To mark Men’s Health Week, Anthony, one of Lancashire Mind’s Wellbeing coaches working on the 'Changing Futures project', shares how lockdown has changed his role and what impact it has had on the mental health and circumstances of some of his male clients.
''Just before the start of lockdown I started working with 'A'.
'A' had previously been working with a colleague but had just been referred to me as my role is more appropriate for his support needs. We had arranged to meet but lockdown meant that we had to change plans and speak over the phone. It was quickly apparent that the routine 'A' had built up to help support his mental health and wellbeing, which included long walks and trips to community based places such as libraries, had significantly changed due to lockdown circumstances. This lack of routine, understandably, almost immediately had an impact on 'A'’s mental health.
”A'’s situation is not unlike the situation many others who access our services have found themselves facing.
Challenges such as being at home more and using more electricity have put additional pressure on people’s finances and some are accepting food parcels for the first time. This is something that can be difficult for some to accept as they still feel a stigma around accepting that support.
People are also watching more news. I have been discussing the importance of a healthy balance of news with those I work with. Whilst there is a need for us all to keep up-to-date with news, taking in too much information around this time can have a negative impact on mental health. Choosing a set time to watch the news and splitting viewing between news, factual programmes and comedy is a great way to manage what you are taking in. Clients have also found that reading and listening to programmes on the radio have really helped alongside daily exercise.
Despite still having not met 'A' face-to-face, I have been calling him every week and we both share how we met one or several of Lancashire Mind’s 'five ways to wellbieng', for that particular week. Around eight weeks in to the lockdown, I would discuss with 'A' whether any positives may come out of the lockdown.
Like many others, myself included, 'A' said he has a new appreciation for life, that he won’t take the same things for granted again and that this has shown the value of family.
For me personally, working as a Wellbeing Coach during lockdown has been a real learning curve. I have always worked with people on a face-to-face basis so working over the phone has been challenging. As a key-worker you can observe people’s demeanour and body language during appointments in person. Not being able to do this has made me feel a little ‘blind’ in some ways. Also there have been points when I have questioned how much positive impact I can have in terms of supporting someone without actually meeting them but fortunately I have still been able to help others albeit in a different way.
I have also felt quite under pressure to know everything about COVID-19 including how it spreads, symptoms, lockdown rules, etc. I think I might have tried to absorb too much information initially as I felt under pressure to know the answers to questions that those I have been supporting through my role as a Wellbeing Coach were asking me.
In some ways the lockdown has created a unique symmetry between me and those I am supporting as a Wellbeing Coach as we have been subject to the same circumstances due to COVID-19.
This has in some ways made it much easier to empathise with the circumstantial challenges clients are facing such as changing routines, not seeing family and spending time at home. I also feel that this has created a dynamic in which people feel more comfortable opening up to me as there is a feeling of all being 'in the same boat'.”