Coronavirus has plunged the world into uncertainty and the constant news about the pandemic can feel relentless. All of this is taking its toll on people's mental health, particularly those already living with conditions like anxiety and OCD. So how can we protect our mental health? Being concerned about the news is understandable, but for many people it can make existing mental health problems worse. A few key recommendations:
- Limit the amount of time you spend reading or watching things which trigger feelings of anxiety or stress, or perhaps decide on a specific time to check in with the news. There is a lot of misinformation swirling around so it is important to stay informed by sticking to trusted sources of information such as government and NHS websites.
- Have breaks from social media and mute Facebook/Twitter pages or WhatsApp groups which may be triggering.
- Wash your hands, but not excessively. For people with OCD and some types of anxiety, being constantly told to wash your hands can be especially difficult to hear, especially as this may be behaviour that you have been advised professionally to avoid. Charity OCD Action says the issue to look out for is the function - for example, is the washing being carried out for the recommended amount of time to reduce the risk of spreading of the virus - or is it being done ritualistically in a specific order to feel "just right"?
- Stay connected with people (more below).
We are aware that working from home for an extended period of time is a challenge that some people may find harder adapting to than others. As a first step, here are our Mental Health Champions’ top tips to WFH like a pro!
When reality knocks us, routine gives us the structure to absorb it. Run your day like you would in the office, if you normally have a coffee at 10.30am then continue to do so. Similarly, aim to break for lunch at your usual time.
- Home office
Choose a dedicated work space, away from others if possible, and ask family/housemates to respect your space during working hours. Your sofa may look tempting but if you have a desk then use it (your back will thank you in the long run!)
- Start as you mean to continue
Take advantage of not having the commute and make a proactive start to your day. Try not to procrastinate - the earlier you start the earlier you can finish.
- Keep active
Try to go out at some point during the day if you are able to so that you can get some fresh air. A walk around the block may be all it takes but at least you are not cooped up all day. Why not replace the gym with a home workout? even 15 minutes will lift you mood and help you to keep fit.
- Stay in touch
Use Skype, Teams or other methods to keep in contact with your colleagues so that you don’t feel isolated. If you have any work queries then contact your line manager or someone who may be able to help you. Manager level staff will be checking in with you on a regular basis but if you need to speak to someone then please do so - human interaction is vital to our wellbeing.
- Be kind
Please be consciously accommodating as your colleagues, and client contacts, adjust to the ‘new normal’. Keep your calendar up to date so that people know when you’re available and make sure that everyone gets a chance to speak in meetings. A good chair and clear agenda are imperative when you can’t see everyone. In lieu of the tacit information we get from body language take the opportunity to confirm that everyone has had the chance to speak and have their voices heard.
- Switch off
Try to set a definite finish time at the end of the day. It is easy to keep going if you don’t have a train to catch or other people drifting off to remind you to stop work so try to keep to your normal working hours and then ensure that you distance yourself from work properly as you won’t have the usual break between work and home.
Have we missed your favourite tip? Let us know! We are all going to be learning a lot about our work habits over the next few weeks – if you have a strategy that might help others then spread the word.