Mental Health and me

Whilst some of us have been forced to handle the debilitation of poor mental health long before we had ever heard of COVID-19, most of us will have experienced fear and anxiety over the last few weeks, some facing the biggest challenge to their mental health so far.

In the last few weeks nearly everyone will have faced a fear of losing control, anxiety about an uncertain future, mourned the loss of a loved one or friend, struggled to accept the cancellation of best laid plans or longed for contact with friends and family. Despite the universal challenge to our mental health, many of us still feel uncomfortable to admitting these feelings and talking openly about it. As today marks, Mental Health Awareness Week, there’s never been a better time to discuss these issues more openly.

We know an increase in uncertainty and anxiety can have an adverse impact on wellbeing. Our regular routines are disrupted and it’s often difficult to focus with distractions and concerns that extend beyond the parameters of work, such as the health and safety of family, friends and communities. I know myself that isolation can impact my own mood and positivity and I’ve personally struggled with the disruption and worry for my family.

What is clear is that there has been much focus about what to do to look after our physical health, I have adopted a rigid routine for physical exercise, many weeks in I now realise that my drive to do this is more to do with my mental health than physical wellbeing. We are used to looking after our bodies, but not our minds. If we don't understand our mental health, we don’t tend to focus any time or attention on it until we are struggling. But we can learn how to respond to anxiety and uncertainty. We can make a choice to learn how to train our thought patterns. It’s taken me a few weeks to realise I wasn’t in limbo waiting for my life to ‘restart’ - this is my life.

For me there are lots of good things coming out of this, particularly spending time with my kids, I now eat with them every day and listen intently as they compete to tell me what they did during the day and I even enjoy their interruptions on “Teams” calls. I also appreciate the value in the small things such as playing kerplunk, sitting and listening to music (I can’t normally sit still for long) and my weekly bike ride to the butchers is something I look forward to. I am also taking the opportunity provided by a slightly different pace to think about some permanent changes I want to make in my life.

There are many such positive changes also happening in our firm. Mark Bishop, Audit Partner, shared a great example of how our Audit has been addressing the changes brought about by lockdown. The team has been hosting weekly catch up calls where communication has been open and honest. Team members have had the opportunity to submit questions anonymously in advance and encouraged to be direct. Leaders have been as transparent as possible, signposting firmwide communications and encouraging transparent dialogue across the teams. Individual audit terms are also making use of a weekly ‘challenger meeting’ agenda, which is about creating a view across the team of activity. These meetings help with coaching, with the process of audit and create a better connection with managers.

As a result of this greater transparency and open communication, coupled with the backdrop of seeing inside people’s homes every day, Mark believes that the recent weeks have seen a breakdown in hierarchy and fostered more empathy and understanding across the team.

The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week this year is ‘kindness’ – it couldn’t be more relevant. Today, think about the acts of kindness you’ve seen from your colleagues, friends and family in the last few week and take the opportunity to say thank you. People who have helped you or been there for you.

Mental health is important to Grant Thornton and is part of our overall diversity and inclusion strategy. To learn more about what we are doing to make everyday more inclusive, visit our diversity and inclusion website.

Posted by Darren Bear   |    18 May 2020 at 4:09 PM

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