frontline in a war”. Coming from a family of nurses, I know that that is completely understandable, and a sense of overwhelming dread is logical, knowing that you are at the start of this.
There are only a few of things I can suggest, but I hope they are helpful; firstly “when things get stressful, assert mental control, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are in control of the situation”, in the Army it is called ‘The Condor Moment’, a condor rises surveys the whole situation and acts where they can be effective. Secondly, “The Team- your team working together and supporting each other is the strongest form of protection against the stresses you might face. You need each other now more than ever.” Acknowledge group successes and be thankful and praise people who go above and beyond, be supportive of those who are inexperienced. Thirdly, “be kind to yourself”, sometimes we can judge ourselves and team mates far harder than we need to. By being kind, you offer a safe space to draw together. Finally, you should know that the whole country supports you and we are beyond grateful for what you do. We wouldn’t be able to deal with this situation without you.
Wherever you are at the moment, we wish you the best health. If you have self care recommendations and comments yourself, please do share them with us….