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.

A unique combination of mental health stresses is being created with lockdowns, economic anxiety, enforced social distancing, poor weather and isolation.  Everyone will be experiencing a unique set of challenges brought about by the situation we find ourselves in and whilst they are different for everyone, remember that you are not alone in your challenges. We are all affected in some way. Taking proactive steps to care for yourself and others during the winter months will help you feel connected and well. Here are some tips if you’re feeling the pressure: Routine It’s vital if you want to stay motivated that you set a routine. If you’re working, make sure you get up at a regular time and start by 9am. Routines give structure to the day and setting small achievable goals can help you to stay motivated during this time.  To do list Start by writing a small manageable list of things you want to achieve. Work towards ticking off those goals even if they are small. Remember to celebrate your achievements and take time to focus on what you are proud of which will help boost your confidence.  Start by writing a small manageable list of things you want to achieve. Work towards ticking off those goals even if they are small. Remember to celebrate your achievements and take time to focus on what you are proud of which will help boost your confidence.  Stay socially connected Keep in touch with your colleagues. Give them a call, maybe first thing – it will help you both realise you’re not alone. Reach out regularly to family and friends to make sure they are ok during this time. Make the most of online platforms if you can’t meet face to face.  Eat well Make sure you eat properly and stay hydrated throughout the day.  Eat foods that protect your mood. What you eat affects how you think and feel. Individuals who switch from eating mostly junk foods to avoiding sugar, eating lots of vegetables, and cooking healthy meals at home often report feeling much more energetic and have an overall improvement in mood and general wellbeing.  Limit your alcohol consumption Alcohol has a substantial impact on your mood. During the spring, the European WHO issued a recommendation for people to limit alcohol during Covid, for mental health reasons. If you’re vulnerable to mental health ups and downs, as many of us are in the winter months use alcohol very carefully and remember that it is a depressant and has a significant impact on your sleep patterns.  Mindset Health Psychologist, Kari Leibowitz researched the impact of the winter months on the citizens of Tromsø, a Norwegian city which at some points in the year has only 2-3 hours of sunlight a day. Leibowitz's research showed that citizens did not experience the type of wintertime depression you might expect. Her work concluded that a protective factor was the mindset of the community within Tromsø and how they perceived the winter months. Leibowitz’s findings build on decades of previous research showing that the mental framing of stressful events can powerfully influence the ways we are affected by them. People who see stressful events as challenges, with an opportunity to learn and adapt, tend to cope much better than those who focus more on the threatening aspects – like the possibility of failure, embarrassment, or illness. Whilst our appraisal of whether an event feels like a threat, or an opportunity, will depend on our circumstances and our resources to handle the problems we encounter it is sometimes possible to change our appraisal of a situation consciously. Aim to find the things about winter that you might enjoy and value and focus on them. Get as much fresh air and daylight as you can At lunchtime take a walk or sit outside, put your phone down, look around and enjoy the peace and quiet. Finish work at a reasonable time Don’t be tempted to work late into the evening, try and finish at a regular time. Put the phone down After “work” is over, try to forget about it. Enjoy time with a partner or family. Allow yourself to decompress from the pressures of the day and recharge yourself for the next day ahead. Sleep Get enough good quality sleep, every night. Sleep has a huge impact on our mood, and our ability to cope with stress and adversity.  Think of the last time you had a poor or short night’s sleep, how hard it was to get through your workday. Know how many hours of sleep you need a night to feel at your best and do whatever it takes to get that sleep. Exercise, exercise, exercise I can’t emphasise this one enough. Regular cardiovascular exercise has a powerfully protective, boosting effect on your mood. It has been shown in studies to be as effective as antidepressants in treating moderate levels of depression. If you’re vulnerable to low moods, anxiety, stress or burnout, exercise should be your best friend. Try to get moving every single day. Find ways to exercise indoors or bundle up and get outside if you can.  Plan for the other side This will end, we simply don’t know when yet, and when it does you need to be in the best shape possible to seize any opportunities. Get planning!   Remember as winter approaches that although it may be a difficult time, eventually the seasons will change, and it will make way for springtime and a time of regrowth. Finally, as good things often come in three’s … 1. This situation may last a long time, but it will have an end, it will change in its form and shape and eventually opportunities will arise 2.  Don't be held back by your idea of how things should be and aim to adopt an attitude of curiosity about the coming months 3.   It may all feel very personal, but take a moment to remember that everyone is struggling in one way or another Written by Kirsty Lilley Kirsty has delivered mindfulness and self-compassion courses to a wide variety of workplaces during her career and is also a trained psychotherapist and coach. She has worked at a strategic level within organisations developing wellbeing policies and been responsible for developing training courses on improving mental health and wellbeing, as well as courses designed to help line managers support people with mental health difficulties effectively and continually works towards the reduction of stigma within workplace settings. Kirsty is committed to an integrated and compassionate approach when helping others to fulfil their potential. CA Support has a confidential listening service and is here to support our students, members, and their families. Contact the CA Support team on mobile: (353) 86 024 3294 or email:  casupport@charteredaccountants.ie This article was kindly provided by CABA

Nov 18, 2020

The theme of Alcohol Awareness Week 2020 is change, something that most people find challenging, but change has been ever present since March.  As we spend more time at home it is easy to reach for that glass of wine or bottle of beer. We can easily slip into a pattern of using alcohol as a tool to cope with the boredom, the restrictions and lack of social contact. Perhaps our biggest challenge is to force a change in our mindset and seek alternative tools. Covid 19 has increased our levels of anxiety and stress and put significant pressure on our mental health, however high levels of alcohol consumed regularly can undermine our physical and mental health. The World Health Organisation states that a high consumption of alcohol can compromise your immune system and therefore make it more likely to contract the virus, so being mindful of the amount we drink will ensure we are protected and less vulnerable. If you are finding you are inclined to drink more heavily and frequently, then perhaps it is an opportunity to explore alternative coping strategies. Being mindful and observing a low-risk relationship with alcohol can make a big difference to your anxiety levels and mood. Below are some tips to get you started: Stick to the weekly low-risk alcohol guidelines If you can stick to these guidelines it will reduce alcohol related problems The recommended weekly low-risk alcohol guidelines are less than: 11 standard drinks for women 17 standard drinks for men Drinks should be spread out over the week –no more than 2 standard a day for men, or 1 standard a day for women. Have 2-3 alcohol-free days per week. For more on these guidelines and what is a standard drink check out the HSE site  The Ask About Alcohol  drinks calculator also provides fact-based non-judgmental information about how drinking affects health, wallet and weight. Be aware of your mental health & wellbeing Physical distancing is very different to social isolation, so use the tools available to stay connected with family and friends. By connecting with others is essential as it gives us purpose and a sense of belonging. Get out and about, walking and being outside is so good for our mental health. Keep a routine that works Most of us not only like routine, but we need it, so find a routine that works for you and reap the benefits. Keeping structure to your day and evenings will really help you to stay focused. Find alcohol free alternative tools While working from home or self-isolation we have more time on our hands, so why not explore new options. Reaching for that drink each evening can become a bad habit and one which could be hard to break. Reconnect with hobbies or interests you once had or learn a new skill and try some relaxation or mindfulness. Take a news break Turn off the endless newsfeed for a few hours. Anxiety, depression, and alcohol are linked, so give yourself a break and take sometime out from social media and all news feed. You will be amazed how quickly your mood can change once these distractions are removed. CA Support is here to support our students, members, and their families. Contact the CA Support team on mobile: (353) 86 024 3294 or email: CASupport@charteredaccountants.ie

Nov 12, 2020

 Our lives have changed a lot since March. The constant newsfeed draws our focus back to restrictions or bad news, making it difficult to see any positive outcomes, but there are many new behaviours we have developed that we don’t want to give up.   What are the lockdown habits you developed in the last few months? Maybe you tried and kept some of these: Enjoying an early morning walkHaving breakfast with your kidsExploring, and appreciating, your local areaGetting out in nature every dayEmbracing online learningTackling that big DIY project and much-avoided clear-outDeveloping new gardening skillsLearning to cook or bakeStarting to play an instrumentBinged on box setsCaught up with friends on ZoomAs new agile and flexible working arrangements will be key benefits for most people, but what smaller changes made to your day-to-day life are now non-negotiable? Are there any healthy habits you would like to keep?Family mealsThere was nowhere to rush off to, so families got to enjoy meals together again. This was certainly a novelty for anyone with teenagers at home or if a parent had a long commute. Sitting together as a family to enjoy a meal became the norm, so holding onto this habit would be beneficial for everyone.CommunityAs movements were restricted initially people explored their local community a bit more. No commute meant we saw neighbours we had not seen in a long time. There are many heart-warming stories of people helping each other within a community setting. This sense of community had been lost in the hustle and bustle of daily life and has found a welcome return and hopefully, we will keep and cherish it.Activity/HealthSome people binge-watched box sets, and some binge walked and did daily workouts online. Daily walks became very popular and we enjoyed nature again. Being active and having a healthy heart is always good, so hopefully, we will be able to carry these activities into the future.Self-careThe last few months have been a time of anxiety and stress, particularly if you have a vulnerable person in the family. To manage stress and anxiety many people took us meditation or yoga. Both are healthy skills with many benefits, so are always good to have and maintain.AppreciationAbove all else, the crisis has taught us appreciation. To take time to consider our surroundings, our family, friends, and appreciate all that is good in our lives. It has allowed us to reflect and consider changing things which were not so good for us.   By showing appreciation and reflecting we are more aware and conscious that others may need help or support, and this is the best habit we could take forward and keep.CA Support is here to support our students, members, and their families. Contact the CA Support team on mobile: (353) 86 024 3294 or email:  casupport@charteredaccountants.ie

Sep 16, 2020

A huge portion of the global population has adapted to working from home (WFH). Initially, the main concern for employers was productivity, but now as WFH has been extended, a bigger risk is employee burnout. For many, working from home has been thrust upon us and not a choice, so adapting quickly was essential. Employees who have chosen to work from home are usually good at separating their work from personal life and have a dedicated space. As WFH is likely to be extended, it is important to know and understand the risks and avoid burnout.Our knowledge economy ensures we are constantly connected, and keeping healthy boundaries between professional and personal life can be a real challenge. Emails are often sent late at night just to finalise or meet a deadline. This can have a trickle effect and other employees then feel it necessary to show similar dedication and productivity. Another consideration is colleagues often feel compelled to respond to emails sent outside normal office hours straight away, even though it may not be urgent.  If you have been feeling exhausted, disconnected, finding yourself procrastinating, and feel less effective in your job you could be suffering from burnout. Combining our work and personal life constantly is not good for our mental health. How do we ensure we protect ourselves and our colleagues? How can we leave our work at the door if we no longer walk out that door to work? The best way to do this is to create some boundaries. We have five tips to help you WFH successfully:1. Keep physical and social boundariesWhen going into work there are certain physical actions you do like putting on work clothes, catching the bus, or a train to work, these are indicators that help you switch into work mode. You may be happy not to have your daily commute, particularly if the weather is bad outside, but these signals are important for our brain. Try taking a short daily walk in the morning as your commute and dress comfortably but do try and wear some work clothes and not your usual casual wear for home. This will help you transition from “home you” to “work you”.2. Maintain a structure which worksSticking to the usual 9 – 5 pm structure may not be realistic for you, particularly in the current pandemic, you may have additional responsibilities e.g. a child at home or an elderly parent to check in on. Be honest with your employer and agree to a structure that works for both of you and stick to those hours. Employers and supervisors need to take a flexible approach to the working week to achieve the best productivity and a happier workforce.3. Prioritise your workloadEmployees working from home can sometimes lose sight of this basic time-management principle. Instead, they focus on productivity and demonstrating to others they have been very busy. Draw the focus back on work ,,and prioritise your workload. Do the important stuff first. Block out time appropriately if possible, it will make you more productive.4. Stay connectedIf you were working on-site, team communication is relatively easy, but we need to find a way to keep that connectivity so use the tools available to make it work. A team that remains connected it more motivated, driven, and productive.5. Celebrate your winsPaige Cohan from Harvard Business Review recommends that at the end of each day you celebrate your wins. Working from home is challenging, so by acknowledging what has been achieved it will focus your mind and help to motivate you.  Take a look at her at her short video  If you found this article interesting Noel O’Callaghan FCA and a qualified psychotherapist gives some insight into how to deal with burnout.CA Support is here to support our students, members, and their families. Contact the CA Support team on mobile: (353) 86 024 3294 or email:  casupport@charteredaccountants.ie 

Sep 10, 2020
AI Extra

We all like to feel valued at work and know that what we are doing matters. Showing appreciation is a great way to convey this to others. Often, people will be unaware of how to best express appreciation to their colleagues. Charlotte Keating provides some simple ways of how you can enhance your connection with the team, even when you can’t physically be in the office.Stephen Covey said in his bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival; to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.”Sometimes, a simple ‘thank you’ is not enough.It’s good to be aware that we all have different ways of receiving appreciation. What makes one member of the team feel appreciated may not necessarily make another feel valued in the same way. According to research by Dr Gary Chapman and Dr Paul White in their book The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, we all have a primary language of appreciation. Even though we can accept appreciation in other ways, we will not feel fully valued at work unless it is communicated in our primary language. This means that the intended message may get lost in translation and not have the result the sender anticipated.The five languages of appreciationKnowledge of these five languages can make you aware of your own appreciation preference while also helping you advise which methods of appreciation your colleagues may respond to best.1. Words of affirmationThis is verbal praise which makes others feel validated. It is the most common primary language of appreciation in the workplace.Ways to express words of affirmation to a colleagueSometimes, a quick “thank you” in person or by email is sufficient; however, it’s best to be specific and to use the person’s name, e.g.: “Sarah, I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate you being such an organised person. It’s been especially helpful during this crisis knowing that there is a structure in place.” It’s worth remembering that some prefer to be acknowledged in private (in person or via a call/email or a handwritten card), while others like public praise (which could be done from a distance though cc’ing relevant individuals or thanking them on a group video call).2. Quality timeHere you are spending time with your colleagues and giving them your undivided attention – even just a few minutes during the day to discuss their progress on a project, allow them to vent frustrations or seek advice. It is possible to spend quality time remotely – and it is important for one's mental health to do so when physically working away from others.How to spend quality time with a colleagueSchedule a video call with them, even if it is just to have a quick, non-work related chat to catch-up. Avoid distractions during the call. Keep all of the team appraised of relevant matters, particularly when the casual interactions of a shared work environment are not possible. Organise a video quiz with the team, or online after-work drinks Using the “breakout room” function provided by some video conferencing platforms like Zoom is a great way to split up a larger group, making it easier to have more manageable conversations that everyone can participate in.Have a virtual check-in during the day, just as you might stop by their desk to say a quick hello.3. Acts of serviceWhile we all have our own roles and tasks to complete, working collaboratively and helping out colleagues is a great way to show that we value them.How you can show appreciation by helping out a colleagueOne of the main requests in an office is for support with technology, and you may still be able to provide remote assistance to colleagues having technical issues, e.g. helping with video call accessibility.Simply ask, “is there anything I can help with?” and reassure them that you can spare the time if you have it.Clarify what area they need help in and how to go about the task before starting it.Schedule calls at a time of day that works best for them.4. Tangible giftsGive a thoughtful gift to a colleague. The material value is not important, only the thought that goes into the gift.How to give gifts to show appreciation Personalise it – gift them a voucher for their favourite restaurant.Keep it simple – arrange for nice coffee beans to be delivered to their door or, if you’re in the office, drop a cup of coffee to their desk.Send a “certificate of appreciation” via email or post. There are various templates available online.5. Physical touchThis relates to appropriate, professional physical contact. Personal boundaries are incredibly important here. Naturally, this is the least common language of appreciation in the workplace.Ways to use physical touch to show appreciationA firm handshake, a high-five to celebrate a win or an appropriate hug.It is clearly impossible to handshake when social distancing. Virtual high-fives through screens or using appropriate emojis can get the same message of respect, appreciation, support and encouragement across to team members. Determining your colleagues’ appreciation languageBefore you move forward with applying any of these appreciation languages, you should figure out a colleague’s preference first.Observe how they show appreciation to others. Often how a person expresses appreciation reflects their preferred way of receiving it; andListen to their main concerns, complaints and requests, which can provide clues as to what feedback or assistance they require. Contributing to others’ wellbeingAnyone can make a positive contribution to the team through expressing appreciation, no matter what their role is. While it’s great to get encouraging feedback from a supervisor, peer support is so important, now more than ever, to keep motivation levels up. It’s not just about recognising results, it’s about recognising people and what we value about them. Feeling genuinely appreciated boosts morale and well-being. It’s not our job to make others happy, but it’s important to remember that when we show regular, authentic appreciation, it raises not only the self-esteem of others but also our own.Charlotte Keating FCA is a qualified life and business coach and founder of Act On It Coaching.

Sep 01, 2020

As the new school year approaches, anxiety is growing, and parents are conflicted. While we all accept the need for a return to school or college, it does mean that we must trust the plans and safeguards in place will work. Most children and teens are looking forward to returning to the classroom, however, the classroom will be very different, so as parents it is important to speak to your son/daughter before the term starts and ensure they are equipped and ready to adapt to the new ‘norm’ in school. You can support your child/teen through this transition back to school life. Here we have some top tips to guide these conversations:Ask how do they feel about going back to school? Listen carefully to the answer they may say what they think you want to hear. It is likely they will have mixed emotions, while they are eager to get back to the classroom, they have been safe at home with you or a trusted person for a long time now. Let them know that these feelings are ok and that everyone will most probably be feeling something similar. Set the scene. Give them as much information as possible. Most schools have been in contact with parents regarding the plans for re-opening and advised what is expected. The best thing you can do is make sure your son/daughter is informed, even if they are very young. Younger children can be assisted if they can see what is planned, so source photos or draw with them. Reassurance is key. Children are resilient, but they will need lots of re-assurance that returning to school is in their best interest. Their safety is a priority for their teachers, but they need to be aware of their own safety too. Let them know and understand how to stay safe in school e.g. washing their hands, not touching their face, listening to the teacher, and following the new rules.Keep the pressure off. Most children can adapt easily, but it will be a tricky time as a new routine needs to be established at home and in school, so be kind to yourself and don’t expect it all to happen overnight. Offer support, reassurance, and comfort, but don’t add any additional pressure, everyone will adapt at their own pace. Look forward. Much has changed since March and some of the changes in school will not be welcome. It is important to try and remain positive. This is not permanent and will end and we will be able to look forward and our feelings will change.Seek support. The transition may be more challenging to some children and they could find it difficult to adapt. If this happens speak to the school, they will be happy to help, remember they are doing everything they can so support students. If the difficulties persist and anxiety is becoming an issue seek support from your GP.Talk openly to teenagers they may be nervous about returning to school too, a lot has changed, including them and they could have worries you may not have considered. Teenagers still look to their parents for re-assurance and so it will be important that parents demonstrate confidence with the planed return to school. They learn essential social skills and how to interact with others, so encouragement is critical. You could also view handling the uncertainty and change   which was held by our Cork District Society recently.Teachers and school staff fully appreciate the apprehension and anxiety and want this transition back to school to work for everyone. They want to support students, ensure they are comfortable in school, and can continue to learn and move forward. By working together this can be achieved, with everyone playing their part.CA Support is here to support our students, members, and their families. Contact the CA Support team on mobile: (353) 86 024 3294 or email: CASupport@charteredaccountants.ie

Aug 27, 2020