Beth Glanville: Beth is a UKCP reg. psychotherapist/counsellor and EMDR practitioner, specialising in psychological trauma, and is co-editor of the online journal Contemporary Psychotherapy. She is an associate psychotherapist with FD Consultants and works as a psychotherapist at Transport for London’s Occupational Health Department, and also has a private practice in Surrey.
As we move into a new ‘stepped up’ phase of managing the coronavirus pandemic you may be feeling stressed and/or anxious. This is a very normal and appropriate response to what is unfolding around us. Nobody was prepared for this unique situation, and the uncertainty surrounding absolutely everything will impact us all.
Managing the media: It is important to ensure that you have the up-to-date information you need relating to Covid-19. But it is also important to manage your exposure to news and social media, and any other websites etc. relating to the virus, as it is easy to become overwhelmed. It is not helpful to keep reading the same information, or to constantly track rolling news or live updates, unless you have reason for doing so. You could try limiting how many times a day you look at information or limiting the amount of time you spend on social media or news sites.
Managing thoughts: Most of us, when we feel anxious, experience racing and/or negative thoughts, and find we can get ‘stuck in our head’. Simple distraction techniques can bring us back to the present, such as making a cup of tea, focusing on the view out of the window, doing a chore, stroking a pet, or talking to someone. Breathing exercises can also help with managing anxiety and escalating thought processes – see the link in the ‘resources’ section below.
Reaching out: Reach out to friends, family, and colleagues for support, and remember that your line manager is there to support you. This is a new and unprecedented situation for everyone and there is no ‘right’ way to handle it. Support the important people in your life, but also allow them to support you. If you are already accessing counselling do try and keep appointments where possible.
Working from home
Structure and routine : It can be easy to fall out of routine and lose structure when you are working from home, which can impact negatively on our mental health. Our energy and motivation levels may slip and we can feel lethargic, or start to feel low. In order to minimise this simple things like avoiding staying in bed late, getting dressed as if you were going out and maintaining a good routine around work, chores, breaks, and start and end times to your working day are effective. Ensure that you fully power down when you finish work, and resist the temptation to keep checking emails or ‘just get that last thing done’ to avoid your own time being eaten into. Remember to take regular breaks during the working day too – it can be easy to let this slip and sometimes we have to force ourselves to down tools and have that cuppa!
Stay connected: We can easily take the social side of being in a workplace for granted, however plenty of research demonstrates the importance of connection to others to good mental health, and sometimes we don’t realise how valuable social connections are until they are no longer there. Make sure that you stay connected to your colleagues, as well as to your friends, family and contacts outside of work. Schedule phone calls or virtual catch ups, check in on each other, hold team meetings virtually, or try coordinating a coffee break with one of your colleagues and have a FaceTime catch up while slurping!
Eat well and keep active: Spending a lot of time at home can greatly increase the chances of mindless over eating, either for comfort or for ‘something to do’. Poor eating, combined with less exercise, impacts on our mental and physical health. Plan meals and keep healthy snacks in stock and be mindful about what – and when – you are eating. Try and maintain some form of exercise regime as well, in line with governments recommendations about using gyms and being out and about. Doing a few home-based exercises or going out for a daily walk around your local area, assuming you are able to do so, will impact positively on wellbeing and mindset.
Sleep: When we are anxious our sleep is often one of the first things to become impacted. Ensuring good sleep hygiene such as maintaining a good routine of consistency around bed time and getting up, avoiding large meals in the evening and being structured and active during the day can all help impact positively on sleep. On the other hand, some of us sleep more when we feel stressed or under stimulated. If you are aware of a tendency to do this try and avoid staying in bed late or taking too many naps, as this will impact negatively on sleep later on. There is more information on sleep hygiene in the resources section below.
Support for those in difficult living situations: Some of us will be living in challenging situations. Homes may be cramped, may not feel safe, or may be overcrowded. People living in house shares may feel particularly under strain, especially if there are difficult relationship dynamics in the space. It may be worth thinking about whether you can stay with a friend or family member over this time. When at home try and keep curtains and windows open, where appropriate, to let in light and fresh air. If possible, move around your space and avoid spending all your time in one room. Try and avoid working in the bedroom where possible.
Self-isolating: It is likely that you will need to self-isolate at some point over the next few months. It is important to be prepared for such an eventuality through keeping food, essentials, and any medication you require in stock, but do try to avoid panic buying and stock piling. When self-isolating try and keep to a regular daily routine, get as much natural light and fresh air into your space as possible, and if you are feeling well think about getting some form of exercise at home, maybe through YouTube programmes or fitness apps. Even doing a few yoga stretches each day can be immensely nourishing for the body. It is also important to keep your mind stimulated. You may well still be able to work which helps with structuring the day, and around work perhaps you can make your way through that pile of books you’ve always been meaning to read, catch up on life admin, have a clear out, or get in touch with old friends. You may have a creative side you’ve been meaning to indulge, or maybe this is the time to take up meditation. This could be a golden opportunity to slow down and catch up on yourself. Of course we still have Netflix and box sets, but try and not let your day be filled up with TV, especially if you are feeling well. Scheduling each day can help with sticking to a routine, and it can be a good idea to plan out each day the night before. You could use the activity scheduler in the resources section below.
Further information about taking care of your mental health at this time -
For organisations looking for employee psychological support, FD Consultants are the trauma specialists and well-being service who will best deliver a reliable, quick, and bespoke support system in the workplace. FD Consultant’s team of accredited specialists will offer ongoing support to help manage stress, prevent burnout and provide specialist trauma care where required, enabling your staff with the tools to cope, and recover more quickly. Get in touch with us today