By Alison Sweeting, CIPFA Training Delivery Manager
We have been in lockdown for more than a month now, and it is certainly normal to start feeling a bit fatigued. Days can start blending together, and it has been weeks since many of us have seen our friends and colleagues face-to-face. Special attention to mental health and wellbeing is essential for staying motivated at this time.
CIPFA had been piloting wellbeing sessions with students in the South East region as part of a plan to support students across all our regions. COVID-19 brought the need for emotional and mental health support into sharper relief and our response has included setting up a series of six live web classes themed around different aspects of wellbeing. These have been delivered by a CIPFA associate trainer who is also a qualified mental health first aider.
Alex Wakeham, the trainer who is facilitating and delivering the webinars, said he would like to help students learn how to cope with an unprecedented situation through adopting new habits and honest discussion:
‘In the three years that I have been working with CIPFA I have seen first-hand the culture of kindness that exists towards both staff and students. Through the webinars, my hope is that we can all begin to look kindly on ourselves even when we don’t get it right all the time.’
The content of the webinars ranges from emotional intelligence and empathy, to improving sleep and work-life balance. Students can attend the live sessions and can watch the recordings if they were unable to join the live webinar, through their MyCIPFA learning account.
The sessions have been well attended by students, and feedback so far has been excellent. Students particularly appreciate the focus on work-life balance, as many are struggling to manage their time with work, family responsibilities and their studies. They also enjoy the sense of community gained through interacting with other participants who are experiencing similar challenges in their daily lives.
‘I am certainly appreciative that CIPFA is making the effort to support its students at this remarkable time,’ a participant said. ‘In general, the content of the sessions has underscored key factors that affect our quality of life, such as how important it is to keep work and relaxation mentally separate and to try our best to live harmoniously with those around us. I have been mindful of both things since attending these sessions and have tried to turn the words into reality.’
Another CIPFA student and participant noted that the timing of the wellbeing webinars before the next round of exams was particularly welcome.
‘I have now attended two sessions and have found them invaluable. Alex Wakeham is a calming influence and has some fabulous tips. The sessions are interactive, and it is a relief to know that I am not the only person struggling.’
After the six sessions are delivered, CIPFA will continue to plan how we can provide support to our students in the future.
At CIPFA, we have worked hard to ensure that we are able to maintain business as usual even amid the uncertainty presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our spotlight on mental health and wellbeing is just one way that we are providing our students with the best tools to succeed.
This article first appeared in PQ Magazine.