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The Coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on all aspects of our lives, including our mental health and wellbeing.

To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week, we asked our staff to share their story of what lock down has meant for their mental wellbeing. Here Tracy, our Transaction Team  Manager, shares her experience.

How has the Coronavirus impacted on your mental health?

Anxiety, depression, isolation, motivation, stress are all things that most of us deal with without even knowing it. It comes as part of the package of life and most of us can just crack on and keep going.

Working from home with my family (my two children, 13 and 19, working on school and college work and my husband, who has been furloughed for 8 weeks) has been a strain. It highlights the good and the bad.  For me everything has been magnified. We are a good unit together. We support each other. However we do disagree, sometimes over the most trivial and little things. In a house there are not many areas to get away from everyone, the house is only so big.

My children are desperate to see their friends and we have had to lock them away.

We have had good days and bad days. We have had rows and arguments. Trying help them understand whilst trying to understand ourselves. Sorting out the misinformation which is shared so freely on all their social media with the facts as we can find them. For weeks my son didn’t believe the stories coming out in the press, the food shortages, the panic buying. It took a while for them to see how serious this was.  Most children believe their indestructible!

Hoping that you’re doing the right thing as a parent and trying to keep as much normality as possible (the bedtimes routines (that have been so far stretched) and the wake up times, mealtimes, food (eating what you would normally at normal times)). Hoping your children don’t hate you by the end of it for ‘ruining their life/social life’. Am I being too strict? ‘so, and so’s mum let them go out with their mates’. Constantly questioning decisions.

All this whilst working, managing a team, ensuring we keep as much process in place as we can in this uncertain time. Ensuring people are paid, correctly, at the right time. Recruitment keeps going (changing to fit in with social distancing but ensuring safeguarding measures are kept). The normal routine things keep going as they would do during a normal year.

It’s tiring. And with no end date in sight it can be daunting.  It’s not like you can think ‘it will be fine, just a few weeks or a month more’.We don’t know when this will end. All our plans for this year, like everyone else’s, have been cancelled so there is nothing to look forward to even when this does end.

Just going to the shop becomes like preparing for battle. Will they have everything you need? Will there be a big queue? What do I do if someone comes to close? Do I wear a mask? Will they have cleaned the trolley? How many things will I touch going around the shop?  Did I just touch my face? Oh god I need to sneeze/cough, people will think I’ve got it? Did he just brush past me? Anxiety levels are maximum. Breath!!!!!!!

How are you managing your mental health?

I am a glass half full (and I know I can be) annoying kind of person. This has been built over years of having horrible stuff happen but just having to crack on. My nickname used to be Dori (yes forgetful at times) but I just kept swimming. Looked on the Brightside. That person that always says ‘at least xxx didn’t happen’ or ‘yeah no worries, I’m fine/that’s fine/leave it with me’ Smile.

This has tested all of that. We all say you need resilience but we all have those days when the armour isn’t quite enough and I’ve had to face the days when it hasn’t been and realise that that’s OK.  It’s alright to admit you’re not coping and you need a moment, you need to be human.  I have had to find ways to take my mind off everything happening around me and forget for just a little while.

I’ve been honest with both my children. I am lucky that my 13 year old daughter is quite mature for her age and bright. She understands (we still fight. Well I tell her something she doesn’t like, she tells me loudly she doesn’t like it and then stomps off) but I have those moments with her when I am open and honest and I explain and she gets it. I tell her how it really is. I don’t cover it and I am not over optimistic. I am truthful and she find that reassuring. We that we are all in the same boat. My son, although older, is closer to my daughter in maturity (they do say girls mature quicker than boys) so despite the 6 year age gap with him being 19 I have treated him much the same. We did have a point where I took the front door keys as he was determined to go see his friends but then I went and sat with him and we talked. I went shopping and brought him back some bottles of cider so he could celebrate his friend’s birthday virtually online raising a drink instead of being out in a club with them.

But I have questioned what I am doing as a parent. Am I right?  Are his friend’s parents doing the same? But then I want to see them grow up and I am doing this so that can happen.

I have had to keep that glass topped up by finding the good in the last 8 weeks. We would normally be away camping most weekends leaving our garden quite neglected and being embarrassed of our overgrown lawn and boarders.  Our garden at the moment has never looked so great. We’ve even painted the gate (hasn’t been done in over 10 years!)

We are lucky to have a camper van which, over the last 4 years, we painstakingly converted ourselves from an electricians van to include beds, seating area and a cooking pod. We cannot go away as we would do normally but on those weekends that would have seen us away in the countryside we have camped out, eating and sleeping in the van (and pretending for just a moment things are normal).

We have gone for local walks and bike rides and discovered more of our local area as well as playing games with each other away from technology (my daughter has got even better at poker, I’ve learnt how to play Uno, we have argued over Queen monopoly and my husband discovered I am better than him at badminton!)

We celebrated VE day. We go out and clap every Thursday. We wave and shout hello to neighbours who we sometimes don’t see as we race around our usual routine.  We have exchanged gifts and cards with them becoming a better neighbourhood, a closer community. We are looking out for our elderly neighbours and checking we are all OK.

I have always appreciated what I have but this has made me appreciate it so much more. We have a house, two kids, each other etc. I have even written a list for when those dark clouds start gathering.  We have become settee travellers watching programmes and writing lists of places we will go when we have our freedom returned. Whenever that is it will be a hell of a year (possible needs to be a few at this rate!)

As I am writing this I can hear my children laughing and joking with each other probably over a TikTok video or YouTube.  That sound definitely helps. I know people who are not so fortunate and I know some who have lost their lives in the past 8 weeks to both COVID19 and other ailments.  We haven’t so I am thankful.

Do you have any advice for anyone who maybe struggling at this time?

Writing this has helped. It’s made me stop for a moment, take stock and it’s made me think. What am I doing? What have I got? What are my challenges? How do I look forward positively?  Reading it back it’s quite therapeutic.

Fresh air. Walks. Do something you’ve always wanted to do but have not had the time or head space for (I have done some sewing for the first time in ages. We now have a lot of bunting). I’m reading more to get me to sleep as I end up dreaming of what I read and not all the other troubling stuff.

It’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK to admit that things are rubbish. Life is a bit pants right now and you are allowed to admit that it’s hard and you’re struggling. If that is the case find what makes it better for you. Talking to friends, walking, video calling your team (love my team), watching good movies, crafting in whatever form you like.

We have the Employee Assistance Programme to support our employees. Letting people know means they can help. It is no good bottling it up and saying everything is fine when it isn’t. We are all human. We can break. It’s OK.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Framework is an amazing place to work. Even before COVID19, it was a great place to work. The stories people have written help you see what others are doing and it makes me very proud to be a very small cog in a fantastic machine. The social media coverage of all the donations received, volunteers who have come forward, colleagues going above and beyond is astounding and drives me.  I spread the word, share the posts and smile that I work for such an organisation that when faced with such a world-wide pandemic have just cracked on, kept going, dived in to help others and supported each other through it all. Wow. To all my colleagues, thank you. I think your just fab 😁