Level Up Leadership: Amy Priest

Listen to the podcast (FULL TRANSCRIPT):

Level Up is a podcast for anyone interested in improving their leadership skills. The series is designed to help you get to know the leaders of Experian and gain insight into the skills needed to grow your career.

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Times are hard navigating life with something we’re not very familiar with at all: the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of us are making drastic changes to our work and home lives, and we know that this can take a toll physically and mentally, so today’s episode will be a discussion about ways to cope during this period.

We spoke to Amy Priest, Wellbeing Manager for Experian United Kingdom & Ireland. Amy also chairs the Experian Pride Network UK&I and is a founding member of the everyMIND mental health network.

Here are some takeaways from our conversation with Amy:

Don’t compare yourself to others.
It’s important to avoid comparing yourself to others. Some colleagues might thrive (and be more productive), while others might be suffering with less sleep and less energy. It’s unfair to compare your energy levels, productivity and emotional wellbeing with others. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and to feel like you’re in survival mode.

One size does not fit all.
Everybody is going through something right now — and we’re all trying to handle each challenge in our own way. Amy shares that there is never going to a “one size fits all” approach to managing life right now. There is no playbook for how to handle each struggle we go through. It’s important is figure out what works for you and to give yourself grace as you deal with the various struggles you’re facing.

Many of us might know the best way to respond when someone shares their hardships with us. Amy talks with us about how the S.H.U.S.H. acronym can help us:

  • Show you care
  • Have patience
  • Use open questions
  • Say it back and
  • Have courage

Remember, you are not expected to provide any type of solution. S.H.U.S.H and try to understand how that person is feeling.

Voice your feelings.
Amy actively makes a conscious decision to talk about her feelings with others. Talking about our feelings and emotional struggles with trusted friends and colleagues can help others feel comfortable to share their struggles, too.After all, just because we aren’t physically going to work, doesn’t mean we should stop bringing our whole selves to our work.

We were so happy to have the opportunity to chat with Amy about ways to manage our emotions in this episode of Level Up.

Check out interviews with other Experian leaders.

Full Transcript

Mike:                Hey, everybody. Welcome to the Level Up Leadership Podcast. My name is Mike Delgado.

Patty:               My name is Patty Guevara.

Mike:                This podcast is designed to help you get to know the leaders here at Experian and also gain insight into the leadership skills and traits needed to grow our careers.

Patty:               In this podcast, we’ll talk mentorship, career navigation, handling rejection, work-life balance, mental health, diversity and inclusion, and so much more.

Mike:                A lot of our recordings are done through WebEx, so sometimes the audio quality is not perfect. We apologize. We’ll get better in time, but we hope you enjoy the show.

Patty: Today we’re speaking with Amy Priest, a wellbeing manager for Experian United Kingdom in Ireland. Amy also shares the Experian Pride Network and is a founding member of the Every Mind Mental Health Network.
Patty: So, Amy, you’re a wellbeing manager for Experian UK&I. Can you tell us a little bit more about that, because I feel like I haven’t actually seen that title a lot.
Amy: Yeah, sure. So the actual role was introduced to Experian UK&I in 2018. It came about in about July time, I think, of that year. And I joined the position in January, 2019, so I’ve been just in the place for about over a year now. That has definitely flown by.
Amy: But in terms of the kind of remit of the wellbeing manager, it is quite far-reaching. There’s definitely no one day that’s the same, and I think from what I can kind of gather, is that you … there’s a bit of a structure and strategy that you stick to, and you decide at the start the year. Okay, we want to focus on physical wellbeing, mental health, financial wellbeing, lifestyle wellbeing, all of those different areas.
Amy: We kind of say, okay, throughout the year, we’ll talk about this, we’ll talk about nutrition and sleep and resilience and what mental health looks like, and have all these fantastic campaigns. And then you kind of get hit by a pandemic, and it’s okay, all systems go. What do our people need? They need wellbeing support right now. And what does that wellbeing support look like?
Amy: So you quickly … planning as much on the internet as you can do. You get in as many resources together, you’re having thousands of conversations with people all over this list to see what the need is, where that attention needs to be, what support needs to be available to people. How do we keep connected? All of these different conversations that we’re having right now to try and get the support where people need it the most.
Amy: So yeah, lots to kind of keep me busy, certainly. I’m one of two wellbeing managers at Experian, and we’re both very, very passionate about supporting our people and working together to try and cover all of what we just discussed, yeah, to try and bring that to life at Experian.
Mike: Amy, how are you managing with all this? Because you are trying to take care of wellbeing of so many employees, providing all these different services, letting people know how they can get help. In the meantime, you also are being impacted by this pandemic. I’m kind of curious, how are you managing through all this?
Amy: Well, thank you for asking me that, Mike. It is quite rare that I get asked that question, and I think that’s just purely because we’re, in our wellbeing team, we’re all in HR and across Experian, we’re all trying to do our best to help people. And specifically in the role I have, it’s every day trying to support people. And I think in order to kind of maintain that level and sustainability for the energy that that demands and requires to help people on that scale, you have to make sure that you’re keeping yourself mentally well and knowing where to put your energy, and making sure that you have the right coping mechanisms in place. And definitely focusing on resilience.
Amy: So this year I’ve been a bit of a journey myself. You know, starting from about September of last year, I started working with a mentor, a lady called [Rachael Meen 00:06:58] who is head of HR of EITS in the UK. She’s a fantastic lady. I’ve been working with her every month to develop in certain areas, and you know, that’s been completely invaluable.
Amy: Alongside that, I’ve also had a series of counseling sessions through our EAP provider, LifeWorks, in the UK, and looking at kind of confidence issues and self-worth. So I think, for me, I’ve done quite a lot of different self-development this year to try and make sure that I am most prepared to be effective in this role, and also to be just myself at home, outside of work, because it’s quite challenging environment that I find myself in, in this arena at work. And kind of being able to switch off at the end of the day is really important, so some of the things that I focused on quite a lot recently is making sure I have those coping mechanisms in place.
Amy: So some of those include limiting the time that I’m spending on social media and reading the news. Recently, taking a step back from LinkedIn as well, because I found that to be quite hard. Initially, when all of this happened, seeing the response that people had to it and the way that they’ve reacted and the fantastic work that they’ve done, initially, I felt very overwhelmed by that, thinking I need to be doing something, but I don’t know what that something is, and it kind of paralyzed me. And I kind of had a period of low moods for a few days, so I’ve learned my lesson.
Amy: I’m not comparing myself to others. They’re on their own journey, and that’s okay. Small acts of kindness can make a world of difference, so whatever I can do just trying to help people that are vulnerable in today’s climate, so making sure my neighbor’s know how to contact me. They’re quite elderly, so they may need me to nip to the shop, et cetera. Just helping other people, that’s the thing that we can all do. You know, given appropriate social distancing.
Amy: Listening to music. So that’s something I do quite a lot of. And Mike, I think a few years ago, actually, when I first saw Shakespeare and I put a piece on Chatter about a spot of [inaudible 00:09:33], and I think you may have commented on it. And I’m trying to remember if you did.
Patty: He probably did.
Mike: Oh, boy.
Patty: Yeah, he probably did.
Amy: [inaudible 00:09:44] face of the competition, basically, saying could anyone beat the amount of music I’ve listened to that year. It kind of counted for about 77,000 hours or minutes or something, I don’t know, I think my math’s way off there.
Amy: I challenged people, and I think I’ve seen you responded to it.
Mike: Yeah, that’s right. I remember that.
Amy: Yeah, yeah. But that’s something that I absolutely rely on, just switching off, putting my headphones in and listening to some Thomas Newman and just relaxing, that’s how I unwind.
Amy: But one of the core things is kind of also accepting, but sometimes … if I don’t [inaudible 00:10:31], but they’re all solving the world’s problems, and I want to focus on myself, that that’s okay and I’m okay with that. But it took a long time to get my head around, because I felt that any kind of waking hour of the day, I should be directing my attention to fixing this or solving that or talking about this or finding the solution to that. And I was on a trajectory to being completely burnt out.
Mike: I know.
Amy: Yeah, just trying to make time for myself.
Patty: I love that you mentioned that-
Mike: Yeah, I think right now it’s … oh, go ahead, Patty.
Patty: I love that you mention that because I feel like all over social media, you see people who are like, “You know, this is the best time to be productive and work on your passion projects,” and you see people waking up at 5:00 AM and doing yoga, and it’s just like, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. It’s allowed for us to just survive at this moment.
Amy: Exactly.
Patty: We don’t have to make something out of this time, and it’s a time of crisis, you know. So I love that mention that sometimes you don’t need to be that productive. You just need to be able to take care of yourself and keep moving forward.
Amy: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So it’s so important, that the amount of posts on Instagram or LinkedIn, “What are you doing? If you’re not doing something, what are you doing? You’re just [inaudible 00:11:51] or whatever.” It’s like, no, actually, I’m just surviving.
Patty: Exactly.
Amy: Like I’m just [inaudible 00:11:55] where I try to keep myself okay. You know, mentally okay. And just seeing each day in and day out. What I’m doing is enough, and that’s okay.
Amy: But it is quite hard to kind of get to that point when that’s all you’re seeing on social media. I think it’s quite difficult to kind of let yourself know that, that it is okay.
Mike: Yeah, so true. I feel like, because all of us have our routines flipped. Like we’ve had certain things that we’ve done to energize ourselves, to make ourselves happy, before the pandemic. And now, a lot of those things, we can’t do anymore.
Mike: And so I found that it’s been tough for me, because my normal routine was like every morning I’d head to the gym and do my workout, and then I would go to a local coffee shop and read and journal, and then I’d go to work. And I had like pretty much three or four hours to myself every morning to kind of recharge and now that, with the pandemic, I can’t go to the gym.
Mike: And I have no … like, I’m so consumed with news, unfortunately. Like my time in the morning to journal and do my reading is now I’m like flipping through the news, wanting to keep up with what’s happening in the world, and that can be very overwhelming to me.
Mike: And so I’m trying to figure this out too, and similar to what you were saying about people talking about how are you staying productive, how are you … like you can use this time to work on your passion projects. I’m like, I have no desire to work on any sort of passion project right now.
Patty: Zero desire.
Mike: I’m just like trying to get through this. I’m actually watching more Netflix, more than ever, just to get my mind off of everything that’s happening.
Amy: Yeah. No, yeah, that’s exactly it.
Amy: I think I started this with the approach that okay, I need to throw myself into this. I need to make sure that I’m coming up with fantastic new initiatives, both at work and at home, and I just had to take a step back and think this isn’t sustainable. I’m trying to manage expectations at work and manage the wellbeing side of things, because that is huge right now. It is so important. But I’m only as good as what I can kind of input, and if I don’t have the energy to do that, then I’m going to struggle.
Amy: So I’ve had to take a step back and think, okay, start small and think what it is that I need to do to make sure that I’m okay. And my anxiety, when all this happened, my anxiety’s through the roof. And it’s kind of, week by week at the minute in terms of the triggers that I’m finding. You know, being on social media sometimes, that’s a trigger. Last week, having to reschedule this conversation because I had an anxiety attack in the supermarket pharmacy section. It just got overwhelming and I couldn’t … I had to [inaudible 00:15:21], as much as I was looking forward to talking with you, I felt quite disheartened that I had to ask to reschedule, but you just have to take a step back and think I’m not going to be able to give this the attention or the energy that it needs because I’m just trying to cope with what’s happening right now, and it is just trying to put your hand up and say I need to recharge. I need to relax. I need to switch off. And that’s okay.
Patty: You know, I love how vulnerable you are about your mental health and I feel like it kind of shows other people who might not be as vulnerable that they’re allowed to talk about these kinds of issues.
Patty: Do you have any advice for people who are a little more hesitant to talk about their mental health and maybe needing help, and where they can reach out?
Amy: Yeah. So, thank you for your comment just then. It is something that I actively try and make a conscious decision to talk about because I know the … I kind of know firsthand the impact the stigma has around mental health, and I think the less we talk about it, the more we add to that stigma and around how people feel about talking about mental health.
Amy: And I think one of the important things that we can each day is, if we’re struggling, just to say we’re having a difficult time. It’s quite … when you first start openly talking about mental health, it can a bit weird and a bit [inaudible 00:17:00]. People can be a bit like, “Are they over-sharing? That’s making me a bit uncomfortable.”
Amy: But I think that’s where the stigma lies, and I think as long as we’re all trying to normalize that conversation, the better chance to kind of live in the world where we’re all being who we are. And talking about all the, not necessarily throwing out your dirty laundry and saying, “Look this is me,” but certainly sharing that if you are feeling like you’re having an anxiety attack or that you found something particularly difficult, or perhaps you’re noticing somebody within the business that … and top tips.
Amy: I’ve been sharing quite a lot of TED Talks recently because I think the content there is absolutely incredible. There’s a conversation recently by a lady called Lucy Hone, who shared her three strategies for resilience, and they were kind of game changers for me, and I have them pinned up just above my desk here. So I’m living them day in, day out.
Amy: So yeah, that’s a long story, definitely not kosher either, but that’s me.
Mike: I like that. I think it’s so important that teams, right now especially, come together and are very, very sensitive to the mood of each person, making sure that people are checking in. There’s got to also be that trust there, because not everyone’s going to want to share with each individual on their team. Do you have any advice for team members who … maybe that they are wanting to share a little bit about their anxiety, their depression during this period, but they’re maybe not feeling super close to anyone right now. Things that they can do to get help or just … maybe they’re not even like, “I’m not ready to get help, but I do want to share a little bit about what I’m going through.”
Amy: I guess it depends on what space that that person wants to share that information with. I think there’s different platforms that people can use. I think if you’re someone that doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable sharing with your team, you know, your direct team at work, then perhaps looking at the different networks that are out there for people. I know you have the Aspire Network.
Amy: We call the networks in the UK, I think you call them ERGs in the US, but we have networks in the UK as well, and perhaps it’s a case of joining a network where potentially nobody really knows who you are within that area you’re in, and that it’s a safe space to be able to share a little bit about what you’re going through, some of your anxieties and fears, and have a conversation with someone because 9 out of 10 times, you’re probably going to find somebody else that’s in the same boat.
Amy: So I would absolutely recommend engaging with our ERGs and our networks, but reaching out to people as well. You know, I’m always available to have a conversation with anyone that needs to talk about mental health, anxiety, depression, whatever it is that you’re going through. I’m happy to have that conversation with you.
Amy: In the UK, we also have mental health first aiders. So they are trained people who have been, you know, gone on a two day course to talk about how to help people in a mental health crisis. But they’re there to talk to as well, so you can have a conversation with an individual who is trained in mental health first aid about anything to do with mental health. You don’t necessarily have to be in a crisis right there and right then. If you’re somebody that’s struggling day in, day out, or you’re noticing that you’ve got an increased sense of anxiety, then just have a chat with them and just share what you’re going through.
Amy: In the UK, as well, I mean, I’m referring to the UK support lines, but I’m sure [inaudible 00:24:38] in the US as well. We have Samaritans in the UK, where you can talk to somebody on the phone or over email, and they’re completely independent. They don’t know who you are, but they’re to listen and to help. So there’s so many resources and help lines and people out there that you can reach out to. If it’s not somebody directly in your team or your family or your friends, it’s always going to be … there’s always somebody there that you can speak to.
Amy: I’ve also found myself sometimes, if I don’t know how to have a conversation with somebody about what I’m going through, is actually just taking time to write it down. Write down how I’m feeling, just as a … in like a blog format. And sometimes I’ll share it, sometimes I won’t. Sometimes it just helps quite kind of cathartic, just to write down all those emotions, those thoughts, those feelings, so you’ve kind of taken them out of your body and you’re kind of letting it go slightly.
Amy: So there’s lots of different ways you can share without having to openly share with people that you might not feel comfortable doing so.
Mike: That’s really good advice. My therapist is always telling me to journal, and I’m really bad about journaling. I love to talk, so my thing has been like, I can just talk alone in my car, usually on my [inaudible 00:26:12]. You just kind of talk it out. That’s how I do it. And also when I go on my long bike rides or I go running, I’ll just be thinking about, processing, those different things that I’m going through.
Amy: Yeah.
Mike: I used to write a lot more when I was younger, but right now I’m in a season of like I can’t write about it, I’ve got to talk it out. That’s how I’m dealing with it right now.
Amy: Yeah. I think that’s a really good thing to do as well. I know exactly what you mean. You know, when I’m in the house by myself, which is never at the minute, if I am working from home normally in the day by myself, if I’m struggling I’ll … this might sound a bit silly, but just standing in front of the mirror and having a conversation with yourself is-
Mike: Totally.
Amy: It does help to say why am I feeling like this? What’s caused it? This is what’s happened in the day? What’s bugged me? Has there been something that … was there a conversation that didn’t go so well or … I mean, I’m a classic over-thinker. Literally, as soon as my head hits the pillow, all I’m doing is thinking about every single conversation I’ve had. And I’m analyzing it to the detail.
Amy: So yeah, I think just trying to figure out what works for you. If it’s journaling, that’s great. If it’s having a conversation in the mirror, fine. Sitting in your car, whatever you need to do. Yeah. I think just making sure that you’re reflecting what you can do, maybe not overthinking and over-analyzing when you’re trying to sleep, but having productive designated time.
Amy: So my mentor, Rachael Meen, she suggested that once a week, I block some time out in my diary, whether that’s 15 minutes, half an hour, whatever, just to reflect on the week. And just kind of see how well it’s gone. Were there things there that didn’t go so well? What were they? Okay, acknowledge them and I’ll do them differently next week, and move on. I think that’s a really good exercise to do.
Mike: I think reflection is important, and like I find whenever I go running in the morning, that’s my kind of reflection. My hour run, I’m just thinking, really about my work, what I’m doing, how I’m handling issues with my family.
Mike: I think reflection is super important. I’m really happy to hear your mentor was like, “Hey, set aside time in your day. Put it on your calendar.” Like totally, 100%, that is great, great advice.
Amy: Yeah. She’s brilliant. I think the work … I said to her today, I had a session with her this morning, and I was saying to her, “You know, the work that we’ve done together has been absolutely incredible.” And if she ever needed a testimony for her mentoring skills, I said, “Hit me up because, you know, you’ve been incredible.”
Amy: Thinking where I was in September last year, I was very, very nervous. I didn’t like talking about myself. Whenever I was in a situation like this, where I was talking about myself and my experiences, I would get this stress rash. And I’ve had it for years, literally years. My whole life. And it just overwhelmed my body. Covered in a rash. And my confidence was like this.
Amy: But working with her, just working through some of the issues that I’ve had, the confidence issues, working with my counselor, you know, it’s just really helped to bring that to life. And Rachel, she’s just been fantastic, so I would absolutely recommend finding yourself a Rachel and getting that self-development time because it’s completely changed my life. Yeah.
Mike: That’s awesome. And I find that sometimes … it’s that to me the best mentors are those who have kind of gone through similar things. Like they understand where you’re coming from, they’ve had anxiety, they’ve had depression, they’ve gone really difficult seasons, and to me, those are the people I connect with.
Mike: Like yes, yes, let’s talk about these things that we’ve both gone through. It helps me to hear how other people have kind of gone through their journey and what they’re currently struggling in.
Mike: And I think those conversations are super powerful and supremely cool because you don’t feel alone anymore.
Amy: Exactly. The one thing, I think, that I tried to make sure I’m communicating within Experian is that when we’re not alone. Everybody is going through something. There is never going to be a one size that fits all approach to kind of helping people with mental health or wellbeing in general.
Amy: You mentioned going out for runs, and that’s something that as a wellbeing manager, technically, I should be promoting. You know, living that value and living that [inaudible 00:31:41].
Amy: Yes, I start my day with a bowl of fruit and then, you know, some poached eggs, and I have a smoothie and then I go for a run. Nope. That’s not me. But I do admire anybody that can do that, definitely.
Amy: But yeah, I think it is a challenge right now just to find out what works for everybody because it is difficult. There isn’t a rule book or any guidelines of how to respond to these challenges that we face right now, so we all just have to figure it out.
Mike: Yeah. And I had question about those who are approached by a colleague. Someone comes up to them and they that trust, that they feel like there’s a strong relationship there, and someone begins to share what’s on their heart, and it’s something that’s really hard. And I know that I struggle sometimes, even though I have been there, I have been that person, and I’m actually that person a lot.
Mike: I have a lot of anxiety. I shared this with Patty. I go to a therapist. Oftentimes in our one-on-ones, it’s like her … Patty’s my therapist. She’s [inaudible 00:32:59]. And I want to give Patty my demons.
Mike: But I’m kind of curious, like, how should people be responding when someone approaches them and tells them about a difficulty? And it could be anxiety, depression, and they don’t feel equipped to handle … like I’m not sure how I should answer this, I’m not even sure what to say in this moment. Do you have any advice for those of us who are receiving this information from somebody we love, someone that we have a good relationship with, and we’re now, we’re like, “Oh no, how do I navigate this?”
Amy: Yeah. So, really good question, Mike. And especially it’s a thing that I’ve been working on quite a lot recently is trying to help managers, for example, be able to have a difficult conversation with somebody they might not feel equipped or skilled in being able to respond to that.
Amy: So like I mentioned earlier, we have mental health first aiders who are trained to be able to respond to those situations, but if you’re a manager, or if you’re a friend of somebody that’s coming to you with a problem and they’ve had a particularly difficult time, whether they’re really struggling with low mood, whether they’ve recently experienced loss, and you’re just not sure how to kind of respond to that.
Amy: I’ve been working with a lady within the business recently who volunteers her time as a Samaritan in the UK. And for those who don’t know, Samaritans support people, most vulnerable people, within the UK, specifically around mental health challenges, specifically though to the mental health crisis. Potentially thinking about suicide, or actually planning and preparing for their suicide. But then they help those people by listening.
Amy: They have some really clear advice which you can find on their website about how to have a difficult conversation, and how to be an effective listener. And they use something called the SHUSH technique, which is an acronym for the following. I’ve got it open on my screen just so that I get it right.
Amy: So it’s one, show that you care. So focusing on the individual, as you said at the start, kind of making sure that you’re … as we were talking earlier, making sure that your intention is on the person. So putting all technology away, turning notifications off, if you show that you’re listening [inaudible 00:35:48] individual and letting them know that they have your attention.
Amy: H, which is have patience. So it might take some time, and several attempts, for somebody to feel, for them to completely open to you. But then you’re letting them know that you’re there and that you’re ready to talk whenever they want to talk. You know, even if you don’t feel equipped, it’s just making sure that they know that you’re there and if they do need to talk, that you are going to sit and listen.
Amy: The third one is U, which is use open questions. So this is something that I found interesting. Instead of kind of trying to provide advice or a solution to the person’s problem, is using open questions. So asking questions that require more than a yes or no answer, and following up with questions like tell me more. So somebody, for example, is saying like, “I feel really rubbish and I don’t know why,” it is kind of prompting them, okay, well, tell me about your day. What started this thought process? Where did that come from, does the emotion come from? And just kind of trying to break that down a bit more without saying, “Well, if I was in your position, I would this.” I tend to default to that, so this is a learning curve for me.
Amy: The fourth one is say it back, so check that you’ve understood, but didn’t interrupt or try to offer a solution. It’s a case of reiterating to make sure that that person feels that they’ve been heard.
Amy: And the last one, H, which is have courage. So try not to be put off by a negative response if somebody responds negatively to what you said or to your suggestion to open up and talk. It’s making sure that they feel that they can come back to you at a different time, and having courage to say that to them in the first place, you know, “I’m here to help.” Sometimes it can feel a bit intrusive and counter-intuitive to ask someone how they feel, and they’re not ready to share that. So you’ll quickly kind of tell if someone’s uncomfortable and doesn’t want to engage with you on that level.
Amy: So a long-winded response to your question, Mike, but I think there’s some important learnings there that I’ve certainly taken away myself, but essentially just having somebody listen could be all that person needs.
Amy: It doesn’t matter if you feel unequipped to solve their problems. They’re not necessarily asking you to do that. It could just be that they just need you to listen.
Mike: And that’s really solid advice. I love that, oh man. Yeah, I like that acronym, SHUSH. That’s such the key part. That’s my problem sometimes. I like to talk. People are trying to share with me and I have to learn to just be quiet, listen. And sometimes my natural response is trying to find a solution and give it, and that’s like totally the wrong way to go.
Amy: Yeah, I find that too. It’s really hard because it fights all of your natural instincts because you want to make it better for somebody, you want to make them feel better, you want to make sure that you’re doing everything you can do to help their situation, and sometimes all you can do is just literally take a step back and shush and just listen. So I really, really like and appreciate that technique from Samaritans. I think it’s fantastic. I can share that with you, the link to that information, if you want to use, Mike, for anything in particular.
Mike: Yeah, that’d be great. We should actually put that in our blog, too, Patty.
Patty: Yeah, we’ll do that. I think one of my main issues is when I’m listening to someone confide in me is that I don’t want them to feel alone, so I try to find a situation that I can help them relate to, and then I end up inadvertently making it about me.
Patty: I think the acronym is really good because it’s just like yeah, shush, be quiet, just listen. You’re not being expected to come up with any solutions, and that’s really important to remember.
Amy: Yeah, no, it really, really is. I think particularly for me because, yeah, in mental health specifically, you want to make sure that people trust you and that they kind of trust your authenticity as well. And I find it quite challenging in creating an environment where somebody can share what they’re going through and know that they can trust that the person that they’re talking to understands what they’re going through and can show that level of empathy and compassion that they need. But without making about it about yourself, it’s really quite a challenge because that’s not what you want to do. You don’t want to make the conversation about yourself. But at the same time you want to make sure that person understands that you get it. So yeah, it’s a fine line.
Mike: Yeah. Yeah, and I think also what’s hard too is that I like to have these conversations in person because to me, all the non-verbal communication that happens in a room, and also I feel more secure if I’m in a private room with that person. Like I know that there’s a wall boundary, like no one else can hear us.
Mike: Video chat, like, is there a child walking in the background? And also it’s different doing video chat versus in person. Like I wish we were doing this all together, around a table, so we could actually have that also. I think it adds a lot to communication.
Mike: So I think also what’s hard right now is that, even for meeting my therapist, like we’re now doing the calls through video chat because that’s the old way that we can do it, and I feel like I have a much better connection when I’m in the office, having a private conversation. Like I feel more secure in that environment.
Mike: So I think that’s also a little bit, that’s what’s making it difficult during this time, to have these conversations with our colleagues.
Amy: Yeah. The issue that level of authentic connection with people, that human connection. It’s so important. The level of isolation that people must feel, you know, if they’re isolating alone, that’s something that I’m very aware of. I have friends that are isolating alone, and trying to make sure that I connect with them daily. Even if it is just at the end of the day, just to drop them a message, just to let them know that they’re not out of sight, out of mind.
Amy: That can be really easily done when you’re working remotely. If you’re not in the office, then you can kind of think have people forgotten that I’m part of the team? That’s something that we all need to be aware of and make a conscious effort to make sure that we’re connecting with people all over our team, even if we don’t normally do it.
Amy: And like friends and family, I don’t know about you guys, but I have never been more connected to my family and friends than I am right now. Every night is a virtual quiz or a virtual [inaudible 00:43:26] or virtual house party or whatever. And I’m like, gosh, I’m sure I normally don’t see these people more than twice a year, but it’s something [inaudible 00:43:36], which is lovely, but yeah it’s a strange world that we live in right now.
Amy: And there’s a quote recently. I’ll try and remember it. And it was, “In a rush to get back to normal, we have to decide what’s worth rushing back to,” and I loved that sentiment because I think right now people are taking stock about … some aspects of this are really challenging and very hard, and I can’t put myself in people’s positions that have lost family members and friends. I can’t imagine the pain that people are going through. But for some people, right now, it’s about taking stock about what changes they want to potentially make in their life, and having the opportunity and the head space to be able to figure that out, it’s a privilege and it’s something that we should be really grateful for.
Amy: I certainly spent a lot of time over this Easter bank holiday weekend that we have in the UK just appreciating the slowdown, and figuring out what I want my world to look like after all of this has kind of settled down. I’ve no idea when that will be. I’m supposed to be getting married next August. I hope it’s settled down by then.
Mike: Oh, congratulations.
Amy: Thank you. I had to take out insurance recently, so just about [inaudible 00:45:11] use it. But yeah, it’s a period of time for reflection, as we said, and really just trying to practice gratitude. That is definitely underrated, but it’s incredible. It’s an incredible tool, just to take stock of what you’re really grateful for, the people in your life that you’re grateful for, and if they’re are things that you took advantage of previously, like being able to see your friends and go down to the local pub or go for food, go for dinner, all of those things that you perhaps took for … took advantage of, then yeah. It’s kind of realizing where to show your gratitude.
Mike: Amy, you touched on something that is super important, and that’s those who are isolated. And you gave really good advice for those of us who maybe live with somebody or have family that we’re able to interact with in our homes, but there are a whole bunch of people, like you said, who don’t have that. They’re by themselves. Some of them may have just broken up with their partners, maybe some are divorced, and are feeling very lonely.
Mike: I’m wondering if you can share any advice or things that they can do during this time that’s very, very difficult.
Amy: Yeah, I mean, I can’t imagine what it’s liked. I have tried, and there was a period of time where I lived by myself and it was a very isolating world that I created for myself, and I shut myself off from everyone and I stopped talking to people. This was while I was at uni. It was a difficult time for me.
Amy: And I found that really difficult, so there is something right now that I, I mentioned earlier, I listened to this TED Talk by a lady called Lucy Hone, and one of her strategies she mentions here, asking yourself what am I doing? Is what I’m doing hindering or harming me?
Amy: So I think for an example, is what you’re doing … are you shutting your world off completely from people? Are you, just because you’re isolating by yourself, are you isolating permanently from other people? Are you stopping giving people a ring? Are you cutting back on your social media but inadvertently stopping that connection with people, friends and family, that might be in the same position as you?
Amy: I don’t have any kind of personal advice I can give people who are self-isolating because I’m not doing it myself, and I think I would be the wrong person to give that advice to, but what I can suggest is just to make sure that whatever communication channel exists for you, whether that’s through work or whether that’s through your friends or your family, making sure that they stay open and stay as open as they can do, so making sure that you’re taking time and remembering to give somebody a ring or drop them a WhatsApp message, or just engage with them on a social media platform, or just give them a text.
Amy: Like that is something that I neglected to do for a good three years, and it was not a nice world that I created for myself. So I would hate for other people to start to do that themselves. I think people that are particularly vulnerable are those that have struggled or are struggling with mental health challenges already. If you go through periods of low mood and you get into a mindset where you want to withdraw sometimes, and if you are self-isolating and that loneliness kicks in, and that low mood kicks in, and you do start to withdraw even more, those chances to engage with people get smaller and smaller. And that’s where the risk lies.
Amy: So I would just encourage people to stay connected, and I would encourage people that know individuals that are self-isolating by themselves, just to check in on those individuals. And even if they’re … one thing as well. If you’re in a head space where, so, this is something in mental health. If you’re somebody that struggles with low mood and depression, perhaps you don’t want to text back to people. You don’t want to engage with people, and you’ve already got to that point where you’ve shut yourself off. One of the things that we can do to help those individuals is just stay talking to them, and one thing that I will be forever grateful for when I was struggling was my friend Jack.
Amy: He would just drop me messages, text messages, even though I would never reply to them. He would just text me random things that he was doing that day, because he didn’t know how I would respond to it and he didn’t know that that was helping me, but it really did. And people just like to know. If they’re in that situation, they don’t want to reply to you immediately, but they still really, really appreciate getting that random text from you, just to say, you know, whatever you’ve been doing that day and you’re thinking about them. It’s, yeah. There’s no words to explain how grateful I was for those text messages.
Mike: I love that. We’ve been talking a lot about self-awareness and just being sensitive to how we’re feeling. But there are a bunch of people also who may be struggling with anxiety, depression, and may not even realize it. I’ll share with you, like, when I was younger, I was going through a lot of anxiety and for me, it actually manifested physically, where my legs started shaking, like uncontrollably. And I was really scared. I thought I had a nervous disorder. I didn’t know what was going on, I was going to my doctor. My legs were just shaking uncontrollably.
Mike: And my doctor ran all these tests on me and I had a brain scan, I had a number of other tests done to see what was going on. Found out that there was nothing physically going on. There was no nervous disorder. It was actually anxiety and panic attacks that I was having.
Mike: And my doctor was, at the time, was asking me, you know, I was 20. I was at university. He was like, “Are you anxious? Do you have anxiety?” And I was like, “No. I don’t have anxiety.”
Mike: And he’s like, “Well, what’s going on in your life?” And I was like, “Well,” and I started to share things that were happening. And I started realizing that there were all these big things that were happening in my life that I just totally, just kind