Men’s Health Week: How I’m looking after my health and well-being during lockdown

Health and Safety June 15, 2020

This week, 15–21 June, is Men’s Health Week. With the current importance of health and well-being during the coronavirus pandemic, we’re sure you will be able to guess this year’s theme.

Hosted by the Men’s Health Forum, the week-long campaign aims to raise awareness of health issues that disproportionally affect men by shining a light on men’s physical and mental health. It encourages more men to become aware of health problems and symptoms and to make sure that looking after their health is a priority.

With the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Men’s Health Week message is “Take action on COVID-19”. The coronavirus pandemic has impacted many people across the world. Research into the virus is ongoing, but initial reports suggest that men may be more likely to suffer from serious coronavirus symptoms. To find out more about why this might be, take a look at the Men’s Health Forum.

As well as physical symptoms of coronavirus, a study by the mental health charity MIND has also highlighted the disproportionate impact that social distancing measures may be having on men’s mental health, with 63% of men admitting they would be more likely to talk about mental health over a drink with friends. While many countries around the world are upholding lockdown measures and social distancing, the restrictions on bars and pubs, outdoor activities, sports and social interaction can create a barrier to men talking openly about their mental health.

RSK recognises that it is more important than ever to look after our health and well-being during this time so that we can come out the other side healthy, both physically and mentally.

For Men’s Health Week, we caught up with some of our male employees to find out how they are looking after their health during lockdown.

Alex McKinlay, Group Fleet Manager

Alex on a walk with his son, Oscar

What, if anything, have you found challenging about lockdown/social distancing and why?

Lots and lots of things! Staying away from friends and family; staying out of the kitchen cupboard and trying to have healthy snacks instead of treats; trying to juggle working in the house with my wife, Nicky, and Oscar, my 6-year-old son; forcing myself (some days) to get out of the house for a walk – it’s amazing how much difference just 20 minutes exercise can have on your brain and well-being.

What have you been doing during lockdown to help your physical/mental health?

Getting out for a walk. We’ve found some wooded areas and fields near where we live, and it makes such a difference to my day when I can get out. It’s been good to go with Oscar, too, as he’s learning lots about the countryside and it makes a great conversation, talking about how we can identify trees from their leaves – and lots of other conversations with a 6-year-old!

I’ve also been teaching Oscar how to ride a bike – he’s pretty much got it now – and he’s already asking when we can get a ‘proper bike’. It’s surprising how much effort it takes to keep up with him on two feet!

We’ve been keeping a routine the best we can so that Oscar knows when it is break time and when Mum and Dad are working or on conference calls, so we can all try to fit in around each other.

Men’s Health Week aims to raise awareness and encourage men to talk about their physical and mental health. Do you have any top tips on how to start a conversation about health with a male colleague, friend etc?

My top tip would be ‘me first’. By talking to a colleague about the challenges we have ourselves, it allows the person we’re speaking with to understand that it’s ok not to be ok.

 

Dave Skirvin, Principal Environmental Modeller, ADAS

Dave Skirvin

Dave on a walk with his sons in Warwickshire, UK

What, if anything, have you found challenging about lockdown/social distancing and why?

Living in a rural area means that social distancing has not been as challenging for me as it has been for others who are without access to open space for exercise and enjoyment. However, the biggest challenge has been managing and balancing the demands of keeping two teenagers (one of whom was due to take GCSEs this year) motivated in doing their schoolwork with working from home.

The key thing has been to provide them with the support and help that they would normally receive in the classroom and ensure that they understand the work that has been set and how to approach it. Although my wife has been able to do some of this, being a primary school teacher, she has been busy planning and setting work for her children and teaching the children of local key workers as her school has remained open.

This challenge is about to get a bit harder as my wife returned to school full time on 1 June and I now need to manage the workloads of both children along with my own. This may require some more flexible working from me, but with a weekly plan of work for both children, it will hopefully be manageable.

What have you been doing during lockdown to help your physical/mental health?

Before lockdown I was attending the gym twice a week and doing a weekly Parkrun with my elder son. Although exercise was limited to once a day, working from home has provided greater opportunities for exercising as I no longer have the 1-hour journey to (and from) the office.

To help my physical and mental health during lockdown, I have been cycling and enjoying the ability to explore a lot of the minor roads in the local area. I have also been taking regular long walks at the weekend with the family, where we have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of wildlife that we have seen in the fields (hares, partridges, pheasants and woodpeckers). Also, the garden is now looking the best it has done for a good few years as everyone has been spending time working on it at the weekends.

At work, I have also been supplying the virtual tea breaks with a daily ‘dad joke’. I shared a tin of jokes (which was a Christmas present) on one tea break and then a new joke was requested every so often until it grew into a daily occurrence. It gives everyone a chance to have a laugh (or groan if the joke is really bad!).

Men’s Health Week aims to raise awareness and encourage men to talk about their physical and mental health. Do you have any top tips on how to start a conversation about health with a male colleague, friend etc?

Quite often with friends, the “What do you think about the …..?” approach works well as a starting point. It gets someone to give an opinion which can then lead on to a more in-depth discussion based on their opinion.

Paul Parker, Principal Marine Consultant

MHW

 

What, if anything, have you found challenging about lockdown/social distancing and why?

I’m a people person – it has taken me a while to realise this, but it is what makes me tick and gives me my energy. Therefore, the lack of people contact during lockdown has been a real challenge.

What have you been doing during lockdown to help your physical/mental health?

After the initial shock of the change to daily life, I have actually started to enjoy elements of lockdown. I have organised and participated in several virtual events including a weekly ‘pub quiz’ for my trail running club in the absence of club runs, a virtual birthday party, and even a night at the virtual theatre. It has been great to connect with friends from afar, which I certainly wouldn’t haven’t done so often without the changes to ‘normal life’.

It has made me appreciate how we can utilise technology and how much joy a short phone call or text can bring. It’s the little things! I have also really enjoyed my time running (nothing new there), but rather than running in groups I have taken to running with a podcast and learning a little along the way – there are so many amazing free resources out there. And I have spent some time walking, which made me realise it can be good to slow down a little!

Men’s Health Week aims to raise awareness and encourage men to talk about their physical and mental health. Do you have any top tips on how to start a conversation about health with a male colleague, friend etc?

It’s good to talk and even better to listen, but this isn’t as easy as you might suppose. I think what puts a lot of people off is feeling like you won’t know what to say if someone says they are struggling, or the fear of burdening someone with your worries and being judged for it. The best response I ever had was a simple “wow, that must be tough…”. To just know that someone else appreciated the challenges of everyday life really helped. My advice would therefore be to take the time to ask how someone is, and REALLY want to know the answer. Far too often we all use, “how are you?”, as a greeting and thus a ‘quick’ often meaningless response is born.

 

Michael Tierney, Regional Manager, Headland Archaeology

Michael Tierney

 

What, if anything, have you found challenging about lockdown/social distancing and why?

Being on furlough and filling the time over the first 3-4 weeks. I kept expecting to be called back. My job has a lot of responsibility that goes with it, so it was a shock even though I knew the reasons why it happened. I invested a lot of my identity into being an archaeologist and working for Headland. Take that away overnight and there was a void left that needed filling.

What have you been doing during lockdown to help your physical/mental health?

After the first few weeks when I was gradually self-medicating with alcohol and comfort eating, without fully recognising or admitting what I was doing, I turned back to the cognitive behaviour therapy tools I picked up after going on a counselling course for stress and anxiety through an Employee Assistant Programme. I am so glad that I took advantage of this scheme, and applying these tools allowed me to take a more positive and balanced approach to coping in these difficult times. So, furlough is still a struggle at times, being out of the action in keeping the company going, but things like routine, healthy eating, exercise, talking and using CBT means that I am much stronger than a couple of months ago.

Men’s Health Week aims to raise awareness and encourage men to talk about their physical and mental health. Do you have any top tips on how to start a conversation about health with a male colleague, friend etc?

All I can say is take a chance. Every time I have done it the response has been positive and supportive. Ask for help or just start a conversation. If someone reaches out, listen.

The biggest fear I must overcome is being seen as weak. This is less of an issue in my personal life but is still true to an extent at work. You don’t want to be seen as dysfunctional and I was afraid of letting people down. Reaching out for help ended up making me better at my job and better in my personal life. It is much better than bottling it up and using default coping mechanisms that tend to be negative for most of us.

To support Men’s Health Week, RSK has put together a handy calendar with some ideas for things employees could do each day to help look after their well-being (or that of a friend, family member of colleague) during Men’s Health Week and beyond.

We have also created a new training module where employees can learn more about the facts and figures behind men’s health.

You can get involved and support the campaign on social media by using the hashtag #menshealthweek.