Recognising the signs of stress during lockdown (and how to help!)
Grab a cuppa! This is a bit of a long one!
We’re all in a bit of a daze at the moment, the initial adrenaline from being sent home to work is starting to fade as we’ve set up our workspace, added a teeny bit of structure to our day and are beginning to get used to having the kids, partners or housemates around 24/7. It’s not easy, but at the moment, we think we have a handle on it… or do we? These next couple of weeks will be interesting, as people start to come to terms with this new reality, there will be new, anxiety driven behaviours displayed – so I thought it might be wise to talk about some of these behaviours and how you could help yourself or others through them.
In unprecedented situations, we don’t always notice our own anxieties – we’re busy trying to keep things as ‘normal’ as can be; but lets be honest, normal isn’t really happening at the moment, so it’s important to show yourself and your colleagues kindness and understanding. Where you may be thriving with work, others may be struggling and where you may be finding parenting frustrating, others may be enjoying the extra time. Focus on your own challenges and don’t think Facebook or Instagram is a true reflection of what’s really going on in people’s lives…
At work, whether we are line managers or part of a team, it’s important for us to all keep an eye on each other. In these strange times, the stress response may not always be obvious; but by the time someone is ready to ask for help or ready to crumble, we can only offer reactive support – whereas if we can learn to spot early signs, we have a greater chance to be proactive and find ways to support ourselves or other people before a real need to intervene on a more serious level.
So, what can the early stress response look like? Well, it may be different for each person, but the first clue is simply in a change of behaviour – anything you notice that doesn’t add up to the person you know should be your first sign; and this goes for yourself too. If you normally wake up and get dressed before breakfast, but today you’re happy to lounge around in your PJ’s – then ask yourself – do I know I’m doing this? or is it reflecting something I need to address? Equally for your co-workers, if you know Jane is ALWAYS the first to a meeting and yet this week has been late for each meeting and is making excuses about her Skype video not working – ask yourself, is there something else going on?
Here are a few other things to look out for:
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Here, we need to bring our focus back on achievement. As a line manager, set very short term goals – focusing on things individuals can achieve in a week or less. Make a point of celebrating when these tasks get done and looking at what’s been learned to take forward with anything that hasn’t been completed. Agree goals at the beginning of the week, celebrate at the end of the week. If this is for yourself, decide what you want to achieve and by when and take regular opportunities to see how you’re progressing – if you miss a goal, note down all the things that went well rather than why you missed it.
For line managers – use my ‘‘Weekly Wins’ pad’ pad as a tool for your team meetings, this encourages people to actually notice and write down their wins, focus on learning and also helps them to see where they have been creative and thought outside of the box. Using these weekly can bring a much more positive focus and helps people to be clearer about their strengths – which has been proven to improve wellbeing and performance at work.