Frontline stories: staff wellbeing during lockdown

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One of the keyworkers at our Women’s Centre has been providing all the staff with daily self-care emails during lockdown.

Jo has worked in various roles for the organisation, so I asked her about her journey working with The Nelson Trust.

Jo started managing The Hub Bistro (now The Clean Plate) in Gloucester over three-and-a- half years ago. She then became General Manager of the The Sober Parrot, an exciting new alcohol-free entertainment venue opened by the Trust in Cheltenham and eventually took over managing both venues.

Now Jo works in Women’s Community Services as the Peer Mentor Co-ordinator, a role which supports her training as a Counsellor. During lockdown, she has also been working in Residential Services to get some more experience working directly with clients in their early stages of their recovery.

What brings you joy when it comes to work?
I really enjoying training and developing people. Working with someone to define what their goals are – to help them get to where they want to go.

How has lockdown been for you?
I’m getting used to it now but I found it difficult to begin with. I had just moved into a big house where I only had one room to myself, so suddenly, as everything went remote, my bedroom became my office too. Everything was cut off, so I had to get creative about how to manage my life.

What helped you find more peace, balance and resilience?
Personally, staying connected helped the most. When we first went into lockdown I had a few friends who retreated and I said ‘no, no, this is NOT how this is going to work!’

I started baking quite a lot, then I started making my own gloves and masks. This gave me a reason to get out and do doorstep drops. Seeing friends even from a distance really helped. It also stopped me eating ALL the cakes.

How do you see the transition period, where we move into to a new normal?
I would say consistent communication is key. My role is based around volunteers and a lot of group settings, so I had no idea what my job role would look like over this period. I wasn’t sure how I would work out ways to adapt, I was a bit worried it could have been the end of my role. But I found that communicating with my team, being naturally adaptable, and coming up with some creative solutions meant that we found a new way of working with our clients and my role.

What challenges have you seen your Peer Mentors face?
Most of them have been OK because they have laptops or iPads. One peer mentor struggles with technology, and another wasn’t in a good home environment. For some the online sessions worked well, for others I have had to think of other ways to keep them engaged. We are going to have to stay remote for a while, as we are not a top priority of service to have to meet up in person yet.

I feel that I have a privileged viewpoint because I have worked in a number of different roles at the Trust. The staff in the Women’s Centre need to have a close bond and have a higher need for more wellbeing and connection. One of the things which motivated me to doing the wellbeing tips daily was the sense of community and being part of the team.

What were your favourites out of the daily self-care tips you wrote?
Singing. I didn’t realise how much I did it or how powerful it was. One person wrote back and told me about listening to ‘her’ song on the way to her interview for The Nelson Trust. She told me just how much singing her heart out helped to keep her calm and she got the job, so who knows, maybe the singing helped her present the best version of herself?

One of the posts which got great responses back was to dance! Just dance around to music and not care what you look like. I went into Residential Services that night and one of the staff members said to me, ‘hey, are we supposed to be dancing tonight?’

I also had a message from Dan at The Clean Plate, who found himself turning the music up and dancing around the kitchen as he was making the meals for The Long Table that day. Music and dance can definitely alter our thoughts and emotions.

My personal favourite was about resilience. Up until that point I had done loads of positive self-care tips. This one was focused on ‘it’s OK not to be OK!’

I shared a YouTube clip of Claire Honeyfield and Josh Connolly (Resilience Coach). He was talking about how there is too much positivity around and actually how important it is to recognise and give space to when we are finding life or our internal world challenging.

There is so much great stuff online for people to access when it comes to wellbeing and self-care. As one of the positives to come out of this lockdown period, I shared how the mantra, ‘I am enough, I have enough and I do enough’ has been something I have used to soothe my own expectations and focus.

Thank you so much Jo for all the time, energy and thought you put into sending out the daily self-care message to all our staff.

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