When reaching out to mental health advocate Nick Bracks to talk about COVID-19, isolation and mental health, it was supposed to be a professional call. After a few minutes of chit-chatting, Bracks asked me, “Are you okay?”
Pausing for a second.
After this question, my conversation weaved into working from home and not being able to take the kids anywhere. A lot like every other parent.
As I hung up the phone, before confirming a time for our interview, I realised: I needed that.
Maybe recently you could relate to the analogy I presented to Bracks: my life was an organised Lego castle and now it is a scattered mess.
He chuckled, concurred and said, “The universal thing is everyone is affected by this. There is a nice relief in that. Everyone in the whole world, in some different way, is having to deal with an adjustment. That does give you some relief. I look at it logically. This is the exact situation right now. Here’s what I can’t control. And these are some specific things that I absolutely can control.”
Bracks suggests building a sound communication system, with a flexible timetable, associated with a candid two-way conversation, checking-in on employees and co-workers, not always to talk business but merely to be listened to. The next challenge is to deliver a level of professional work, usually assembled through a trusted time management system.
“Be really clear on what you want. Have an outline. Know what you are working towards,” Bracks says.
This concise communication will remove self-pressure. This is something Bracks explores further in his online mental health programs (available at his website). The online masterclass combines all his history and education to deliver a program targeted at teenagers and corporations.
He explains, “I wanted to make something that was really available; an educational resource. It’s a ten-part program. I’m hosting it. I have a resident psychologist in each module, different experts throughout it. We cover a whole range of topics. It’s really a holistic program.”
Get comfortable with uncertainty
Everyone’s stress has been raised due to uncertainty. There is no playbook with dot points on what is going to happen next. The only certainty is that there is none. So incorporating healthy habits is not only suitable for the workplace but overall assists with building a foundation for all uncertainty.
There are ways to manage uncertainty through daily habits. Of the many that Bracks talks about, one stuck out to me.
“What’s with the cold shower?”
Bracks chuckles, as though he gets this question a lot.
“The health benefits are massive — look it up, Google it,” he says. “For me, that’s great if that’s true. I actually don’t care; I just feel so bloody good after it. It revitalises you. You just feel refreshed and alive. Purely for that, I keep doing it.”
Bracks explains when it comes to anxiety and bad stress, attempting to ignore or push these feelings away isn’t helpful. The best way is to manage these ill feelings, not push them away.
“If I need to learn something new I can tell myself, ‘OK this is not going to be pleasant at the beginning. I know there’s a specific process, and if I can do it every day for the next three to four weeks it will then become normalised.’”
Beating Isolation Blues
If you are feeling a little isolated, again, don’t fight it, says Bracks. Use the gift of technology and reach out.
“We should be communicating more,” he says. “Having support systems and not just doing it in a fluffy way. Not having a million conversations a day, and connection with people who aren’t going to give you that depth of conversation. Communicating with family, with friends. Maybe there was a friend that you were close with, and reconnecting and rebuilding that relationship. Being vulnerable, talking to people and being honest.”
We are not all professional counsellors but often, just having someone listen is enough.
Once this is all over and we can return back to work, grab a coffee, go to the gym and library again, take a pause and take it in. That is gratitude working.
A reminder to everyone that gratitude is a powerful aspect of life that does not need to be neglected any further.