Parliament has an excellent Health & Wellbeing service which can be accessed by Members’ Staff.
From their homepage, you can find details of the Employee Assistance Programme, run by Health Assured, which provides help for Members’ staff to deal with personal and professional issues, including:
- Health and well-being information
- Financial issues
- General advice on employment law
- Stress at home or work and relationship matters.
As part of the programme Health Assured run a free confidential helpline, which is available 24/7, and face-to-face counselling sessions can also be arranged where appropriate. You can find the telephone number and details of how to access their online service here.
Mental Health First Aiders
What is a Mental Health First Aider?
A mental health first aider acts as a point of contact for individuals who may be experiencing a mental health issue, emotional distress, or just need someone to talk to. A mental health first aider is:
- A person with a clear understanding of mental health conditions and symptoms, who is aware of the support available in the workplace and can signpost to appropriate resources.
- Able to listen to employees and managers and encourage open conversations about mental health
- A person who will proactively raise awareness of mental health in the workplace
Please note: A Mental Health First Aider is not responsible for providing treatment or suggesting possible treatments to an individual.
There are Mental Health First Aiders who are now available to staff out in the constituency https://intranet.parliament.uk/employment/health-and-wellbeing/other-support–resources-/mental-health-first-aiders-
Six Top Tips for Mental Health & Wellbeing
Reframe unhelpful thoughts
- Limit the amount of time you are spending looking at the news and stick to trusted news sources. Only check the news once or twice a day.
- Seek opportunities to amplify positive stories.
Be in the present
- Mindfulness and meditation can help you be in the present.
- There are a number of free apps the NHS recommend to get started
Get good sleep
- Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule and ensure your bedroom creates optimal sleeping conditions, the room should be the right temperature between 15 to 22 degrees Celsius, free from noise and light.
- Don’t nap during the day and limit exposure to bright light and screen usage in the hour before you intend to sleep.
Connect with others
- You should keep connected to your team, with regular contact through calls, skype and/or video hangouts, to see how they are. Regular check in times are key as is striking a balance between having a routine and making sure each day has some variety.
- Be sure you have up to date contact information for vulnerable/older friends and relatives who may have to self isolate for longer periods.
Useful link: Mind Checklist
Live a healthy life
- If you feel well enough you can take part in light exercise within your home or garden.
- If you are not in a vulnerable group and not self isolating due to symptoms consider going for a quick walk but try to walk somewhere quiet and maintain 2m from others.
Do something for yourself
- If you are going to be in your home for an extended period, it is important you plan breaks in your working day and organise activities you’re interested in at night.
- Activities such as cooking, reading, online learning and watching films.
Tips for Emotional Wellbeing while working from home
Working from home will mean different things to different people, and the impact of this move will vary depending on the type of work you normally do, whether this can be done easily from home or not and your personal situation.
Below are some ideas to help you look after your wellbeing over the coming weeks.
We all have our routines and when life changes happen these routines are disturbed and this can cause a sense of unease at a time when we crave stability. It is therefore important to keep as much day to day normality as possible while working from home.
Give some thought to how you can maintain your daily routines or supplement them in a positive way.
For example, stick you your normal wake up/ bed times, shower and dress each day and deliberately use the extra time (saved from travelling etc.) in a positive way; exercise at home, read a book, have a leisurely breakfast and so forth. Identify other routines you have and keep/ adapt them accordingly.
As above it is important to stick to your normal work schedule as much as possible and breaks are as important at home as they are at work, perhaps even more so. It can be easy to get distracted when working at home and attention is a finite resource, taking regular short breaks allows the mind to rest and then re-focus on the task at hand. Lunch breaks are also important, don’t be tempted to grab a bite to eat and work through, consider using the time to eat healthily, spend time with other people in the household of get some fresh air if possible.
It is important to have clear boundaries for your workday, not just to ensure you meet expectations, but to ensure you do not overwork. Because you are on your own, you may be tempted to start earlier, finish later and not take your breaks, but this is counterproductive as you risk burning out – try to keep to your normal daily hours and routine.
Physical boundaries are also important, try to set up a dedicated workspace (even a corner of the kitchen or a different seat to normal) so you mentally enter and exit the “work zone”, this will help you focus on work when there, and let it go when you are not. It may be worth talking to other household members about your boundaries too, so you don’t get drawn into non-work conversations and situations when trying to work.
Acknowledge how you feel.
We are in the midst of a difficult, worrying time and so it is normal for us to feel different about life, to worry, to think about possible outcomes and to struggle with the uncertainty. On top of this, it is normal to feel a sense of concern about working from home, we may feel anxious or stressed as we worry about whether we appear busy enough, we may be overly concerned with trying to make ourselves available or proving how productive we are being. We may also feel a sense of guilt about not being in the office, not being able to complete certain tasks, and all these emotions can lead us to question our own worth. So be kind to yourself, allow space for these thoughts and feelings but try not to let them overwhelm you. it is important to remember that these are thoughts not facts and it is perfectly normal to experience them.
Practice Compassion and Gratitude.
This is already a testing time for many, and things may get worse, creating uncertainty and even fear. In these conditions it is normal for humans to focus on themselves, and this may lead to irritability, anger, frustration etc. towards others. By choosing compassion towards others (especially family members!!), trying to understand what other people are going through and how they feel, and practicing gratitude for what we have (rather than focussing on what we do not have or have lost) we can maintain good relations with those around us and create a much better environment for us all to live and work in.
Humans are social animals.
Remember humans have evolved to live and work in groups, and so any kind of isolation places an extra burden on us. Being isolated from work colleagues that we normally spend a large amount of time with can impact on how we feel, so make a concerted effort to stay in touch, and not just about work related issues.
Also make a point of reaching out to your social circles, friends, family, groups etc. and maintain those links that we all need for our wellbeing. It is also a good idea to keep in touch with those people who may be vulnerable at this time, encourage them to look after themselves and offer help where possible.
Look after your Psychological needs.
We have all heard stories about people bulk buying food and provisions to ensure their physical needs are met, but what about your emotional/ psychological needs? We all have psychological needs (such as the need for recognition, significance, achievement, connection to others and growth) and work plays a large part for most people in getting those needs met.
While working at home it is important to recognise that these still need to be met, but the mechanisms that previously supported us are temporarily unavailable. Therefore be kind to yourself, you may feel worried or alone, you may feel like you are not as “good” as normal or achieving as much as normal, and that is OK. Take time to focus on what you have achieved, learn to congratulate yourself, acknowledge any negative thoughts or feelings you may have but remind yourself these are difficult times and that you are only human.
Look after your mental health
The change to routines, the pressure of appearing busy, being productive, being isolated, losing connections and feeling guilty/ anxious may impact on our mental health, and anyone who has an existing mental health condition may find it is impacted.
It is important to plan ahead for our mental health, figure out what supports our mental health, who we can talk to, what help is available locally and nationally and what to do if we feel in crisis.
Resources and contacts
Below are some resources we can all access to help support us through the next few weeks:
Your line manager can help with work issues but may also be able to offer support on other topics.
Parliamentary Health and Wellbeing Service – although PHWS will also be subject to any restrictions in Parliament, they will still be answering emails and can be contacted regarding wellbeing issues.
Heath Assured – our Employee Assistance Provider can be contacted on 0800 030 5182 and https://intranet.parliament.uk/employment/health-and-wellbeing/employee-assistance-programme-eap—health-assured/
NHS – Please follow the most recent advice regarding contacting the NHS, however the NHS website is accessible to everyone at any time https://www.nhs.uk/ and contains a wide range of useful information and links to other resources.
Other Useful Links
Your Mind Plan (NHS): https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/your-mind-plan-quiz/
MP and Staffers’ guide to Mental Health: https://w4mp.org/2020/01/09/mp-and-staffers-guide-to-mental-health-2/