Wellbeing articles

Retirement means not only coping with changes to your finances, but also thinking about the impact your retirement will have on your family life and your mental and physical wellbeing.

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

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

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

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:  casupport@charteredaccountants.ie

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:  casupport@charteredaccountants.ie

Jan 05, 2021