Staying Mentally Healthy Following Redundancy

23 October 2015

Advice from Redcar & Cleveland Mind

It is recognised that being made redundant is likely to be in the top ten most stressful events that can happen throughout your life. However it can also be seen as an opportunity for change, a chance to re-evaluate what is important to you, and what direction your career might take in the future. Most of us will be made redundant 2.7 times in our working life, although right now that won’t feel like any consolation to you.

The most important element to being made redundant is that you keep your self confidence high, however hard that might feel. Your friends and family are likely to be able help you stay positive. They know your strengths and value you whether you are at work or not. Human dignity is not defined solely by our ability to work and be employed, but it is a big part of life.

In situations like our here in Redcar, the closure of the steelworks is devastating. Devastating to those who worked there, the supply businesses affected, contractors laid off, and thousands of families across our community. The fight to keep SSI open has already had an emotional toll and it is hard to feel positive when generations of our heritage are taken away.

Acknowledging the emotional impact of sudden redundancy on this scale is the first step in looking after our wellbeing. Knowing that thousands of friends and colleagues are in the same situation may make you feel worse, but also there is camaraderie in knowing that you are there for one another.

There will be plenty of people that you can speak to in the weeks and months to come who can offer practical support, advice and guidance, about what new opportunities you might consider. Redcar & Cleveland Mind will be working alongside Job Centre Plus, the National Careers Service and Citizen’s Advice Bureau to offer support to you if you need to talk to someone about how you may be feeling.

Looking After Your Mental Health

Some people call mental health ‘emotional health’ or ‘wellbeing’ and it is just as important as good physical health. We all have times when we feel down or stressed or frightened. Most of the time those feelings pass. But sometimes they develop into a more serious problem and that could happen to any one of us.

Everyone is different. You may bounce back from a setback while someone else may feel weighed down by it for a long time. Your mental health doesn’t always stay the same. It can change as circumstances change and as you move through different stages of your life.

Some people think there’s still a stigma attached to mental health problems. This means that people feel uncomfortable about them and don’t talk about them much. Many people don’t even feel comfortable talking about their feelings. But it’s healthy to know and say how you’re feeling, especially at times like this.

Ten Tips to being mentally healthy

1. Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. Talking about your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy. Talking can be a way to cope with a problem you’ve been carrying around in your head for a while. Just being listened to can help you feel supported and less alone. And it works both ways. If you open up, it might encourage others to do the same.

2. Keep active: Experts believe exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, sleep, look and feel better. Exercise also keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy. Exercising doesn’t just mean doing sport or going to the gym. Walking, gardening or housework can also keep you active. Try to make physical activity that you enjoy a part of your day.

3. Eat well. There are strong links between what we eat and how we feel – for example, caffeine and sugar can have an immediate effect. But food can also have a long-lasting effect on your mental health. Your brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. A diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health.

• lots of different types of fruit and vegetables;

• wholegrain cereals or bread;

• nuts and seeds;

• dairy products;

• oily fish; and

• plenty of water.

A healthy balanced diet means eating at least three meals each day and drinking a lot, though not too much alcohol. Try to limit how many high-caffeine or sugary drinks you have.

4. Drink sensibly. We often drink alcohol to change our mood. Some people drink to deal with fear or loneliness, but the effect is only temporary. When the drink wears off, you feel worse because of the way alcohol withdrawal symptoms affect your brain and the rest of your body.

Drinking is not a good way to manage difficult feelings because it is a known depressant. It’s also habit forming. When you suddenly have a lot of time on your hands, it’s tempting to fill that time with others in a similar situation, “meeting up for a pint”. The problem starts when “a few pints” turns into 8 or 10, on a regular basis. Occasional light drinking is perfectly healthy and enjoyable for most people.

Many people smoke or use drugs or other substances to change how they feel. But, again, the effects are short-lived. Just like alcohol, the more you use, the more you crave. Nicotine and drugs don’t deal with the causes of difficult feelings. They don’t solve problems, they create them.

5. Keep in touch. Strong family ties and supportive friends can help you deal with the stresses of life. Friends and family can make you feel included and cared for. They can offer different views from whatever’s going on inside your own head. They can help keep you active, keep you grounded and help you solve practical problems. There’s nothing better than catching up with someone face-to-face. But that’s not always possible. Give them a call, drop them a note or chat to them online instead. Keep the lines of communication open. It’s good for you!

6. Ask for help. None of us are superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things go wrong. If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help. Your family or friends may be able to offer practical help or a listening ear.

Local services are there to help you.  For example, you could:

• Visit a citizen’s advice bureau if you want advice on debt or finance.

• Find a counsellor or support worker to help you deal with your feelings and help you in moving forward – you can access this service through Redcar & Cleveland Mind.

• You should consider getting help from your GP if difficult feelings are:

• stopping you getting on with life;

• having a big impact on the people you live with; or

• affecting your mood over several weeks.

Over a third of visits to GPs are about mental health. Your GP may suggest ways you or your family can help you. Or they may refer you to a specialist or another part of the health service, like Talking Therapies. All local doctors have access to teams of professionals and support staff offering a range of skills and different ways to help.

7. Take a break. A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you. Give yourself some ‘me time’. Taking a break may mean being very active. It may mean not doing very much at all. Listen to your body. If you’re really tired, give yourself time to sleep. Without good sleep, our mental health suffers and our concentration goes downhill. Sometimes the world can wait.

8. Do something you’re good at. What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing in the past? Enjoying yourself helps beat stress. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you’re good at it and achieving something boosts your self-esteem. Concentrating on a hobby like gardening or the crossword can help you forget your worries for a while and change your mood. It can be good to have an interest where you’re not seen as someone’s mum or dad, partner or colleague.

You’re just you. An hour of sketching lets you express yourself creatively. A morning on the football pitch gets you active and gives you the chance to meet new people.

9. Accept who you are. Some of us make people laugh, some are good at maths, others cook fantastic meals. Some of us share our lifestyle with the people who live close to us, others live very differently. We’re all different. It’s much healthier to accept that you’re unique than to wish you were more like someone else. Feeling good about yourself boosts your confidence to learn new skills, visit new places and make new friends. Good self-esteem helps you cope when life takes a difficult turn. Be proud of who you are. Recognise and accept what you are not good at, but focus on what you do well. Work out if there’s anything that you still want to change. Are your expectations realistic? If they are, work towards the change in small steps.

10. Care for others. Caring for others is often an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you. It can even bring you closer together. Why not share your skills more widely by volunteering for a local charity? Helping out can make us feel needed and valued and that boosts our self-esteem. It also helps us see the world from another angle. That can help to put our own problems in perspective.

Right now, you will be going through all kinds of feelings: shock, anger, despair, fear for the future – these are just some of the things you may be feeling. All of these feelings are perfectly natural. Everyone is different and will work through their feelings at a different pace. It’s when those feelings go on for a long time that you may need help to work through them.

The numbers below may help if you need support:

Contact us at Redcar & Cleveland Mind on 01642 296052, or email info@randcmind.org  We will also have a member of staff at Steel House every day from Thursday Oct 8th.  We are open to your suggestions about what support you need. If you feel a support group would be helpful, we can facilitate this. We also have a number of short courses you can access, as well as one-to-one support and counselling.

Call Mental Health Matters helpline between 6pm and 6am, 365 days a year on 0800 052 0658

Samaritans provides emotional support for people who are experiencing distress or despair. For confidential support, call 08457 90 90 90 (local rate) 24 hours a day

Redcar and Cleveland Citizen’s Advice Bureau can help advice on debt, finance and welfare rights.  Contact 01287 203324

For general health information and advice: You can contact NHS England 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for information about health-related issues. Information is available in a wide range of languages. Phone: 111

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