COVID-19 wellbeing

Amid all of the uncertainty caused by Covid-19, CA Support want to reassure our members and students that we are here for you to provide as much support and advice as possible.  See our articles below for more help and guidance.  Feel free to get in touch with one of the team via our Contact us page.

Your mental wellbeing is about your thoughts and feelings and how you cope with the ups and downs of everyday life.It's not the same thing as mental health, although the two can influence each other. Long periods of low mental wellbeing can lead to the development of diagnosable mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. If you're living with a mental health condition, you may experience low mental wellbeing more often, but there will also be long periods where you're able to maintain good mental wellbeing.What does good mental wellbeing look like?Importantly, good mental wellbeing is NOT the absence of negative thoughts and feelings. We all face difficult and challenging situations that cause us to feel angry, sad, overwhelmed and everything in-between. Instead, it's about being able to understand and manage those feelings, so that generally you're able to:feel confident in yourselfbuild and maintain positive relationshipshave a sense of purposelive and work productivelycope with the normal stresses of day-to-day lifemanage when things changeWhat can affect your mental wellbeing?Our mental wellbeing is often affected by big life events that we have little or no control over such as bereavement, illness, or redundancy. In these situations, it's about how we respond - our behaviours and habits - that will determine the impact on our mental wellbeing. For example, do we tend to reach out for support or withdraw? Do we assume the worst or remain open to new opportunities?It's here that our level of resilience comes into play. Resilience is your ability to cope with change and adversity. By strengthening your resilience, you're better able to maintain good mental wellbeing through all of life's ups and downs.There are also factors that influence our mental wellbeing, which we can control.1. Our relationshipsStrong connections with friends, family and colleagues help to strengthen our confidence and self-esteem.2. Our physical healthThrough good nutrition and regular physical activity, we can boost our energy levels, improve our confidence, and relieve stress. Small changes make a big difference. 3. Our emotional healthPracticing mindfulness can help you understand and manage strong emotions so that rather than feeling overwhelmed, you're able to approach difficult situations with a sense of calm and clarity. The big pictureAt CA Support, our vision is for all members of the chartered accountant community to live happy, healthy and fulfilled lives. The key to this is empowering you to take care of your own mental wellbeing. Because when you don't feel quite yourself, other areas of your life are affected too. Our services can help you balance all aspects of your wellbeing, so you can live the life you want to.CONTACT USContact us through email at casupport@charteredaccountants.ie or call us on (353) 86 024 3294 we will be happy to assist.Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members and students.

Jul 23, 2020
Careers

By Moira Dunne Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, many people are still working from home over the summer months. Staying focused can be difficult, as home working presents many distractions. In last month’s article, I gave some tips for managing distractions at home. The summer introduces a new set of distractions, however, such as good weather and school holidays. In this article, I will outline some strategies to help maintain motivation and productivity in the months ahead. The challenge is to stay focused so you can get your work done. There are two things you can do: manage yourself and manage others. Manage yourself Managing yourself means understanding what impacts on your productivity while placing a high value on your time. Think of your workday as a simple equation: you have X amount of work to do in Y amount of time. Be clear about the work you should prioritise each week and each day. Then, protect your time for those priorities by negotiating when asked to do additional pieces of work and saying no to non-essential activities. This can be hard to do, but it is essential to stay on track. If you find that summer weather affects your productivity, turn this distraction into a motivator. By setting a goal to finish on time, you will be more inclined to stay on track during the day. You will procrastinate less and not be as distracted by time-wasting activities. Instead, you will be focused on the prize of getting out into that good weather. Be strategic and adjust your plan if you know the forecast is good, for example, starting earlier than usual so you can get through all your work to finish early. Manage others Working at home while minding children is hard. Now that the school term is finished, your homework routine is probably gone. Is it time for a new plan? Involve your kids in coming up with ideas and create a summer routine together. Design the plan to incorporate your work hours. One approach is to work in time blocks to take advantage of the quiet times in your house. To optimise your productivity, plan to work on your priority tasks during these high-focus time blocks. Save your low-level, administrative tasks for periods when there will be more noise and distraction. Here is a sample schedule that may help you plan your alternative workday: 6am to 8am: high-focus work. 8am to 8:30am: breakfast with the kids. 8:30am to 10am: kids’ activities while you do low-focus tasks like email responses or attend an online meeting. 10am to 12pm: outdoor activity with the kids. 12 noon to 2pm: high-focus work while your kids have some downtime and a lunch picnic. 2pm to 3pm: time away from work for an activity with the kids. 3pm to 5pm: low-focus tasks like email responses or online meetings. If necessary, do a short time block later to complete some administrative tasks. Design a plan that suits your parenting and working responsibilities. Perhaps you can avail of a summer camp or childminding by a relative to increase your options and flexibility. Be productive To be productive, you must be pragmatic about your circumstances and do what you can to optimise your working time. By using a well-planned routine, you can give yourself a higher chance of managing your time and productivity. Have a great summer! Moira Dunne is a productivity consultant and Founder and Director at BeProductive.ie.

Jul 09, 2020

Change is the one constant thing in our lives, we are surrounded by change the weather change several times in one day, but we adapt. However, some people embrace change and see opportunities to grow and learn and others dread it and find it very difficult to adapt.  Changes which are outside our control and not expected are more difficult to accept e.g. dealing with unexpected illness, job loss, recession, or a major disaster. Some changes can be very positive and open opportunities to learn new things, develop new skills or qualities we didn’t know we had. As children we accept change easily, but as adults our brain and body block change and the chemistry of how our brain copes with change is very interesting. We hosted a webinar with Dr Celine Mullin called Creating habits beyond Covid 19 in which she describes this process and how we can create habits which will enable us to adapt to change more effectively We also have some handy tips that may help. Just remember that dealing with change is rarely instant, and that coping with or adapting to change can take time. See things differently Instead of dreading the changes in your life, try to see each as an opportunity to learn. If you can see change in a positive – rather than negative – light, it can boost your resilience and help you deal with it more positively too. This can be especially helpful at work, since having a negative attitude towards change could mean you'll be overlooked when new and interesting projects come along. These days work environments are changing at a faster pace than ever, so seeing change as something to grasp with both hands instead of something to fear and resist could bring many new opportunities. Meanwhile, instead of letting change creep up on you, try to be more proactive and look out for any changes that may be coming. Thinking ahead and planning can also make you feel that you have more control over what happens to you. Keep a record The next time you're faced with a major change, keeping a note of how you feel about it, as well as how you plan to deal with it, could be useful. Instead of burying your head in the sand and hoping everything will go back to normal, write about your feelings towards whatever is changing in your life. After you have recorded your feelings, decide what you want to achieve in respect to the change in question. Then write down your goals and how you plan to make them happen, including the skills you have that could help. Be really specific where your goals are concerned and think about how you can measure your success. Don't forget to set achievable goals and, where possible, set a clear timeframe for reaching them. Also try finding the benefits or opportunities that this change might bring and write them down too. If you have been affected by things such as bereavement, illness, redundancy or financial loss, this can obviously be difficult – but those who look hard enough can often find something to be positive about, no matter how small. Make a point of writing at least one benefit a day. Move on When change comes along that you can't control, don't let it get the better of you. Try to carry on with everything else in your life as normally as possible, as this itself can reinforce the ways in which your life isn't changing – which itself can be reassuring. Realise that there are some things you can do, and some things that you can't do, and instead of dwelling on any mistakes you may have made, put them behind you and move on. One way to keep your worries in perspective is to take a long-term view. For instance, how do you see the changes that are happening now affecting you in one, two or even six months? Remind yourself that change itself never lasts, and that things will become normal again at some point as the change becomes more familiar to you. Be a team player Helping others is a great way to gain experience and build resilience, so take every opportunity to make life easier for those around you who are experiencing changes. And when you find yourself affected by change, don't try to go it alone – know when to ask for help. Build a network of people who can support and guide you whenever you need them, and support and guide them when they need help too. For instance, if you are experiencing changes at work, talk to your colleagues and find out how they are coping. You could well find that you can help each other to manage any changes that are happening in the office more effectively. Look after yourself Change can be exhausting on an emotional – and often physical – level. So instead of battling through it, take time to recharge your batteries. This doesn't have to involve a complete break but could be something as simple as taking a walk in the fresh air to clear your head. Sometimes change can also mean less time to yourself – after having a promotion at work, for instance, when you may feel pressured into working longer hours. At times like these it's especially important to remember to eat healthily, to get some exercise and to relax as much as possible when you're not at work. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world

Jun 18, 2020

The ongoing Covid 19 crisis has plunged all Education organisations into embracing online learning and teaching. Educators have worked hard to adapt quickly and ensure students are supported and that teaching, and learning continues.  We have all learnt new skills and embraced technology which has enabled us stay connected with family and friends. However, online learning does not suit everyone as it requires a lot of self-discipline and can prove very challenging for some students. If you are a student who likes to attend class and is motivated by face-to-face interaction with your peers and the lecturer, making the transition to an online classroom could be daunting. Try not to think of the change to online learning as an obstacle but in terms of an opportunity to develop new skills and improve your self-discipline. Just by simply changing your mindset, it will expand your options, making you feel more positive and motivated. We have outlined some tips and guidance to help you transition and become a successful, effective online learner. Set up an appropriate workspace, with no distractions. To fully engage with the online content this is essential. Think about your living arrangements and find a space that works for you and those you share with. Be online ready. Be familiar with the software being used. If you have never participated in an online class/webinar, set it up on your device well in advance and make sure it works. Most applications have a quick tutorial with tips and set up guides and these are very useful. Set time limits. If you are studying online for a long period, eye fatigue can be a real issue so take regular breaks. It is easier if you build these into your schedule. Adapt your study plan. Timetables have been adjusted therefore you need to adapt your study plan to ensure you cover all the content and still have time to review and revise. Allocate time. While face to face lectures were cancelled, this does not mean you have time off.Studying for a professional qualification is demanding and will require dedication to ensure success. Stay engaged and use the online tools. If attending a live online session or webinar, use the chat forum to post questions, or if permitted you will be unmuted, and you can ask your question. This will assist the lecturer and your peers by making it more interactive and improve engagement. Draw on all supporting resources. Most online learning is not stand alone and only works effectively by using all the resources available to you. Share the experience. Peer to peer support is very important, as some online learners can become isolated. Set up a zoom or chat with your peers and discuss the topics and learn from each other, stay connected. Ask for help.The education team is there to assist and support you.If you are attending webinars, viewing online recordings and utilising all the resources available but still struggling, please let them know. The education team are available to help. Stick to the plan. Working remotely and online is hard, but by sticking to your study plan and taking regular breaks, you will remain focused and keep the end goal in sight. The education teams have worked hard to adapt and ensure you are equipped for your exams. There are extensive resources available to you. However, we know that life can throw curveballs when we least expect it, so CA Support is there to offer emotional and practical assistance.  Contact us through the website or email or call us on (353) 86 024 3294 we will be happy to assist.   Terri Gray on behalf of CA Support

May 01, 2020

Breaking the monotony How can we break the monotony that we are all beginning to experience right now?  Maybe we will learn some important life lessons as we live through our own looped existence, as was the case for Phil in Groundhog Day.  Hopefully, these new insights will inform how we live in the future but for the time being, all we have is the here and now.  Thankfully, in this here and now, our daily routines afford us with something that’s not easily found right now: certainty. Keeping our routine - whether a new one or the one before COVID-19 - is an important part in helping maintain our mental and physical health, provided those routines are healthy ones. Routines and rituals are important in times of crisis because they help us feel more in control and centred, while helping us gain a sense of ownership over our time. A routine doesn’t necessarily mean waking up at exactly the same time every day and doing everything in the same order. The key, instead, is to attribute meaning to these routines. Rituals keep our day moving along but are infused with sense of achievement, gratitude and other positive emotions.  So how we can establish a routine which will help to give us the comfort of a new normal? Adapting our daily and weekly routines Get up at the same time each day – even at the weekends. There is lots of evidence that a consistent waking hour contributes to overall health by helping to establish your body’s own circadian rhythm. Now more so than ever, it is so important for us to practice good sleep habits and maintain adequate sleep hours so our bodies can recuperate and boost their immune systems.   Compartmentalize your day This routine is even more important during times of distress or chaos. In order for our minds to function at optimum efficiency, we must have order and stability, and right now it’s harder than ever to have either. Simple habits of marking out when and where we will complete our daily tasks pays dividends to our sense of calm as this reminds our brain that life is still going on despite the interruptions we are facing.   Do short bursts of quality work, then rest. There is growing evidence that suggests our concentration can wane over time and so, short bursts of focused brain activity are far more productive. 25 minutes is optimum for a single task, then take a break.   Maintain consistent aspects of your daily and weekly schedule so the days don’t blend together. For example, exercise on alternate days such as Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and build in new routines on the other days – family activities, gardening, DIY projects or cooking new recipes.   Improve your diet. During the early days of the stay-at-home regime, food was a comforter for many.The bad behaviours around food that we have built up over the initial few weeks now need to be challenged. It is worth remembering that 70% of our immune system resides in our gut. What we eat, now more than ever, is key to helping to fight the threat of the virus and optimising our overall health.   Be grateful. It’s hard not to bemoan the many freedoms in our lives that we are missing. But have we stopped to think of all the benefits we may be enjoying during the stay-at-home restrictions? More sleep and rest, time with family, time to reflect and re-evaluate our lives, to name but a few? These new gains have given us a different perspective which may inform how we build a new normal when the time comes. Controlling what we can by making some simple adjustments to our routines gives us the comfort of predictability which can reap enormous benefits, not only to our productivity, but to our mental and physical wellbeing. Unlike Phil in Groundhog Day, we have way more control over how we adapt to our new normal and, who knows, we may even learn to enjoy it. Dee France, MA, manager of CA Support. Members and students who need emotional or wellbeing support can contact CA Support on 01 637 7342 or 086 024 3294, by email casupport@charteredaccountants.ie or online at www.charteredaccountants.ie/casupport    

Apr 29, 2020

Connecting with family and friends while staying apart We are social beings and seek to connect with those we can identify with whether that is our family, a sports club, college friends or a team at work. In times of celebration we reach out to those connections to share the moment and in times of anxiety or stress we reach out to those within our circle and perhaps seek to support them Now social isolation and slowing the pandemic is crucial, but this isolation can have a negative impact. Psychologists advise that with the increased stress levels, disruption to our normal routine, fears over job losses and reduced social interaction this could lead people towards depression. What can we do? Staying connected while physically apart is challenging, but not impossible. Thankfully, technology will enable us to connect and there are many options available e.g. Skype, Zoom, Whats App are just some of the tools available. We can adapt and for most of us, we have the time to invest in making these connections. Quick tools and guides for video calls There are lots of options and simple guides available online, so use them. Have a virtual coffee or drink with friends, host a virtual party or perhaps for those who are competitive have a virtual quiz. Be creative, have some fun and connect with friends and family and reap the benefits. Setting up a Zoom video call Setting up a Skype video call Setting up a Facetime video call Try and ensure kindness and compassion are foremost in your mind and reach out to connect to family and friends far and wide. We are all in this together and this will pass. A phone call or video call is better than a text. Think about what you will say, you may be stressed, but they could be too, so be prepared to listen. The person on the other end could be vulnerable or perhaps you could the first person they have spoken to today! Top tips for connecting effectively  Think about who you normally connect with and expand it. We tend to stick with our one group and identify with only them, we are all guilty of this strait. This is a global pandemic that affects us all. Be flexible, adapt and push those connections outside your comfort zone and brighten somebody's day by contacting them and checking in on them. By being kind and helping others in need we help ourselves. Is there a vulnerable neighbour who would appreciate some assistance (obviously within the social isolation guidelines)? Working from home can be more challenging for some and if perhaps you know a colleague who might be struggling, could you help with a call/ guidance.   Breath. Yes, we are in an uncertain world, anxiety and stress is constant, and we can feel overwhelmed. Breathing is essential to all us, but just for a few moments concentrate only on that task. This can be enough to reset the mind and start over.  It is useful to be aware of how social isolation may impact us. We have a great capacity to care and show empathy and staying connected with others will lower the impact of the current situation and support our mental wellbeing. Stay safe and stay connected to each other  CA Support has a confidential listening service. Feel free to get in touch if you need support during this time. We can be contacted by email or call us on (353) 86 024 3294.

Apr 08, 2020