I was struck by an article in The Time on 5 January about how COVID is affecting our mental health and suggesting ten ways to help yourself during these dark days. It occurred to me that we also need some tips on how to help our teams keep their spirits high. So, I have had a go at adapting The Times suggestions.

1. Pay attention to warning signs

Have team meetings or events started dwindling? Have people started opting out of them?

Time for a refresh and for some new ideas. Remember keep it short and sweet. You don’t need everyone engaging all of the time but aim for all of the people some of the time.

2. Avoid labels

Think carefully about words you use when talking about your team. In normal times, it is great to aim to be a high performing team. In pandemic times, this may set an unrealistic expectation. You particularly don’t want to put stress on any individual who is struggling. It is bad enough to let yourself down but avoid people feeling they are letting the team down.

3. Challenge your own negative thoughts

Keep yourself in check and don’t pass on negative thoughts. Weigh up the negative thought against the evidence and try and find something positive. Whatever you put in your mind affects your mood and your behaviour also.

4. Don’t be afraid to talk about emotions

It can be helpful if people think others feel the same way they do or, empathise with how they feel. It relieves stress too, if people feel it is safe to confide or express fears. Being mindful of point 3 above, your team will probably appreciate it if you reveal your own emotions and fears. Remember, emotions and fears pass.

5. Establish tiny positive habits

Psychotherapist Dr Julia Samuel [1] recommends, “Micro-habits give you a sense of agency. Piggy-back one habit on to another. Run on the spot for five minutes before you make a cup of team, or breathe in for a count of seven and out for eleven. It lowers your cortisol.” Find such habits to build into your team meetings.

6. Set small, short term goals

This can help motivation by giving us something real and tangible to aim for and that can also give us a reason to recognise an achievement and celebrate. Make sure these goals are small steps on the way to a bigger destination.

7. Keep a routine

This will help people organise their day and also give an element of normality in a period which is anything but. Build into this routine, times in the day when you ‘have an open door,’ meaning people can contact you to discuss what is on their mind or for help.

8. Talk to a friend

Create opportunities for people to work in pairs or to support one another so that they have someone available to look out for them.

9. Watch out for individuals

The above are techniques to use with your team, but teams are made up of individuals and so use these techniques to look out for each of your team members.

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©Janice Caplan 2020