Can we stop talking about “getting back to normal”? There isn’t a “new normal” (which is an oxymoron), there is just the future. Or, to put it more bluntly, let’s progress and think of dealing with the future rather than regress and wish for the past (though I don’t think many will look back at 2020 through rose tinted glasses.
(And phrasing is key. We programme our mind to expect something by the words we use; so, let’s look to the future, not the past, unless you are the Likely Lads and remember the 1970’s. Answers on a postcard.)
Thanks, we’ve agreed that, then. And I’ve got that off my chest.
So, what do we need to do to move on? Well, let’s learn from what’s happened.
The UK Government recently started to encourage (incentivise with money) people to get rid of their fat (which is an insult to a skinny fool like me, who never seems to get incentives from the government or the pension I’m due, getting bitter this, isn’t it?) with cycling offers and other stuff. You can argue with the thrust of this (as I do) but the basic concept of “cutting out the flab in your life” is a very good one. Both physically and mentally.
Mental health matters and the first step is realising it, even if it is through our pets
(And, look, pardon me if there’s been a U-turn on this since I wrote this ten minutes ago.)
The lockdown has caused many people to re-think their priorities, which is a good thing.
Strange that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs kept coming back to me during the interminable last few months, as it is, of course, broadly accurate. Okay, the bottom rung may have moved to “sofa, food, Netflix” but that’s just a reflection of our modern world, though the self-actualisation top element may have moved to “going out, eating at a restaurant, going to the theatre”.
We will all have to adapt; we have to find the new demands that life throws up.
One area that is, gladly, getting new traction is mental health. We don’t really like talking about this in the UK, indeed, in the UK I’m sure that most people were pleased that we can’t shake hands or hug any more (it’s a sign of affection and we are a little bit embarrassed by all that, aren’t we?). And if we are embarrassed by that, or just telling people they are good, impressive or should be wearing a mask, what chance do we have when it comes to talking about mental health?
(Do you know that we used to shake hands around 15,000 times in our lifetime? But now that amount will drastically reduce. Just thought I’d mention this.)
One manager I talked to recently said that one of his employees was wary of coming back to work because “his dog will have separation issues” if he leaves it alone, as he’d done in the past. Strange, we are often more aware of our pets mental health than that of humans.
But this is both a silly and significant point at the same time. Mental health matters and the first step is realising it, even if it is through our pets.
Footballers, not role-models for everyone, are starting to talk about mental health And the key thing they focus on? Talk about it. And listen to others.
Andy Robertson of Liverpool said “I talked to my partner about something daft that had been worrying me and in ten minutes I felt better”. Talking instead of over- thinking (“repetitive memory” as it is worrying called) put the issue, if indeed it is an issue, into perspective.
And the lockdown has given a lot of people (though not all) a chance to think about cutting out the flab, think about things more and getting their lives into focus. But some have used the time to over-think, talk themselves into what can only be called a “fug” and they will need help and support to get their mental health balanced and to get them to perform to their best abilities (something that always makes people happier).
Therefore, the “new normal” (also called the future) will involve more talking, more listening and more time to cut out that mental flab that has built up over the year.
Some people will get that support from friends and family; others will need, and may prefer, professional help from work. When we talk about “counselling” I point out that some people will need specialised help and support; most people don’t need that level, just somebody to listen to their often irrational fears and worries. I know, I was like that many years ago; when I verbalised it, I often though “that’s not a major issue” so packed it up, put it down and left it behind.
And listening is not just sitting and hearing; real listening is understanding, interpreting, helping, being empathetic and caring. All skills we can learn and develop every single day with a bit of help (training, coaching and mentoring, just in case you hadn’t thought of this!).
Listening and helping is simple; you need to have an environment that allows this. And when you do, you will reap the benefits. So, think about your individuals but think about the company culture. People are beginning to realise that they have a choice and that they want to work for a culture that supports them as well as business. And look after their physical and mental health.
Mentoring, coaching and counselling (with a small “c”) will be the oil for the well worn engine of the human mind. Get the best oil possible. And on that cliché…
Or as Frasier Crane used to say “Good mental health, everyone”…