The Importance of Mental Health

The Importance of Mental Health

With Mental Health Awareness Week in full swing I thought it would be fitting to remind everyone about the importance of looking after your mental health and some tips on how you can do it. 

What is mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through to adulthood.

Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood and behaviour could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma
  • Family history of mental health problems

Early warning signs

Not sure if you or someone you know is living with mental health problems? Experiencing one or more of the following feelings or behaviours can be an early warning sign:

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities
  • Having low or no energy
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters
  • Having unexplained aches and pains
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Smoking, drinking or using drugs more than usual
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
  • Yelling or fighting with family and friends
  • Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head
  • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
  • Thinking of harming yourself or others
  • Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school

Mental Health and Wellness

Positive mental health allows people to:

  • Realise their full potential
  • Cope with the stresses of life
  • Work productively
  • Make meaningful contributions to their communities

Ways to maintain positive mental health include:

Getting professional help

Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled.

Connecting with others

None of us are superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things don’t go to plan. If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help. Your family or friends may be able to offer practical help or a listening ear.

Getting physically active

Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and feel better. Exercise keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy, and is also a significant benefit towards improving your mental health.

Helping others

Caring for others is often an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you. It can even bring you closer together.

Getting enough sleep

Sleep is an important part of looking after your mental health as if you don’t get enough sleep it can affect your mood the following day and affect your productivity and focus at work and elsewhere.

Developing coping skills

Everyone’s coping skills are different. Some people listen to music to help calm and soothe themselves and others indulge in movies to escape from reality for a couple hours.

In conclusion, it is normal if you are experiencing a lull in your mental health. What’s important is to look after yourself and catch the early signs so you can take steps to improve your mental health and remember that everyone copes in a different way so find one that works for you.

For more information, why not enrol onto our ‘Motivation and Mindset’ or ‘Mindfulness in the Workplace’ course?

5 Essential Tips for Your First Day at a New Job

5 Essential Tips for Your First Day at a New Job

Communication is a vital part of both our society and our lives. It aids in the process of Your first day at a new job can be nerve-racking, so what can you do to prepare yourself and make a good first impression? This blog will give you five advantageous tips to make your first day on the job a success.

1. Plan your commute.

If your new workplace is based in an environment that you are unfamiliar with then make sure to leave early and plan your commute. If you leave early, there is time to correct any misdirections. You may even get there early enough to familiarise yourself with the area surrounding your workplace. Planning and punctuality is key, give yourself sufficient time to travel and arrive early, your employer will see that you take your job seriously!

2. Believe in yourself.

To have gotten to your first day on the job, you have already caught the employers interest at the initial recruitment stage and made a great impression at the interview! Keep that in mind as you start your first day, coming across as confident will allow you to make a good impression. A smile and a firm handshake will showcase a sense of confidence and professionalism that will demonstrate you are a valuable addition to the workplace.

3. Dress to impress.

Every work place will have a dress code, whether that is a company uniform, business professional, or business casual. Whatever the dress code, it is essential to present yourself as a professional, this is something the business will really appreciate as you are representing them. The longer you are in your role, the more you will be able to gauge the expectations of that specific workplace, which you can do by observing your colleagues both at the interview stage and on your first day.

Don’t worry about being over-dressed, it is more important to dress professionally and indicate to the employer that you are enthusiastic about making a good impression.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

It is easy to feel like you are coming across as nervous or uninformed when you ask a lot of questions on your first day, but it is quite the opposite. If there is anything you are unsure about, or would like to know more about, then ask! The employer will appreciate your enthusiasm and willingness to learn about your job role and the company history!

5. Be attentive in your training and learn from other people.

Finally, you should ‘pay attention’. This doesn’t necessarily mean just listening to what the Whether your qualifications or past experience has led you to secure this job role, it is fundamental to adapt those skills or experience to the business you are now working for. Each business will have its own policies and structure, so being proactive in familiarising yourself with them, as your colleagues will likely support you in.

Keep on top of your training with a willingness to learn from the person training you and the people around you, it will demonstrate a high level of professionalism and respect for the team you are now part of.

Skills 365 is a provider of FREE online courses for any adult in Lincolnshire over the age of 19. We offer a variety of courses ranging from mental health, soft skills, to CV writing, to IT training and job specific courses.

For more information, why not enrol onto our ‘Introduction to Working in an Office’ , ‘Interview Skills’, or ‘Optimising your Job Seeking’ course?

4 Effective Ways to Strengthen your Communication Skills

4 Effective Ways to Strengthen your Communication Skills

Communication is a vital part of both our society and our lives. It aids in the process of sharing information, as well as in developing relationships with others. In the workplace, people use it to encourage others, share ideas, connect with each other, inform others, and more. Without strong communication skills there can very easily be misunderstandings. It is also a major factor in business, as good and effective communication is vital to a business’ success.

1. Understand the meaning of ‘communication skills’.

Communication skills are developed all throughout our lives. As babies, we start out with very basic skills such as gurgling, laughing, or screaming. These noises are generally used to indicate that we want attention, food, or changing. As we get towards the ‘terrible twos’, we start to develop basic speech which, again, heavily revolves around getting attention and food. Once we reach preteen age, we can hold general conversations and in school we are beginning to be taught the basics of working with others and communicating in the correct way. Interestingly, as we become teenagers we tend to communicate a lot less. However, we are still encouraged in school to work in groups and with others at school.

As we become adults, we look at ways to manage both interaction and communication with what we do. As we reach adulthood, we invariably fall into one of three categories: an extrovert- someone who is socially outgoing and confident, an introvert- someone who is more shy and reserved, or somewhere in between the two.

When communicating, we also need to consider the disabilities of anyone around us. Some people with disabilities have made amazing strides in communication technology, such as Stephen Hawking and his machine that helped him talk regardless of his ALS.

2. Formal communication.

To write a formal letter, you must follow a specific layout. First, you need to have either your address or the address of the company you are representing on the top right hand corner of the page. Immediately under that, you put the date that you are writing the document on. On the top left hand corner of the page, you need to put the name and address of the person or persons you are writing to.

You should always begin the document with ‘Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss/Dr [Name]’. When you are ending the letter or document, you can sign it one of two ways. If you have used the name of the person(s) at the start of the letter, then you use “Yours Sincerely,”. If you have used ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, then you end the letter with ‘Yours Faithfully’.

There are five steps used in the process of creating a formally written document.

  • Planning.
  • Drafting.
  • Revising.
  • Editing
  • Publishing

In the planning stage, you think about who you are writing to, what you are writing about, and what the outcome or goal of the document is.

In the drafting stage, you write a rough layout of your document. Although it doesn’t have to be perfect, it does have to be focused on what you are writing about. You need to put your clear ideas on paper, and then decide what order they are going to be presented in.

In the revising stage, you check your draft and rearrange it if needed. You can also decide whether or not you need to add or remove details to aid in the flow of the document.

In the editing stage, it is best to check the tone of the letter against who you are writing it to. You need to ensure there are no grammatical or spelling errors, and once you have made any final checks and changes it is best to get the letter proofread by another.

Publishing: this is the most simple step- hit send! The hard work is done, and now your completed document is ready to go.

3. Verbal communication.

Verbal communication is a type of oral communication where the message is conveyed through spoken words. This can be done either face to face, over the phone, or through online meetings. Verbal communication is really important as it allows the speaker to give words to their feelings, thoughts, ideas, and opinions. This then allows them to express these words through speeches, discussions, presentations and conversations.

When communicating verbally, you need to ensure you speak in a clear and concise manner. This should be done face to face, so as to gauge the person’s reaction and modify your speech accordingly.

It also helps to use good grammar, such as avoiding jargon and bad language. It is a good idea to check if the person understands or, if necessary, repeat what you said for those with hearing impairments. Ensure that you regulate your tone, pitch, pace, and volume and ensure that you actively listen to what is being said.

You should also consider the environment that you are having the conversation in, such as how loud the area is. You should also adjust for language barriers, ensuring that you speak slowly and clearly so they can understand. The same goes for those with hearing impairments, as mentioned before.

Telephone conversations are a little bit of a barrier, as you cannot see the person you are speaking to. You have to rely on tone and pitch to get your ideas across, as well as read how the person on the other end of the phone is doing.

4. Effective listening.

Effective listening is a major part of communication. There are a few steps that make up effective listening, beginning with facing the speaker and keeping eye contact. You must be attentive but relaxed, and present in the conversation by attempting to listen to what is being said. It is best to pay attention, and block out any distractions around you. You should be open-minded, as it is best to not judge or mentally criticise someone. When you are listening, a good tip is to either create mental pictures of what is being said or, if the conversation is quite long, focus on key words and phrases.

It is very important that you don’t interrupt the person speaking. You need to let them finish everything they have to say. Another thing to note, if there’s a problem with what is being said you should refrain from interrupting to offer solutions unless you are asked. If you need to clarify something then wait until the person talking takes a pause, and say something along the lines of ‘I didn’t understand what you said about [topic]’.

Ensuring your understanding of the situation is also very important. If you are listening to someone effectively, you only want to ask questions which ensure your understanding has been reached. If the conversation diverges away for any reason, politely ask for more information on the topic at hand.

You need to feel the other person’s feelings. You should, if necessary, show empathy through facial expressions and tone if you are given the opportunity to speak. This takes experience to do so, however, as you don’t want to come off as fake but you do want to come off as sincere.

It is a good idea to give appropriate feedback. This is done as the conversation progresses, through either verbal feedback such as ‘really well done’ or ‘excellent job’, or non-verbal feedback such as nodding your ahead or attentive noises like ‘mhm’. This shows that you are keen to listen, and keeps you involved in the conversation. You should also try to reiterate tasks or instructions given during the conversation.

Finally, you should ‘pay attention’. This doesn’t necessarily mean just listening to what the person is saying, as it also means you should look out for non-verbal signs such as crossed arms or an avoidance of eye contact. These are clues that the conversation has strayed away and that you’ve lost the person you are speaking to.

Skills 365 is a provider of FREE online courses for any adult in Lincolnshire over the age of 19. We offer a variety of courses ranging from mental health, soft skills, to CV writing, to IT training and job specific courses.

For more information, why not enrol onto our ‘Time Management’ course?

5 Amazing Tips to Bring You Interview Success

5 Amazing Tips To Bring You Interview Success

So you’ve done it! You’ve sent out countless applications (or maybe just the one if you’re lucky) and you have finally gotten an interview. Whether it’s in person, over the phone or via an online video call, it’s always a great idea to be prepared. This article will give you five great tips to help you feel confident and ready to impress your prospective employer.

1. Research the company/organisation you’re applying for.

One of the most important things when attending an interview is to come informed about the company you are applying to. You don’t need to be a detective to do this, as most companies will have a website and a handy ‘About Us’ section where you can learn more about them. You can also have a look at their social media (Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn) to get a feel of the culture and what it would be like to work there. You don’t need to memorize every detail, but having a good understanding of your potential employer will definitely set you apart.

Many employers will ask why you want to work for them, and if you have an answer prepared with a few key details about their company ethos then you’ll definitely impress.

2. Dress to impress.

Although in-person interviews are not as common anymore, it is equally important to dress smartly for a remote interview. Even if you are interviewing on the phone, dressing nicely is still a good idea as it will help you to feel more confident. Make sure your clothes are clean and ironed, that your shoes are also clean and that you have showered and brushed your hair. All of these are so important in helping to make a good first impression. A smart business outfit is always the best bet, however if you know that the role is a lot more casual, then you can dress down slightly whilst still keeping it clean and smart.

3. Be aware of your body language.

Make sure that you sit up straight throughout the interview, and remember to smile and keep good eye contact. Try not to fidget as this let’s the employer know you are nervous. Keep your feet firmly on the ground and hold an open posture. There is a lot more to good body language than can be described in a short blog post, so if you would like to learn more about this we would recommend you take our free two hour course on the subject.

4. Know your CV.

If you applied for a job by submitting a CV, then this is what caught the employers attention and led them to interviewing you, so you want to make sure you know it by heart! It is very likely that they will want to question you more about the specific details on your CV that make you a good candidate for the role.

Go back and read the job description you applied for, make a note of the key skills and experience they are looking for and match this with the qualities you have on your CV. You should also consider examples of experiences where you have used the skills in practice. You can even make a note of these on paper and bring this to the interview!

For tips on developing and updating your CV, check out our 5 Incredibly Simple Ways to Improve and Update Your CV!

5. Make a note of some questions that you would like to ask.

At the end of every interview, you will usually be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer, and if you have a couple of great questions on hand, this will show that you are enthusiastic and interested in the role. Asking thoughtful and relevant questions will also benefit you, as it can help you gain a better understanding of whether or not you are a right fit for the position. Consider writing down a list of several questions on a notepad that you can bring to the interview, that way you wont forget them if you get nervous. A good question to always ask is: ‘What would my day-to-day responsibilities in this job be?’.

Skills 365 is a provider of FREE online courses for any adult in Lincolnshire over the age of 19. We offer a variety of courses ranging from mental health, soft skills, to CV writing, to IT training and job specific courses.

For more information, why not enrol onto our ‘Interview Skills’ course?

5 Useful Tips to Help You Handle Stress

5 Useful Tips to Help You Handle Stress

Stress affects most of us at one point of our lives. Whether at work or in our personal lives, stress is a natural part of life. However, if stress becomes long term or overwhelming, it can have detrimental effects on your mental and physical health. Here are five ways that you can handle stress in your life.

1. Regular exercise.

Exercise has great physical benefits, such as lowering your risk of health problems such as heart disease, high cholesterol, or heart attacks; but also releases endorphins to benefit your mental health. It can also help you improve your thinking and learning skills, which will help you in the workplace. If exercise isn’t part of your usual routine, set fitness goals to keep you on track or try something new, such as Zumba or Pilates.

You can also make everyday activities more active. These include, taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking to your co-worker’s office instead of sending an email to them or incorporating walking into your commute.

2. Try to relax your body.

You will often carry stress in your body, through tension headaches or a tense jaw. You may also find that long periods of either standing or sitting as part of your job give you physical discomfort. Make sure that you stretch your body, paying special attention to your spine and neck as these can become stiff if you are in the same position continuously.

Do things that relax your body, such as going for a massage, taking a long bath or shower, or going for a walk. If you suffer with continuous body pain, you can see your GP for treatment who may refer you to a physiotherapist or give you at home treatments to help relieve any pain.

3. Get a good night’s sleep.

Getting a good night’s sleep is key to functioning well during the day and managing stress. However, stress will often get in the way of you getting good quality sleep. Ways to improve your sleep are to try to go to sleep at the same time every night to encourage a routine. Adults need from six to nine hours of sleep a night, so find the amount of time that works for you and stick to it. Avoid catching up on sleep during the day as this confuses your sleep schedule and can leave you awake during the day.

If you are struggling to sleep, you need to try to wind down before sleep. Ways to do this include writing a to-do list for the next day or implementing relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing or going for a walk. It is also important to avoid using electronic devices before bed, as the light will stimulate your brain and stop you from falling asleep. Scientists advise avoiding any electronic devices, such as phones, tablets, or TV, for an hour before bed.

4. Talk to someone.

Again, employers often receive a huge number of CVs for any one role, and if a CV is too long they are very unlikely to read it. You want to keep your CV concise. Talking about your problems can be great for solving issues that are giving you stress. It is important to talk to someone that you trust, such as your close friends and family. Make sure that this person will support you and listen to you, without encouraging any bad habits or also discussing negative situations in their life as this is not helpful to either of you. You can also decide to speak to a counsellor if needed. You can do this through your GP or you can refer yourself on the NHS website, which will refer you to your nearest counselling services.

Talking about any issues that you might be having can physically relax you by allowing your body to stop holding any tension. As well as this, it can mentally allow you to work through your feelings by putting them into words.

5. Go easy on yourself.

We all tend to hold ourselves to a higher standard than others would but putting too much pressure on ourselves can lead to increased stress and burnout. It is important to take a break and practice self-care to relax and reduce any stress from the day. Take time to stop and focus on what you have achieved, from five to ten years ago from now. Be aware of how much you have progressed and appreciate yourself for it.

Skills 365 is a provider of free online courses for any adult in Lincolnshire over the age of 19. We offer a variety of courses ranging from mental health, soft skills, to CV writing, to IT training and job specific courses.

For more information, why not enrol onto our ‘Mindfulness in the Workplace’ course?

5 Incredibly Simple Ways to Improve and Update Your CV

5 Incredibly Simple Ways to Improve Your CV

Having a good CV is so important when it comes to applying for jobs, and sometimes it can be overwhelming not knowing where to start. This article will give you five quick tips to help get you started, and will hopefully boost your chances of getting into work or finding a new job that suits you.

1. Change your CV to fit the job you’re applying for.

These days employers may receive stacks and stacks of CVs for a single position, and you want your CV to stand out from the rest and demonstrate that you are the best candidate for the role! The best way to do this is to fit your CV to what the job advert is asking for.

Think about your specific skills and experience, and write down the ones that are best suited for the role. If you already have a basic CV, then you can go through and edit it slightly for each job you apply for. The extra work will be worth it.

2. Put your strongest area first.

Following on from the last tip: make sure you advertise your strongest achievements first and foremost on your CV. If you haven’t had much relevant work experience, then maybe think about putting your education or skills first. If you have a degree, consider what specific experience and skills you have from this that would be relevant to the job you are applying for and write these out! If you have volunteered before for a charity or have a hobby that you are passionate about, again consider the same things. Maybe you have very good people skills? Are you good with computers? Don’t feel resigned to following the traditional format if that’s not what suits you!

3. Make use of templates.

If you have never written a CV before or haven’t for a long time, it can be very difficult to know where to start, especially regarding the layout. It’s super important to make sure your CV looks professional and eye-catching, and luckily you don’t need to be a skilled graphic designer to do this. Microsoft Office and Google Docs both have free templates available that you can use to begin creating your CV. Google Docs has the Template Gallery; just search for ‘resume’ and you should find a selection of free templates. Office 365 also has plenty of templates available under ‘Resume and Cover Letters’, which are appropriate for a range of job sectors.

4. Try to stick to one page.

Again, employers often receive a huge number of CVs for any one role, and if a CV is too long they are very unlikely to read it. You want to keep your CV concise, and most importantly, relevant! Don’t feel as though you need to give your employers your whole life story, they just want to know what skills and experience you have that would benefit them. If you have had quite a long career history of relevant experience, then your CV can probably be extended to 2 pages (but no more than that!).

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Once you have written your CV, you may be a little nervous about sending it off, and may not be completely confident in what you have created. The best thing to do is to ask someone else to read it for you first! You can get a friend, family member or maybe a teacher to read through it and tell you what they think, they may not be an expert but they may at least be able to pick up on spelling or grammar mistakes. There are even professional CV coaches available, who will analyze your CV for you and suggest improvements. And of course, there are always our friendly tutors at Skills 365 who are more than happy to go over your CV with you when you apply to one of our free courses.

Skills 365 is a provider of FREE online courses for any adult in Lincolnshire over the age of 19. We offer a variety of courses ranging from soft skills, to CV writing, to IT training and job specific courses.

For more information, why not enrol onto our ‘CV Creation and Updating’ course?