This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Here, Lee Slater operations manager at Kier Highways, discusses how he has always thought of himself as having a strong healthy mind, but how the COVID-19 lockdown caused him to struggle with the change in routine and lifestyle.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) first labelled COVID-19 as a pandemic, and we have been following the virus and its progression closely, to assess how it could be a potential risk in the contract. The UK Government announced on the 23 March that the country would be going into lockdown – but for me, it feels like it’s been much longer than nearly two months!

In these two months, over lives have significantly changed and not only for the short term, but for the foreseeable future and I’m sure, if you are like me, you’re still trying to process this and guessing what the ‘new normal’ might look like.

‘Change’ in each of its guises, whether personal, financial or work related can be a significant challenge at the best of times, but the impact and scale of the forced change as a result of COVID-19 has been life changing.

As an ex-military man, you might think that if anyone can deal with change and the unexpected it might be me. Generally, we’re used to the unexpected and stressful situation – the old adage of ‘sound in body & mind’ certainly used to ring true for me.

These days however, I’m built more for comfort than speed but I still consider myself to have a strong, healthy mind. Therefore, it came as a surprise to me when I recently experienced a ‘dip’ in my usual demeanour. At the start of week three of lockdown and working from home, I found myself feeling demotivated, deflecting tasks, avoiding conversations and generally feeling overwhelmed by the change of daily routine and the sheer rate of changes that we’ve seen in such a short period of time.

For the most part, I was going through the motions and getting my head around everything that was going on. My husband noticed it before I did and thankfully, speaking honestly, a change in surroundings on the daily dog walk and diverting my mind onto something else for a while and I started to feel normal again.

This experience made me realise that it doesn’t take long for lots of seemingly small but significant changes that are completely out of our control, to merge into something which can feel overwhelming. Without my husband recognising the dips and us addressing them together, as well as taking positive steps to deal with them, I know they could easily escalate into something more.

Right now, it’s more important than ever to look after ourselves, our families, friends & colleagues. Look out for the dips in yourself and others, and don’t be afraid to talk to someone if you’re not feeling yourself, or to ask someone if you have noticed a change in their behaviour. Sharing a problem can help us to put things in perspective more easily and, you never know, the people you speak with might also be experiencing the same dips and hopefully, you can work through them together.”

 

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