I have just read an article about the importance of children to catch up with learning. The importance of “closing” the gap that has occurred during the pandemic.
This is alarming for me. Thankfully British Psychological Society ( BPS ) has responded and warned the government about risks coming from PM’s plans.
It really made me wonder what we as a society have learnt from the pandemic.
Putting extra pressure on individuals post lockdown is certainly not the way I would recommend to emerge from the current situation. We have suffered enough through pressures coming from:
Threat from the virus itself
Worrying about others as well as ourselves
Not being able to access our usual support networks
Potentially suffering from the “cabin fever” effect
Loss of jobs/income
And so many other pressures coming from isolation and change of reality
Have you ever noticed that after a prolonged period of pressure and stress at work or home, we most likely will feel exhausted mentally as well as physically? We are more vulnerable to catching colds and all sorts of bugs. I would not be the first person who got sick on holidays, the moment I relaxed after a period of long working hours for weeks before starting my annual leave.
We all need a little bit of pressure in our life to feel motivated. But too much of it for a prolonged period of time might be dangerous. Have a look at the diagram below. What colour zone are you at now?
Our nervous system is designed to protect us from danger (physical or mental). Our sympathetic nervous system(SNS) is activated when we perceive a situation as dangerous (increased pressure, deadlines, increased workload etc). Our body is in a FIGHT/FLIGHT mode. This is a survival reaction- necessary in small doses. What if a sympathetic nervous system is unable to slow down? And we are in a prolonged alert state? Risks might include (but are not limited to):
Disturbed eating habits
Disturbed sleeping patterns
We might forget things easier
We might find it difficult to focus
We might become more emotional/sad/angry/irritable etc
Motivation and engagement at work decreases
Performance at work decreases
Staff sick days and turnover increases
Organisations lose more money by not investing in their staff’s resilience
All those (and more) would surely not support learning, productivity and wellbeing in general.
We need to make sure our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) kicks in. PNS is also called the rest and digest system. It takes over when the stress/danger has passed and we are able to restore all the energy lost in the alert state. Challenge in current times might be that there is always pressure or stress coming from somewhere and we might not get the opportunity to naturally switch off. Is this a lost cause then? Of course not.
We need to take conscious control over our PNS- we need to create a habit of looking after ourselves and making sure we rest and restore the energy levels on a REGULAR basis. It might be more difficult for some of us who are busy and under constant pressure. If you do not prioritise your wellbeing, you might find yourself in the red zone from the pressure curve. Here are just some ways of restoring your energy levels:
Get up at the same time every day, make sure you maintain a healthy sleeping pattern. If you find it difficult to fall asleep you can use apps like Headspace or Calm
Make sure that you do something nice for yourself every day, it could be reading a book or going for a walk as well as having a long bubble bath-whatever works for you
Create work/home boundaries. Having scheduled working hours, dedicated workspace is beneficial. If you are working on a dining table-make sure you put your work away after you have finished your working day
Take a break during the day- stretch, go for a short walk, join your favourite workout session
Drink plenty of water throughout the day
Plan your meals (try to avoid unhealthy snacking)
Focus on your strengths-what do you enjoy doing at work? What do you usually try to put away? Make sure you have a balance of activities you must do with those you enjoy doing. I use Strengthscope to support clients with using their strengths even more effectively
Motivation and engagement at work increase
And many more...
What do you do to help your body and mind to rest and restore energy levels?
Going back to where I have started- adding more pressure and introducing longer school days/ shorter summer holidays surely can be a receipt for a national mental health crisis among young people, especially those whose resilience levels might have been affected over the course of the pandemic. We do not need SNS to continue being in the alert state for much longer, let the PNS take over with proper breaks, time for rest and recuperation.
I am passionate about building and maintaining the resilience of my clients (individuals and teams). Resilience is crucial not only for a healthy body and mind but also for increased performance levels, success and sustainable teams with less sick days and a lower turnover of your staff.
If you are interested in how you can help your staff to be more resilient, feel free to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
Business Psychologist, coach and mum of twin girls in year 5.