This article is written as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) releases it’s survey entitled Coronavirus and depression in adults, Great Britain: June 2020
About about uncertainty
One of my first bosses, a bluff Yorkshireman had a saying…”There’s nowt so constant as change,” and he was right. Most of us know this intuitively yet we still crave stability even though it is the least likely of outcomes. Change is constant.
Even those of us who are aware and comfortable with uncertain environments may not have felt fully prepared for the extreme spikes of uncertainty that we have experienced in the last four months and are likely to experience going forwards.
The headline findings from the ONS are as follows –
- Almost one in five adults (19.2%) were likely to be experiencing some form of depression during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in June 2020; this had almost doubled from around 1 in 10 (9.7%) before the pandemic (July 2019 to March 2020).
- One in eight adults (12.9%) developed moderate to severe depressive symptoms during the pandemic, while a further 6.2% of the population continued to experience this level of depressive symptoms; around 1 in 25 adults (3.5%) saw an improvement over this period.
- Adults who were aged 16 to 39 years old, female, unable to afford an unexpected expense, or disabled were the most likely to experience some form of depression during the pandemic.
- Feeling stressed or anxious was the most common way adults experiencing some form of depression felt their well-being was being affected, with 84.9% stating this.
- Over two in five (42.2%) adults experiencing some form of depression during the pandemic said their relationships were being affected, compared with one in five (20.7%) adults with no or mild depressive symptoms.
Our VUCA World
A term that originated in military leadership, and was first used in business leadership by Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, has come to be used to describe the business environment in recent years. The term they use is VUCA which stands for Volatile, Unpredictable, Complex and Ambiguous and rightly describes what we have been experiencing in extremis for the last 4 months. In fact I may go as far as to replace the word Complex with the word Chaotic to be a little more accurate.
In recent years most of us have become aware of the toll that these environments at their most severe can have on the mental health of soldiers of all ranks. At worst they can result in Post Traumatic Stress Symptoms which can include symptoms of a depressive nature (for a full set of symptoms click here).
I am not equating the devastating effects of COVID 19 with the impact of being shot at or blown up while fighting for your country. For many, however, they will be experiencing shock wave after shockwave and there is more to come.
I think I can safely say that our world is not going to get any less uncertain.
If you would like a free report on your relationship with uncertainty and some free tips and strategies to start using immediately click here.
If you prefer to just read on there is one major strategy suggested further down
What can we do about this?
First of all I want to be clear that I am not suggesting what follows is a cure for depression. What I am suggesting is that by taking better care of ourselves and building our emotional resilience we can ride the shock waves with more confidence knowing we have a personal toolkit of strategies and tactics we use to build and maintain emotional health. If more of us took our emotional health as seriously as many take our physical health the personal and collective impacts of sudden environmental changes such as CoronaVirus can be drastically lessened.
In our work at Calm People we have always maintained that employers have a responsibility to make the workplace environment as healthy in stress terms as possible (note: a certain amount of stress is healthy). In those discussions with individuals and employers we are also clear that it is our responsibility, as individuals, to take good care of our emotional health. It’s the same deal as with our physical health.
So what I am going to suggest benefits both employers and employees because there is a symbiotic deal there. Look after ourselves and in doing so we look after each other and we all thrive.
Routine and practice are important
When stress levels increase our heart rate speeds up as does our thinking. Unless we are so overwhelmed that we stop altogether our impulse is to speed up because that is what our body and mind is telling us to do. It is counterintuitive to slow down and as a result many of us end up running faster to cope with uncertainty and stress. If this occurs for short bursts and genuinely subsides it is not too unhealthy. Unfortunately, however, life doesn’t really work like that and the pace of change and the levels of uncertainty are increasing and can often appear to be continuous. We can’t run faster and faster forever. We will eventually fall over. In fact, most of us could do with slowing down a little.
This means that what I am going to suggest requires a small commitment of time every day and requires us to invest in slowing ourselves down.
One thing that could help
The one tool I keep recommending to most of my clients is to start a journal and to write an entry in it every day. I recommend between 15 and 20 minutes a day. You can use it however you like to. You can use it freestyle and just write about what is on your mind, the good, the bad, the angry and the sad. Or you can use it as a reflective view on what you have achieved, what you have learned and what tomorrow’s goals are.
Our Brain Bucket
What I am advocating is stopping for 15-20 minutes a day to reflect and off load. The very act of writing down what is on your mind helps to start to empty the bucket of anxiety that we carry around with us.
Think of your brain as a bucket. Every day we encounter a myriad of interesting and challenging situations. Those that cause anxiety, distress and fear are more likely to become stored up in the bucket. We think we forget about them but we do not really. They sit there gradually filling the bucket up. Journaling is a tap that helps to start emptying the bucket onto the pages and, in doing so, reveal the drowning parts of the brain that really need to work. Those parts we would label our positive and solutions focused mindset.
By continually reducing the levels of anxiety and stress in the bucket we allow our solutions focused mind to adapt and engage and make the most of challenging situations.
To read more about my experience of journaling click here
A step further
Our clients use journaling, not only to empty their bucket, but to reinforce the learning and the toolkit they have developed over their time and work with us So not only will they be emptying their mind but they will be using powerful self coaching strategies and self awareness to guide themselves through to greater levels of resilience and learning through their journaling. It is a great virtuous circle.
Here’s an offer
If you want to know more about tip strategies and areas you could work on we have an offer for you.
It is free to anyone until 30th September and has been free to anyone since the UK lockdown started. You don’t sign up to a contract; it is simply free.
There you can get a full assessment which delivers to you a personalised report on your emotional health across 7 key areas. Those areas that indicate a need for further exploration have development pathways with videos and coaching strategies in them to help raise your awareness and give you the personal resource to improve your wellbeing.
Employers, what can you do?
If, as an employer, you are interested in supporting your teams remotely you can subscribe your whole organisation to My Internal World and as they use it you can see anonymous data that helps you assess the emotional health of your business.
Employee wellbeing is directly linked to employee engagement and any employer that invest in this area is genuinely interested in their teams.
If you provide the tech and your teams use it effectively the employer-employee deal is working and you get emotionally resilient employees who make rational decisions in times of stress and uncertainty.
You can also do that free until 30th December. If you would like to try that email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get you set up on the system and show you the data.
Equally, if you prefer the human touch then take a look at this page (click here) with our popular workshops and seminars that we deliver in businesses and organisations all over the UK. All of them are available for online delivery as well.
That’s all folks
If you are an individual and you are finding yourself challenged with loss of control, spikes in uncertainty, career and job fears and much more then visit My Internal World and have a look.
If you are an employer who wants to support their workforce in being more resilient try My Internal World or have a chat about our workshops.
Anyone… all of you reading this….start a journal. It could be the best investment of 15 minutes a day you could make.