Global considerations for how to navigate your mental health during COVID has ranged from seeing this virus as an inconvenience to how it will impact an individual directly including exposure, finances, and seeing family/friends.
Difficulties specific to counseling surround acceptance in meeting online versus in person.
We are still in early days regarding how to deal with isolation and the impact of social distancing. Currently people are working to adapt to the new “normal” and not feeling expected to “do it all”.
How do you get to acceptance?
It is helpful to start working towardacceptance. Focusing on things outside of our control will not be helpful for us. Instead we need to focus on what we can control: like our physical safety by practicing physical distancing and only engaging in activity outside your home that is necessary like grocery shopping…and avoiding the desire to manage boredom by “shopping in public”.
2ndrealize we are all in this together. We can often manage something when we say “that doesn’t affect me” or “that won’t happen to me”. Currently this is such an unknown, accepting that we are all in this struggle can develop a sense of community and allow us to work together in support versus blame.
If you find yourself getting irritated over something and having a reaction that is more than you would typically expect.
Feeling more tired than typical at the end of a work day.
Avoiding starting a task based on any negative feelings about the expectations on the length/difficulty of the task.
Distancing yourself from your family/loved ones emotionally. Isolating yourself physically.
Scheduling your day
While it is easy to see differences, it ismore helpful to notice what is still the same. This can help navigate your mental health in the “new normal”. Use all of your senses to embrace what is the same. For example, notice that it is spring outside…..what do you hear…feel the warmth of the sun on your skin? What are you having for dinner? Take some time to notice the flavors/aromas. Notice your pet…take some time to pet them and recognize this is something that is the same.
Create a schedule. The more you make the “new normal” look like your “typical” the easier it will be to maintain and reduce anxiety.
Get dressed – it is easy to begin your work in your pj’s or sweats; but putting on something as simple as “business casual” will help you with transitions between work and home.
Allow for transitions between work and home. Typically a commute was actually a good time to prepare to start and end your work day. Allow for this time in your current schedule and don’t just roll out of bed and start your work day or immediately transition back to taking care of our family.
Plan for breaks and lunch time. We typically spend 3-4 hours of our work day in non-work type activities. This includes our “lunch hour”, chatting with co-workers throughout your day, bathroom breaks and those times we quickly checked our social media or shopped on amazon.
Get up and walk around. We often count our steps and it is easier when we are in an environment where getting to and from takes more steps. When we are working from home it is easier to sit in one place and not move. This can lead to physical symptoms that over time can lead to depressive type feelings.
Work smart. Your job expects you to be productive but it allows for being human too. When allowing for interruptions and unplanned activities/tasks, we might get 3-4 hours of good work. Start your day with a plan, prioritize and work within the limits mentioned before…..and then stop when it is time. Boundaries are important. Your work will be there tomorrow. Set start/stop times to allow your brain to relax so it can passively problem solve solutions that when overworked you might not see.
Have regular conversations with your co workers. Texting is an option, and phones are good too. Remember we are social creatures, so facetime/video chat periodically during the week to “touch base”. You can connect with them about how they are doing and also ask about things that satisfy our social need as humans. See a picture, share a funny meme/video, share a link you found interesting, talk about plans you may have for future travel, etc. Think about how many people you saw at the office on a “typical day”. You will miss this if you don’t attend to it while we are working from home.