High chances are you’re struggling with lockdown fatigue —the inevitable psychological fallout of Covid-19 and all it has brought with it. It’s the reason so many people are feeling exhausted, irritable, drained of energy and motivation — when they’re doing less than ever.  The way in which our lives have transformed in such a short space of time has heavily impacted our daily routines, as many individuals no longer have to wake up at a certain time in order to be punctual for work or college. With such unending disruption to our normal lives, affecting every activity and social interaction we have, it is important to focus on what we can control. So, what can we do to address some of this lethargy?  The routines in our daily lives can be a good place to start as these will give us a structure to hang our day upon and bring us a guaranteed level of certainty, which is so lacking right now: Don’t be so hard on yourself One of the most common things people do when they are experiencing fatigue is beat themselves up for not doing more.  This is counter-productive and results in feeling even more downbeat about lacking motivation.  Instead, tell yourself that the feelings of lethargy will pass and are only temporary.  Give yourself a break – stay in bed a little bit longer, stay up watching TV a little later and eat whatever gets you through that day.  The key thing here is this is a temporary situation. Give yourself the day off and start afresh the next morning. Refresh your routines It’s fair to say that as we are all feeling drained and despondent, thinking “what’s the point” with it all, it would be easy to allow the routines that give us structure and meaning in our day can be discarded too quickly.  It is important to adapt and refresh these instead. Changing small details about our routines can make them easier to stick to - taking a walk outside before you start your day, introducing a no-screen coffee break during your morning, or committing to making a connection with one friend or family member every day – either a phone call, social media connection or email.   Equally, so all the days don’t blend into one, create new routines for different days – yoga on Monday and Sunday, gardening on Tuesdays, baking on Thursdays, pampering spa nights on Fridays and so on.  The trick here is to break the monotony but not the positive habits that bring us comfort. Get up and move! We all know the many benefits we can enjoy from a little exercise. It is the one sure way of elevating our mood – creating a bubble bath of chemicals in the brain!  Taking a 20-minute walk outside, building in some stretches or yoga into our day, or jumping into the sea if we have access to the coast will help to reinvigorate our energy levels. Incorporating any movement into your day is vital in counteracting the damage of sitting crouched over your laptop for eight hours or more. The most important aspect here taking it day-by-day and step-by-step. Change your mindset This is easier said than done but can pay dividends to our mental health. Instead of reminding ourselves how hard the current lockdown is, how bored we are, how we miss our friends and family, or how much we need a holiday, try practising acceptance instead. Repeating the same negative mantras can retrigger your despair and frustration. By reframing your negative thoughts into more positive ones of acceptance, life starts to look very difficult before too long. Learning about re-framing the negative from someone like Edith Edgar in her book The Choice is a good place to start. She asserts that happiness is a choice, and acceptance is a key part of this. This strategy helped her survive and thrive despite spending years in Auschwitz’s concentration camp during the WWII.  She explores how we can be imprisoned in our own minds and shows us how to find the key to freedom. As Oprah Winfrey said of her story: “The Choice is a reminder of what courage looks like in the worst of times and that we all have the ability to pay attention to what we've lost, or to pay attention to what we still have”. And, so to sleep. It cannot be overstated how important getting plenty of shut eye is.  It is the one single wellbeing routine that we can practice which delivers the biggest return on our health. An optimum of 7-8 hours allow us to enjoy 5 REM cycles which is key in obtaining that deep sleep so important in maintaining our circadian rhythms which keep us physically and mentally fit. Avoiding caffeine from 12 noon and blue light two hours before bedtime, while ensuring a cool, completely dark room will all help you maintain a great sleep routine. Dee France, 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

Feb 11, 2021
News

Many professionals are beginning to feel overwhelmed by homeschooling while working full-time. Paul Kelly has five helpful tips that should help relieve the pressure of being both parent and worker. Parents of the class of 2021 are being asked to shoulder an extensive load, as they fulfil their professional responsibilities alongside the mammoth task of homeschooling their children in preparation for the leaving cert in a format of which remains to be seen. With work deadlines looming and studies to be completed, how can parents manage it all? Control the controllable  Map out the week ahead and limit the decisions to be made. Meals can be planned, and dedicated work/study times set out – this is particularly relevant if your internet is problematic, or you are sharing a workspace.  Agree the family’s collective priorities for the coming week, whether it is a work presentation or an assignment deadline. Communication is key – knowing what everyone is focusing on will help you work as a team to get everything over the line, and it will help you to pre-empt or address any concerns your child may have.   Set joint longer-term goals Are you working towards a specific goal at work? Share it with your family and ensure they understand how it will benefit them. Similarly, for your leaving cert child, their chosen college course is not a solo goal, it is now a shared goal for the family. Maintain levels of motivation by starting a bucket list of things you’ll do and places you’ll go when the leaving cert exams are over and restrictions lift.   Practice discipline Try to keep as much normal structure to your days as you can. Set your alarm for a consistent time with everyone up and dressed, ready to start the working day at 9am. Keep tidy, dedicated workspaces and stick to normal break times. Outline your working times, and ensure you actually work while you are at work. This will help you to switch off from work when you are back in parent-mode.  Reset and refresh Make sure everyone switches off and look for ways of breaking up the mundane. It can be hard with teenagers who are missing social outlets, but a family takeaway or movie on a Saturday night gives everyone something to look forward to. Make sure you look after your own headspace by limiting time spent reading the news. Instead, try to get out for a walk in the fresh air once a day and encourage your children to do the same.     Seek out support Whether it’s asking for support in work or getting your child some extra assistance with their studies, if things are becoming too much, look for ways of getting help, within the confines of the restrictions. These are unprecedented times, try to understand your own limits and be kind, both to yourself as well as your children. This, too, shall pass.   Paul Kelly is the Director of Teaching at Homeschool.ie which provides an online grinds service for primary and secondary school students.

Feb 05, 2021

We live in uncertain times and in a world of constant change.  We have to adapt very quickly to new restrictions and lack of freedom.  This comes at a price for our physical and emotional wellbeing. It is important that we focus on ways we can build our resilience and tackle our stress responses.  In the pre Covid-19 world, anxiety and depression were some of the most common mental health problems in western society, with 10% of us experiencing anxiety in the past year. With so much change in our lives, it’s inevitable that some of us will experience more anxiety now than we did before the pandemic.  Try these 4 simple techniques, to help ease anxiety and leave you feeling more relaxed. 1. 7/11 breath Closing your eyes and: Inhale to a count of 7 Exhale to a count of 11 Aim for 10 rounds of the 7/11 breath each time you practice This will help you feel calmer because the longer exhale stimulates the body’s relaxation response. 2. Altering the sensation Close your eyes and notice where you feel anxiety in your body Visualise what colour and or shape the anxiety would be Imagine how the colour and shape would need to change for the feeling of anxiety to be manageable and ok 3. Shaking off the stress When we experience anxiety, the stress hormones of adrenaline and cortisol run through our bodies. To break down these hormones we need to move, so shaking your body is a very effective way to release anxiety. Simply shake your arms, legs or torso vigorously, focusing on areas that feel uncomfortable. You could put on your favourite music! 4. Dialling down Close your eyes and imagine as vividly as possible a dial with the numbers 1 to 10 on it See or sense the needle registering at the number that best represents how anxious you feel right now Look at the dial and choose to turn it down to the amount of emotion you feel is appropriate to the situation 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 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.

Feb 02, 2021
News

"Ah, sure, it'll be grand" is an expression widely use in Ireland. Sometimes, however, your staff really do need help. Damian McCourt emphasises the importance of listening to your employees and offering support when they need it. “This is ridiculous,” I said, staring at the influx of work in dismay. “I’m never going to get through all this.” It was 2013, and I was a project manager with far more work than was good for me. I was feeling panicked. My manager looked across at me, shrugged his shoulders in a what-can-you-do sort of way, and announced, “it is what it is”. I put my head down, kept my mouth shut, and proceeded to work myself into a burnout. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I had just been ‘minimised’. Talking about our mental health is never easy. Even if your workplace encourages open discussion on mental health, the desire to appear capable, competent and – above all – strong can be a severe deterrent to asking for help. As a result, it often falls to the manager to ask if someone is okay. This is difficult even at the best of times. It requires planning, privacy and a careful, non-judgmental approach. Try doing this over Zoom with your locked-down kids, and you have a genuine challenge. The good news is that if you’re a careful listener, you won’t even need to initiate this conversation. People ask for help all the time – they just don’t make it obvious. Seemingly off-the-cuff comments on energy levels, mood and workload sometimes hide a call for help, and you can respond in one of three ways: Shift the conversation to you “Oh, I’m up to my eyes too! Wait ‘till I tell you what I had to deal with last week…” Shifting the conversation back to you isn’t helpful but it’s an easy mistake to make as a manager, especially if you’re feeling slightly stressed yourself. Do it often enough, and people will stop talking to you. Minimise the situation “Ah, it’ll be grand. We’re all in the same boat. That’s just the job. Man up and get into it.” Minimise is a put down, pure and simple. Everyone else is OK so you should be too. Pipe down and get on with it. For someone who is already worrying about their ability to cope, you’re doubling their anxiety by dismissing their concerns. Not only are you being supremely unhelpful, you’re giving yourself a harder conversation later on. Offer support “Are things really bad? Anything I can do to help?” We would all like to think that we’d be the one to offer support, and yet we all live with our own concerns and priorities. It’s easy to miss an opportunity to help. Remote working tools can actually make monitoring the health and wellbeing of your staff easier. Keep an eye on your Teams chat and watch for clues in email conversations. It’s easier to ask if someone needs help than if they are okay, and your offer of support might make all the difference. Damian McCourt is a freelance trainer and consultant specialising in workplace resilience, productivity and sensible leadership.

Jan 22, 2021

 Stress and anxiety are often mentioned together, but they’re not the same thing. In fact, anxiety can be caused by stress – it’s what you feel when you’re uneasy about something, when you worry or when you’re afraid.Most people experience some level of anxiety from time to time. In many situations, feeling anxious is perfectly normal – if you’re taking your driving test, for instance, or going for a job interview. But once the situation has passed, your anxiety should disappear too. It becomes more of an issue when you feel overwhelmed by anxiety on a more frequent basis – or all the time.Anxiety can cause a range of physical and emotional symptoms, such as:Faster breathing or shortness of breathIncreased or irregular heart rateFeeling tired but not being able to sleepLight-headedness or dizzinessHeadacheFeeling restless, unable to concentrateSweating or having hot flushesFeeling constantly on edgeFearing the worst (having a sense of dread)Feeling that other people are looking at youNot being able to stop thinking about negative thingsNot being able to motivate yourself Anxiety levelsMild anxietyGenerally speaking, mild anxiety is the type that most of us experience on a day-to-day basis during certain situations. You may have an uneasy feeling in your stomach, and you may feel your pulse increase slightly. But anxiety at this level can also be beneficial, as it can help you to focus and increases your alertness.Moderate anxietyModerate anxiety is similar to mild anxiety but can become more severe and overwhelming, making you feel more nervous and agitated.Moderate anxiety can mean you place your complete attention on the thing or situation that’s making you feel anxious and ignore everything else around you. You may start to experience stronger physical and emotional anxiety symptoms such as muscle tension, sweaty palms, a shaky voice, back pain and changes in your sleep pattern. Emotionally you may feel more sensitive and excited than normal, and you may also feel less confident.Severe anxietySevere anxiety is the highest level, when you stop being able to think rationally and experience severe panic. You may feel afraid and confused, agitated, withdrawn and you may also find it difficult to think clearly. Your breathing may quicken, and you may start to perspire while your muscles will feel very tense.Anxiety disordersThere are also several anxiety disorders, including generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). Unlike being anxious about a specific thing or situation, GAD is when you feel anxious about lots of different issues, often for no good reason.Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a specific type of anxiety, where you feel very stressed or fearful about something traumatic that’s happened to you.Panic disorderPanic disorder is when you have panic attacks on a regular basis. A panic attack can make you feel nauseated, sweaty, shaky and lightheaded, and you may feel your heart beating very quickly or irregularly (palpitations). They may not be harmful in a physical sense, but panic attacks can be very frightening.PhobiasPhobias are also a type of anxiety disorder. You may have a phobia when you have an overwhelming or exaggerated fear of something that normally shouldn’t be a problem. Depending on what type of phobia you have, it can seriously affect your daily life as well as cause a great deal of distress.Social anxiety disorder – or social phobia – is a type of phobia where you have an intense fear of social situations.If you think you may have the symptoms of an anxiety disorder or if anxiety is a constant issue in your life, it’s important to get the advice of a qualified healthcare professional. 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.ieThis article was kindly provided by CABA

Sep 30, 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