Wellbeing

This Can Happen....

Åse and I were very fortunate to be able to attend a mental health event in London last week called, This Can Happen. Tag lined, ‘Where Companies Address Mental Health in the Workplace’, over 750 people attended a day focused on making things happen!

One of the standout moments for me was when HRH The Duke of Cambridge joined a panel to share his own experience of mental health during his work with the Air Ambulance. This really highlighted how wide the net is flung with mental health affecting every single person in a variety of contexts and situations. His candor at how different stages of your life can produce different reactions to events really hit home. There is no ‘one size fits all’ or ‘box to tick’ to address mental health and this was really evident in the personal stories and discussions that were part of this event.

The more we talk about mental health, the more we chip away at the stigma around it and move towards a cultural shift in both organisations, communities and individuals. There is so much more talk taking place - such a fantastic change compared to even just a few years ago! Promoting open communication and genuine care and concern for each other is no longer the exception - but becoming the norm. Organisations are now getting serious about the business of mental health as part of their Corporate Strategies, but more importantly, they are really starting to care!

But what about us? What about those who are not working in big Corporates? What can we do? We need to care and communicate and to be part of the wave of movement where mental health and wellbeing are part of daily conversations. To be vigilant and mindful of ourselves and others and start our conversations with, ‘how are you feeling today?’ Ask twice: ‘how are you feeling today?’

One thing is certain. We can all make a difference, and together….THIS CAN HAPPEN!

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What does family mean?

Following some recent conversations about our Company name ‘Family Focus UK’, Åse and I were prompted to pose a new question on our homepage…‘What does family mean?’

When we joined forces, Åse and I were both working predominantly with parenting and we were both extremely passionate about its importance and the family structure. We wanted to focus on this notion of ‘family’ - hence our choice of Company name, Family Focus UK.

However, the tremendous growth in the talk, publicity and awareness of mental health and wellbeing has morphed our work from a purely parenting focus to one that includes a wider scope of topics. So then. Do we change our Company name from ‘Family’ to ‘something else?’

Absolutely not! Because the word ‘family’ is no longer a singular explanation from an olde-worlde version of 2 parents and 2 children. Family has evolved over time to encompass so much more:

In the context of human society, a family is a group of people related either by consanguinity (recognised birth), affinity (marriage or other relationship) or co-existence

Members of the immediate family may include spouses, parents, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. Members of the extended family may include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, and siblings-in-law

Family can relate to places of work or associates by proximity

In most societies, the family is the principal institution for the socialisation of children.

The word "family" can be used metaphorically to create more inclusive categories such as community, nationhood, global village and humanism

We believe that family is a lot more than your birth connections. Family is your community that you build around you. Your work colleagues, football club, your Church, your choir, your neighbours and school friends. Family is the unit you connect with that brings value to your life and gives you purpose. Family can be given to you with birth, or you can create it yourself by forming relationships and connections that matter.

So - who is your family? What are you doing to protect them and nurture them? Do they know that you consider them family? If so - show them!

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The invisible people

There are invisible people all around us. We might see them as we pass but we don’t SEE them.

At school, in the workplace, at the cafe, in a family… They are everywhere!

What makes someone invisible? Is it just in their own heads or is it as real for them as it was for Harry Potter whilst wearing the invisibility cloak?

I think the latter. In my work as a counsellor and coach, I come across people who feel on the outside of society and not seen. They are not noticed, not paid attention to and just ignored. What a horrible feeling that must be!

There is one client in particular that I have never forgotten. He was a man in his mid-20s and living in a bedsit. He said he had never been seen by his family and would just spend the time at home in his room, gaming and smoking weed. No interaction, no ‘How are you?’ or ‘Would you like dinner?’ Nothing. He said that no one cared and he might as well be invisible.

As a parent, that made me so sad for this lost boy. He needed love and attention in his life. That goes a long way to enable growing up.

There are of course lots of more people who feel like this and never seek help. The elderly in our country is a big group where isolation and loneliness is a big problem.

Why is this? What can we do to help?

This is where being a human and noticing others around us can help. Is there a child that rarely gets to play or get spoken to in your child’s class? Can your child engage with him or her?

Are there people in the office who rarely talk and engage with the rest? Why is that? Have you tried to connect?

In the adult world, we easily and often make assumptions and pass judgement on others without actually knowing them. Can this be the case with some of your work colleagues?

Inclusion is vital in the workplace and all around us.

Become aware of the people around us and be inclusive. Maybe there is a new friend nearby!

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People Matter!

I have just returned from a visit back ‘home’ to Cape Town where I’ve been reminded of what really matters.  And it is summed up in one word.  People. People who are family.  People who are friends.  And people who you have never seen before and will never see again.

The positive and vocal African welcome at the airport started a trip that was a humbling reminder of all that truly matters – connecting with people.

I always worry before ‘going home’.  Will I have to apologise for my lack of communication, my bad time management in that I never seem to keep in touch properly? Will I feel guilty that I’ve missed events and occasions and birthdays and I’ll never be able to make it up to my loved ones?  Guilt is a very real emotion for a lot of people – never more so than those living away from home.

And then, you see them and it’s as if time has stood still and you pick up exactly where you left off.  Conversations just seem to continue and the initial need to say ‘sorry for all I haven’t done’ – disappears.  Why is that?   

So much depends on the connections you have with people.  The relationships that you have established over time and the memories you have created.  If they are strong and intact then you will find that this solid foundation has not moved.  

So, this led me to consider the relationships around me now.  How much of a priority am I making the people in my life now?  I have had the privilege of moving over 9 times but with this comes a trail of people and friends left behind in different places that I want to prioritise, but find it very, very hard to find the time to do.  Am I forfeiting possibilities with people in the here and now by trying to maintain and hold onto connections from the past?  Is it physically possible to find the time, energy and resources to do both? 

Working parents also vocalise living with guilt that they are not spending enough time with their children and families. But working is a part of life and sets good examples for children on work ethic and responsibilities.

So what is the solution?

I believe the answer is being present in each and every situation and encounter with people as it happens.  Of connecting, focusing and being active in the moment so that the person (people) you are with both feels and knows that they are a priority for you.  If they matter, make sure they know it.  Make sure that the connection between you is one that builds layers each time you are together and that the moments have meaning for you both.

Every human being needs a purpose in life and no matter who you speak to, you will get a similar response.  A crucial sense of purpose that we all need is feeling connected to others and knowing that you matter to someone else.

So if someone matters to you - tell them.  Show them!  Make moments count and value your time and connections.  Don’t leave things unsaid and undone.  Live each day and be present in your life.   Build emotional blocks to give you (and them) a sense of purpose - which is a basic human need for us all.

People are a pivotal part of life and a privilege – make them a priority.

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World Mental Health Day - 10th October 2018

We’d like to highlight the amazing work being done around the world to both prioritise and de-stigmatise mental health. World Mental Health Day tomorrow is about supporting each other and having conversations to enable and encourage open and honest dialogue around wellbeing and mental health.

The focus this year is particularly on young people, so Åse and I decided that we would go out and ask some young people (aged 14 - 26) their views on 2 questions. The first was:-

“what is the hardest thing about being a young person today?”

Answers included:

“… social media; social media; pressure of internet; social media; stress with school; stress with exams; social media; social media…”

It was interesting how little hesitation there was when they answered this question. It was absolutely, without doubt, social media that was seen as the hardest thing to cope with as a young person today. Next was stress. Our young people are feeling a lot of stress around school work and exams!

Our next question was:-

“What does Mental Health mean to you?”

Answers included:

“ …living behind a facade; anxiety and depression; not feeling good about yourself; not too sure exactly; something to do with how you’re feeling; not coping; not to be taken as a joke…”

With this question, there was less of a theme. Some responses showed they knew a bit, but not necessarily enough or didn’t feel confident to reply. There were a variety of answers.

What was encouraging was how open and honest the young people were in their responses and how they did not shy away from the questions. They certainly seemed to be aware of mental health although not necessarily as confident or unanimous in their replies..

So our job then would be to keep the mental health momentum that seems to be with young people today going. To keep the conversations flowing so that when they enter the workplace this type of conversation and relatability is standard practise.

And something else we can do. We can add our voice in support of World Mental Health Day by wearing a green ribbon or something green tomorrow, 10th October 2018.

If you feel it or think it….SAY IT!

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 A Poll taken by the WorldMentalHealthDay showed how important awareness and education is!

A Poll taken by the WorldMentalHealthDay showed how important awareness and education is!