As the third year of #EYWellbeingWeek draws to a close I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on the significance and intention behind this week and I would like to pay tribute to and dedicate #EYWellbeingWeek to every single one of our early years professionals who have continued to work tirelessly during this pandemic.
I would also like to highlight the other pandemic that some of us have had the luxury of slowly waking up to, racism. The death of George Floyd and the rise in the movement of black lives matter has and must continue to weave its way into our sector. From supporting the emotional wellbeing of people of colour and black people to understanding representation matters to our very youngest babies and children and impacts on their wellbeing. We must embrace diversity, faith, culture and ethnicity that is more than surface-level token gestures for the lifelong impact and consequences it has on all aspects of young children’s development and the mental health of all people of colour and black people.
When we started #EYWellbeingWeek three years ago the words mental health and wellbeing were barely thought about, never mind spoken about openly in the early years sector.
Wellbeing is sometimes thought about or framed wrongly, it is not all about yoga, face masks and mindfulness – it can be, of course it can, but what it is really about, is anything that feels good for you and positively contributes to your overall health and happiness. Notice what brings you joy, and if you dont know what that is because of this busy and stressful world, have fun finding it.
Due to a global movement to raise mental health awareness to reduce the stigma and discrimination, days like world mental health day and mental health awareness week are now much more on our radar.
In early years specifically, the pre-school learning alliance, 2018, Minds Matters indicated the deteriorating health and wellbeing of the sector due to unmanageable pressures and workload burden. Then just over a year ago, the Ofsted published The Education Inspection Framework referenced staff wellbeing for the first time and we had to decipher the meaning of “wellbeing issues” and wellbeing became the current early years buzz word.
Like any buzz word, sometimes, and especially when we are already working to full capacity, we look for a quick fix, any easy solution just to be able to tick off yet another requirement on our never-ending to-do list! We saw wellbeing become about face masks, baskets, shout outboards and one off gestures.
2020 has impacted on everyone and we have all dealt with a set of unique, demanding, and adverse experiences that have challenged us or pushed us to our limits. Even people who would say they have high levels of mental wellness and have never experienced mental health issues find their wellbeing affected. In fact, we were told that people with a diagnosis of a mental health condition would be more likely to deal better with the consequences of COVID restrictions due to the health strategies and self-care they would have in place.
Yet the longer we hold on to the unexpected life events that this year has piled onto our plates, the heavier they become and as the year has progressed we find ourselves in autumn, the weather wetter and colder, with winter on the horizon, we are all enduring the what feels like, at times, an unbearable weight and we have nowhere to rest it down.
Right now, any gesture of kindness and compassion is not only welcome it is important! A small act of thoughtfulness can make the world of difference to one person. This #EYWellbeingWeek we have seen that in abundance, wherever possible, teams connected, enjoyed nutritious breakfasts, homemade soups, and food to sustain their energy and set them up for the day! Little treats of hot chocolates, sweets and cakes and gifts that give us permission to spend time on self-care, to make us slow down, pause, rest and be gentle with ourselves.
Amongst all of those gestures that recognised and rewarded the hardworking efforts of teams and individuals after what has been a bum-kicking year, was the true importance of this week. Wellbeing at work is about how happy, healthy, and comfortable we are. We saw mental health drop-in sessions, staff rooms reorganised to create where possible calming, relaxing spaces for staff to enjoy lunch. Mental health and wellbeing awareness was being shared and talked about everywhere, infographics, magazines, posters, blogs, videos, podcasts.
By raising awareness and understanding of mental health we are learning how better to take care of ourselves and look out for others. It also means that we develop preventative measures that safeguard mental health rather than scramble with reactionary measures when someone’s health has already deteriorated and reached crisis point. The better we take care of ourselves – the better we will become in our roles!
You were not meant to hustle every minute of every day. A rested mind and body can accomplish more than a weary one. REST. @fleurdelisspeaks
After this week is over, it is more important than ever to continue to prioritise your health, happiness, and wellbeing. Those settings that have had extra armour to fight what this year has thrown at us, were the settings that prioritised staff wellbeing with practice, principles and purpose each and every day.
Rohan Allen, Headteacher at Rebecca Cheetham maintainer nursery school and children’s centre, shared this photograph on twitter as part of #EYWellbeingWeek
“We incorporated our school statement amongst words lifted from parent surveys to encapsulate our work & ethos. We worked in small groups on individual pieces of the painting without seeing the whole before bringing them together. Working together to achieve a common goal is great for wellbeing”.
I urge you to follow up #EYWellbeing together with your teams and reflect upon your core values and principles that you follow daily that cultivate a mentally healthy workplace that promotes trust, respect, dignity and a sense of belonging.
Further links and reading