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Mental health has been something of increasing importance especially in the past 7 months with countries suddenly descending into lockdown and many finding themselves having to either work from home; on furlough or losing their job, managing our mental health has become an area of concern.

The pandemic has had the following environmental effects:

  • Home schooling
  • Sharing communal areas
  • Living alone
  • Spaces doubling up as workspace, exercise and relaxation zones.

This became the “new norm”, though no one knew how long this was going to continue for. This sudden need to stay at home was a shock to many. The week of 18 May 2020 which was nine weeks into the crisis, was Mental Health Awareness week and by this time the “new norm” was starting to cause many people anxiety, stress, sleepless nights, fear of finances and a lack of work/life balance.

Looking after your mental health & wellbeing during covid-19 and beyond

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When Women in Tax (“WiT”) decided to host an event with Menzies LLP during Mental Health Awareness Week on 19 May 2020, named ‘Looking After Your Mental Health & Wellbeing during Covid-19 and beyond’, the committee never anticipated the relevance and importance this event would have on so many people. The event was adapted for the circumstances, going from a face to face event to a live webinar with over 200 attendees.  This event was not just restricted to women working within finance or tax, it was open to all and  aattended by people from all backgrounds of work with a mix in genders and stages in career.

The WiT panel was made up of a fantastic array of professionals, sharing personal stories, practical tips and helped attendees to relate to mental health illnesses in a safe and welcoming space. The panel included:

  • Sarah Allen (EMEA Indirect Tax Compliance Manager at RS Components)
    • Who shared her journey through her mental health conditions
  • Emma Carrington (Manager, Rethink Mental Illness)
    • Who offered advice on how to deal with mental health issues from her work at the charity Rethink Mental Illness
  • Sehjal Gupta (Private Client Tax Director at Menzies LLP and WiT committee member)
    • Facilitated the event (and organised the event behind the scenes with assistance from Andrea Leho from Macfarlanes.)

Attendees felt the content was very relatable as they were able to share in the experiences that they had felt personally or that colleagues or friends and family were feeling. Everyone felt that the switch to lockdown was challenging to home and work lifestyles, but in some cases the new way of working was making existing mental health issues more acute. The experiences shared by the panel helped encourage the attendees to engage in the live chat function, with many feeling comfortable sharing what worked for them. Feedback from attendees showed that they were not alone in this strange new journey and were comforted that others were in similar situations.

The panel made a number of suggestions, such as:

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  • ‘Switching off from your workday’ through a change of clothes at the end of the day.
  • The act of shutting your laptop off and putting it away at the end of the day
  • Going for a walk in the morning and evenings during the time of a normal commute.
  • Being mindful of those around us. Not to judge others as we do not know their circumstances or fears or personal situation.
  • Learn to help yourselves before helping others.
  • Taking care of yourself: eat well, sleep well, exercise and do what makes you happy. Have a routine.
  • Have one hour of ‘you’ time every day.
  • Take a break, making sure you don’t burn out.
  •  Be open and remember that you are not alone in this journey – it is good to talk.

Mental health day

It has now been six months since the event WiT hosted and many of us are still working in a different environment, although we may be more used to it, it is no less intense. World Mental Health Day is on 10th October 2020 and with further restrictions becoming a possibility, people are worried about:

  • A second national lockdown
  • The change in the clocks and weather
  • Not being able to see family or friends in the coming months or even during Christmas
  • The economy having a further downturn

All of these may exacerbate mental strains.  

remember to check in on people

In these times, it is important to remember that “checking in” on people even for a couple of minutes can make a world of difference. Let’s not forget the little things we can do to help ourselves and others.

WiT strongly support awareness around Mental Health and are planning to host annual events in this area. They also host regular events including informal networking breakfasts (last Wednesday of the month) that are a welcoming space to share how you are coping in this new way of working and make new connections.

If you would like to be a part of WiT or attend future events, please contact Sehjal via her profile below.

Please remember: As much as our physical health is important, we need to appreciate that our mental health is of greater importance and not forget support is available.

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Sehjal Gupta

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