Courtney recently had an interesting discussion with a psychologist about the potential impacts of COVID19 on our mental health which led her to re-share some of the tips the Miko + Mollie team collated for looking after their mental health a while ago and also recount some of the key issues to look out for surrounding COVID19 and its potential impacts on our mental health.
The full Frock Up Friday session is below. Join us every Friday night at 8pm ACST on instagram (the live function in the top left hand corner) for more helpful discussions like this and styling sessions.
In summary, the isolation and lack of personal touch we are experiencing from our efforts to contain the virus, could have negative impacts on our mental health. Social connection is an important pillar to mental health. So while we're doing our best to contain the virus and get through this pandemic we need to be aware of our feelings and mental health and proactively work to counteract the new situation we find ourselves in, in new and innovative ways.
Which is exactly why we started Frock Up Friday all those months ago! We foresaw this as an issue and worked to implement a digital space that could bring people together and allow them to connect, providing that validation and human interaction we need. It has made such an impact we are continuing it for the foreseeable future. So tell your friends and family about it and join us on Friday nights to talk all things boys, fashion, make up, styling and lifestyle. Like a girls' night out...but in! And safe from spreading the virus. So join this fab new initiative and make wonderful friends, be entertained and learn some new things along th way.
In addition to the loss of social connection and human touch, COVID19 has the potential to affect people with underlying or existing mental conditions like OCD or PTSD, and also increase general anxiety for people who don't usually suffer from anxiety disorders.
Our bodies have a natural "fight or flight" mechanism to protect us. It's active at all times but we usually build a resilience to the general level of risk present in our outside environments - other people who may want to harm us, cars that may hit us, cracks in the concrete we may stumble on, a dog that's escaped its yard and your not sure if its aggressive. The list goes on.
Spending a lot more time in our homes and away from the outside world could lower that resilience and we may find it more stressful to leave our homes and get back out into the big wide world again. The psychologist Courtney was chatting to suggested that it's important, COVID19 restrictions permitting, to exercise our resilience to those "risks" outside in order to build that resilience back up again. It's not advisable to go into avoidance mode and try to rearrange your life such that you never have to leave your home again! This is particularly one to watch if you have or could be working from home a lot more at the moment or in the future.
It's important to be self-aware of these new circumstances that could impact our mental health and manage your mental health proactively.
Seek help, read broadly, talk to medical professionals, build your mental health knowledge base around issues specific to you and build a mental health tool kit that works for you. Trial and error helps!
And on that note, here are the things the Miko + Mollie girls have found work for them. Give some of them a whirl and see what works for you and promotes health feelings and positive energy in your life. They can also help to manage those negative feelings we ALL get from time to time. It's important for our mental health to address them, not ignore them.
1. Know yourself and your triggers
Work. family, COVID, are not the only things you have going on in life. There can be all sorts of things going on at any given time so it's important to take time to know and understand yourself. Ask yourself what you're feeling, why you're feeling it and slowly piece together data on what your triggers can be.
At exam time, are you more sensitive to pressure? When you've had a fight with a loved one, are you more emotional and can be more sensitive to the way people interact with you?
Do you react strongly to people being unkind or rude? Do you have a strong sense of right and wrong or a strong sense of social justice that is easy to offend?
What is your beliefs and values set? What do you react strongly to? Those things are your triggers and you need to be mindful of them because most people won't mean to offend them. They just have a different values set to you.
It's knowing and being aware of your intrinsic values-driven triggers, as well as your situational triggers (like when you are likely to be under more pressure) that give you the best chance to manage stress and anxiety when it is likely to arise.
2. Be proactive
Part of being self-aware is knowing your triggers but it's also about knowing how you're feeling at the time, and how to manage it proactively. Prevention is always better than cure!
We ask our staff to look after themselves, being self-aware and planning for their mental health! It was exam time recently which we know is a lot of additional pressure for our uni girls compared with their normal day to day lives. I asked my staff to take care of themselves, stay aware of their stress levels and emotions and put plans in place to manage them. I made sure they were aware they could have any time off they needed to manage the way they were feeling about the pressures in their lives. One of our girls took an extra weekend off to get away to the country and spend time with people she loves, among nature, recharging and letting go of some of those pressures that had been building for weeks. She came back to work, the highly capable young lady we love, smashing everything she had to deal with at work that week and being her usual superstar self. And she did that for herself, for the benefit of her and her loved ones, for her uni work, and for the benefit of her customers, teammates and our business in general. And this is something we encourage at Miko + Mollie and are so, so proud of in our people!
We also have an environment at Miko + Mollie where our team know, if they are feeling stressed or anxious, they have the full support of me and their team. They know they can talk to us about anything, in confidence, and we can work through problems together.
They are also ENCOURAGED to take 5 minutes to meditate out the back if they are feeling overwhelmed, paid. As often as they need. It's important to promote a culture of proactive mental health in a workplace. Our staff are not just staff, they're family. We care about them as individuals and as members of our work team. We want them to feel safe and secure and happy at work and go home in better condition than they came! And we will implement anything we can to help them do that. Mentoring is also a great option.
3. Use tools that work for you
Another part of being self-aware is knowing what tools work for you. We asked our girls what cool little mental health tools they use to manage their stress and anxiety when they can feel it escalating.
Courtney uses mindfulness meditation and essential oils to keep her mental health in check, in a regular and ongoing way, as well as taking a few moments out of her busy schedule to calm her body down. When you're go, go, go all the time, anxiety and stress can build in your body and it's important to take regular moments to let this go - a hot bath, a few moments laying in the sun without your phone or anything to read, sitting on the beach and watching a sunset just because you can. These moments can help manage rising stress and anxiety. But when she can feel her anxiety rising and she's unable to take time out to do something for her, she uses the Box Breathing Method. This is a tool that she uses to take time out, focus on her breath and calm the physical signs of anxiety down in her body so it doesn't escalate. When you are stressed or anxious your breathing can get short and shallow. This exercise helps you slow that breathing back down and breathe from the diaphragm where we are designed to breathe from, instead of the chest which is where we tend to breathe from when we're stressed, anxious or feeling panic.
To use the technique, breathe in slowly through the nose for a count of 4, making sure you breathe deep into your diaphragm and feel the stomach rise, not the chest. Hold the breath for 4 seconds, release slowly out of the mouth for 4 seconds and then wait another 4 seconds. Do 4 cycles of this. Easy to remember! 4, 4, 4, 4 x 4! When you are very stressed or anxious, slowing down your breathing can feel like you are not getting enough breath but as your body calms down and stops using so much energy to get you anxious(!!) the breath will feel more natural so push through those first few moments of discomfort to reach a more calm, balanced feeling.
Dani takes a few moments to enjoy the things that give her pleasure in life (aside from her beautiful daughter and lovely husband, Brad) - chocolate and country music! And in real moments of stress or tension she...watches cat videos on Youtube! We love this! She gives herself a few moments to re-group and changes her mindset with something that amuses her and tugs at her heart strings.
Jess introduced sport and recreation into her life in a regular way. She joined a touch football team and finds the social interaction and regular exercise motivating and calming. Courtney also uses exercise for its mental health benefits. When under pressure she will workout for 45 minutes to release endorphins and then hit the sauna to do her breathing exercises - detoxifying her body and calming her mind at the same time! It’s also physically relaxing which assists with the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Other staff members use mindfulness apps on their phones and duck away for 3-5mins to do a quick meditation when they feel their stress or anxiety rising. This is particularly useful when experiencing social anxiety because you can duck away and re-group in a toilet for a few minutes with some meditation. The girls recommend Headspace and Insight Timer - available on the app store.
4. Remember life is full of challenges and it's a privilege to experience them
Mindset is the key to enjoying your life. Life is full of challenges. Not every day will be wonderful! But we all need to remember it is a privilege to experience the good times and the bad. And the bad experiences are the ones that teach us the most. They are the best growth experiences and we should be grateful for them and take full advantage of them in terms of learnings.
If you can see them as a growth experience it will change your entire outlook on life. Giving you pleasure where there would usually be pain! And this is the greatest gift you can give yourself and your mental health.
In addition to viewing challenges as a positive experience, viewing your mental health as a responsibility you have to yourself and others around you is important. When we protectively manage our mental health we feel better but we also interact more positively, more effectively, make less mistakes and have a positive impact on those around us. When we are stressed or anxious we can pass that on to others or react negatively in situations where we otherwise wouldn’t. So managing your mental health isn’t just something you do for you, you do it for those around you as well.
5. Implement change - personally and professionally
The Miko + Mollie team have implemented healthy habits into their personal lives, making them part of their routines. We exercise, play social sport and meditate regularly. Each day building on positive mental health and strengthening our abilities to cope with times of stress and anxiety when they happen.
We have also implemented healthy practices at work. Staff have access to leave whenever they need it to manage their mental health and are actively encouraged to take time out of their work day to do a quick meditation or breathing exercise. They are actively supported by their management in everything they do and they know they are cared for as a PERSON, not a worker. They are part of a family, not a workplace. We recruit staff who value this and take responsibility for each other’s wellbeing. At Miko + Mollie you end up with a second family and support network and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Being part of a work environment like this is empowering and encouraging. Our girls are growing up with a powerhouse of women on their side, lifting them up and encouraging them. Giving them the confidence to grow into the kind, supportive, capable women they were born to be. And that is a gift we are so grateful to be able to give each other. It is one of the reasons we do what we do every day. Having that sort of impact on another human being’s life is such a privilege and something we derive incredible purpose and joy from - two things also very important for mental health! So you see, it's all cyclical!
We hope these little tips from our staff help you in times of increased stress or anxiety. Stress and anxiety are normal. Please seek help if you are struggling with these feelings on your own. Every single human being will go through times of poor mental health in their lifetime. There is no shame in it. It is part of life. So there is no shame in seeking help when you need it. It’s part of being a brave, vulnerable, honest human being. We take our hats off to those who proactively manage their mental health and who seek help when they need it! We do! And we are a better team, and better people, for it.