Are Workplaces Doing Enough for Mental Health in a Post-Covid Era?

(image: Mateus Campos Felipe at Unsplash)

The global coronavirus pandemic brought mental health and personal wellbeing to the forefront of our working life. As more companies return to the office, employers need to think about whether or not they are doing enough to make mental health in the workplace a priority. We speak to consumer finance startup, CapitalBean.com, to get some insight.

Workplace Mental Health Post-Covid

“The coronavirus pandemic highlighted serious concerns regarding mental health and personal wellbeing,” explains Richard Allan of Capital Bean.

“With ongoing uncertainty and a heightened sense of risk, it could be argued that we were experiencing an unprecedented global mental health crisis, often with no end in sight.” 

From a workplace perspective especially, many workers were facing uncertainty regarding their job stability, redundancies and, for some, navigating an entirely new way of working and interacting with colleagues.”

“In response, many companies started to take employee mental health more seriously and implement frameworks and best practices; however, now that we are returning to normal and trying to leave Covid-19 in the past, what is the extent to which companies are keeping up with their commitment to employee mental health?”

The Return to the Office

During the Covid 19 pandemic, the majority of workers were learning how to do their jobs remotely. This presented a range of new challenges to navigate and loneliness was widely reported. Not only were people missing the daily social interactions with their colleagues, but they were also finding the blurred lines between home life and work life difficult to navigate – with people’s homes doubling up as their offices, many workers were finding it difficult to switch off and reported working more hours. 

Now that people are starting to return to the office, after adjusting to nearly three years of remote working, they are being faced with new challenges. People are finding the return to work difficult and reporting a great deal of anxiety regarding social interaction. In addition, after working from home, they are now having to juggle their home commitments alongside going to the office. Whether it is squeezing in laundry, balancing childcare, or even factoring in an extra hour for the commute, the return to the office is proving more difficult than expected for many and is causing stress and anxiety for some. Others prefer working from home, so there is a balance.

The Employer’s Role

Millions of workers are returning to the office or workplace with changed attitudes and new expectations. In order to attract and retain talent, it is important for employers to acknowledge this and respond empathetically. Many companies have included mental health in their promises to employees on return to the office but now it is their time to demonstrate that this is not merely lip service. 

Employers need to proactively introduce programmes that are promoting workplace mental wellbeing and help employees with the challenges that they are facing. It is important for workplaces to create a psychologically safe space for workers and welcome conversations surrounding mental health and support.

(image: Luis Villasmil at Unsplash)

The Great Resignation And Mental Health at Work

After the pandemic, more people than ever before started evaluating their working life and what their main priorities were. With new focus on mental wellbeing and work-life balance, workers started to question what their expectations were and what they required from their place of work. The great resignation, the mass exodus of millions of workers in 2021, left employers having to think about what they needed to offer workers to not only attract talent initially, but retain it. 

 Workers who were asked about the great resignation pinpointed lack of workplace communication, sense of belonging, employee-manager relationship and toxic environments all as reasons to leave their jobs. 

In a post-Covid era (and what should have been before this), it will fall to the employer to make sure their staff feel looked after, not just financially but also emotionally.

Employers need to make their employees feel like they are taken care of, respected and acknowledged, and that their personal wellbeing and mental health is a top priority. Going forward, this will be more important for jobseekers than free office lunches or staff drinks.

We all have mental health and it is vital this is acknowledged and cared for, and not ignored in the workplace.

This article contains links to partner organisations.

Tsunami of Mental Health Problems have manifested during the Pandemic: by WebDoctor.ie Online Doctor

(image: WebDoctor.ie)

Online Doctor Service WebDoctor.ie, based in Ireland, saw a 240% increase in the number of mental health related consultations from January 2020 to August 2021.

The Online Doctor Service has also seen a 210% increase in the overall number of consultations from the same dates.

This increase reflects a ‘Tsunami’ of mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, which have manifested during the pandemic,” explains WebDoctor’s Clinical Director Sylvester Mooney. Mental health issues such as reactive depression and anxiety affected all ages and demographic groups.

Anxiety Surrounding the Reopening of Society

There has been a 76% increase in anxiety levels among Irish people, according to WebDoctor.ie. There are significant mental health concerns regarding the reopening of society as colleges, workplaces and schools get back to normal.

Aware, who provide free support and education services to those impacted by depression, anxiety and mood related disorders saw an 80% increase in the number of helpline calls they received in April, May and June of 2020 compared to the same months in the previous year.

The organisation are currently seeing concerns arise over the anxiety surrounding the reopening of society. “People are anxious to return to the workplace and return to in-person social settings, explains Stephen McBride, Director of Services at Aware.

Young Women and Eating Disorders

WebDoctor.ie have also observed a doubling of reported depression from 9% to 19%, and rates of eating disorder in young women have also increased by a very significant 41%.

There are no nationally dedicated adult in-patient public beds for people with eating disorders. Instead, eating disorder in-patients are treated in general or psychiatric hospitals. Given that the most recent CSO figures also show that suicide was, and remains, the biggest cause of death among Ireland’s young adults under 24 with men particularly at risk, it’s clear that a major post-Covid mental health crisis is well under way.

Dr Sylvester Mooney, WebDoctor’s Clinical Director stated that “many younger people who are presenting to our GP’s have been seriously impacted over the last 18 months. They’ve had significant disruptions to their college education, lost opportunities for important social interaction, their career prospects have been damaged. For a lot of patients we see, they’re very anxious and nervous about what the future may hold.”

Mental Health Support and Funding

With HSE levels of mental health funding at only 5%, which is very low by international standards (the UK is at 13%), it seems apparent that the mental health sector needs much greater levels of funding support.

When asked about the level of funding for mental health services in Ireland due to this significant increase in pandemic-inflicted anxiety levels, neither the HSE nor Minister of Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler responded to our request to comment.

Dr Sylvester Mooney believes that we are only now starting to see the fallout from the Covid pandemic on mental health.

This is a sponsored blog from Webdoctor.ie using research in Ireland from August 2021.

10 Tips to Avoid Covid Burn Out at Home and Help Your Mental Health.

(image: Unsplash)

There’s nothing inherently wrong about staying at home. On the contrary, it’s the perfect opportunity to focus on your work without the typical office interruptions. Besides, you don’t need to get up early to get ready for work anymore. Bliss! 

Or at least, that’s what you used to tell yourself during the first lockdown. But half-way through the second British lockdown, you’re finding it hard to stay positive about the situation. 

A simple chain of emails with a coworker makes your blood boil. They’re asking if you can edit your previous report. They don’t like the way it is written. They’d prefer a more energetic text. You roll your eyes. It’s an informative document, not a piece of poetry, you think to yourself. 

You bite through your lips during the next video call, trying to contain your frustration. Why are clients changing their minds again? They already gave the green light for the project, but now, they want everything redone again. You cheekily pretend the doorbell rang to escape the call for a few minutes while you try to calm down. 

Why is everything so unbearable these days? The answer is simple: Lockdown takes its toll on your mental health. Don’t be harsh on yourself.

Feeling tired, stressed out, and angry is a normal reaction during the pandemic. In any other situation, you would plan a relaxing vacation away from the hecticness of everyday life. Unfortunately, there is nowhere else you can go. So how do you take a break when you can’t go anywhere to recharge your batteries? 

#1. Book a few days off

You may not be able to go anywhere, but turning the laptop off for a few days can already make a big difference. Working from home means that you can’t truly compartmentalise work in the way you used to. There’s no way you can leave your office worried at the door when coming back home. The home office has brought work inside your home. A lot of professionals tend to check their emails on their phones, long after their working hours.

On top of that, you’re more likely to work longer hours at home, as there’s no rush to leave the office on time. Compared to the typical 8-hour day, it’s easy to see why you’re exhausted! Don’t be afraid to book some holiday away from the screen. 

Also its important to check with your office about their vaccination policy even if you are working from home or having time out. It is important to be safe and well.

#2. Reach out to an expert

Sometimes a short break isn’t enough to take your mind off work stress. Working from home makes you more vulnerable to mental fatigue, as you’re more likely to work overtime. However, when the fatigue reaches such a level that you feel emotionally empty and powerless, you may want to reach out to a doctor. Indeed, what you may be experiencing is burnout, the sensation that there is always so much to do and that you can’t meet the expectations that your work has from you.

You may not be ready to reach out to a therapist to discuss your issues, or perhaps you are not sure what you should be talking about. But you can reach out to an online doctor service to find tools and tips that can help you cope. You can consider treatment for anxiety, for example, which can help you relax. 

#3. Create a strict schedule

According to a LinkedIn study, many home-based employees feel the pressure to appear busy. Many are worried about how coworkers and managers perceive them. As a result, overtime has become the new normal. Britons working from home are doing the equivalent of 4 extra whole working days per month.

It is exhausting, both to the mind and the body. You need to create a schedule that respects your work/life balance. Reduce overtime by blocking time in your calendar for yourself and your family. For instance, if you’re unlikely to stop working at 5:30 PM, book an appointment for yourself after work. Why not schedule your home workout at 6 PM? Make sure as well to book lunchtime away from the desk, even if you’re only going to the kitchen to heat leftovers. You need to reclaim your spare time. 

#4. Introduce a soothing routine

How do you soothe the mind when anxiety won’t disappear? Making time for your mental health can transform your perception of lockdown, and also improve your productivity at work. Yoga is an excellent tool to let go of stress and clear your headspace. You can start noticing positive effects after only a few minutes of exercise. Making yoga a daily practice can help gradually take back control of your emotions and regain your peace of mind. 

Admittedly, yoga if not for everyone. Perhaps, you’d prefer a different kind of workout to alleviate stress. Or a relaxing bath after work. It doesn’t matter what you choose as long as you stick to it. 

#5. Seek new interests

Lockdown is shrinking the world around us. After a few weeks, your entire life revolves around your home office desk, the bedroom, and the couch in the living room. You feel trapped in a tiny routine. While going out is not an option, you can consider introducing new things in your daily life. Something as trivial as reading a book or watching a new TV show on Netflix can bring a sense of renewal and excitement. 

#6. Allow yourself to be lazy

The art of doing nothing is a complex skill to acquire. We live in a society that believes that productivity is the only way to create value. We reject unproductive and passive activities because we’ve been conditioned into thinking that doing nothing is bad. The truth is that doing nothing can give you the time and space you need to recharge your batteries. Sit on the couch and let time pass without checking your emails or reading the news. Your mind doesn’t need constant stimulation. On the contrary, the absence of intellectual engagement is necessary. The hyper-productivity race is destroying your sense of self and your mental health. 

(image: Unsplash)

#7. Stay in bed a little longer

Do you wake up feeling refreshed? No? You’re not the only one. A whopping two-thirds of people have been struggling with sleep quality since the beginning of the pandemic. The combination of pandemic anxiety and long working hours creates a sleep deficit. Ultimately, it affects your mood, your mental focus, and your energy levels. Why not go to bed a little earlier today? Don’t be afraid of changing your sleep routine to find what works for you. 

#8. Have realistic goals

In lockdown, I’ll learn a new language. 

I’ll get fit. 

I’ll repaint the bedroom. 

Don’t overdo it. Staying at home doesn’t mean you’ve got more time at your hands. Setting unrealistic lockdown goals will only stress you out. 

#9. Laugh

As silly as it sounds, laughing is still the best medicine when it comes to releasing stress and anxiety. Sit back and watch your favourite comedian on TV. Zoom with friends for an online quiz or an escape room game. Laughing your heart off is not just good for your mood. It helps to break the cycle of stress and self-guilt that leads to burnout. 

#10. Make time to go out

In winter, the seasonal affective disorder is at its worst. Even without lockdown, you’d be naturally getting less exposure to sunlight. But right now, it’s important to make time to go out of the house and walk in the sun. Whether you’re just going to add some seeds on the bird’s table in the garden or walking down the street to your local shop, you don’t need more than 30 minutes a day to regulate your mood. It can make a huge difference. 

Feeling drained, tired, and irritable is a normal reaction to lockdown. As more and more people are reporting mental health symptoms, it’s important to take preventive steps to avoid Covid burnout. Take back control of your routine and your mood as you’re staying at home. 


This article was written by a freelance writer
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The Book of Hope- 101 Voices in Overcoming Adversity by Jonny Benjamin MBE and Britt Pfluger. by Eleanor

To readers of my blog,

(image: Pan Macmillan/ Jonny Benjamin)

I don’t really know where to start! I have been keeping this secret for almost two years.

Nearly 2 years ago, my friends, mental health campaigner/author Jonny Benjamin MBE and author and editor Britt Pfluger, approached me to be a part of their second book entitled ‘The Book of Hope: 101 Voices on Overcoming Adversity‘ (published with Bluebird/ Pan Macmillan in April 2021!).

They asked me to write a piece on how I found hope and recovery after being unwell and my (ongoing) journey with bipolar disorder that I wrote about in my own book Bring me to Light.

I won’t give too much away about the piece I wrote, but it does include my Dad’s story too and talks about life after being sectioned for a manic episode in 2014. It talks about hope, healing, recovery and living with mental illness. It talks about being afraid of the future, but finding light in the darkness.

Heres what Macmillan say about the book which is available for pre order on Bluebird Pan Macmillan website and Amazon. It also contains anecodotes from famous faces including Lemn Sissay, Zoella (Zoe Sugg), Joe Wicks and Dame Kelly Holmes.

There is always hope, even when we cannot seem to seek it within ourselves.

The Book of Hope is an anthology of 101 key voices in the field of mental health, who share not only their experiences with anxiety, psychosis, panic attacks and more, but also what helps them when they are feeling low. Compiled by award-winning activist Jonny Benjamin and author Britt Pflüger, the inspirational contributors in this book range from the likes of Lemn Sissay, Frank Turner and Zoe Sugg, to Elizabeth Day, Hussain Manawer and Joe Wicks; from authors, poets and musicians to charity workers, activists and psychiatrists.

Jonny Benjamin is known for his book and documentary film, The Stranger on the Bridge, which fought to end stigma around talking about mental health, suicidal thoughts and schizoaffective disorder. When his campaign to find the man who prevented him from taking his own life went viral, Jonny was one of a wave of new figures lifting the lid on mental health struggles. In this book, he brings together a range of voices to speak to the spectrum of our experiences of mental health and the power of speaking up and seeking help.”

It is a real honour and privilege to be a part of this project. A dream come true and I am so thankful to be able to share my story on this platform with truly important voices! We all have mental health and our voices deserve to be amplified.

The Book of Hope is available to pre order now and published in 2021.



Living with OCD during a global pandemic by Impulse Therapy

(image: Pinterest)

Managing OCD without the stress of a global pandemic is challenging enough. COVID-19 has presented some unique challenges for many OCD sufferers, forcing people to be restricted to their homes, encouraging obsessive behaviours like handwashing and limiting access to in-person therapy. 

In this article, we’re going to break down the challenges OCD sufferers face in the times of COVID, along with how to support loved ones and how to access support. 

What are the new challenges for OCD sufferers?

People with OCD typically have behaviours that fall into the following categories:

  • Checking: Repeatedly checking tasks that have already been done, such as locking a door or turning off the tap. Checking behaviours can also include believing you have a medical illness and repeatedly getting medical exams or visiting the doctor. 
  • Contamination: A compulsion to repeatedly clean yourself and the surrounding areas. Being in a dirty environment can cause feelings of fear or anxiety. 
  • Symmetry and Ordering: The need for things to be in order and/or symmetrical. Behaviours related to symmetry and ordering can be triggered if things are not organised. Some people with OCD may experience hoarding behaviours which also fall into this category. 
  • Ruminations and Intrusive Thoughts: These are common for people with OCD. Intrusive thoughts experienced by OCD sufferers can sometimes be disturbing and violent, directed towards themselves or loved ones.

New behaviours and triggers are being experienced by OCD sufferers in all of the above categories since COVID-19. 

New Checking Behaviours

With OCD sufferers being confined to their homes, they may be experiencing more frequent checking triggers, repeatedly turning off lights before bed, locking doors, even repeatedly checking the news for updates. People with OCD checking behaviours may also convince themselves they have COVID-19, with a desire to repeatedly get tested while also experiencing paralysing anxiety around leaving the house through fear of infecting others.

New Contamination Behaviours

As you can imagine, experiencing contamination behaviours and triggers as an OCD sufferer during a global pandemic is a complete nightmare. 

OCD sufferers who experience contamination triggers likely already experience anxiety soothing behaviours such as repeatedly washing hands, cleaning themselves and their surroundings. COVID-19 will only be worsening these triggers and behaviours for OCD sufferers. 

With more emphasis being placed on how we wash our hands, the frequency of handwashing and using hand sanitiser, OCD contamination sufferers will likely be triggered whenever they are reminded of COVID-19 to do these behaviours compulsively. 

New Symmetry and Ordering behaviours

Spending more time at home in lockdown and isolation may be triggering symmetry and ordering behaviours for some OCD sufferers. They are constantly surrounded by their triggers, resulting in more frequent behaviour indulgences to ease anxiety. Frequent changes in COVID regulations could become a new trigger for OCD sufferers with symmetry and ordering behaviours. 

During lockdown, a lot of people have been inspired to ‘Marie Kondo’ their homes, organising and discarding items that no longer ‘bring joy’. Many OCD sufferers will be organising and reorganising their homes compulsively to ease anxiety. 

New Ruminations and Intrusive Thoughts

During a global pandemic, OCD sufferers could start to have intrusive thoughts about loved ones being infected with COVID-19. These thoughts can quickly spiral, with sufferers believing they are the cause of their loved one being infected, even if they are not showing symptoms or have tested negative.

People with COVID-19 can be asymptomatic, meaning they can have COVID and be infectious without showing any symptoms. Due to this fact, many people with OCD will convince themselves that they have COVID and are asymptomatic, causing them to isolate themselves possibly unnecessarily. 

How to support loved ones during these challenging times

As unfortunate and uncomfortable as it is, one of the best treatments for OCD is exposure and response prevention, a type of therapy that exposes the patient to the situations that make them anxious as a way of normalising these moments and learning ways to cope with the anxiety without resorting to the usual anxiety soothing behaviours. 

For the OCD sufferer, this means facing a lot of discomfort throughout treatment. If you’re living with an OCD sufferer who is struggling with frequently being triggered, possibly even by things you are doing, it may be tempting to stop what you’re doing that is triggering your loved one. However, it could be more beneficial long-term to behave normally, continuing whatever action you are doing that may be triggering, as a way of exposing your loved one to their trigger to normalise it. If you live with someone with OCD and are triggering them and don’t know how to behave around them, it could be worth speaking with a therapist to get some advice. 

Talking things through can always be helpful for anyone suffering from any mental health issue. If you can talk to your loved one about their OCD struggles in a patient, calm and empathetic way, this is a great way to support. 

How to access support as an OCD sufferer

Access to in-person therapy is currently limited worldwide due to COVID. If you’re looking for a way of accessing support, either for yourself or a loved one, there are online options. 

Online therapy is becoming more and more popular, with users enjoying the ease and accessibility without having to leave their homes.

The best form of treatment for OCD is therapy treatment using CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention). This type of treatment can be done in-person or online. 

Alongside therapy, there are many other tools that someone suffering from OCD can use to reduce and manage symptoms, such as worksheets, meditation, journaling and more. Each OCD sufferer is individual and has a unique experience. One person with OCD may struggle with contamination behaviours, while another could only ever experience ruminations. This is why everyone’s treatment plan will look a little different. 

When speaking with a loved one about getting help, remember to approach the conversation with patience and empathy. Seeking help for OCD is tough, and the person struggling may need time to come around and ask for the help they need. Discuss options with them in an open-minded way without any expectations. 

This blog was written by Impulse Therapy

How to Work and be a Mother during the Pandemic: Guest post by Miranda Davis

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If you are a working mom/mum during the pandemic, we will help you balance things. Working for others has become an activity from home, and sometimes we get clueless about what to do next. This article aims to help you out with being a working mother.

The pandemic was surely a surprise to anyone, especially any working mom/mum. It started slowly, and most people hoped it would not spread out of China. Unfortunately, it did spread, and we are living through it every day. We have to go out only wearing masks and only when we need to (if you are going out all the time, that is very risky for you and the others too). Washing hands frequently has become the standard. Shaking hands with anyone is out of contemplation if you are taking things seriously. Now, what about a working mother and COVID?

People with children are being forced to homeschool their kids while still managing to work (those who are not unemployed!). Things are not that easy. Now, look at mothers. It is common sense that a lot of them are single, living alone with their children while being a working mother during the day. A mom/mum who is also working at home is genuinely having the hardest of times. 

In the face of difficult facts, we have put a lot of thought into ways to help moms/mums (those living with a partner or alone with their children) through this difficult time. We know that moms/mums are very capable of enduring and overcoming tough times. Still, sometimes we get out of creativity, our energy gets completely wasted away. What should a working mother do in such situations? 

How working mothers balance life sometimes is a mystery. Even more, during the pandemic. If you are a mom/mum trying to figure that out, the tips below should help you.

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The first tip is to have a schedule that has the possibility of being flexible. This means that while it is suitable for a working mother to have a program that helps them stay organised, this same schedule should be adjusted to suit you. Sometimes your children might get hurt doing something, or other unexpected things happen. Give these things the time and attention they require. Then the question “are working mothers happier?” does not have to be answered negatively.

Now, this one does not apply to single mothers (sorry,single moms, ). If you are taking care of children with someone else (a father, stepfather, your current boyfriend, or other family members), try to come up with a schedule that lets you do the work as a team. You will benefit from not getting overloaded both with work and taking care of children. 

In case you are a single working mom/mum, things have surely got tougher for you, since the beginning of the pandemic. We genuinely hope you have assistance from some family members. Still, there are moments when you are a working mother, all alone with your children.

On these occasions, depending on the age of the child, you can get them to understand why working is essential. Keep them busy right beside you when you are working on your computer. When you are finally away from work, have a good time with your kid (or kids). Forget about work and being a working mom/mum, and just enjoy each other.

Then, at the end of the day, if you still have some energy left, get some time for yourself. You deserve it.

This works both in the case of you being a single working mom/mum or if you are a mom/mum who has duties shared with a partner. Take advantage of naps! Seriously. When your kid gets his/her nap in the afternoon, use this time to get rid of your workload. This strategy surely has been used since forever, but it is still important to remember it, to prevent overwhelm with juggling everything. 

One of the most important things during times when you are a working mother at home is to set boundaries. These boundaries have two sides. You should know that you need to focus when you are working, and when you are finally done with it, you need to disconnect. Shut down your computer, do not look at your phone, and enjoy time with your family. You will regain positive mental energy from doing this, and you will feel thankful for that.

We understand that being a working mother during quarantine is one of the hardest tasks. Thus, we sincerely wish that the few tips carefully written above have some use for you. If you have developed other ways of dealing with this and think they are beneficial, you are more than welcome to share them in the comments. After all, the question is, can working moms/mums have it all?

 

Author’s bio:  

This article was written by Miranda Davis, a freelance writer in relation and psychology area. Miranda is interested in such topics as building healthy relationships between people, love/sex compatibility, and how to find the right balance in life in general. She is currently doing specific research on the topic. Miranda loves cooking and long-distance walking. 

 

The Flowers that bloom in Adversity: by Eleanor

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(image: Roxi Roxas Art)

I have wanted to write this post for several weeks, but so much has been going on personally and I have been really emotionally drained (and launching my new business too). Let start at the beginning.

At the end of May, my mother in law (who is carer for my father in law with terminal brain cancer) was taken very unwell. She was rushed to hospital with stroke like symptoms and put into an induced coma on a ventilator as her lungs were collapsing. We were super scared it was Covid as she was shielding anyway and it came completely out the blue, on the day of her 60th birthday after we had celebrated.

She is the main carer for my father in law and so my husband Rob had to move in to their house to care for his Dad and support his brother. (cue frantic phone calls to the doctors surgery, hospitals, Macmillan nurses and Jewish Care, all done by my incredible husband).

Thankfully, my MIL came off the ventilator to breathe unaided and she tested negative for Covid 19. We think she caught a severe bacterial infection and she then got pneumonia in her lungs. She was in hospital for 4 weeks and discharged 2 weeks ago and is making amazing progress with her physio team and her speech. She is still frail but she is recovering slowly.

This blog post I don’t want to make about my in laws because they are private people. Dealing with all these scary changes has been tough on my mental health (and everyones).

We are slowly slowly coming out the other side, although we know my FIL will worsen in time due to the nature of his illness.

So what flowers are blooming during this adversity?

-On Saturday will be our first wedding anniversary and we will spend it together. Its been a rollercoaster year but I am so thankful to have Rob by my side!

-I am loving my new Body Shop at Home business and my team and incredible managers. It really has been keeping me sane throughout this time of family lockdown and I can’t thank Sarah Cardwell enough for introducing me to the business. The products are so good for self care and healing too, which has been so needed and I have made lots of new friends. It keeps my mind stimulated and earns me income too- I am so grateful.

-Yesterday, Robs kind family member went over so we could spend some proper quality time together (thank you). We went for a walk in our favourite little village near by where there are cottages and flowers and village green and pond- I took lots of pictures of my dream cottages and gardens. Then, we got vanilla chocolate milkshakes (first time in a café post lockdown) and visited family. It was so special just to have US time, so rare in this current time for our family.

-This blog is continuing to grow and turning into a side business and for that I am ever grateful. I am also loving sharing peoples personal stories and hope it is a useful resource.

-Our guineapigs Midnight and Nutmeg are a source of joy and give great cuddles.

-Friends and familys kindness and messages help so much. I havnt had a therapy session in a while but will do.

I am feeling positive but there will be rough days ahead in the coming months. Today though, I am enjoying slightly more calm and peace again before the potential storm, and watching the flowers that are blooming in adversity.  

 

Self Care Tips for 2020: Guest blog by Anthony L.

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(image: Pexels)

Now that we are well into 2020 and the landscape seems to be changing every day. Social distancing, quarantine and pandemic are words that would have been foreign in the beginning of 2020 but have now become the new normal. Even though things are changing and it is easy to feel frustrated and disappointed, try to reflect on ways to care for yourself, no matter what the remainder of the year brings because self-care is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.

Set a routine

It is important to maintain a routine even though you might be staying home more than ever. Even though it might be tempting to stay in pajamas all day and wait to eat breakfast until the afternoon, sticking to the smallest parts of your old routine such as getting dressed and putting on makeup in the morning can give you that jolt of motivation you need.

Make sure to be intentional about planning your day and what you want to accomplish by setting a routine to stick to. Include time to get dressed, work, cook meals, do housework and some time for hobbies and leisurely activities that you enjoy (even if the way you do those things has changed a bit). 

Change your spaces

One of the primary areas that can fuel your energy and attitude are your surroundings. When being stuck inside all day, it’s easy to lose motivation in the same space you function in every single day. Enlighten yourself by shaking things up. Add some new decor or declutter and organize your home or apartment. With all of the additional time on your hands, it’s the perfect opportunity for some much-needed change. 

Start with a room you normally spend time in or one that you don’t. Begin by going through every item within and get rid of things that are no longer valuable to you. Then, re-organise what you plan to keep into a designated home. After you have re-organised everything you own, completely change your scenery. Get out of the house for some fresh air by taking a walk around your neighborhood or going for a drive.

Check up on your finances

Now that you may have more free time at home, it is a good time to check up on your finances. Start by setting a new budget to account for the changes in your lifestyle. For example, if you are spending less on gas and parking to commute to work but are spending more on grocery delivery, make sure to be mindful of this on a monthly basis. This is also a good time to tackle some financial goals you may have had but never got around to doing before.

For example, a good way to secure some peace of mind during uncertain times is to shop for a dependable life insurance plan if you do not have one yet. Purchasing a life insurance plan is a responsible money move to make and gives you and your family added protection. Sometimes it can be difficult to navigate the space of life insurance, which is why it can be an easy task to put off. If you find the right tools to simplify the process, however, the task becomes much more manageable and doing so during these uncertain times can be a good way to relieve some overarching stress you may have about finances. 

Try out a new hobby

When being at home and in the middle of balancing work and personal life, it can all easily blend together. One way to prioritize your “me” time is diving into learning a new hobby that you have always wanted to try but never had the time to do. Finding something new to explore is the best way to do something entirely for yourself. Whether it’s learning a different language you always wanted to learn or learning a new recipe, now is your time to begin. Watch YouTube videos with step by step instructions of recipes you want to try, or download a language teaching app, such as Babble.

You could also make a new fitness goal for yourself. Maybe try yoga, pilates, weight-lifting routine, or running. Exercise is the perfect outlet to investigate because it will contribute to a positive mind, body, and soul.  

Get creative

Being creative can look different to everyone. For some, this might strictly mean doing arts and crafts. However, there are several other platforms and actions that rely heavily on your personal imagination—for example, knitting, singing, painting, designing, doing puzzles, photography, scrapbooking, playing an instrument, sewing, gardening, upcycling, and more. 

Whatever leisurely activity you love becomes your outlet to be creative. When you do something you enjoy, your mental wellbeing benefits. Experts suggest that by being creative, you are able to submerge yourself within that task and distract your mind from anything that might have been bothering you. You ultimately manipulate your brain into a meditation-like state. Your heart rate decreases and your mood will be boosted because your brain releases something called dopamine. Also known as, “the feel-good chemical.” Without even knowing it, you’re putting your mind at ease while doing something you love during these uncertain times. 

Manage expectations

During these unpredictable times, it can be easy to think about plans you may have had that you have had to change or cancel. Thinking back to these events can lead to disappointment. This is a completely normal feeling, but remember to try not to dwell on the disappointment. Because the times have changed, it is important to change your expectations as well and try your best not to get hung up on the things you can’t control.

For example, if you are now working from home, don’t try to compare your current productivity to your productivity prior to the pandemic. Or if you are a parent now teaching your children at home, you don’t need to be keeping them engaged at the same pace as their teachers in school do. This is all new, uncharted territory and adapting to this new way of life will take time and patience. If you don’t manage your expectations, you set yourself up for disappointment so try not to be overly critical of yourself.

Keep an open line of communication

During stressful times, it is helpful to keep an open line of communication between friends and family. Even though you might not be able to be physically present in each other’s lives, you can take advantage of the technology that we do have to keep in contact with them. Group FaceTime, Zoom and virtual fitness classes are just a few ways to stay socially connected to help your mental health while being quarantined. If you find that you are particularly struggling, remember that most doctors are offering telemedicine so you can still keep appointments and talk to a professional who can help if you are overwhelmed.

Even though there is uncertainty regarding what the near future will bring, there are certain things you can do to minimize stress surrounding this uncertainty. Remember to take time each day to care for yourself to benefit your overall mental wellbeing.

This guest blog was written by writer Anthony L, promoting self care and mental wellbeing.

Relaxing Places to Visit to Help Coronavirus Anxiety.

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Needless to say, life is not as we know it in 2020 with the coronavirus pandemic.

Hopefully this summer we will be able to travel somewhere and when we can, we should focus our energy on traveling to places that are relaxing and can help us ease our minds. 

Here are a few relaxing places to visit: 


Southern California

Unplug and relax with the sound of the ocean waves along the beaches around Southern California. You can stop off at Long Beach and cross the Gerald Desmond bridge for scenic overlooks, head out for more relaxing nearby at Huntington Beach where you can walk along the pier and then spend time on the sandy beach, and wind your way along the California coast stopping at towns and beaches as you like.  


Seven Sisters, East Sussex, England

The Seven Sisters is where to go if your idea of a relaxing holiday is being surrounded by green hills, the English Channel, and the countryside. The name is given to the seven white calk cliffs along the coast, where you can go for a coastal walk and get a view of all seven across the water from Seaford Head. Located just a couple hours outside of London, this is a convenient destination go to that is close enough but far enough from the city. 


Provence, France 

Provence is a beautiful and beloved region in France. Walk through the lavender fields, see the gorgeous vineyards, and enjoy the views of the Alps from Provence for instant relaxation. It feels like you are in another world while here, where you can connect with your surroundings and enjoy the energy and local culture. 


Sanibel Island, Florida 

Sanibel Island is an island located just south of Fort Myers. It is a gorgeous spot with sandy beaches, fewer crowds, and a National Wildlife Refuge that you can venture to when you want a break from the beaches and get to hiking and being in greenery. Especially if you are in the United States, this is a destination you can travel to for a relaxing and different feel without having to leave the country. 


Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming 

Located amongst the Rocky Mountains and south of Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park is known for its natural beauty, offering of solitude, and jagged peaks. You can go rafting along the Snake River, drive the 42 Mile Scenic Loop Drive and stop off at Jenny Lake, Snake River Overlook and Oxbow Bend, go fishing, go hiking along the many trails, and so much more. It is a wonderful destination for pure relaxation, adventure, and to immerse yourself in nature. 

As long as you take precautions (social distancing and wearing masks if near others), visiting these destinations should be relatively low risk and you can find yourself relaxing on a beach, in a park, or a beautiful lavender field. Make sure you have enough space around and if its crowded, move to a quieter spot.  

 

This blog was written by a guest blogger for our blog.  

 

How to Protect Your Mental Health During the Pandemic: by Mary Davis

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These days of the coronavirus pandemic are filled with anxiety and fear unlike anything else we and the world has experienced since World War II. It’s important to stay in tune with yourself and remember it is okay to not feel totally well and to be feeling more anxious. 

Here are some ideas to help your mental health during the pandemic: 

 

Get moving

You’d be surprised what physical activity does for you, both in terms of physical health and mental health! In terms of mental health in particular, it can help decrease anxiety and improve moods. While gyms and studio classes are closed and it is easier than ever to get an effective exercise in with guided tech at home, now is a great time to become familiar with fitness apps. There are many different ones to choose from: you could try the 30 day fitness challenge app for example to get into a new routine and find the perfect guided workouts work for you! Whether its workouts, barre, or even taking the stairs more, try to move as much as you can. 


Try meditating, mindfulness or prayer

Finding stress management techniques that resonate with you is crucial as stress is an inevitable part of life. The ideal time to start up a mindfulness practice is when times are good so that you have established a practice in times of stress, but it can still be incredibly powerful if you are starting out now!

Just remember to be patient with yourself. There are a lot of practices out there, such as meditation, mindfulness, and prayer, so you have options. If you are unsure of where to start, start with daily deep breathing exercises. 


Avoid alcohol 

Avoid or at least monitor alcohol intake in times of high stress in order to protect your mental health. Alcohol is often used to ‘self-medicate’, but while it can release endorphins in your body, it is classified as a depressant. It significantly impacts your central nervous system, and in times of stress you want to be in tune with your body and paying extra care to your nervous system rather than confusing it. 


Seek a therapist and do appointments via Skype or Zoom

Seeking help is a sign of strength! If you need help or need professional support as you work through stress and/or anxiety, seek a therapist. Many therapists do appointments via Skype or Zoom and if you find one in your area, you can transition to in-person appointments when possible. 


Practise self care

Self care looks different for everyone, and finding what makes you feel good and content is so important. Try cooking, at-home facials, taking extra time on your skincare and giving yourself a face massage, baths with Epsom salts, and quality sleep. 

 

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(image: Samantha Carbon)

 

All of these things can contribute to healthy living and can help us get through the pandemic. They are also great habits to incorporate into your lifestyle to continue caring for your body and mind. 

This guest blog was written by freelance writer, Mary Davis.