COVID 19 has altered our lives in many ways and is putting a huge strain on our mental health and wellbeing. It’s important that we can recognise and understand the signs that we are struggling in some way and do all we can to support ourselves and others. Early intervention is the key to stopping low mental wellbeing impacting the life we want and avoiding diagnosable mental health problems.  The grief and strain of the last year is certainly apparent and feelings of low mood are understandable. Many of us will also be experiencing high levels of anxiety due to the increasing uncertainty and relentless nature of the situation. Although these feelings are common and expected given what is happening in our world, it’s important to recognise if we are becoming depressed or anxious and when it might be time to seek professional help. What is depression? Whilst it’s important that we don’t diagnose ourselves or others, and recognise that each person experiences depression very differently, common signs of low mental wellbeing might include: Loss of interest in normal activities Social withdrawal A deep unshakable sadness Feelings of despair Loneliness Hopelessness Guilt Tearfulness Physical aches and pains Poor concentration Changes in appetite Loss of libido Anxiety also often overlaps with depression.  Depression is very common and anyone can experience these feelings, it doesn’t discriminate. Commonly, the two questions that are asked to assess whether a person is experiencing depression, to what extent and as part of an overall assessment are: ‘In the last two weeks how long have you been experiencing feeling down, depressed or hopeless?’ and    ‘In the last two weeks how long have you had little interest or pleasure in the things that you would normally enjoy?’  Depending on the answers, questions around feelings of guilt, appetite, feeling bad about yourself, worrying about letting others down and thoughts of self-harm would follow. Men can often externalise their feelings of depression and become irritable and angry, whilst women may internalise their feelings and become sad and withdrawn. However, it’s important not to stereotype, each person is unique and it’s about how much these feelings are impacting your ability to function and whether they are increasing and becoming increasingly painful and difficult to manage.  Whilst depression can sometimes have no observable trigger, it can develop as an understandable response to difficult circumstances. Stress can prolong and worsen experiences of depression but can also be a trigger. If you recognise some of the above symptoms in yourself aim to talk to friends and family first, try to increase behaviours that might help such as regular exercise and eating a healthy balanced diet, and decrease some of the coping mechanisms that are unhelpful such as drinking too much alcohol. Seek out talking treatments or support from your GP or think about contacting the team at CA Support who will be able to explore further options.  What is anxiety? As mentioned earlier, anxiety is often present when people feel depressed as the two conditions can overlap. Whilst it’s worth remembering that anxiety is an understandable response to overwhelming and uncertain situations, it also has a protective quality in terms of warning us that something is threatening. Anxiety is what we feel when we are worried, tense, or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future. Anxiety is a natural human response when we perceive that we are under threat and helps to mobilise all our resources to cope with that threat. It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. Whilst anxiety can often leave us feeling tense and irritable, angry, and frustrated, physical symptoms such as a churning stomach, racing heart rate and breathlessness are also very common. Other symptoms of anxiety include pins and needles, feeling restless or unable to sit still, reduced ability to focus and concentrate, sweating or hot flushes and nausea. Most people feel anxious at times and it's particularly common to experience some anxiety while coping with stressful events or changes, especially if they could have a big impact on your life. Loneliness and isolation can also cause feelings of anxiety and low mood so it’s important to keep connected with those you love as much as possible, especially during this time. Sharing how you feel will lessen the burden and may encourage others to speak up.  Anxiety can become a mental health problem if it impacts on your ability to live your life as fully as you want to. For example, it may be a problem for you if: Your feelings of anxiety are very strong or last for a long time Your fears or worries are out of proportion to the situation You avoid situations that might cause you to feel anxious Your worries feel very distressing or are hard to control You regularly experience symptoms of anxiety, which could include panic attacks  You find it hard to go about your everyday life or do things you enjoy As with any concerns about your mental health and wellbeing it’s important to talk through your concerns with family and friends and seek out professional help and support if needed. It’s also important to do what you can to help yourself. Written by: Kirsty Lilley (psychotherapist and coach). 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. For all your wellbeing needs, CA Support are supporting our members and their families always. If you would like to help or if you need help please contact us by email or on 01 637 7342 or 086 024 3294.

Apr 12, 2021

Many of us have been living under a number of restrictions due to the pandemic. The transition back to a more familiar way of doing things is likely to take some time. As we navigate a way forward, we may begin to discover the complexity and enormity of the task that lies ahead as we begin to negotiate a new world and time. In the space of just over a year, the world as we knew it changed almost completely. Most of the important and meaningful areas of our lives were turned upside down. Though we will all have been affected in some way, we have all been on a very different personal journey. And as we enter the next period of transition and adjustment, it’s important that we support ourselves and each other. Emotional self-care is vital to help us navigate the challenges and opportunities ahead. And we have to start by accepting that we are likely to experience a wide range of emotions. How are you feeling? All of us began this journey in very different circumstances and with varying resources, capacities and levels of wellbeing. So, it’s no surprise that we will each be experiencing a wide range of different emotions as we continue to process how our lives have changed. Whatever our experience, it’s understandable and normal to feel overwhelmed by both pleasant and unpleasant emotions. How we respond to and manage those emotions will determine the impact on our health and wellbeing and our ability to manage this transition process and period of change. Many of us may feel understandably anxious about the ongoing threat to our health and that of our loved ones. There will also be those who feel anxious about the easing of some lockdown restrictions because they would simply rather stay at home, having found their lives enriched in some way; more time with children, avoidance of the long and busy commute to work and a return to a slower pace of life. Others may have experienced the difficulty of social isolation and loneliness and may be feeling overwhelmed at the thought of facing further restrictions in these winter months. There will also be understandable sadness and grief as we try to comprehend the many different types of loss we’ve experienced and will continue to experience during this time. Some will have lost loved ones directly to Covid-19. Others are coming to terms with the loss of livelihoods, financial security and hopes and aspirations for the future. There will be ongoing financial challenges and the operating environment within the workplace is likely to be complex and challenging for some time to come.  In addition, many of us will have experienced anger and frustration at the seemingly inconsistent and complicated messages we have received from authorities and other institutions in which we have placed our trust to help us navigate these times. Of course, interspersed with the many difficulties we’ve faced, there have been precious and joyous moments which we might treasure. Many people have reconnected with family and friends and been reminded of the importance of loving and supportive relationships. We may have discovered things about ourselves that we never thought possible; new levels of flexibility, resourcefulness, resilience and compassion. You may have even had the chance to explore a new skill or hobby. These positive changes often give rise to feelings of love, joy and happiness, a new sense of direction and hope. Even amidst the challenges we all face.  It’s complicated Whatever our individual situation, our emotional response is likely to be complex, ever-changing and non-linear. And to top it all, we also tend to have feelings about our feelings. For example, perhaps you’ve felt guilty about feelings of happiness when others are suffering, or frustration about our increasing levels of anxiety and the effects it has on us and those around us. One thing is certain. The situation is complex. We have no frame of reference and no clear-cut road map ahead of us. We are all trying to do the best we can in very challenging circumstances.  Through all of this it’s important to remember that your emotions are valid, understandable, normal responses to a very abnormal situation. It can also help to keep in mind that although they can sometimes be distressing and difficult to manage, our emotions are trying to protect us and give us valuable information to navigate and understand the world. They help us assess situations and make decisions, and they add colour and texture to our experience. However, as they get increasingly intense, our emotions can begin to cloud our ability to access our rational brain and make wise and discerning choices. Left unchecked they may prompt us to behave in ways that are unhelpful to us and those around us. Intense emotions can also have a significant impact on our ability to learn effectively, develop healthy and reciprocal relationships, remain physically healthy and be creative or innovative. It’s therefore vital that we learn and develop skills to manage emotions in a way that’s helpful; understanding how to work with them instead of resisting emotional experiences or blocking them out altogether. Unfelt and unprocessed emotions don’t just simply go away. Instead they reside in the body causing us pain and discomfort.  So how can we learn to manage our emotions? Instead of letting them have power over us, can we learn to regulate our emotions so that we can make wise and kind choices about what we do next? The answer is yes.  The RULER technique Dr Mark Brackett, Director for the Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence, has dedicated his life to studying emotions and sharing what he has learned. His RULER technique, outlined below, can help you learn how to manage your emotions effectively and safely.  Remember that emotional management is a skill that can be developed and learned over time, but like all skills, it takes practice and commitment.  Recognise - Learn to recognise and identify what you are feeling. Notice how a feeling manifests itself in your body. What physical cues tell you that you might be starting to experience anxiety, anger or frustration? How do your thoughts change? What behaviours do you notice yourself adopting when this feeling arises? Understand - What are the causes and consequences of a specific emotion for you? See if you can identify what triggers certain emotions. Keeping a mood journal for a couple of weeks may help you identify the particular circumstances that cause you to feel a certain way, whether they be external events or an internal trigger such as hunger, lack of sleep, changing hormone levels or lack of physical activity. Ask yourself what you typically do when these emotions arise and whether this behaviour is helpful or not to you or those around you. Our actions have consequences and it’s helpful to remind yourself of any benefits and gains to changing and modifying your behaviours to keep you motivated.  Label - Build an emotional language Labelling will help you differentiate and describe the full range of human emotions that you might be experiencing. This will make it easier to express your feelings and better understand the messages they’re conveying.  For example, anger is often about dealing with perceived injustice. Sadness is usually an acknowledgement that we have suffered a loss of some kind. Disappointment can stem from unmet expectations. Once you’ve recognised an emotion and its meaning, labelling it can help you distance yourself from it. You might even say something like, ‘here is anxiety’, ‘there is some anxiety around at the moment’ or ‘I am experiencing some anxiety at the moment’. This conscious action will buy you some time—a pause in which you can reflect before you act upon what you’re feeling and decide whether that action is wise or helpful.  Express - Externalise your feelings Talk through your feelings with someone that you trust. Or if you prefer, keep a journal or try to find a creative outlet. Having a safe sounding board or space to share and express your hopes, fears and thoughts can give you perspective and a chance to reflect and learn.  Regulate - Put helpful behaviours into practice Identify the story you’re telling yourself and ask whether it’s helpful or true. Recognise the behaviours which influence whether you feel more or less of an emotion and adjust your actions accordingly. Practice skills which help you regulate what you’re feeling such as meditation, yoga, physical exercise, breathing exercises and guided visualisations. Regulating your emotions gives you time and space to make decisions and respond to situations in a healthy, positive way.   Remember, developing these skills is a life-long process and we are all on different stages of the journey. But you’re not alone. Whether it’s sharing with your friends and family or talking with a professional counsellor, reach out for the help and support of others if you are feeling overwhelmed and your emotions are beginning to become unmanageable. Let’s face what’s next together. Written by: Kirsty Lilley (psychotherapist and coach). 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. For all your wellbeing needs, CA Support are supporting our members and their families always. If you would like to help or if you need help please contact us by email or on 01 637 7342 or 086 024 3294.

Mar 30, 2021

Each year in January we have Blue Monday, and it has been cited as the most depressing day of the year. However, it is important not to allow the concept to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps it is time to re-train our brain - maybe January could be the time for new beginnings. The days start to become a little brighter and we are a step closer to Spring and Summer. There is something re-assuring about the subtle change in nature in anticipation of better weather that can lift our spirits and encourage us to look to the future. With the current restrictions in place time is something which is not in short supply, so perhaps make plans and try to think about what we can do instead of what we cannot do. Enjoying an early morning walk Having breakfast with your kids Exploring, and appreciating, your local area Getting out in nature every day Embrace online learning Tackling that big DIY project and much-avoided clear-out Develop new gardening skills Learn to cook or bake Start to play an instrument Catch up with friends on Zoom Activity/Health Now is a good time to think about your health. Being active and having a healthy heart has never been more important. A regular walk will make a big difference and there is plenty of workouts or classes online, no matter what your fitness level is. Self-care Managing our stress and anxiety levels is essential and many people use meditation or yoga. But everyone is different, and some find painting or gardening works. Explore some options and find what works for you.  Dublin City Council has developed a great website with lots of activities and classes to keep us occupied and content during lockdown: Holding it together apart. Appreciation The New Year gives us time to reflect and consider our surroundings, our family, friends, and appreciate all that is good in our lives. It also gives us the opportunity to consider changing things which perhaps were not so good for us.    If, however, Blue Monday has made an impact on you then perhaps CA Support can help? We have a 1:1 confidential listening service and lots of other supports to help get your mojo back. 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:

Jan 13, 2021

We are in unpredictable times and 2020 taught us to cherish what we have, particularly family and friends, take nothing for granted and look after our physical and mental health. Certainly, getting a fresh start in 2021 is really appealing and creating some new year resolutions or goals means we start off on the right foot.  New habits and behaviours can be challenging they don’t happen overnight and can take commitment and dedication.  The brain does not like swift, abrupt change, but benefits can be very worthwhile, so think of this as an investment in yourself. The top ten resolutions each year include: Exercise more Lose weight Get organized Learn a new skill or hobby  Live life to the fullest Save more money / spend less money Quit smoking Spend more time with family and friends Travel more Read more Most of us can relate to some or all the resolutions listed. Resolutions and goals are unique to each of us, so perhaps before you create them consider the questions below: How would you like to feel? Will the resolution help you get there? Would you recommend this resolution to a friend of colleague? How will the resolution impact you? Are you removing something and simply making a change? What is the improvement you want to make and why? When it comes to new year resolutions almost half of us are unsuccessful at fulfilling them, so perhaps we need to consider how we approach them? Below are some tips which may help to keep you on track and ensure success in 2021 Be mindful When embarking on changing a habit or behaviour it is important to prepare mentally by taking a step back and taking stock. When thinking about any change try to keep in mind: Change should be gradual Build on smaller changes Remain positive Accept that there could be setbacks and allow for them Own them Ensure the goals you have set are yours and that this is something you want and not something which you think you should be aiming for. You have a far better chance for success if you are intrinsically motivated to reach your goal Be realistic Do not create a long list, limit the number of resolutions you commit to. Be selective about the ones which mean the most and are the most attainable for you.  Be specific It’s easy to set goals which we cannot achieve, so take some time to ensure they are achievable. A good suggestion is to use SMART to help you create them: Specific - What do you want to achieve, break it down be specific Measurable - How can you measure if you have achieved it e.g., walk a mile in 20 minutes or lose 10% of your weight Attainable – Is the goal or resolution attainable e.g., this is not a good year to include world travel, but it might a good year to travel your corner of the world Relevant - Keep it relevant to you, your life and how you want to improve it Timeline – Give yourself an appropriate deadline to work towards Small wins Break them up into small pieces.  As you tick off each box, your confidence will grow with each small success and spur you on. Share them By keeping the resolution to yourself you can fall into a trap and give up at the first hurdle. By sharing these with others you become accountable and less likely to forget or give in. You could also find that by sharing, other like-minded people may join you. Keep going Setbacks happen, but it is how you handle them that counts. Own the setback, understand how and why it happened and move on. Remember “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” Lao Tzu.   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:

Jan 05, 2021

We continue to provide a number of supports to those in our community who have been unduly affected by the pandemic and other personal challenges.  More members and students than ever have required financial assistance.  Some have lost their jobs and their livelihoods, others are dealing with a bereavement or a chronically ill family member, while others have been unable to work because of severe mental or physical health challenges.  Whatever their circumstances, or their individual needs, we are determined to help each and every one of them.  We aim to provide practical support so they can get back on their feet with their dignity intact.  Donations to this valuable service are the life blood of our work and your gift could change a life. Below is a snapshot of some of the people who have benefited from your generosity and our assistance: William is a Chartered Accountant who lost his business, his home and suffered with depression. CA Support helped him throughout these difficult times. Read his story from Boardroom to Hostel. "Feeling compelled to ask for assistance has been a humbling experience but the response of CA Support has confirmed my faith in the profession I have been a member of for over 30 years." A member with a long-term illness with two children in education In this short video Karen speaks about the assistance and support she received from CA Support when her daughter Niamh was diagnosed with a brain tumour and difference it made to their lives. A family in crisis "I have gone back to work part-time. At long last I have my life in order. I wish to thank CA Support for their help and kindness over the last few years.” Woman separated from her husband "Your support has been an answer to a prayer. We are more grateful than words can easily express. I have struggled with the black dog a lot and every time I think I have got my feet back under me, another wave seems to hit” Member who suffered with depression Unsurprisingly, during the COVID crisis, we have seen a significant uplift in the numbers of students and members reaching out for help. From recent research conducted by Laya Healthcare, the is a major gap in the numbers needing mental health support (90% of respondents) versus those who actively engage with support services (10%).  We know our community of accountants is no different. We are working hard to reach all those in need.  There is now a real imperative to come together to provide this support and ensure that no-one is left behind. To continue to provide ongoing support to those in need, we urgently require your help.  Donations big and small could help to change the life. See more about how CA Support can help you and those in need in our community. Please give what you can.

Dec 03, 2020

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: This article was kindly provided by CABA

Nov 18, 2020