Offering a Listening Ear

Philippa Squires, Learning & Development Consultant and Mental Health First Aider at Paymentshield takes a look at work/life balance during lockdown and the impact on mental health

Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen a massive shift in the ways that people are coping with their day-to-day lives. With lockdown measures still in place, the topic of mental health and maintaining a healthy work/life balance is as prevalent as ever.

Before lockdown, my main professional goal for 2020 was to support my colleagues with their communication skills, providing tailored and proactive development for everyone, and over the last few weeks, I’ve realised just how important this is. So, while our approach might have changed, we’re working on providing adapted material while we remain away from the office. It’s a challenge but we’re getting stuck into it and we’re looking forward to getting the bitesize, face-to-face sessions back on the calendar as soon as we can.

In the meanwhile, I’ve made a point of making myself available to talk to line managers or colleagues to provide a non-judgemental ear to listen. Part of being a qualified mental health first aider means I’m equipped with the basic knowledge of where to direct people if they’re struggling and need support.

I’m an unpaid carer for my Mum, who has both physical and mental health disabilities and have experienced moments of anxiety myself over the years. I think having this first-hand experience has made me really passionate about ensuring within the business where I work that there’s a support network available to colleagues.

I’m currently working at home which I share with my child and my parents but I’m also trying to maintain a sense of normality as much as I possibly can. Like many of us, I have good days and bad days. I like to socialise and only going out to food shop or exercise is difficult. However, I have a great group of friends and we all do a group ‘Houseparty’ call every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Most importantly I don’t punish myself for the bad days when I might be feeling a bit down. I take those days as they come, and I’ll try to do something nice for myself, like picking wildflowers on my walk or having a long bath with a glass of wine. I’ve also taken up a new hobby of gaming and I’m particularly enjoying playing ‘Detroit: Become Human’ on the PS4. I’ve also ordered some embroidery starter kits to help keep me occupied!

However, my mind does wander often to thinking about what I’m most looking forward to when social distancing is relaxed and that’s to go on a day out to a museum or the cinema with my kid and visiting my Gran and Nan. It’s the little things!

For me, National Conversation Week is all about connecting with each other in arguably the most difficult of circumstances. It’s about offering a helping hand and sometimes that can be as simple as listening to someone who needs to share how they’re feeling.

I know I often feel better about something once I’ve been able to talk about it and get it off my chest. It allows me to be more objective about the situation and I always appreciate having a friend or colleague who will let me do that.

Right now, it’s especially important that we’re checking in on people who we’ve not heard from for a while, calling someone instead of sending an email to have a chat, and being conscious and aware of how we are talking and writing to others. For example, Is the language you’re using kind? Are you offering a listening ear? What would help that person?

These are all questions we should ask ourselves, now and in the future.

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