I have spent a number of months avoiding and not taking action on one of the main issues that has. been happening in my life.
As you know, I have spent many years living in the shadow of having bipolar disorder and panic disorder (social anxiety and panic attacks) and possibly also PTSD symptoms from my last hospitalisation.. that I didn’t realise that my panic disorder is essentially agoraphobia too. (Oh got to love my overly anxious nervous system and imagination that creates panic!),.
Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed. You fear an actual or anticipated situation, such as using public transportation, being in open or enclosed spaces, standing in line, or being in a crowd.
For me, this means that I can struggle to leave home alone at times, socialise, go out on public transport, go out to eat, go into a shop, travel anywhere alone including walking and that I panic and avoid and retreat from situations.. When I am going through a period of low mood, the agoraphobia/panic disorder can worsen.
I am managing my panic attacks through therapy and speaking to my therapist works. However, being indoors all the time through Covid and changing my working patterns to working from home meant that my agoraphobia got heightened. I didn’t want to be around crowds because I could get Covid. I didn’t want to go on public transport in a mask- because I might get Covid. I didn’;t go in a shop because people were there- but once vaccinated, this hasn’t changed. Really this was masking deeper anxiety and fear of the world in general- feeling uncertain after a job loss and starting a new career and feeling intensely self conscious too about weight gain on my medication.
Today on facebook, I had a memory from 12 years ago (when I was 21) which informed me that I had been on a night out at Ministry of Sound nightclub in London for a gig and I was also coordinating London Booze for Jews ( a Jewish student bar crawl) – despite the fact I didn’t drink. I have always been social but nights out in bars and clubs are just not my thing these days at the grand old age of 33 (grandma alert).
I know my panic is not the whole of me. In the past I have completed a degree and masters at drama school, travelled to India, Israel, places all over Europe and volunteered in Ghana for 7 weeks. Despite my anxiety, I run two small businesses, have managed to release a book, written for well known publications and achieved many of my dreams. I also met my wonderful husband and am not only proud to be a wife, but an auntie (and hopefully one day a mother too).
I am still Ellie and still the person I was inside before trauma hit.
Despite all of the amazing things above, I have been struggling with getting out of my 4 walls. So this is a diary entry to say: I will get better and get out the flat more. I will try and expose myself to feared situations. Above all, I will be kind to myself and take slow steady steps. I will lose the weight too!
All friends/fam are welcome to try and coax me out and help too!
I think we can all agree that the last couple of years were never in our plan. Whether we were at the best or the worst place in our lives by the end of 2019, a wide-spread virus and quarantine put just about everything on hold. Jobs, businesses, and routines all over the world were brought to a sudden halt—and one that has lasted for nearly two years. However, while many of our practical, everyday needs were unable to be met, this two-year pause did help to shine a light on our society’s immediate need for mental health resources.
Whether you were facing pandemic-induced anxiety or depression, or you were fighting an old battle with any existing diagnoses, many of us had no choice but to ask for help. Luckily, with some time surrounded by loved ones and away from our busy lives we were able to truly care for our health. But now that we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, the question is, ‘how do we maintain our mental health post-pandemic?’ Well, here are some tips to help you do just that.
Normalise Your Needs
One of the biggest stigmas we often face when battling with mental health is the misconception that asking for help is considered weak. When in fact, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Whether your struggle requires therapy, emotional support, or prescription medicine, asking for help and tending to your needs are the strongest things you could ever do for yourself. Specifically after the pandemic, this is the type of mindset we all need to adopt. By normalizing our natural, human need for assistance in times of need we can slowly eliminate this stigma, not only within ourselves but within our society as well.
We can see how normalising our needs can even impact companies like Gopuff, who recently piloted prescription-based services in Philadelphia to support its consumers’ health throughout the pandemic. Similarly, BetterHelp, an online therapy service has created some buzz during the pandemic because of its on-the-go accessibility that has normalised therapy and integrated it into our daily lives.
Along the same lines as asking for help, we need to make the point of staying connected post-pandemic as well. Many of our mental illnesses thrive in isolation; making it so important to establish a healthy lifestyle and surround yourself with a support system.
Not only will a support system help you appreciate the good times, but they can also hold you accountable when you are struggling. And I know what you’re thinking but accountability is actually not as scary as it sounds. It is simply allowing your loved ones to call you out when you are living a life that is less than what you deserve. Luckily, when the accountability is coming from someone you trust, it can be the driving force that makes you want to be better mentally and emotionally and maintain your health for the long haul.
Find Your Passion
Oftentimes we hear that distraction is the best way to keep your mind off of the negatives in life. However, distraction is temporary and will only promote diversion, not growth. Passion however, will encourage you to go after the best things and life and in return, will promote mental wellness stability as well.
A passion is whatever you deem it to be. It can be as simple as a love for reading or even a full-time job in teaching. In any case, it can allow you to step outside of your struggles and feel your impact on the world. Passions are also much more sustainable than distraction because they are not rooted in a temporary escape but instead, they are based in a love for a particular thing or idea. Exploring your passions can provide you with a sustaining peace that can get you through whatever feelings of uncertainty may arise after the pandemic.
Take a Break
Lastly, don’t forget to take a breather! Given the lax lifestyle that the pandemic brought on, many of us may rush back into the busy and overwhelming lives we once lived. However, we often underestimate the power of mental and emotional strain. We think that since we’ve had so much downtime these last couple of years, we no longer need a break. However, whether you are working a job or working on yourself, your mind is constantly going and is still in need of a break.
Pandemic or not, don’t forget to prioritize yourself. Meet your own needs, stay connected with those you love, explore your passions, and as always, take a break and you’ll be sure to find some stability in your life.
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.
I havn’t written a blog for a bit just because my start to the year was completely crazy.
Firstly, my dear Grandpa who was 94 passed away in January. Grandpa has been my guiding light, friend, surrogate parent and more. He was an incredible man and I will miss him terribly. Then, the next week, my family and I unfortunately contracted Covid 19 and tested positive.
Thankfully, we were all able to manage the horrible symptoms at home. I spent 2 weeks sleeping, aching, dry cough, no appetite, had chills and fever, headache and such fatigue all I wanted to do was sleep…. it was like a super powered flu and I was so scared as being only 32, I am unvaccinated. Covid was just awful and my Mum had nausea too and loss of taste and smell but she has pulled through.
With immense gratitude, we have all recovered.
I found that having Covid and it being so debilitating that I really lost my confidence in myself and my work as I was off for a few weeks. Slowly but surely this is coming back.
Having Covid made me realise how much I appreciate my life and how thankful I am that my symptoms (and Mums and others in my family) did not become more severe.
I will always miss Grandpa, but I hope we can continue on his legacy.
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.
#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.
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 is a difficult time for many people’s mental health. The 2020 coronavirus and Covid-19 pandemic has been completely unexpected and has taken up the most part of most of our lives and conversations throughout the past year. Massive changes have taken place that can all impact mental health, ranging from fear of the virus to difficulties with social isolation, difficulties with social distancing and difficulties with job losses, financial instability, reduced income and troubles keeping up with financial commitments.
The list goes on and on. But chances are the people often hardest hit by this virus are the elderly. Even those who do not battle the virus itself have had to lead more sheltered and isolated lives since the start of the year and, if you have an elderly loved one in your life, it’s important to do your utmost to help them right now. Here are some suggestions that can help you to achieve this!
Make Sure They Have the Most Up to Date Information
The first step that you need to take for your loved one during this pandemic is to make sure that they have the most up to date information on the virus, current guidelines, current restrictions and any other useful information.
The rules and the regulations that we are living by are all changing on a really regular basis and it can be hard for the elderly to keep up. Bear in mind that many of us get our news updates from social media and online news apps. The elderly often rely on newspapers, which only arrive once a day and which they may not actually be able to get their hands on while they are isolating. The radio can help too. Make sure that they are in the know to make sure they feel comfortable and know what’s going on.
Check In On Elderly Relatives in Care Homes
Sure, many elderly people are in care homes where you are not able to visit them right now. This reduces virus spreading. But you should still check in on them. Most care homes will take care of your loved one well. But there have been instances of neglect or misconduct throughout this pandemic and you’re going to want to call your loved one and check everything is okay. If there are any issues, you may need to reach out to a nursing home abuse attorney.
Buy and Deliver Their Essentials for Them
If your loved ones still live in their own homes independently, you may need to get their essentials for them and drop them off on their doorstep. This minimises contact with them, but also ensures that they have the food that they need, the medication that they need, the toiletries that they need and the cleaning products that they need. Many are unable to head to the shops themselves – especially if it means taking public transport.
Now can be a hard time for the elderly and the pandemic could be taking its toll on their mental health. But by following the steps above, you can help to give them peace of mind and reduce their stressors.
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.
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.
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.
One of the major causes of burnout happens when we’re in situations with minimal amounts of control over what we can do. Nowadays, it can seem like stress and burnout are a normal part of modern day working life. The World Health Organisation listed burnout as an occupational phenomenon and they define burnout as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.
During the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a lot of pressure to spend our time focused on productivity. These have been seen in the form of achieving full productivity at work or working from home and also being productive by working on self-improvement. The focus on productivity came from the idea that if you focus on driving forwards during the pandemic, this will help get you get through it. While this is true some people, others will need this time to focus on their mental health and simply do less. Getting through a pandemic is not a one size fits all.
Put simply, you should listen to your body and do what you want to do, instead of what the world says you should be doing. Acknowledging that we are all living in an impossible era is the important first step. There is an adaptation period that needs to happen and this period will be longer for some people than others.
While you should try your best to fulfill your work duties, you are allowed to voice if you are struggling. You do not need to work full time, learn a new language, start baking, take up a new hobby and exercise more if you don’t want to. Take it one step at a time, if you finish work or finish your working from home hours and want to spend your free time on something productive, then do and if you don’t, relax.
How to avoid burnout
While we have covered a little on current pressures to be productive, this section will dive into the absolute fundamentals.
Get enough Sleep
Key workers, those working from home and those who have been furloughed all need sufficient sleep. This can be particularly difficult for key workers who are working long, hard shifts and also for those who are simply stressed out by living through a pandemic.
Typically, during your normal routine, you need six to eight hours of sleep each night.but if you’re doing more than your usual routine, you will need around eight hours a night, plus one period of relaxation during the day. Relaxation can be just sitting somewhere quiet for 10 minutes. If you’re approaching burnout you need eight to nine hours of sleep each night, plus two breaks.
Stress can make it difficult to sleep, so be mindful that to get a good night’s sleep, you’ll need to combat your stress levels.
Exercise More or Exercise Less
Exercise helps alleviate stress which is great for creating a good sense of well being. Those who exercise regularly can experience increased energy and productivity. Regular exercise will help you get a good night’s sleep, which will go a really long way for your mental health.
The most important thing when exercising during a stressful time is that you only exercise when you’ve had enough rest. Otherwise, you may plummet yourself further into burnout, especially if you don’t usually exercise. You need to listen to your body, nobody seems to tell you to exercise less, but if you’re burned out, you should.
Don’t Ignore Stress
Short-term stress that is manageable could easily turn into burnout over time. You should voice your stress to employers if you’re still working and reach out for any available help. You can also practise deep breathing, meditation, and other relaxation techniques that can help calm you.
Keeping your mind on track and continuing practicing positive thinking. Small techniques like these can work surprisingly well. It can be extremely difficult to remove ourselves from high stress and demanding roles, but just by taking five minutes out where you can really make a difference in terms of mental health. This will positively impact on your ability to do your role as well as everyday tasks.
Outside of work, try and not put yourself in situations that may cause you unnecessary amounts of stress. Your brain can only take so much psychological stress at one time.
If productivity is really what you want to improve on during the pandemic, remember that productivity is not the start, it is the end product of other positive actions you’ve taken to get there. Productivity without burnout will happen when you look after your mental health. This blog was written by writer and psychologist Jade Mansfield – The Worsley Centre, a centre for Psychotherapy and Counselling.
The UK went into lockdown and I went into meltdown.
When I heard the announcement on the news, I was on my Mum’s sofa and I immediately felt the usual sick way that I do when I get anxious. I needed to get out of the house, so I quickly escaped on a walk with my dog. My thoughts were far from pleasant and I silently cried while I slowly paced around my local area. This marked the start of a tough couple of weeks.
I fell into the behaviours that you would probably expect from a person with anxieties, I was obsessed with updates on the lockdown, it became my most frequently searched term on Google! My skin condition, urticaria, flared up which happens when I experience stress. My sleeping got worse than usual and I was easily irritated by silly things. Most of all, I fixated on the negatives of my situation, such as the impact living alone would have on me.
I’m not going to pretend that I had an epiphany on day fifteen and I’m now thriving in my new life of one daily walk and it being a glam day if I put on jeans!
However, I’ve now established a flexible routine and I’ve settled into working from home.
I check the news once a day and I appreciate that I am lucky to be healthy and still have my job. However, I don’t give myself a hard time when I have a bad day and I don’t pay attention to unhelpful comments online, criticising people for struggling as there are others with more serious struggles. Of course, this is true, but I heard recently that, ‘you wouldn’t tell someone not to be happy, because there is someone happier’ and that has stuck with me ever since.
The most positive outcome of this situation for me, is that I am in touch with my thoughts, emotions and my behaviour, more than ever.
Some things that have helped me are:
Reawakening my passion for writing: As a Careers Coach, I regularly create resources and assist others with writing about themselves. However, it had been so long since I wrote for pleasure. I now record my thoughts in a journal, you are currently reading my second blog post and I rediscovered my love for writing poems. Writing has felt a bit like offloading to my best friend; I get out my thoughts and I then feel better.
Walking: I think it’s amazing that so many people are focusing on their fitness, but I was previously anxious about my weight, so I don’t put pressure on myself to follow a rigid exercise routine. Pre-lockdown, when I had a crap day, I benefitted from getting out of the house and being around others; walking isn’t a substitute for this, but it helps me to get rid of negative energy by doing something active.
Keeping my space tidy: This won’t work for everyone but a clear space, means a clearer mind for me. I also find cleaning quite therapeutic as it helps me to focus on the task in hand and not overthink.
Paying it forward: I have been trying to spread some positivity remotely, for example, I suggested to my colleagues that we each send a card to another person in the team with a positive message. I also started an Instagram account to raise awareness of mental health and share experiences and strategies with others. As a people person, helping and connecting with others always lifts my mood.
Revisiting coping mechanisms for anxiety: I have done a lot of research into cognitive behaviour therapy techniques over the last few years, as some of the principles are useful for my job in supporting young people. I have also personally been through this type of therapy; this helps me to reframe negative thoughts and therefore gain better control of my feelings and actions.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I still regularly think that I can’t wait for this to be over! I miss the little things in my life, but the lockdown has caused me to have a deeper appreciation for all the good aspects of it.
I have also realised that the little things ARE the BIG things. Being forced into this situation that I have no control over, has helped me to put less focus on other things that I can’t control.
I was previously anxious about being single as I am about to approach my 30th birthday, but I have gained a more positive perspective on this. I may not be able to control what happens TO me, but I can control what is IN me, which are my thoughts and how they make me feel and react.
Nicole is a careers coach and freelance writer in the UK and is on Instagram @nicole_no_filter