Covid-19 has an impact on how we all live now
Life is not very constant now. Unlike the rewind button on our Sky and other tv remotes, we are unable to pause the moment in time, rewind or fast forward. We must live in the present and be positive and energetic in our responses to the current stress and threat to regularity in the world that we are most familiar brought on by the impact of Covid 19.
We need to be honest and mindful that it is quite normal that anyone of us feels particularly vulnerable and overawed as the news of the Covid 19 becomes more embedded in our daily lives. It is not just here in Ireland but in our neighbouring countries. Borders although they maybe physically closed however, mentally and emotionally we are in a borderless Europe. We all care for each other and want to hear good news from each other’s nation, it will give us hope. Covid 19 is a very unsettling and serious health concern that has displaced so many norms and expected events and activities that were on the horizon over the next number of days, weeks most of which if not all need to be put on hold. Mental Health Ireland’s CEO Martin Rogan said, “For most of us, this is our first experience of a situation of this kind, and it is a real concern”
In the interim it can impact on our physical and mental health. It can be helpful to acknowledge these feelings and explore how best we can manage its unpredictability and its impact on daily living.
Understandable it is causing a significant amount of worry, concern and anxiety because of the disruption to ordinary daily living and the lack of certainty of what the immediate future holds. The predictability of how we go about our daily living from going to work, to maintaining home life, dealing with the children and young adults home from school and third level institutions, engaging in community life is compromised in the very interest of personal health and wellbeing.
There is a significant amount of disruption to home life at many different levels, including children home from school and college. Many places of work amid the Covid 19 pandemic are now expecting their employees to work from home, which essentially is remote working. At present this is also my position with my employer Mental Health Ireland. Working from home is for many a new challenge, especially within a farm household and will necessitate some new house rules!
Working from Home -What are the Challenges?
Technology has unlocked this possibility and is being accessed by employers in many case to maintain their core business from an employee’s home base in response to the necessary health restrictions as a consequence of the Covid-19. This new way of working is creating radical change and generating new demands for employees and the way they work. Its enforcement for many has been an abrupt transition from an office to a home environment and may leave employee struggling in becoming accustomed to the change. With coronavirus, it’s not clear how long people will be at home posing additional new challenges of adaptation. Parents, for example, will find working harder from these circumstances given that children are at home as schools are closed, young adult children home from college. There is so much uncertainty that it is necessary to grapple it and explore ways of placing a new meaning in the new normal. For employees working from home for the first time requires a new discipline. The following are some suggestions to support this new way of working and are worth considering given that none of us truly know how log this arrangement will stay in place.
Creating a Daily Routine
Strive to put structure into the day because if it lacks such, there is a possibility that a person’s mental health maybe compromised as being removed from the regular office comradery and banter that can take place over the coffee break can lead to feelings of isolation and in turn lead to possible anxiety and depression. This is hardly surprising as heading out to a place of work a normal routine is good for our mental health (albeit challenging on a regular day, getting trains and childminding arrangements.)as it provides a sense of belonging, an opportunity to feel connected and have those social conversations, team work achievements.
The key starting point is to put yourself into the frame of mind that you are working from home and avoid any mix up with quick household tasks that may normally be left on hold for the week end or until you get home from work, such as putting out the washing, filling the dishwasher and so on! Start off by maintaining your regular wake up and get ready for work routines, get dressed in comfortable every day close leave the PJs under the pillow!) in the normal way. Reducing the maintenance of this pattern may lead to you feeling out of place and reduce your sense of normality. Where there are school going children involved, it is important to keep to this routine as they may perceive this as time off and not want to get on with what ever homework has been set for them, that in itself makes new demands.
“Out of sight out of mind”
Person to person contact is always very important as it allows us to pick up on social cues, to read social cues. When we work from home, our in-person contact with co-workers disappears; as such, it becomes important to see the people you talk to. Such contact with fellow worker disappears, therefore it is important that employees have in place the use of platforms such as Zoom, Skype. They are very helpful even if we feel uncomfortable in front of a camera, however the benefit of such contact outweigh such a dislike! It is nice to see the person with whom we are talking and having a conversation and support feelings of being connected. It is also important to maintain contact through regular email, WhatsApp and phone calls. It is not beyond the possibility to have a group phone video call with a cup. of coffee in hand
Create a Workspace
It will be important to create a space that can be dedicated for work, so that you can go that space as such an area sends out a clear message to those you live with that you are at “your work.” This also serves as an important signal to those who live with you that you’re ‘at work’. By creating these boundaries there is less of a chance of being called upon to provide assistance that can be left on hold within the family. However, this may be difficult to maintain in the farm family hone situation. It will be necessary to establish a happy balance Having a dedicated space and routine will minimise interruptions and ensure your fidelity to your work.
Create Time Boundaries
It is not unusual for people do when they work from home is to work more. This is a mistake and needs to be avoided. Schedule time for a morning coffee, midday lunch and have a day’s end to your work. Avoid using that extra time to work that was normally allocated to the time required to get to work and which may well have been used to listen to an audio book, podcast and so on.
Remote working can contribute to isolation and perhaps impact on morale and work productivity. If you work as a team member make efforts to initiate to sustain the camaraderie and bond through virtual contact. We are all in the same boat but have the common need to stay in touch. Make time for casual conversations and ‘water cooler’ chat.” Clearly the more effort put into establishing and maintaining such communications with colleagues the better chance of avoiding those feeling of isolation the greater, and collectively we are all supporting each other.
The Five Ways to Wellbeing
Because so much out of home activities and after school and work activities are cancelled both for children and adults it is important to take care of yourself, your family and your loved ones. As a first step, don’t neglect your physical and mental health. Meditate. I cannot but emphasise that whatever works for you do it, have a plan and undertake Whatever it is that works for you, do what it takes to care for your body and mind. It is with that in mind that a useful starting point is exploring how the Five Ways to Wellbeing might work for you personally as a family and how they can be adapted for use with your virtual contact with colleagues , friends and family relations. They can support the resilience that is so much needed as we work our way through these unprecedented times. I would encourage that you try to incorporate all the Five Ways on a daily basis, because at the end of the day, a day that may have generated worries and concerns, you will see that it was not all negative. The Five Ways are to our mental health and wellbeing as the message to eat five green a day is good for our physical health. The following are just some suggestions, and if you have identify some creative ways of implementing them with your family and friends please share your ideas at www.mentalhealthireland.ie so that we can share them with our followers
keep yourself and your family informed about good hygiene practice as recommended which include, washing your hands more often than usual, for twenty seconds with soap and hot water when you return from work, or have been away from your home, ensure all family member get into such a routine. Many place and business are supplying hand sanitiser. Also use tissues if you sneeze and immediately dispose of them. It goes without saying, stay at home if you do not feel well. However please be aware that any of the following are being suggested with the health warning to have full compliance with the HSE Guidelines on Social Distancing and indeed Physical Distancing. These are available
1) Connect, it is important to stay connected and share concerns with family members and neighbours and friends. At times of stress we will always thrive and feel better when talking and chatting and keeping in touch. Also be aware there are a number of free national help lines that can be contacted that provide emotional support including the HSE 1800 341 900. Although there is a strict health warning and guidance about “social distance” adherence to which is essential, we can still be in touch with others through social media, texting, direct phone calls, what apps groups, indeed emailing. You're not alone; talk to someone you trust. Sharing a problem is often the first step to recovery.
2) Be Active, like never it is important to keep our minds and body active and distract ourselves from the constant news reporting on Covid 19. This can be achieved by going for short walk with strict adherence to the social distancing guidelines , consider some gardening, planting flowerpots, find a place for a bird box, take out a board game. When out and about be mindful of social distance. Fresh air and green exercise are well known to provide physical and psychological health benefits.
3)Take Notice, very important to be aware and know what is happening around us and to keep in contact with best advice being issued by the HSE. It can also be helpful for peace of mind to limit our engagement with the constant media flow switch off, tune into favourite music, tv programmes, documentaries on national and local radio stations. It is also helpful to listen in occasional and or tune into TV to access to inform yourself through trustworthy sources on the current outbreak. It can support you and your family to feel more in control and accepting of the situation on hand. Rumour and speculation are a very poor combination for wellbeing. Take notice of how you are feeling and those around you and look at the Five Ways and the opportunities to consider to enhance your wellbeing.
4) Keep Learning, this is also a timely chance to explore online free learning opportunities of which there are many. Google free online learning opportunities. If you are not already a Library member you can join online for free and get access to so many educational resources for yourself and your family. Down load the “Borrow Box “ App to explore the pandora box of free resources everything form books to free newspapers to your favourited magazine including “Hello”https://www.librariesireland.ie/join-your-library RTE has many podcast and documentaries freely available. It is also worth noting that the following also offer free on lien courses https://suicideorsurvive.ie/ free wellness Workshop, You matter workshop and On line Family Carer Training https://alzheimer.ie/about-dementia/family-carer-training
5) Give – give yourself the space and time to look after yourself, this is not a selfish sentiment. This includes ensuring you maintain a healthy diet, build in exercise. As best you can stick to your daily work routine. We can also watch out and try to reassure others that we know that maybe worried and check in on people where possible that are living alone. ALONE have a national helpline 0818 222 024 It is also important to have open and helpful conversation with younger family members who may through their own social media platforms be worried and concerned. It will be helpful as well to reassure older members of our community who maybe experiencing a degree of confusion about current matters.
Finally remember and let it be your mantra TEAM- Together Everyone Achieves More and the recent supportive words of our President Michael D Higgin “Take care and watch out for each other.” We all must adjust for the short term and be optimistic for the immediate future. Nature will continue to thrive so let us support our own wellbeing to thrive similarly. It is true to say, “Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day”. The challenge is identifying this positive moment and savouring it and using the Five Ways to Wellbeing. Keep in contact with my organisation Mental Health Ireland www.mentalhealthireland.ie for many new ways and ideas to support wellbeing in these tough times.
Finola Colgan, Development Officer Mental Health Ireland