Over the last few weeks, you may have experienced more demand on your time and a greater need than ever before to support people and communities through the many challenges posed by coronavirus.
For volunteers and volunteer leaders alike, it has been a very busy time, adapting to new circumstances and working with others to support Suffolk people.
While the priority has rightly been to help those most at need, how much time have you given to your own health and wellbeing?
It’s a question that we don’t often ask ourselves, or at least not in a meaningful way. Stopping to ask someone “how are you?” is a social convention but one that rarely leads to a thorough consideration of what this really means.
We all have a sense for when things are getting on top of us, but it can also be easy to ignore the warning signs if we are busy juggling other priorities. However, being aware of how you’re feeling and, more importantly knowing what to do to stay well, is incredibly important, never more so than in the current circumstances.
With so much advice already available, we have tried to bring some helpful suggestions together using the ‘five ways to wellbeing’.
The five ways to wellbeing was developed in 2008 as an evidence-based, simple framework for looking after your day-to-day mental health and general wellbeing. Think of them a bit like the five-a-day fruit and veg message, which is great for physical health, but in this case good for your wider wellbeing.
Here is a brief summary of these five simple steps:
- Connect: Take time to speak to a friend or family member. It’s important to stay in touch with others however you do it, and sometimes simply talking about how you feel can make a big difference.
- Be active: Being physically active can have a real benefit to your mental health.
- Keep learning: Take the opportunity to learn a new skill or pick up something you have enjoyed doing before.
- Give: Giving your time and energy to others is extremely important – never more so than now – and can pay dividends for your mental wellbeing. Something that volunteers know all about!
- Take notice: Take a break from watching, listening or reading news stories and use the time for the things you enjoy
On their own, each of the five ways to wellbeing can help. The benefits are also cumulative, so the more you combine into your daily routine, the better.
All of this is common sense, and I’m sure will not come as a surprise. However, sometimes having a reminder of the things that can help you to feel well – and happier – is important assurance of what matters. After all, looking after your own wellbeing puts you in a much better place to support others.
Early on in the lockdown period, we produced some simple suggestions for staying well based on the five ways to wellbeing, including specific ideas under each heading and even a 14-day challenge for how to introduce this into your routine.
For more information, we have created plenty of downloadable materials for you to use and share, and some useful case studies and films based on how others are using the five ways to wellbeing. Visit www.healthysuffolk.org.uk/projects/5-ways-to-wellbeing for inspiration.
Chris Pyburn, Public Health Manager
Suffolk Council Council