Well over one year ago, the pandemic shifted the way in which people work and live, with no shortage of “pivot” situations. Employers and employees alike are constantly adapting to the changes brought on by the pandemic, including returning to a physical workspace or a revised schedule. In addition, employees who are also parents are grappling with their children returning to the classroom.
We may not have complete control over these changes. However, we can control how to best respond to these changes, particularly when it comes to our mental health and the well-being of family. Below are seven ways in which you can support you and your family’s mental health during this time.
1. (OVER) COMMUNICATE WITH COWORKERS AND FAMILY
Frequent and effective communication will continue to be an important skill for employees at work and at home. As employees return to work and children return to school, be sure to communicate your schedule, obligations, and expectations with your supervisor, your team, and your family members. Clear communication on all fronts can help alleviate some disorganization, forgetfulness, and anxiety for employees and their families.
2. ADJUST HABITS TO MEET NEW DEMANDS
With a shift in physical workspace or schedule, it is time to reestablish the healthy habits that helped you stay engaged and productive while working from home. For example, it may be helpful to budget time for lunch and short breaks during the workday, represented by blocks on your calendar or a temporary away message on communication channels. In addition, set an example for your peers and family by modeling and practicing self-care. Examples of self-care include staying organized and prioritize taking frequent breaks; practicing meditation, breathing, or expressing gratitude; or meeting someone for coffee.
3. ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED AT WORK
If you are returning to a physical workplace, it might be the right time to ask your employer for flexibility in your schedule or to work from home one day a week, if possible. Research shows that employees who work flexible schedules are more productive and loyal to their employers. In addition, asking your manager for support can include regular check-ins, increased opportunities for bidirectional feedback, and the ability to talk openly about stressors. Help your manager understand your needs so that they can provide the appropriate support.
4. RECONNECT WITH COWORKERS YOU TRUST
According to past reports, having positive relationships with coworkers and supervisors is the top reason employees feel satisfied at work. Connection will be crucial as workplaces return to normal. Seek out opportunities to reconnect with your manager, team, and coworkers. Examples include scheduling coffee dates or happy hours—any activity that is in person (while maintaining physical safety measures). If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed at work, talk to a trusted coworker about it. It’s likely that your coworker is also dealing with their own pressures and can share similar concerns.
5. CHECK IN WITH YOURSELF AND YOUR LOVED ONES
Children and teens pick up on anxiety and tension in adults around them. Be open about your own feelings, and lead by example in how you deal with them by modeling healthy behaviors and coping skills. If you are experiencing the common signs or symptoms of a mental health condition, it could be helpful to take an anonymous and confidential mental health screening online. MHA has 10 online screening tools, including one that is youth-focused and one for parents. Once you get the results, MHA will provide you with more information and help you to figure out next steps. Addressing the early signs of mental health conditions can dramatically increase the likelihood of positive outcomes and recovery.
6. RESEARCH MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT AT YOUR WORKPLACE
Many companies offer resources through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or similar wellness program, which can save you precious time by providing guidance on issues like where to find a daycare center and caretaking for an elderly parent, as well as referrals to mental health and other services. In addition, be familiar with options for support available through your child’s school to help accommodate them if they are struggling emotionally or academically. You are your own and your child’s best advocate!
7. GET PROFESSIONAL HELP IF YOU NEED IT
Chatting with friends and family can be important to your success at home—or at work—and can even improve your health. People with stronger support systems have more aggressive immune responses to illnesses than those who lack such support. Don’t let stress stand in the way of your health and happiness. If you are persistently overwhelmed, it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness—taking care of yourself is a sign of strength.
If you are interested in learning more about how to care for your child’s mental health, download MHA’s 2021 Back-to-School Toolkit: “Facing Fears, Supporting Students.” The toolkit aims to help students, parents, and school personnel recognize how feeling unsafe can impact mental health and school performance, and what can be done to help young people who are struggling with their mental health.
If you’re looking at returning to work, a flexible job can help with finding a healthy work-life balance. FlexJobs has over 50 career categories hiring for a range of flexible and remote jobs.