Mental Health Awareness Day Further Reading/Viewing

Hello all, I have been away for the last fortnight not blogging during my usual weekly slot, mainly because I have been struggling mentally to focus clearly on anything & this has been amplified by a close relative that has gone into hospital in ICU.

However, I am back, with a shorter post than usual, while seeking support for my own mental wellbeing a close friend of mine & fellow blogger Matt Zitron kindly shared two articles which he has wrote regarding depression closely tied in with mental health awareness day which I have found very helpful & the second article actually made me feel quite emotional.

I Suffer with Depression


Dear Friend

On top of this I have been contemplating creating my own videos to alongside some of the key messages given in my blog posts & while researching into this I came across a video by Paul Weedon, he has made a video covering anxiety & mental wellbeing while working remotely, I found it very useful & it is almost as if we are singing from the same hymn sheet. Please check out his Video & let me know your thought in the comments.

Next week I hope to do some further developments to my website & I plan to add in a whole new section about my hobby, this will be accompanied with a supporting blog post. It is something that has really taken off for me over last two years & with lockdown even more so.

The reason I am writing about it is because during some very challenging times it is something that allows me to clear my head, achieve something desirable & share it with world. But stay tuned next to find out what it is, but mentally, it has helped me with so much, I look forward to sharing more soon.

Thanks for reading & see you next week, stay safe.

Equipment check!

So, previously in my blog post about being stuck in the same room everyday can potentially lead to depression? The question now is how can you move around into different rooms easily while allowing yourself to still be in a comfortable position to do your work.

I have seen many people using laptops on their laps, or worse still on the their laps with a blanket underneath it. This is a recipe for disaster for a number of reasons:

  1. The position you are sat in is not a natural one therefore you will be placing your body, specifically your back, neck, eyes, hands & wrist under significant strain. Multiply this by spending extended hours in those positions then you’ll begin to develop posture issues that’ll take its toll on your body which in turn can impact your mental wellbeing, as well as your productivity & overall physical health.
  2. Putting a laptop on your legs or worse still on a pillow/blanket can block up the vents on your laptop causing it perform worse & runs the risk of overheating and even breaking the laptop.

I highly recommend using a good quality portable desk which can support your laptop & a gel mouse mat to provide the support you need on the wrist for long usage to reduce the risk of developing RSI (repetitive strain injury) the most common symptoms of RSI include:

Pain, Stiffness, Tightness, Swelling, Tingling (like pins and needles), Numbness, Tenderness, Weakness & A dull ache.

It is no joke either I have met several colleagues using a left hand mouse because the right hand can no longer work a mouse due to the pain & strain, when I witnessed this first hand was when I decided to make sure that I put my body first & buy the proper equipment to reduce the risks.

The benefit of having a portable desk, even if you are lucky enough to have a static office or study for work, it’s great to have the ability to move around to different places in (and outside) the house (for longer or short periods of time). I can simply unplug my charger & quickly move my laptop, mouse & mouse mat into different rooms or the garden then sit down & continue working. The change of scenery even within the constraints of our own homes which during lockdown periods is, in some cases our only option, is very much welcomed (especially the garden on a bright day).

Remember it is still key to have suitable seating when manoeuvring around the household with your portable work station. I typically move between the front room sofa, kitchen & garden chairs, I either use the kitchen side with a high bar stool or a short chair to use my desk on a small table.

It is even effective when moving in the car between households as again you can close the laptop down carry the desk to the car place it in a secure place, drive to an alternative destination & easily pull your workstation out & be ready to go. When I have finished work on a Friday I pack my laptop away into its bag & can easily fold the table away & store it safely away (which keeps the other half happy too).

You can find links to both the desk & mouse is use below from Amazon UK:

Fellowes Gel Support Mouse pad

Barbieya Portable Lap desk

If you decide to go for it let me know in the comments or if you have further suggestions of other product for me to review which have helped you then let me know.

Remember we are all in this together to say stay strong, try to be positive & stay safe.

Being indoors excessively can cause depression? What can you do to improve your Mental Health

Staying home for extended periods of time? Less socialising, less natural exercise, less breaks & less fresh air. In the UK office workers are again being advised to pack up the office kit & go home.

All aspects of working from home every day of the working week can begin to take its toll on both our physical & mental wellbeing.

Today, with the help of my research & personal experience I will be sharing with you some of the challenges we face & offer advice as to how we can combat them to reduce to risks to our health.

Firstly I’ll start by getting into some of the major issues we can face from spending extended periods behind closed doors:

  1. Increased chances of developing depression
  2. Lack of sunlight / vitamin D
  3. Risk of putting on weight

By staying indoors excessively, staring at the same four walls each & everyday can begin to make us become stir crazy, it can increase the amount of negative thoughts which we have. Multiply this by a lack of social interaction with family, friends & colleagues, along with worry about the pandemic & our loved ones & finally the day to day stress of the working week then you can easily see how quickly the ‘homeworking’ environment, especially in this current time can quickly cause our mental health which is being placed under increasing stress to develop into something much more serious like depression.

So, what can you do about it? What changes can you make that will make the difference to help prevent negative thoughts & depression from potentially taking hold of your life. I have covered it previously but I cannot stress the importance of taking regular breaks when working remotely, there are many types of breaks to be had outside of the normal ‘lunch’ break, such as microbreaks in between a meeting, having a few minutes spare getting up & walking into a different room or grabbing some fresh air outside your front/back door can literally do your mental wellbeing the world of good. When you can afford a slightly longer break trying to take a quick walk over the nearest park, shop or round the block, just getting out & clearing your head with fresh air plus a change of the scenery from the four walls around you is a great way to give yourself some freedom, you’ll also be getting that natural vitamin D from the sunlight

Exercise! It doesn’t have to be at the gym, you do not need a personal trainer or to spend hundreds on that ‘ideal training regime’ to get in shape in 30 days. With today’s technology there are so many different mediums in which to gather a ‘workout’ until you find something that you are happy with.

One of the great positives to come out of lockdown in fact was the number of different online / remote workouts which have been shared. In the UK there was huge praise for Joe Wicks & his series of free live, daily morning workouts. Also, heavyweight Champion the Gypsy king himself on Instagram shared free, live at home workouts for all to follow (he did have some other home equipment he used so a small investment may be required) & finally there are a few great apps on your phone that you can download a personal favourite of mine is the ‘7 minute workout’ app for which I have no excuse not to do, seeing as it is only 7 minutes. Exercise is proven to allow our bodies to release endorphins which in turn improve our mental wellbeing, self-esteem, energy levels & sharper memory.

Two birds with one stone nailed with this step because we can help to reduce the likelihood of us putting on excess weight (& if needed lose any unwanted weight), I actually piled on a stone in weight (6.3kg) during our first stint in lockdown, something I proud to announce I have almost shed completely kept off. You could argue 3 birds with one stone if you are exercising outside since you will also be getting that natural dose of vitamin D into your body.

So there you have it, I hope you found this article helpful, please feel free to leave your comments, feedback or any suggestions from your own experience which may help myself & others.

The big 4 ‘communication guide’

1 – Face to face

Being able to meet with colleagues inside or outside your team & new or existing customers is an essential way to enable you to build up a lasting professional relationship with your various business stakeholders. Under our current circumstances one would think that it has become more difficult than ever to ‘meet face to face’ with your colleagues & customers but this is not the case, in fact with the easy access to tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams & even WhatsApp / Facebook Messenger video calling it has become easier than ever before.

So, now is the time to get over being camera shy, when you attend a meeting in the office do you wear a disguise or hide behind the door? I would of thought not, imagine how it would come across to the other people in the room. This is how it can feel when everyone or just one person always had their camera off. Now, is the time to get used to being on screen ‘face to face’ with your stakeholders. If you are camera shy my advice is to initially start a meeting with the camera on to introduce yourself, then switch off the camera until near the end of the discussion, finally switch your camera back onto bring the meeting to a close & say thank you / goodbye.

You’ll be surprised the impression this can make on your stakeholders not only professionally but from a mental health perspective seeing a friendly face during a discussion can improve your/their mood which in turn helps to keep you positive which is key in this new norm we find ourselves in. These are the types of behaviours we need to try & encourage early so that it becomes second nature in order to keep us at our productive best.

2 – Instant Messenger

Using an instant messenger tool/app to keep in contact with colleagues or new/existing customers is an excellent way to keep real time communication running. Many applications now allow for groups of key stakeholders to be added together which can become perfect ways to keep real time working tasks & activities moving.

Have a question or query for someone, why send an email then have to wait for a response, with the instant messaging option you have an opportunity to resolve tasks much quicker providing that your colleagues are online of course.

When reaching out to a ‘stranger’ / new colleague or customer especially if you are a little camera shy or lack confidence, breaking the ice with a few polite messages in instant messenger can be a great way to get conversation started & keep it going.

Start with introducing yourself & what team you are from before getting into the nitty gritty of the conversation. Instant messaging is one of my favourite ways to engage with small groups of business stakeholders to work towards delivering a given task or tasks, use email to communicate formally the major milestones for the wider audience. It is so much more effective at delivering work collectively in realtime rather than waiting in extended email chains for a response to be shared.

3 – Audio (Phone or VOIP)

Picking up the phone or using online apps to call our colleagues, new or existing customers is still a great way to keep in touch, I advise only use this for 1 to 1 or small group communication rather using traditional conference calls which tend to become cluttered/busy with too many people talking over one another. This is why the video call in my opinion is becoming superior because when someone talks, their name / screen / comes to the front & others on the call can put up a virtual hand to let the active speaker know someone else has a point to make.

Know a colleague who lives alone? Giving them a phone call to check in on them, even if it isn’t about a specific work task could do them & yourself a world of good especially with offices closed some peoples social interaction has gone from one extreme to another. (The same can be said about dropping a video call too)

Being mindful & thoughtful to others is a great way to keep you at your own peak knowing that you’ve potentially helped out a fellow colleague can have an amazing impact on your own wellbeing.

4 – Email

The formal way to communicate, email is a great way to communicate when used correctly however, it is more often than not used excessively, resulting in clogged up mailboxes & missed communications. My best advice for composing an email is to think about it as though you are writing someone a letter, you are going to send it to the end users but don’t expect an instant response. You need to allow time for the end user to receive & review the message, then allow time for them to create a response. We should not use email like ‘instant messenger’.

When composing an email there are many things I can suggest but one of the most important is to consider your audience & what message you want to deliver, think of this as a formal way to send communications to keep stakeholders well informed or to provide major updates on task related work in which multiple stakeholders need to be made aware but aren’t part of the actual doing.

An example of this could be issuing a formal request for someone to implement a change, the ‘doer’ should be in the ‘To’ field & the stakeholders impacted should be included in the ‘CC’ for information purposes.

The ‘To’ field should be used to send to your key stakeholders & the ‘CC’ field is for the people who need to be informed.

Be mindful of your audience when responding to emails, will a ‘reply’ suffice or an instant message or does it require a ‘reply all’, more often than not debates can commence on an email chain with all manner of stakeholders, potentially senior or management level.

Be sure to add a meaningful & structured email subject if you are looking to get the desired outcome from your communication, also do not be shy to amend current email subject headers if they do not make sense to the topic being discussed.

My final pro tip, try not to reuse dead / old email trails/chains if they are no longer relevant. If an action for a task was shared via email and has been completed by the task owner then the email chain can be closed down & archived. Taking old / existing email chains and re-using them for a different message under the same banner can completely confuse your entire audience.

Final Comment

So, there you have it, thanks for reading this week’s blog update I hope you can take something away of value, if you have then please feel free to take the time to leave some feedback or provide a testimonial which can really help me grow my blog in the future. All the best, stay safe & stay positive.