Wellbeing at work – How to improve your mental health

  • Wellbeing at work – How to improve your mental health

In supportive and developmental roles, like early years and childcare, it can be all too easy to put the needs of others first. 

The impact of working in early years is something that was highlighted in the Early Years Alliance’s 2018 Minds Matter report. Since then, we’ve all heard the importance of wellbeing and our own self-care. 

Our own understanding varies of course, as do the ways we plan and prepare for our wellbeing, and what we do when things go awry. But are we putting theory into practice? It’s never too late to make improvements and changes.

We’re used to change – we have to be – but change is unpredictable and has many effects on our physical and emotional wellbeing. 

Change that we can brush off one day can feel impossibly difficult the next. 

Since 2020 we’ve all been through a prolonged, unprecedented and traumatic period of change. We’ve all navigated new risks, uncertainties and worries about our health, the health of our loved ones, jobs, money and climate concerns. 

All of these add to sky-rocketing levels of anxiety, piled onto already stressful lives.

This has resulted in us living and working in different ways. We may have stayed in much more and worked or lived in greater isolation, or met the challenge of maintaining vital services for key workers. 

We’ve absorbed all of this, together with the ripples of the responses of others around us into our emotional containers. Those imaginary bucket-like vessels we carry around us get topped up with the emotions and feelings others share and we take on, consciously or subconsciously.

We may not yet be fully aware of the toll it’s taking. 

I want us to bounce confidently forward, not to recoil like a spring to how things used to be. We can cope. Indeed, we can thrive. And that means being boundaried and balanced, with the benefit of our own support mechanisms around us. 

We need to recognise the signs when things are out of kilter and deploy the techniques to do something about it. You wouldn’t let your mobile phone run on low battery every day, would you? Don’t let that happen to you either. 

This is where deliberately investing in self-care comes in. I like to call it having a ‘business plan for self’. You might want to call it something else, like a personal plan or a list. 

There are all sorts of models out there – look online for ‘life wheels’. They can help you audit how things are balancing, or not. Or try this mental health First Aid Kit from Winston’s Wish or Mind’s Managing Conversations About Mental Health guide.

Ask yourself four key questions:

  • What do you do well?
  • What simple positive change can you commit to right here, right now?
  • What more could be achieved now, in a bit, or later?
  • What help do you need?

Then take action for you and those you care for.

James Hempsall OBE is director of Hempsall’s training, research and consultancy. Follow him on Twitter at @hempsalls.