Yesterday, I was driving to meet up with a friend in an outside space. The news was on the radio about the easing of the Lockdown. Pubs, clubs, cinemas can all open as of the 4th of July. The recommended social distance will then be 1 meter. A spectre of hope that life is resuming, was caught in my peripheral vision.
I felt unexpectedly emotional and tearful, overwhelmed by the enormity of these actions that were being introduced. I can go and stay with my sister, who since February, I have spoken to regularly, met over Zoom, played games that hither to I have never dreamt of participating in but only met twice in a car park outside Stratford upon Avon for a picnic. No hugs, no closeness but better than no contact. I realised that my barometer for gauging a good day out had been recalibrated and this is a change that I hope to keep hold of. Not meeting in car parks per se, but finding joy in the simple things in life. I want to carry on noticing nature, actually hearing the birds singing, enjoying a thermos of liquorice tea, a walk in the park. I want to maintain my celebration of life.
Very Mixed Emotions!
My emotion was not pure joy, it was laced with fear also. The virus has not yet been conquered. There is no vaccine yet ( but I hold out great hope that the amazing science minds are beavering away to find just this) and there are still very real risks that have to be managed. Each person has to weigh them up and take the steps that they feel comfortable with.
Ironically that day, I had also received my shielding letter, reinforcing that I should stay home until the 1st August. I have been very careful but have been out walking the dogs. Avoiding all people other than my family bubble, hiding in hedgerows so that people can pass me and don’t breathe on me. I have not been in a shop for 15 weeks other than going into a garden centre last week, but I have met up with one or two individuals in the open air.
So, why was I filled with a strange mix of emotions? Fear, joy, freedom…any of these and more. One issue is that the threat of spikes in the death rate will mean that restrictions are reimposed Living Through COVID. The thought of going back into isolation after experiencing freedom once again, is too much! The fact that the virus is still there and very much active is a very real threat.
Going into Lockdown
As Lockdown loomed, I did not believe that it was happening. I was appalled when Italy had to Lockdown several towns to manage the virus. The death toll still rose, and rose. Then in the UK we were advised to wash our hands to the tune of Happy Birthday but our death toll rose day by day. Social distancing became part of our vocabulary and talk of schools and colleges closing was bandied about. I stopped listening to the news as the human tragedy was too much for me to comprehend. Being an empathic person meant that I felt the trauma running through my body, the loss, the grief, the fear was lived out in my body as if I was the one directly effected.
Lockdown happened and I thought that I could not live with this loss of freedom and self determination. But, I did . I adapted, as did everyone else. My home was cleaned and redecorated, the garden reinvented and I claimed my space on this planet. I made it as safe as I could. I stopped going food shopping, ordering online through my friend ( I could not get a slot!) and had deliveries for grocers and butchers. The new normal set in. Zoom facilitated connection with friends and family in a clunky manner that was better than nothing.
Structuring My Day
I structured my day, I took an online portrait course ( and many others!) and continued to work online as a coach and a therapist. This online working model was not new to me but normally I would see people as well. I exercised until I tore my hamstring Hamstrung in Covid-19!and this meant that I had to adapt again.
The lifting of the restrictions means that real life will start up again Moving on from Lockdown... I now have to choose how much I want to jump into all of this. I should stay in until August but I will have to decide and calculate risk. Life is now, more than ever, about calculating and accepting risk. taking precautions. Initially I will be mixing only with like minded people who keep their social bubbles small.
All Emotions Are OK
The flood of emotions yesterday caught me off guard. This is normal. Change is once again afoot. The landscape is the same but changed at the same time. In some ways, I am not ready to pick up where I left off. My life at home is very different than before and I have had a personal backstory playing out in the background, one of loss, grief, starting over and moving forward.
We all have backstories going on unseen like a film that only we are aware of. We cannot know how things have really been for others. Yes, we have all been a part of the pandemic and been in lockdown but each of our stories are unique. That is why we cannot judge and compare hardships. We are all entitled to our stories, to feel the swell of emotions that are ours and ours alone. We do not have to justify or quantify our suffering against those of our neighbours. We do not have to wear it on a tee shirt for all to see but equally we can if we choose to.
The quote “ Walk a mile in my moccasins” is believed to be from the poem titled ‘ Judge Softly’ by Mary Torrans Lathrap (1838-1895). I would like to think that it reflected the Native American plight but this is not fact… it sums up how empathy is born and a reminder to be questioning, open but kind. We rarely see the full script..we see the edited edition of the lives of others.
We are in week 9 of the COVID Lockdown. It has been a rollercoaster for us all. These are indeed, unprecedented times, the like of which we have not witnessed in our life time. I know for myself, when the talk of the virus first started, I was convinced that it was just the flu, then Italy locked down and I was filled with horror. That could not happen here, surely?
Then other countries followed Italy’s lead. I was in denial that I was in the at risk group, until the ‘shielding’ letter came through my door. Reality certainly hit me then. But, humans adjust. As a global community, we adjusted and continue to do so.
Life was about to change…
I accepted that life was going to be different for the foreseeable. I used Zoom to connect with friends and family. I set up dates in my diary to ensure that I knew that time was passing. I offered free sessions in therapy and free documents that I had created about anxiety, until the hosts of the Facebook sites banned this process. I set up a virtual coffee morning in an attempt to do my bit but after 6 week realised that I was just talking to my friend!
My exercise routine went online, great until I badly pulled my hamstring! But even this meant that I adapted just like everyone else. I signed on for various courses, using my time for CPD and even a portrait course. I am occupied and lucky enough to live in house with a garden and a family that I get on with.
Why So Tired??
My basic needs are met and I know this is not the case for so many. Yet, I am tired. I awake each morning with tired eye sockets. I keep thinking of when I can next rest. I am tired. I believe that this tiredness is a manifestation of Lockdown and am calling it Lockdown Fatigue Syndrome.
Fatigue is more than just feeling tired. According to Skybrary (1) :
There are three types of fatigue: transient, cumulative, and circadian:
a)Transient fatigue is acute fatigue brought on by extreme sleep restriction or extended hours awake within 1 or 2 days.
b)Cumulative fatigue is fatigue brought on by repeated mild sleep restriction or extended hours awake across a series of days.
C) Circadian fatigue refers to the reduced performance during nighttime hours, particularly during an individual’s “window of circadian low” (WOCL) (typically between 2:00 a.m. and 05:59 a.m.).
Sleep deprivation is a major contributor to any mental health condition but I am sleeping! I am having uninterrupted sleep, I go to bed by 10;30 and get up at 7:30am, every night including the weekends. I look after my Circadian Rhythms and eat well and not too late. I walk and get lots of fresh air.
Lack of Stimulation
My thinking is that I am lacking stimulation. Too much time with the same ( all be it lovely family), in the same house and the same walks is making me feel fatigued.I have taken all of the below actions recommended and still feel beyond tired. Healthline recommend (2) :
drink enough fluids to stay hydrated
practice healthy eating habits
exercise on a regular basis
get enough sleep
avoid known stressors
avoid a work or social schedule that’s overly demanding
take part in relaxing activities, such as yoga
abstain from alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit drugs
I have spoken to others and we all come up with the same self diagnosis. Lockdown Fatigue Syndrome does exist. It is like having sensory deprivation inflicted upon you daily. I know that we can exercise and get outside but basically we are limited at the moment and the fact that the end line is lacking in clarity adds on even more pressure and requires more positivity of focus.
I know we need to do this but I am tired! I know that I could be in a far worse situation but that does not help with fatigue! Pointing out this indisputable fact just adds on another layer of guilt. I am just sharing how I feel. I am not asking to be fixed just trying to understand the many different strands of what Lockdown means to many people. I am looking forward to greater social interaction and a change of scenery!
Seek Help Now if You Need It!
Some of these tips may be useful and certainly if you feel that there is an underlying medical or mental health issue, then seek medical advice, even in COVID Lockdown. Don’t leave it!
Online therapy & Coaching works well. Don’t put off seeking help until Lockdown is over if you are really struggling. Reach out & be heard. We all have a story to tell.
All change. Time to adapt again. I have adapted better than I thought I would to the COVID_19 Lockdown. Week 7 has been and gone and on we go with no clear idea of when and how we will restart life or how life will look on the other side . Many think the restart button will be hit and off we will go, the same as we did before, as if the virus had not changed everything. I don’t think so. This is totally unprecedented and we will all have to embrace a brave new world of uncertainty.
I really think the ramifications and shockwaves will be massive and trauma can go through generations..Trauma..Shockwaves Through the generations... The economy has taken a hit the likes of which has not been seen for a very long time. Businesses are foundering and many families will be collapsing. Alcohol dependency will be greater than ever before, domestic violence at a peak. The long term effects on mental health will be considerable, for this generation and possibly generations to come Moving on from Lockdown...
I have adapted to not seeing my sister since February. We meet on Zoom and have charades on a Friday evening. I connect with friends on FaceTime and Zoom for a coffee morning. It is tiring and feels daring at times to have this type of interaction but is better than the alternative. I have adjusted to other levels of sadness that I will skim over in this blog.
I have coped by structuring my week Living Through COVID. I work in the week and have a different pattern at the weekend. I have worked as a therapist and coach online for a number of years, so this has not changed, but the fact that I am not seeing anyone face to face is not my preferred way of working. I have not had any new referrals fo some time, my business is dwindling as people bunker down in order to survive. I understand this, as everyone is at home. Where can a person get any space to work on themselves whist working from home, or being furloughed and worrying about money? They are also being with the family 24/7 and being expected to teach as well if they have school aged children.
Adapt & Add Structure.
I have been doing training courses and sorting out my office space. I have been doing online Be Military Fit since the beginning of this new reality. I have taken up Pilates and found I enjoy it! My dogs have loved their hour long walks to the park and I have actually been running, not enjoyed running but done it!
Art has become important to me once again and I have set myself a projectof decorating a room a week. We are now in the middle of doing the extension and lounge in one go and have been waiting for the paint to arrive via Amazon. My counselling room has been completed and downstairs bathroom is nearly there. I had developed coping strategies that were helping me through this new reality.
Then, on Friday 24/4/20 I went for a run with the dogs and my husband in the park. A beautiful morning, sun shining and I was feeling ok! We ran to the far edge of the park, the trees were casting a shadow on the ground and the sun was breaking through the leaves overhead. I had left my sunglasses on and then I tripped. I thought I had saved myself, kept on stumbling forward, thought I had saved myself again and then felt my face and left ear scrape across the ground. I stopped moving forwards but was aware of the friction between my ear, face and the sandy ground.
I cried out. Dermot tried to get me to my feet. I felt excruciating pain in my hamstring and shouted he had to put me back down. I was crying with pain. As I rolled on the ground in agony, I saw 2 sets of dog walkers circumnavigating us, swathing a path through the overgrown brambles bordering the path. They were respecting social distancing but ignoring common decency. They did not acknowledge us at all or ask us if we needed any help. They just walked on by!
Dermot then tried to get me up, the idea being to walk to a road. I thought he could throw me over a fence and then I would be on the side of the bypass and he could collect me. It seemed like a good idea! I could only stand with my left leg raised up higher than my waist and couldn’t hop very far. I tried to shuffle on my bottom but this was a no go. Derm had to piggy back me to a road. He struggled on under my weight, stride getting shorter, breath more ragged, getting lower down to the ground with each step. By the time we reached the road he was barely upright, staggering from side to side!
He dumped me on the kerb as he went and got the car. A man with 2 white dogs, 2 joggers, a young family all passed me. I was grazed and bleeding from my face, ear, shoulder, knees and nobody asked me how I was or if I needed help! I just sat there. Derm came with the car , piggy backed my up and threw me into the front seat. I was like a turtle on its back. Legs in the air, back on the seat, unable to manoeuvremyself in.
When I got home, I had to be carried in and dumped on the sofa. The only way I could get around was to do the crab walk that Taz the BMF trainer had made me do for years in the park. I never knew what it would do for me and now I know! So I got on my bum, lifted myself up onto my heels and hands and walked backward to the stairs and then up 2 flights to my loft. The only way I have been able to get around is to bind my thigh with a knee support.
So, the point of this blog is that I have made myself adjust again! I have stopped myself from doing all the things that I have been focusing on to keep myself sane. I cannot exercise or walk at the moment. I can’t decorate. I can’t even get in the bath, a favourite relaxing event in my day. I am having to ask for help, something I hate doing. I am having to wait for members of my family to get up and get on with things. I am having to pace my requests so that I do not overload them, whilst taking into account the fact that they do not work at my pace or juggle as many things as I like to do.
Act…Stop Feeling Sorry for Myself!
The reality of having to adjust again is overwhelming. But I have to act, so this morning Ihave booked into the physio online to get some exercises to speed up my recovery, whilst being safe. It is important to exercise it but not over do it. I am aiming to walk the dogs soon and gradually build that up. I am annoyed with myself for adding another layer of frustration to my life that just compounds the current situation.
I said that I would come out of the lockdown fitter, thinner and in a good place mentally. Best laid plans and all that. But do you know what ? When I read and hear how some individuals and families have been affected by this terrible event, it puts things in perspective. Many people have endured and will continue to endure real suffering for a long time to come. My “suffering” is nothing compared to them, I realise that. A physical injury is going to mend but a deep emotional wound…well that is a challenge to be endured by far too many.
Following on from my last blog, But I Want To Help!!, I decided that counsellors and Coaches would be needed to treatall of the trauma that COVID-19 has induced. Trauma is everywhere, isn’t it ?As a therapist I see trauma in all of my clients. Not PTSD necessarily, but some trauma in their life line that accounts for how they are currently feeling. Most low mood, anxiety and attachment issues, can be linked back to a traumatic event or early childhood neglect or loss.
I am used to unearthing the trauma ( What is Trauma? )so that we can process and heal it. I am experienced in this field and fascinated by it. The fact that there are now tools out there to heal trauma is amazing. Trauma can indeed be healed not just learnt to live with. I even use trauma skills in unblocking the toxicity that is created by working for a toxic boss or in a toxic workplace.
I also realised that people were functioning in different ways, as were organisations. Some were sitting waiting and others were acting. This downtime for some was becoming fertile ground on which to grow the future of their business or life, taking learning from this enforced isolation and weaving it into their forward planning.
Recovery After Major Incidents
I decided to research how recovery happens after such momentous events , events over which we have no control. I thought that this would inform me on my journey going forward. Help me to reengineer myself, to adapt to what will be needed after COVID is conquered ( as I am sure it will be, all things pass).
I started to research 9/11 and its aftermath, interested in how they recovered and built on this tragedy. I learnt that therapists were not the answer, certainly not immediately! They have a place certainly, but further down the road and I also learned that critical incident debriefing can actually backfire. Instead, what is needed is a lighter touch, in the guise of ‘Psychological first aid’. It is about providing compassion and practical help. It aims to (1):
Stabilise so that stress is not made worse.
Mitigate acute stress
Facilitate access to continued support
In essence, practical help by informed people is the antidote to preventing trauma setting in. It does not have to be provided by a therapist or psychologist but just by an individual who is a good listener, well informed and practical.
The Reality for Therapists & Coaches
This, for a therapist keen to help is a wake up call! Yes, there will be some who need therapy once the immediate crisis has passed and life returns to normal, however that may look. But most people can and will process these strange times in their own way, using their own naturally acquired inner resilience ( When Life Gives us Lemons…!!.)
Perhaps what is needed is more resourcing of ourselves. This is pertinent for organisations also, they need to resource themselves and their staff. Offer the First Aid kit above and invest in staff wellbeing. New ways of working need to be explored. Remote working may now be the way forward,but how do organisations provide the much needed team element and connection that humans need?
Other organisations will need to completely review working practices. Do GP’s need to physically see every patient? Can remote working step in and can people become more self triaging? For example the NHS is obviously creaking and overstretched but A&E are seeing a very different tale. They are less busy than ever before, so I have heard reported. Is this because we are now self triaging? Do we need urgent medical attention or can we stay home and recover. Obviously, not true for all, but certainly it is interesting data going forward post COVID.
Maybe the culture of binge drinking is effecting the numbers turning at A&E. I am sure is still an issue, but instead of fighting, people are going to bed. Less fights, less injuries.
Think Outside of The Box
It is a time for us all and for every organisation to strip itself down and look at lessons learnt. What is needed, what is habit? As a therapist, I need to be mindful of looking for trauma everywhere. It may exist, but may just need the space to be witnessed rather that treated. This does not mean ignoring PTSD and complex trauma but just being aware of what is the right level of intervention, the correct dose administered at the right time.
Coaching at the moment is useful as a way of processing the events of recent times. It is worth stepping into now to give you, ( and me), the space to reflect and allow ideas of future you or future business to germinate and solidify. Coaching is about the individual as much as the organisation. They are inextricably linked.
My own learning is that I can be too keen to help. I want to be useful and need to create a role for myself that is actually needed, not one that I feel is the best option for all. I love stripping away how a business works. I come from a person centric focus that is driven by the human interactions I experience. The undercurrents and ripples I see with great clarity. I have always disliked the answer to my question “Why do you do it that particular way” ‘well, we have always done it like this’. Silos ( Working in a Silo, Creates Havoc! ) as a way of working can be ripped down and reengineered. Excuses about spending cuts & now Covid can be used to hide behind but now is a real chance to sort the wheat from the chaff (Social Services Hiding Inefficiency behind Austerity..) .
Use the time to dig deep, soul search and be brutally honest with yourself. What is working, what is not, where do I want to go, who do I want to be? When I eventually get there, I will be only too happy to share my findings. Whether anyone chooses to listen is another thing.
1. Psychological First Aid
Psychological First Aid can help support family and friends through a crisis.
Posted Oct 09, 2018 (https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/when-disaster-strikes-inside-disaster-psychology/201810/psychological-first-aid)
1. J. Daw: What have we learned since 9/11? (September 2002, Vol 33, No. 8. Print version: page 32:)
I have always, since I was a young child, felt the need to help others. I am practical person and can turn my hand to most things. I take after my Mum, who I miss every day. Her first comment upon hearing of anyone having issues, emotional, physical, whatever was; “What can I do to help? “ And help she would.
In primary school I spent many hours volunteering to help out in the special needs department and my career choices in later life reflected this drive to be useful. I joined the Police at 21 with the perhaps naive wish to help. I am sure that I did in many respects, but I suppose I always felt constrained by the bureaucracy that is the essence of any Public Sector establishment. I left after becoming a Sergeant and worked for 2 charities that supported people with learning disabilities.
The charities were equally frustrating and I never really understood why some people went into this field if they did not treat everyone as they would wish a member of their own family be cared for. I have an over developed sense of justice, in many respects, as a very harmful therapist once critiqued me for.
History Is Being Re-written
Anyway, along comes COVID-19 and out of nowhere, our history is being written as we live it, unprecedented and overwhelming in many respects. My instinct was, of course, ‘what can I do to help?’ I offered some free resources on line and offered some free counselling sessions to frontline staff, which fell on deaf ears as it happens. I saw my own private practice as a Coach and a therapist dwindle away, as people hunkered down in their respective bunkers.
Coach & Therapist
I have worked on line for a number of years as a Coach and a Therapist. I thought that this experience could help others make the transition from face to face therapy into the realm of virtual reality. I believed that online approaches were the way to go and they are. I did offer some advice to fellow counsellors nervous about this new landscape. I have started a virtual coffee morning every Thursday at 10am & am amazed at the following this has failed to whip up, ( 4 people at last count!), but I will carry on, as connecting is something I am good at and we all need connection now more than ever.
But I have discovered that the only useful thing I can really do at the present is to stay home! I can help by not helping! Due to my asthmatic status, I am considered to be a high risk group and therefore need to stay well to avoid getting ill and putting more strain on our already beleaguered NHS.
I am therefore sitting here, working and writing and realising that I can only really help the current situation by going against my nature and staying out of the way. It is hard to feel that my main contribution is to stay inside and let everyone else do their jobs.
And then, I thought I will be very useful after to help with the trauma created by COVID….but that is another blog
We are in unprecedented times. Who would have predicted that we would end up in a pandemic situation. A truly global threat that is derailing everybody’s way of life. We have been in lock down for just 2 weeks and yet it seems to have become the norm. The threat of complete lockdown, meaning that we cannot exercise outdoors. seems like another level of loss looming over the horizon if the public fail to heed the warnings. Stay home and limit the spread of this deadly virus. Simple advice really.
Initially, I was in denial. Hoping that it was just like a dose of cold or flu. Then the death toll mounted. Italy went into lockdown, then France and Spain. We, the UK were more circumspect in our response. The schools and other educational establishments only shutting down 2 weeks ago. History will only really tell us if this decision was correct or ill-advised. Gathering herd immunity made sense but will it still make sense as this drama unfolds?
As humans, we adapt. We can adapt to altitude, waters depth, extreme temperatures and to war. We acclimatise constantly. But this adaptation is more easy for some than for others. For many, they live life seeking complete control over their life, future, family, jobs. Anxiety is also a pandemic and usually if you look beneath the surface there is a need to feel in control of something in life, as so much seems to be beyond their reach.
Recent events have stripped away all illusion of having any control. The virus is threatening us all, physically, psychologically and financially. It is imposing enforced isolation on a species that is driven by the primal need to connect and belong. In history, the outliers were vulnerable to being picked off, killed. safety was in society. We have not evolved that far from this primitive programming.
This current threat is making us go against the herd instinct. Isolation is safety. Community is high risk. We have to avoid others, including our families in order that they and we can survive. Human nature is that we look after our elderly and vulnerable by keeping them close. But now it means the polar opposite, it means that that we have to turn our backs on them. Caring is to isolate them at this deeply terrifying time.
The virus is virulent and death tolls are high. This means that are primitive brain is in survival mode. The amygdala is on hyper alert and not just scanning for a threat but actually finding it. Trauma is a very real outcome for so many, once this pandemic subsides because the conditions are optimum for it to take root.
Trauma loves the fertile ground of the siege that Covid is creating. It flourishes when we are threatened on all fronts. Humans need predictability, mobility, connection and a sense of agency, that we can act and take control of our destinies. Trauma creates a loss of having any sense of time passing and inflicts an acute lack of safety and ultimately a loss of identity due to feeling stuck and powerless.
The Primitive Brain
The Fight/Flight button is constantly depressed, flooding cortisol and adrenaline into our bodies. This soup of chemicals, if not discharged, are toxic to our minds and bodies.
How do we cope? That is individual to each of us. Some will numb themselves by drinking, taking drugs and running from the feelings. They may go into a fugue type state and hibernate until the threat passes. Others adapt more quickly and decide to control what they are able to control. This group is less likely to be traumatised by these events because to adapt is to survive. Some will thrive.
For most people the isolation is the hardest thing to cope with. For others, being cooped up with partners and children for 12 weeks is just too much. For some, they will be isolated with their abusers and persecutors. The toll for them will be massive and perhaps too much damage wreaked for them to recover.
Many vulnerable people will have been left without any support as COVID is the perfect excuse, for some, to fail to act and keep them safe. Parents left with volatile teens who refuse to comply , who are violent and flout all the rules, meeting and transferring germs to all individuals they mix with. They are living with teenage abusers without any support to keep them safe.
Enforced Slower Pace…
Some individuals will enjoy the enforced slower pace, working from home or not working at all! Some will listen to the birds singing more loudly or perhaps the fact that the outside noise is silenced, allows us to hear them sing once again and like a more simple time in life. Enjoying the pause. They will live the way they perhaps always wanted to, alone but not lonely. No longer having to live their life in the way that others consider they should. They can relish the change of pace and dread the day the world starts turning once again. Some people willsurprise themselves by how they adapt and thrive.
Businesses can sit and wait, emerging the other side fatter and less lean than they went into it. Those that adapt will become more efficient. Using this fallow time to review practices, what is needed what is not? What systems exist just because they exist and which serve a purpose? Which staff have evolved and which have shirked? What can they offer society now and in the future? Home working a realistic option? Travel actually necessary? Technology fully utilised?
But what about you ? What are you going to do ? This is a one time opportunity to press the pause button, take stock and reassess that balance between living and working. Because creativity only really happens when you give it the time and space to emerge and be seen. Have a good look at the various aspects of your life through thisnew lens and honestly assess what you have learned about yourself, your family, friends and work. When the pause button is released, and we get back to our new version of reality, which version of you do you want to be ?
The key to dealing with this pandemic, like all traumatic events, is to act and choose how you want to emerge from it. Fatter? Fitter? Dejected? Bitter ? Changed ? Emboldened? Remember, much of this is in your control. So control what you can and make the change for yourself.
Act for the Now:
WE need predictability in our lives, even or especially now.:
Get up at a regular time of day
Create a Schedule. This creates a flow to the days and weeks.
Have you ever experienced change in an organisation? Did you experience textbook, seamless change? That elusive change we all read and hear about, but have never been part of? Taking staff along with you, creating that upbeat message which motivates and makes all of your staff feel a valued part of the organisation? Positive change that openly displays the organisation’s leadership skills, listening skills, communication and consultation skills?
Where change has made your job easier, more rewarding, made all of the modifications that you had known for years needed to be introduced? It was as if the new guard had been reading your mind. A surreal alchemy of minds melding into one, where the working environment and business took off into the stratosphere with everyone on board. Leaving the business & employees, performing better, delivering for all of its customers, happy in their work, looking forward to a bright and prosperous future.
If so, I would love to hear from you. You are in a very select group, a bit like Lottery winners. In reality, most organisational change is not like this. The new hierarchy are often brought in with a specific agenda, to improve the bottom line by any means available. Often, outside appointments are made to effect the change more easily. There are no old alliances to contend with, no split loyalties. Knowing that reorganisation is coming however, can see productivity freeze on the run up to a takeover. People fear for their jobs and either jump ship to better offers or stay put in a state of paralysis.
The new “Team” march in and their agenda is rolled out. Very quickly, redundancies are made or offered, current staff are interviewed for their existing jobs. Tupied salaries are frequently altered / reduced to come into line with the mother ship. The purpose of the organisation is overlooked or put on the back burner whilst the takeover happens. The aim is to clear out and then reboot. Productivity takes a beating. Stress of staff is off the scale and sickness rates will rise dramatically.
The organisation however is transformed, but is it transformed for the better? Sometimes this will be the case, but all too often the change is imposed with a burnt earth policy that does not necessarily improve productivity and most certainly does not lift the morale of the previous staff. The dust settles and then in another 3 years the process begins again.
New management is brought in with sparkly ideas and the most current buzzwords, that will revolutionise the organisation. The paralysis, leave, sickness, reshuffle, sacking and settling process goes around again, until the next time. The carousel keeps turning and as there is very little that is new in life, the old gets reimagined into the new. Repackaged with new wrapping paper, tied off with a bow and presented as the next new best thing for the organisation.
Don’t Look Back!
The new leaders, often move from project to project, job to job. Having achieved excellent cost savings and stabilising the business, they move on. In their wake however, is a trail of untold devastation. But they have already removed the rear view mirror, as per the “Change Management” instruction manual. The job is done, change has been effected. Their money is safely in the Bank and they are onto the next challenge and up the corporate greasy pole.
Rarely is the human suffering that has been left behind even considered. It is just collateral damage, detritus, because often the people brought in for the job are unlikely to suffer from undue self reflection. They are self orientated, goal orientated and the cost to others is not part of their world. “It’s nothing personal. It’s just Business.”
Change Must be Handled Well
It seems to be the case, or perhaps I am jaundiced having experienced the management of change personally and vicariously on numerous occasions, that change is not generally handled well. Change for humans is scary and threatening Transitions into the Fall.
But I believe change should be positive. It should address all of those inadequacies that every organisation experiences. Listen to the staff and then make changes based on information, not bias. Change that is responsive to people who know their jobs inside out, who have a wealth of experience should be heard and honoured, because otherwise change is just the equivalent of a data dump. All is lost, nothing is sifted or saved, the baby is thrown out with the bath water.
In reality, there is always more that should be harvested than cremated. Yes, change is part of life, but it should be considered and thoughtful, based on intelligence gathering and enquiry, not on suppositions without having any foundations in fact. I am actually an ardent advocate of change & evolution.
Get Rid of Toxicity!
If you have experienced this type of change management, then the chances are that you remember it as if it was yesterday What is Trauma? The sick feeling in the gut. The overly fast beating heart. The fear for your future is embedded in your DNA. The talk of change management evokes a primal tremor throughout your body. The memories of the boss who came, stalked and conquered, is seared upon your consciousness.. This body held response is a sign of trauma and past toxicity Why We React, Rather Than Think….
Can you ever recover? Yes, but as with all things toxic, the body has to be cleared of the poison in order for recovery to ensue and a healthy mindset superimposed over the old patterns and beliefs. This management by fear can hold you back from your future success. But it does not have to be so.
We may be unable to change the leaders but we can change ourselves.
I offer 1:1 Coaching to unlock the toxicity from your body. 4 sessions for £400…it can change your future!
Laura Morrissey Counselling ( lauramorrisseycounselling.co.uk)
It is a stressful time of year, but does it really need to be? All too often, we do the same as we have always done on in previous years (Anxiety Workbook ). People rush around and have no time for themselves ( The Anxiety Compass ). Present buying, wrapping, food planning, preparation, decorations, family disputes…Activities at school go into overdrive; Carol Services, nativity plays, and school fares, all demand money and time (Anxiety Stops Us Enjoying Life..)
Work becomes busy, social events and the dreaded office party, where someone always gets disgracefully drunk and loses all inhibitions, only to pay for that one mishap for the rest of their time with that company.
The Big Day!
Xmas Day arrives. Paper is shredded from the mountains of presents. Dinner is cooked, but consumed in a fraction of the time it took to prepare. Booze is quaffed to excess. Sleep descends upon many, all afternoon and hours of tidying ensues.
All too often, families are thrown together in a confined space, with the heating on too high and alcohol thrown into the mix. These cooped up family members( Attachment Theory for Parents & the Art of Letting Go!,) , who don’t see each other from one Xmas to the next, through choice, are suddenly expected to greet each other with good cheer. Then we wonder why tempers flare and are surprised when this volatile cocktail results in old resentments exploding to the surface and wrongs from umpteen years ago, getting aired for all to see. Grief can also play a large part in the drama of the Xmas ideal. People who no longer occupy a place at the table, can cast a long, sad shadow on the proceedings, (Grief: A complex Human Response to Loss).
Does it really have to be like this? Of course not !! So, how do we make it a Christmas to remember, rather than another Christmas to forget?
10 Tips to survive Xmas & Be your Best version of You!
Accept that perfection does not exist. Nobody minds if the turkey is not done at the same time as the potatoes. No one is going to starve. All will come right in the end…. if everyone mucks in.
Remember that families who do not get on the other 364 days of the year, will not necessarily get on on this day. So, arrange to see relatives separately, before, or after the big day.
Settle disagreements beforehand. If you can’t, then share Christmas Day with the people you like, the people you love, the people who cause you the least stress, the people who are relaxing to be with.
If you know that alcohol makes you lose lipped, then don’t over indulge.
Don’t be a martyr to the Xmas period. Delegate tasks, share roles, enlist help with shopping, wrapping, and cooking. You do not have to do it all alone.
Set a budget & stick to it.
Spend time with children and family members ( those you get on with!). Nobody really remembers what gift they had last year, but they will remember the things you did together, the traditions and memories you created.
Create new traditions and new memories, but enjoyable ones, filled with laughter and happiness.
Pace your Xmas activities. Not all invitations have to be accepted.
Take time to breathe, to relax, to enjoy the moment. It is but 1 day, 1 holiday season. It will pass all too quickly. Make it memorable for all the right reasons.
Endeavour to come out of it happy and calm, not full of resentment and stress. If you need to talk through strategies, that can help you to cope better then previous years, or to reflect once the big day has passed, then contact me:
Social Services is seeing an ever increasing demand set against austerity measures ( Social Services Hiding Inefficiency behind Austerity... ) Society is more complex than ever, less cohesive and less supportive than when people lived in back street terraced communities. It really does take a village to raise a child and support the parents, to meet all of the challenges parenthood presents. Raising children is a complex issue, no rule book to hand, for each child is an individual. But modern day societal issues present ever more complexity, when facing rearing a child. Teenage years ( Parenting Teens…… ) are fraught ( and have always been) with danger and pitfalls that can consume a young mind, causing them to become lost in rebellion and if support is not there, when life chews them up and spits them out again , there may well be no safety net available for them. The teenage brain Why We React, Rather Than Think… is not made to understand risk. They make decisions impulsively, without thought of long term consequences. Growing into adulthood is fraught with danger and they need a robust support network to help them make informed choices, in order that they reach their full potential.
Social Care in History
Social Care is a relatively recent historical institution. When we had child labour and workhouses, children’s lives were not protected. Care for the elderly and disabled was piecemeal and dependent upon the availability of local provision. Reform happened with The National Assistance (NA) Act, 1946, implemented in 1948. It abolished the Poor Law/Public Assistance and established the National Assistance Board (NAB). The 1950’s & 1960’s saw movement towards Community care. Then “The Local Authority Social Services Act”, 1970, established a single social services department in each local authority, emphasizing the need for a co-ordinated and comprehensive approach to social care, supporting families, detecting need and encouraging people to seek help.” (1) The 1980’s & 1990’s saw more privatisation happening in the drive to reduce the cost of social care. The National Health Service and Community Care Act, 1990 saw an even greater push for Local Authorities to become purchasers, not providers of services, their main aim being to reduce costs.The early 2000’s saw more Disability Acts come into force, but the funding continues to be the issue. In the document, “Social Care Funding Options” by Wenzel et al, they state:
“Since 1998, there have been 12 green papers, white papers and other consultations, as well as five independent commissions, all attempting to grapple with the problem of securing a sustainable social care system. It has been called ‘one of the greatest unresolved public policy issues of our time’.(2)
What do Social Services Actually Do?
Societal issues have created more pressure for a service that is constantly being squeezed financially, but the role of Social services remains as the BASW paper: What Do Social Workers Do?, states:
“Social workers aim to improve people’s lives by helping with social and interpersonal difficulties, promoting human rights and wellbeing. Social workers protect children and adults with support needs from harm… (From).. helping keep a family under pressure together..” (3)
Social Services & Your family also says:
“Social services have a statutory obligation to safeguard and promote the welfare of vulnerable children and adults and can provide a wide range of services to children and their parents, usually within the own home environment and co-ordinated by a social worker….(there may be different departments working on one case)..The aim is to coordinate their services in the interests of the family as a whole.” (4)
Social Services Funding Crisis
The role of Social Services is vast, pivotal and necessary and yet budgets are being ruthlessly axed, as highlighted by an article in the Guardian February 2019 which stated:
“Councils overall suffered a 29% cut in government funding for children’s departments between 2010 and 2017-18 – equivalent to £3bn – despite spiralling demand for a range of services, from family crisis support to child protection, the research said. (5)
The outsourcing of care to the private sector has resulted in unregulated providers stepping in, for profit, not for the good of the child in many cases. A recent BBC news expose by Titheradge & Thomas stated:
“The Department for Education said councils had a duty to make sure accommodation for these children was suitable. Children over the age of 16, often in care or formerly so, are increasingly being placed in unregulated homes in England and Wales…… they offer support but not care to residents. In September, BBC News reported that vulnerable teenagers in unregulated homes, face ‘organised abuse’ while living in such accommodation.” (6)
Care & support (Post Adoption Support )is all too often failing these vulnerable members of society. 100,000 children go missing every year. ‘When children run away, it must be recognised as an early indication that a child is at risk. Running away should be seen explicitly as a child protection issue, with protocols and procedures in place backed up by clear systems of accountability and performance management.’ (7), according to the Children;’ Society. When a child goes missing, they are at risk.
Social Services Support: Reality Check
When young adults go off the rails, it is natural to think someone must have the answers. Surely, someone must have some answers !! When a child goes missing, they are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Surely the statutory agencies responsible for safeguarding must step in? Risk and Safeguarding are words often bandied about these days. The latest buzzwords. A seam runs through every school, causing fear to flood the veins of teachers and professionals ,who may be touched by an oversight on their part. For it is potentially career ending or reputation shredding to miss a marker, resulting in harm to a child. The awful cases in the news ,of tragic, avoidable deaths, are carved into the public consciousness: Baby P & Victoria Climbie are just two well known tragic examples, but the list of tragedies is vast.
To a lay person, it must feel that there is a ‘system’ there, a net provided by Social Services, beavering away to keep vulnerable people safe. They can help, assist, support. The reality is very far removed from this. Based on our experiences, and we are not alone, when a young person goes missing, the advice is to report them missing. The Police take a report and they may make some enquiries. If the child is a persistent MFH, then even these basic searches are often ignored. At the very least ,the family home should be searched, just in case the young person is lying dead or injured or hiding in their home. Then the parents wait for the child to return home. A Police ‘Safe & well ‘ interview happens, usually many hours after they return, to see if they have been victims of crime. The child says ‘no’ and the matter is put to bed.
Social Services do a follow up visit from their missing from home team, sometimes a week or so later. They ask the same questions the Police have already asked and the case is closed. The parents or Care Home then carry on, until the next time. Distraught parents may contact Social Workers. Often emails are left unanswered for a week, no phone calls made to offer ideas, support, or even empathy. A new meeting may be arranged in a few weeks time. A meeting may occur, but no solutions offered or real support garnered. The young person may well disappear again and again and end up in the “care system”, which is a misnomer in itself. Care Homes are warehouses for vulnerable young people, expensive to operate but ineffectual on the whole ( with some exceptions). They cannot prevent the young people leaving, anymore than the parents can. The child wanders again, returning to their old haunts, vulnerable and open to exploitation. How many “Rochdale” scandals do there have to be before those in “Power” wake up and take notice ? There are similar scandals still taking place in every major city in the UK, Scotland and NI. They have been going on for years and yet we keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. How many times do we hear that now pointless phrase, “Lessons have been learned,” bandied about after every new scandal? But we never really learn the lessons and off we go again, on the same old, sad, depressing Merry GoRound.
Backs may be covered and boxes ticked, but the trigger that propels a young person to pursue this path is not dealt with. The amount of money wasted on meetings, on social workers and police officers filling out forms and reports, attending meetings, but not doing any real work with these vulnerable members of society, is massive. Funding has been reduced, but what there is gets spent in the same way it always has been: Restructuring of Services and Administration, Job Swapping for the Senior Managers, Policy Reviews and Assessments, Redundancies and Redeployment of junior staff. The help a young person needs is normally in the figure of a 1:1 support worker ,who spends time with them, talks with them and role models a secure attachment. They are a relatively cheap resource, but could save lives, dreams, and families. In times of austerity, the planning around resources needs to be creative, thinking outside of the box, or rather, just going back to basics. Let’s cut back on Administration and Bureaucracy and employ people to actually do the job. Let’s get out of the collective safety of the “Office” and back to the sharp end of the “Street”, where people and children need practical help. Meetings and reports do not save people, hands-on care and assistance does. The system is broken in so many respects and the Raison D’etre is not being met. There is not the support there at times when it is needed and things go into freefall. Early intervention is key. Short term thinking is killing Social Care.
Social Services Fail to Provide
When the support for Eric ( Loving Eric & Surrendering Control!) was withdrawn in July, I said loudly & clearly that all it would take would be one interaction with a bad influence and off he would go again. My new career as a Fortune Teller has just received another boost…sadly. Eric got involved only last Tuesday with an unsavoury person and off he has gone, taking risks, pushing us away, living a life on the edge. I have written many times about our experiences with Social Services through our tumultuous life with our adopted son Eric. The support has been non existent and the only thing that did help, a 1;1 Intensive Support Worker, was withdrawn with no planning ,at the end of the last academic year. The Adoption Support Fund has given us an amazing Educational Psychologist to help, but otherwise, the support is completely missing. This is a fact. There may well be some examples of excellence out there, but I have not heard of them…..perhaps they exist along with the Unicorns and that Pot of Gold at the end of the Rainbow.
(1) MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS’ HEALTH COMMITTEE INQUIRY: SOCIAL CARE OCTOBER 2009
Pat Thane: :http://www.historyandpolicy.org/docs/thane_social_care.pdf
(2) Approaches to social care funding; Social care funding options ; Lillie Wenzel, Laura Bennett, Simon Bottery, Richard Murray, Bilal Sahib The King’s Fund 🙁 https://www.health.org.uk/sites/default/files/Approaches-social-care-funding_1.pdf)
(3) What Do Social Workers Do? BASW :https://www.basw.co.uk/resources/become-social-worker/what-do-social-workers-do
(4) Social Services & Your Family: https://www.familylives.org.uk/advice/your-family/social-services-and-your-family/social-services-and-your-family/
(5) Children’s services in England are in financial crisis, say charities :https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/feb/26/childrens-services-financial-crisis-big-five-charities
(6) Care children sexually abused or exploited while missing from homes : By Noel Titheradge and Ed Thomas, BBC News. : https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-50241711
(7) What to do when a child goes missing. A guide for those working in education and youth work. The Childrens Society :https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/tcs/6pp_a5_pro_guide_to_runaways_web.pdf
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