I remember my professor Lynsey Watt sat down with me in first year of University, a short discussion meant for her to get to know me, in which I told her of my learning disability(acalculia) which affects the way I process numbers, makes it difficult to remember my own phone number. It was always a source of shame, guilt, embarrassment, when I only wanted to be able to function just like everyone else. I had several breakdowns because of assignments which included creating graphs and budget sheets(which I did conquer, insert smiley face here).
Nope, I’m neurodivergent! Lynsey had never heard of it before which I didn’t mind, it was new to me as well. School psychologists don’t know, but they are the ones who should. Once I discovered it all past shame, guilt, embarrassment was gone and I owned that I was thinking differently. I know I am not defined by my grades(of which I am proud) nor do I care whether I graduate with a First or not. I work smart and hard anyway.
Hence I spend a lot of my Twitter time on @emmawatsonnet which I help run in my spare time between University projects, I came across a post from Dr. Frances Ryan, columnist and journalist @TheGuardian. She posted a headline which said: ‘’Children with learning disabilities offered ‘do not resuscitate’ orders during the pandemic, investigation finds.’’(The Telegraph). Coincidence or not, Lynsey, me and 2 of my colleagues briefly discussed disabilities, where Lynsey reminisced her friend saying ‘’the body is disabled but the mind is functioning well’’, which I agreed with, knowing I worked hard even through depression.
I also mentioned COP26 which happened in Scotland last year, which famously lacked access for the disabled, specifically Karine Elharrar(Israeli minister) couldn’t attend a meeting ‘’because it was not wheelchair accessible.’’(BBC, 2021). Shocking that the Israeli delegation was blamed for not having communicated her needs(when it falls on the event organizer to make all arrangements). It should have been there already, by ‘’default’’.
But circling back to Dr. Frances Ryan, who expressed her shock of this practice: ‘’This scandal of unequal treatment has been happening right from the start of the pandemic – and long before.’’ Mencap, a UK-based charity, reported people with learning disabilities were told they wouldn’t be resuscitated ‘’if their health deteriorated’’(The Hill, 2021). User ‘’Callduron Vorn’’ replied to Dr. Frances highlighting the need for proper representation, as there are 14.1m. disabled people in the UK(20.6%), but only 5 disabled MPs(0.77%), numbers backed up by Scope which cited the Family Resources Survey (2019 to 20).
I call ‘’Do not resuscitate’’ orders for us people with learning disabilities absurd. People with learning disabilities can still express themselves, on the care they need, we should still receive care despite learning disabilities. Doctors can explain medical terms just fine to anyone, with or without learning disabilities, it’s my right to ask questions on what I may not understand, be it a prescription or procedure. Tell me I can’t even ask because I have a learning disability! Seriously, just how many lives could have been saved without this order? We probably will never know. So what is the point of the Hippocratic Oath then?
I saw Ellie Jones’ posts on self-care and how she dealt with change, and it got me thinking ‘’hmm, I have depression and never wrote about it’’. Depression can happen to anyone, just like any other mental health ‘’disorders’’. Depression is, in my humble opinion, not a disorder, but a part of us like a piece of metal which was hit too many times by the blacksmith(who can be a woman too) and was tired of being strong and broke down at one point.
Like Ellie, I started recognizing I have bouts of not wanting to get out of bed, or getting out of the house at all, these bouts do not happen daily, when they do happen I have to show kindness to myself, and take another route to getting whatever done in that day. It happened today. It rained so I was triggered. It was cold too, and rain and cold combined obviously didn’t go well.
How is it for me to be living with depression? Well, it’s okay. It’s okay because I have had small accomplishments which make me feel proud and these make the week fly by like Ursula von der Leyen’s private jet (for more than 31 miles btw). It’s manageable. It feels great to have stuff to do, important stuff, they feel important and when I get stuff done, I go ‘’YESSSS!’’, booty shakes and all. You forgot booty shakes, Ellie! A PR blog simply has to list those, Ellie!
I arrange my day so that university work is done, so I can argue that lists are indeed useful, but you have to read them, ….every once in a while. Being kind to oneself is terribly important went going through something like depression, taking day by day, as judging oneself over things that you didn’t do in a day simply isn’t useful, it can only make you feel worse about yourself. I’m okay whatever I choose to do. For some, therapy as in talk therapy might be useful, but I already talk to myself so I don’t feel the need for that.
I’m quite the depression specialist after dealing with it since I was 18. You might be thinking, what causes depression? One can’t really pinpoint at a single cause, because we’re intricate humans, it’s rather a combination of factors like stress, bullying, unemployment, financial struggles, grief, medication, or simply genetics. It is like depression embodies a different personality every time or maybe it’s a different side to myself which requires attention? Food for thought there.
What I do for myself, other than taking small steps daily, is listening to music, getting work done because we need as much endorphins and serotonin as possible and getting stuff done means dopamine will make us feel bliss, increasing motivation and concentration. Basically what you need when feeling not so good. Exercising every morning, but random mornings. I cook food that I eat with my eyes, not just my mouth. Oh and keeping hydrated because we’re all 70% water, unless you’re not human. And if you aren’t human, why are you reading this blog?
Try to find someone not present on a social media platform, it’ll be difficult, you could easily research how widespread Facebook and Instagram actually are. A simple search on Google with the words ‘’Facebook users in Africa’’ will lead you to a Statista webpage, what you’ll see there will be just how many users there are in West African countries many wouldn’t think would be ‘’civilized enough’’ to have Internet access considering how most Africans are portrayed in the media, yet Nigeria in the stats has the most Facebook users: 31.560!
Is there a connection between company malfeasance, whistleblowing and contractarianism? I have connected these dots after this week’s seminar on Data Regulation Requirements, when we looked at Frances Haugen, Facebook’s recent employee turned whistleblower and company malfeasance and I couldn’t stop myself from seeing them tied-in. A whistleblower is often an employee who recognizes and takes action in reporting wrong-doing within the company they work for/at.
She, Frances, was under a work contract with Facebook as a Product Manager & Data Engineer and Scientist, saw many things happen, had access to and gathered evidence that Facebook knew of their impact on young girls among other, decided to come forward, as a result on 5th of October 2021 she got published and her testimony travelled around the world via optical fibers so fast she even testified in front of the American Senate in a little over three hours, a week ago.
Facebook is still alive and kicking after having been down for six hours, and Forbes reported that the company lost $65 Million during the outage while CEO ‘’Zuckerberg’s fortune declined by $5.9 billion’’. (Forbes 2021). Some users didn’t notice anything wrong, whilst others’ addiction had no escape but to gather steam like a pressure cooker. Those who frequently fall under the spell of mindless scrolling felt it. How will this impact the company reputation? It remains to be seen. Facebook and Instagram haven’t been punished by law to this day for creating digital electoral wars and for their social conditioning.
In the European Union, users can control what happens to their data thanks to the General Data Protection Regulation, applicable since May 25th 2018 in all of its member states, which influences how Facebook operates in the EU. Thanks to the GDPR which protects what happens to my personal data (GDPR, 2021), but I am still being tracked, through cookies and other tools I’m innocently unaware of. I always see how intelligently Facebook seems to observe my Google searches online and offers me ads containing similar items. How do they know I wanted recycled wool gloves!? I actually like ‘em, Facebook! Thanks!
Going forward, I was seriously thinking having my own social media platform and website, away from Facebook, and thinking how to move my own business away from Facebook, but still being aware that Facebook gives me access to millions of like-minded users, and reminding myself of the benefits of advertising on this platform. Will I stay or will I go?
I had this idea in Year 1, when we had to create a business idea for our assignment for Business Enterprise module.
To give you a bit of a backstory, I came up with the idea to create and develop a mental health app and my colleagues liked it. We called it EMBRACE, available for both Android and iPhone, aiming to help those who have a history of mental health and those who are struggling; at the beginning we decided to focus on aiding students through students as in making it available to university students and collaborate with Psychology, Counselling and Mental Health students who could volunteer in chatting with users.
These users could be anonymous or choose to show who they are, whether through pictures of themselves or via video. The app, we decided, features a forum, for deeper conversations to flow and connections between users to be established – and for users to also answer each other’s questions for a more personal feel. That is also a place where volunteers or professionals can take requests, answer questions, share advice and so on.
We didn’t think about featuring other therapies, like therapy through art at the time, but it makes sense today. A partnership with Artfund would benefit the charity and all the users on the platform: our users get the color therapy, we get the visibility for the app to thrive, same for the charity. The Student Art Pass is £5 but its benefits goes beyond the price. Ads of it on the app would further help the charity.
Think of all the inspiration you’ll get from seeing ancient artefacts, immersing in Virtual Reality, to artwork maybe you didn’t know anything about before so don’t be bored, be artful. All these experiences are waiting for all of us. I can’t wait to own one just so I can brag to my friends at every chance I get.
The name of the app didn’t make sense last year, Patrick, my colleague worrying it could be interpreted in a sexual way, but I see it now as a Digital Embrace. A digital embrace which can be extended to all who struggle with their mental health, not just students.
Sure, a Harry Potter coloring book is awesome, I know because I own one, but seeing artwork in person is on another level. Half of UK students, about 51% ‚’’feel anxious some of the time and two fifths feel high level of anxiety on any given day’’, says my ARTFUND brief. It’s becase you can go somewhere else with art. Even with a mask on, you could not hide that happiness experiencing Virtual Reality where you didn’t expect to, in a museum!
Painting in Photoshop is great too, but art in person is on another level. The Michelangelo you have only seen in History or Art books in front of you would definitely excite you.
Who could believe it’s five pounds for everything it offers? Now I am sad I can’t form a club at university and form a masked group and go on an adventure. Museums and galleries being places so peaceful, that I am sure financial worries (51%), coping with exams (42%), pressures of getting a job after you graduate (54%) will lessen through art served as medicine.
’’55% of the British public live within walking distance of a museum or gallery’’ says ARTFUND, and I think it is about the same statistic for any other nationality. We make time for other things in our lives just not for forms of Art and we should change that in 2021. It would be a pity not to benefit from such treasures.
It isn’t what you think as fun. It isn’t comparable to anything you have experienced. At the end of 2020, ARTFUND discontinued their ART GUIDE app so you can’t see the goodies there anymore but the Student Art Pass is something you don’t need to pass on. I wish I could go back to Southampton right now just to get one and see when I could visit every gallery in the city.
I can dream that sometime in 2021, I will go to Tate Modern, in London. One thing I want to educate myself in is black culture. I have never been shown a painting by a black artist and that’s a shame, and I think ARTFUND can help me achieve this goal. They’re professionals after all.
Art has a new meaning now, in the new year as the museums and galleries need our support in all countries, to recover and thrive. There are 2,500 museums in the UK and whilst we can’t physically see them all, let’s start locally. If we don’t have art, what do we fight for? #AllMuseumsMatter
Like many have said, no one could have predicted a pandemic when putting together their new year resolutions/goals/vision boards. A day or two before the Solent University Library closed I went and got several books to keep me company, without a slightest idea of what was about to happen.
Borders closed, lockdowns imposed. All of a sudden, there were and are hundreds of things we can no longer do (if you do, you put your life and the life of others at risk) which never happened before in our lifetimes. We were literally ordered to stay at home and it still feels indefinite.
Cutting off work, all social activities – whether informal or formal impacted us all, no matter the age group. I imagine, (I’m not a mother yet), but thinking of how toddlers no longer had play dates, teens no longer being able to meet their friends in any shape or form, students had to remain in their dorms or go home (which is what I did, eventually, in July 2020), lastly – many adults were facing furlough or unemployment.
Whilst I can’t wrap my mind around how deeply others were hurting, I know my own experience. I was already having depression and anxiety before the pandemic due to not being able to pay the rent for the university residence I was staying at. Everywhere I went, I was turned down. I felt alienated, not good enough for this new world I entered and It didn’t seem to improve at all, no matter how hard I tried.
The impact of the pandemic on our mental health can’t really be expressed nor quantified by numbers and its effects will be surely long lasting, even after the pandemic is over. The Strategy Unit estimates that the demand for primary mental health will increase by 22% in 2020/21, as shown in their ‘’Estimating the impact of covid-19 on mental health services in England – summary of results and methods’’ report published in November 2020, mentioning that ‘’The next 18 months could be particularly demanding on services’’.
True, if we look at stats from surveys carried out on 2,011 youngsters with a history of mental health was organized by Young Minds Org in 2020, and the results are heartbreaking: ‘’Among more than 1,000 respondents who were accessing mental health support in the three months leading up the crisis (including from the NHS, school and university counsellors, private providers, charities and helplines), 31% said they were no longer able to access support but still needed it’’ whilst ‘’87% of respondents agreed that they had felt lonely or isolated during the lockdown period, even though 71% had been able to stay in touch with friends’’. I am very happy to see 11% who were able to improve despite the on-going crisis, stating ‘’they felt it was beneficial to be away from the pressures of their normal life (e.g. bullying or academic pressure at school).
MENTAL HEALTH HYGIENE
We all can work on our mental health hygiene. It’s very important to talk about what you think and feel, even if you don’t have a significant other, whatever the age, even if you don’t have any friends (which I know how it feels like). You can still form a support bubble with another household, like a neighbor you enjoy talking to, back when there was ‘’normalcy’’.
Managing stress won’t be getting any easier, but we can get tougher. Stressors like taking care of someone who is ill, or experiencing loss of any kind can take its toll on you, so reaching out to family members or a service is still important. WELLTEQ recommends cutting off screen time before bed, (phones, tv’s, laptops). You can try to put those away in another room so that you aren’t tempted to check any emails in your bedroom, at least an hour before bed time.
Start journaling as a way of releasing the steam from your emotion factory, and try to go to bed earlier than later. If you are staying up, you’re either a student with 3 days to a deadline, or binge-watching ‘’Bridgerton’’ on Netflix – then you have my blessing to stay up, the rest of you lot go to bed!
MEDITATION – BENEFITS ON OUR PSYCHE
The benefits of meditation can’t be denied, as it was proven to improve self-worth, memory and concentration, increase creativity, (Upwell Health, n.d.), you’d even score higher on assignments or speed in which you solve puzzles, and it can bring you inner peace – if you get yourself to do it.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to spend money on it, it is readily available on YouTube. Start with guided meditation videos. At first, you may have issues concentrating on being still, because it is hard to master your own mind, telling your mind to quiet down won’t work from first try but keep at it. I’ve researched mental health apps in Year 1 for an assignment, and found an article from MS-UK featuring the 11 best apps for mental health which may help you, link here: https://www.ms-uk.org/blog-11-best-mental-health-apps
MUSIC AND GETTING CREATIVE
Other than meditating, music and getting creative is very important – to get those skills you have in motion. We all have more time than usual, so use it creatively. There are so many podcasts on Spotify, all my follows are on entrepreneurs and Law of Attraction, because the film The Secret got me into it. It is the perfect time to consider and start an online business, as more and more people grow tired of depending on being paid by someone else.
Music helps us tremendously, it lowers stress, it stimulates the brain, releases endorphins when listening to our favorite bands, in a 2019 study by Healthline, people were found to be more motivated to learn when they expected to listen to a song as their reward.
What helped me recover was wanting to recover and working on assignments as it gave me purpose. Another, was being ‘’forced’’ to get creative as I’m the social media coordinator of a fan site for actor turned activist for Human Rights and sustainability in fashion, Emma Watson. I had to create graphics every month, and it felt good too.
So much that I want for 2021 to go back to painting in Adobe Photoshop and write my novel ideas, no matter how much time it consumes. It could be that you own a watercolor palette you never used before, so just go buy the brushes if you don’t have them already. Create your own daily routine to include something funny, something stimulating like music, something calming, like meditating or prayer, and something soothing, like a book (Audible or Waterstones, or both), fitness – like dancing or exercising (both can be found on YouTube).
STILL BORED? THE SOLUTION
Artfund is a charity that connects us with museums, and offers a Student Art Pass for only £5, so all students should get it for the multitude of experiences you get from using it. Think of all the inspiration you’ll get from seeing ancient artefacts, immersing in Virtual Reality, to artwork maybe you didn’t know anything about before. Doing this you’ll help a gallery or museum stay open, because #AllMuseumsMatter.
Do you want to know how to become the hero of your colleagues? Read on and apply!
Managers have a tough job, managing a team and a company with a second wave of lockdown as icing. In the previous blog post on ‘’virtual teams and effective communication’’ there were a few points on the benefits of remote working but working remotely has its own cons:
It can be stressful
One of the most important aspects to remember (as a manager or team leader) is to not give a member of staff a lot of tasks to accomplish in one day, if it is necessary make sure the load is not as heavy the next day, in order to maintain a balance.
It can feel dehumanizing
‘’How can the language you use when talking to remote workers make them feel better connected? Empathy might help your organization get there. When using such dehumanizing modes of communication as email, word choice becomes your only conduit for empathy. Choose your words with care. Belinda Parmar, CEO of London-based The Empathy Business, a global consultancy that specialises in the measurement of empathy, writes in a thoughtfully worded email: “Empathy is good for business and for employees—and in a remote office environment, empathy is key to survival.’’(Zendesk, 2020).
Higher risk of feeling/getting distracted
Each member of the team needs to have some sort of schedule or worksheet for the day ahead and know what goals they work towards; having a meeting every day at a certain time agreed with everyone either at the beginning or end of the day can help. Also, asking them to turn off mobiles will also help reduce distractions.
Higher risk of lacking community
When working remotely it can get robotic and lonely so it is important to remind them that they aren’t alone and that they can reach out whenever they need. Assigning a mentor to staffers, or hiring a Chief Happiness Officer will help create a team of people who feel like a family at work. Remember they are human, make them smile with a short message or email like Rebecca Longbottom does for her team, ‘’ find out what’s on their mind – what’s making them happy or troubled, what they’re looking forward to, and what they might dread’’ (PRWEEK, 2020). Don’t forget to have fun with games like the Pip Wilson’s Blob Tree(psycho-emotional test) or know how things are going with a ‘’fist check’’ where ‘’On Bryan’s team at BELAY, they use a “fist to five” system. When the team needs a quick read on how people are feeling about a topic, they ask participants to use their hand to put up a fist (a 0 on the comfort scale), or five fingers (a full-fledged approval) to show their acceptance. If most people are a five, you know things are going pretty well. Easy forms of feedback like this will help monitor morale even during periods of distance.’’(Forbes, 2020).
Higher risk of missunderstandings
For those staffers who aren’t native speakers in English it can be difficult to understand, the solution here could be assigning them to a person who speaks or understands their native language and sending them translated material, making messages clear, avoiding jargon. Another would be using a project management tool with clear tasks; using clear, empathetic language. Avoid direct harsh words, find a way to deliver a hard message softly when staff made a mistake. Everything can be fixed but trust.
Dealing with timezones is not impossible
Geographically-dispersed teams are indeed a thing. Know where everyone is timezone wise and set meetings, calls etc. at the same time for everyone. Divide the team in two, one part has a meeting in the morning, the other in the evening if it’s more convenient for their local time keeping in mind their preferences(sleep patterns, family commitments).
Holding colleagues accountable and productive
While anyone can understand if someone is a few minutes late to a meeting due to family commitments or technology issues, not the same can be said about slackers. Even in a remote working environment it is still easy to see who puts in the effort and who doesn’t, with or without a tool to track performance. Make clear what it is that they have to get done and in what timeframe and check in with everyone on how they’re getting on.
Online security and privacy
Have a written policy for remote working. Everyone, no matter how big or small, can use a password manager which come with premium features like LASTPASS. It stores all the passwords for you, generates strong ones to withstand hacking, and auto-fills them for you.
Using a different browser than the one used for personal things so that sharing anything personal is reduced to a minimum.
Disconnecting from work
Managers have to check that their colleagues don’t work more than the hours agreed on – ‘’remote workers think that they are very productive and keep doing work for long hours’’(Designhill, 2020). Remind all colleagues to set time aside for healthy eating, keeping hydrated, exercising, hobbies, family and rest because it’s easy to forget to eat or other personal needs when working from home(one example).
Was the above useful and interesting for you? If yes, have you discovered aspects you as a team member or manager can bring up to a team and improve? Managers who cannot afford a mentor or a Chief Happiness Officer like Rebecca, can become one themselves. You could:
Develop a health and wellness committee that can focus on bringing wellness resources into the workplace.
Review your company’s mental health resources for potential psychological safety practices, resources and tools to share with employees.
Bring mental health experts into the workplace to host seminars on stress management, emotional intelligence and conflict resolution.
Get trained in Mental Health First Aid at Work so your employees can recognize the signs and symptoms of a mental illness or substance use among colleagues and respond appropriately. Email our team at MHFAatWork@TheNationalCouncil.org for more information.
Once these tips are put into practice will benefit employers and employees and build the community that business books talk about. You’ll be the hero/ine of the team and your company will thrive long-term!