Whatever our roles in our personal and professional lives when we go through traumatic events or experiences at home or indeed in the workplace, if we’re wearing a ‘professional’ mask especially in health and social care, we feel we should be OK as we need to serve our ‘clients’ first.
But remember we are not infallible and some of the greatest carers, leaders and professionals are those with lived experience and this can actually support our work rather than hinder it if we care for ourselves holistically first and foremost.
Tip 1) Transform your own Negative self-talk
Like most, my moral compass and core values have been challenged somewhat in Lockdown. I have gone from instagramming and writing columns about my surprise ‘charity shop finds’ to fast fashion that is delivered in the post.
I have gone from a love of discovering plant-based food (often at bargain shops or past it’s sell by date grub). To remain at home, shopping on Amazon when I needed everything from groceries to cleaning products. Trying to ethically close my eyes.
And ironically whilst it’s appeared initially cheaper at first, the accidental subscriptions, the long term impact of my not-so-eco friendly footprint will be long lasting and those instance hits of dopamine in Lockdown challenges from the mind dulling nature of social media escapism to the quick hits of desperate next day deliveries always interrupting video meetings…
But step back, and stop blaming yourself and talk to yourself like your own unconditional best friend!
Who would blame us for resorting to hedonistic ways when we are facing huge challenges in life? It is by human nature that we can and need to go into survival mode. Granted, in our modern life of excess means that this so-called ‘survival mode’ is sometimes panic over possessions and clutter rather than the threat of being killed by a tiger… but we can still experience feelings of constant trauma from work stresses relative to some of my own personal experiences of more acute situations. I understand it’s all relative and often how we perceive situations, levels our response. Either way we experience trauma or fight or flight feelings and no longer always have the communities and warrior rituals to shake and heal it off. We have natural instincts but without the natural coping mechanisms often our bodies need.
Tip 2) Create your own ‘Rituals’
Create your own ritual to shake off fears and anxieties…
Try your own ritual from moving or hypnotic breathing or talking whatever works for you to do when you feel the anxiety building.
A lot of people live in a state of fear and adrenaline but remember when warriors used to return home from actual war/ places of unsafety they would be cared for by the community and return home to a ritual but we can create our own internal ritual so we don’t carry the feelings of fear.
That said, it is vital that no matter whether it has been traumas from the Pandemic, feelings of Anxiety for some with the ‘new normal’ as well as knowing many clients have become more vulnerable than ever, we are only human if we fear that not only do we have to deal with it, we all have had our own positive and negative experiences of the past year.
As Psychologist Dr Marianne Trent said: “I often hear people talking about doing things to ‘distract’ them from their struggles. However, what I help people do is quite the opposite – I help them learn to be able to tolerate their distress rather than turn away from it. It’s so important in order to begin to overcome mental health difficulties and to increase self-compassion.”
Tip 3) Take a break for mindful rest or pause rather than consuming social media or negative news coverage:
Put on a body scan meditation for 20 minutes on youtube or listen to a podcast or have a mindful cup of tea or walk. Something meditative where you aren’t trying to do anything else other than listen to your mind and body.
For me this was a challenge at first but stepping off the social media scroll hole (as someone who has a content creator network and built a 100k following and 24 million views on youtube) I am fortunate I grew up with mass media – So I straddle the two worlds. But I too became hooked on the Dopamine of online as a form of escapism, so I have swapped the brain dulling swiping for 20 minute mindfulness sessions which can transform your brain’s cognitive function. So it is vital that we look after ourselves first, because you are not infallible. In many ways, whilst people have rightly shone a newfound appreciation of such professions, but when you are on the frontline you may experience people turning to those closest to them to blame.
As someone who has gone from a campaigner to a professional Social Affairs Journalist (and professional in between writing work). I have learnt that actually ‘unveiling our professional masks’ cannot only feel a relief at first, providing it’s done in a safe supportive space, but we can also learn techniques to help us for life which will enable us to support others too. But your first role and most important one is taking care of you!
“Whether you experience full blown social anxiety (professional help is needed, yes even for us as ‘professionals’) or you’re feeling unconfident about returning to life and work as it was, there are some steps you can take to make the process feel less debilitating. We can actually use it to be a great opportunity to choose the best version of ourselves rather than return to past behaviours that didn’t serve us well.” Sophie Mei Lan, https://sparklecommunications.co.uk
Tip 4) Briefly reflect, don’t dwell on your pre-Pandemic life, what were you doing that was aligned with your core values and positively impacted our lives? What didn’t serve us? Were we too busy being busy and feeling lost? What have we learned about ourselves in this time?
But then you may be hit by feelings you’re a professional hypocrite… “I need to stay professional at all times. I should look the part.”
If there’s one thing that no leader, boss or team I have connected to more, is those of us who unveil these professional masks. It may not be comfortable to share at first, but it really can make us feel more connected and approachable.
Sat crouched on my home stairwell, I hold my phone up to my face as I confidently deliver a speech on wellbeing to an international health and care conference, it’s the only space I could find whilst entertaining two children at home in Lockdown and whilst it’s not ideal, it’s the only backdrop that may shield some of the noise of my daughters currently squabbling over who is using the iPad for what they promise is online school work and “definitely not youtube for kids.”
Extract from my personal mindset blog https://mamamei.co.uk
I myself have embraced technology having mostly worked digitally from home yet been at the mercy of wifi signal, technical updates and lack of power (which tends to be when I am on Zoom trying to coach digital skills, creating content and public speaking for online! So there are many humorous juxtapositions within life’s hurdles.)
Whilst I manage to keep calm, as I delivered one of my many conference speeches on wellbeing, mental health and journalism throughout this year… I have learned to be authentic and to ‘laugh it off.’ As we are only human and sharing my ‘failures’ and wins with other professionals has helped to forge better connections by being ‘authentic.’
In that last speech I alluded to, I was presenting at a conference on creating Microsystems in the workplace whether that be physically or digitally, it focused on creating small teams within big organisations and actively listening and supporting each other. In turn, it was about having a creative approach to making ‘health care’ and services accessible by creating health cafes and mini libraries to engage clients in supportive spaces, a more human-centred approach to typical medical settings.
That said when we take off the barriers, we also may feel more vulnerable without an ‘official meeting room’ environment.
Which is why my third self-care tip is to create an imaginary shield.
Tip 5) How to protect yourself from energy vampires (negative people or situations) and develop your personal power with this activity…
Shield: Visualise a protective shield around you (imagine you’re in a snow globe!)
Intention: Make the intention e.g. Clear negative energy or mentally rehearse.
Grounding: Anchor yourself using your favourite grounding technique before meeting someone who drains you or facing a challenging situation.
Follow @mamameiblog for more.
What’s been your individual experience? What suits you to best manage your experience? Use whatever tip, whenever it serves you most, or try something new. Whatever suits you to help you cope whether it’s to journal it or create a mini support hub at work and seek professional help…
The impact of the Pandemic on Social Services:
British Medical Journal:
“It’s important for health care systems to recognize mental health as a significant issue and put strategies in place to address it.”
As well as the added pressure, stress and personal circumstances many health professionals may be experiencing too.”
Not to mention the fact that UNICEF states: The SSW are experiencing the same strains and stressors of the pandemic and confinement as the rest of the population. These stressors include reduced access to childcare, services, resources, and social support networks. These worries may be exacerbated by an increased workload; challenges in accessing children and families in need of support; contradictory information; and the need to adapt their practice and procedures in a short timeframe. The intensity and variety of factors puts staff at increased risk of burnout or other forms of psychosocial distress.
During the COVID-19 pandemic social service workers may experience increased caseloads. The stress and strain of the pandemic and measures in place to control the spread of the virus may lead to increased reports and disclosures of child protection incidents.