Riding the ‘COVID-Coaster’
No-one could have imagined what was about to take place earlier this year. We were all going about our busy lives and suddenly we all had to stop and learn to adapt to a new way of working, living and being.
Whether or not you have been directly impacted by the virus, COVID will no doubt have impacted on your life in some way. You may have not had regular contact with friends, family or colleagues. You may have had more time to reflect, you may have had to adapt to working from home with family around.
Everyone responds differently to crises but for many, the pandemic has been an emotional roller-coaster. Staying at and working from home may have had benefits but for many. It has involved an up and down journey with feelings such as isolation, anxiety, sadness, fear, low mood and poor motivation.
So how can we all learn to cope with riding the ‘COVID-coaster’?
Here are some tips for maintaining good mental and physical well-being at this unprecedented time:
Lots of us have been out of our usual routine during lockdown. But routine is really important as it gives us structure, motivates us and allows us to set clear goals and boundaries for the day.
Take time to re-establish routine in your life. Getting washed, dressed, out of pyjamas and having breakfast will help you to feel ready for the day ahead. Use the time you would usually spend travelling to do some exercise, go for a walk or listen to music before you start the working day.
Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day can help with sleep patterns along with not drinking caffeine later in the day, having a good bedroom environment and not having screen time in the hour before bed.
Set a clear boundary between your work and home life. If you are not fortunate enough to have a specific room to work from then closing down your PC/laptop and putting work away at the end of the day can be as effective as closing the door to an office or study. It also helps resist the temptation to check emails or carry on working beyond your set hours.
Communicate with family members about what your working day consists of and have a clear start and finish time. Along with regular, scheduled breaks so that others know when you’ll be available.
Find ways of transitioning from your working day into leisure time like getting outside, doing some exercise or something else that you enjoy.
Working from home due to COVID can mean sitting for longer and involves working more intensively. Taking time away from screens and your work station is really important for both your physical and mental health. Take time to stand up and stretch. Alternatively, go and make a cup of tea at regular points during the day as well as taking a lunch break.
Make time for yourself and the things you enjoy! Re-engage with a hobby, do puzzles, read for pleasure, learn something new or spend time outdoors. Varying our activities and balancing work with play can be beneficial for our mental health; doing things we enjoy and making time for relaxation is as important as doing things that give us a sense of achievement.
Be kind to yourself. While it’s good to set yourself clear, specific and realistic goals; don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t achieve what you’ve set out to do. Acknowledge that your productivity might vary from day to day.
Make time for mindful moments
Mindfulness is essentially the practice of being in the present moment; not thinking about what we have just done or what we are about to do but sitting with how things are right now. Mindfulness practice helps us to pause, check-in with ourselves, gain headspace and gives us perspective on things.
There are several apps and videos on YouTube which explain mindfulness techniques and how to meditate. But if meditation isn’t for you there are ways in which you can practice mindfulness in other ways during the working day. Schedule moments during the day. Pause and count 10 breaths or notice what you can see, hear or feel in that moment.
Have contact in a contactless world
We may not be able to have contact with each other in the usual ways. But there are still ways in which we can connect with others. Call colleagues and speak to them rather than e-mailing. Working remotely means we don’t have the usual chat by the photocopier or water dispenser. Which in turn means we don’t get a chance to offload and talk through things after a difficult task, meeting or phone call. If you would usually meet up with a colleague for lunch or at break-times, maybe find a way to connect. Either by telephone or video at these times during the day.
Seek support and support others
Connecting with colleagues doesn’t have to just be about work-related issues. Talking about how we are feeling during COVID or how things are can help us feel lighter and can often help us normalise our experience. In the same way, checking in with each other can lead to feeling reassured and offers potential for sharing ways of coping.
If talking to colleagues, friends or family about your feelings is difficult or you need some extra support, there are several helplines available which can be accessed via the NHS website (Click here). Alternatively, talking to a trained therapist may help. Many therapists, like myself, are continuing to work online. We can offer a non-judgemental space to talk through your experiences. We can also help you find new ways of managing thoughts and feelings.
Finally, as more and more lockdown restrictions are eased and we adapt to a new kind of normal. Acknowledge that this may bring along new feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Be kind to yourself. Accept that while you may not be able to control what is happening in the world, you can control how you respond to it. Take things at your own pace and don’t judge yourself by how others have responded or what others are doing. You’re doing your best and your best is good enough.
This article was written by Sarah Silvester MSc. MUPCA (Accred.) UKCP Reg, an integrative counsellor & psychotherapist based in West Midlands House.
For more information on Sarah and the services, she provides please visit her website.
To contact Sarah call her on 07715113723 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org