Your wellbeing

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

In the same way that many of us found it difficult to get into a new routine in lockdown, it makes perfect sense that we will find it difficult to move on from there too. Remember, you have adapted and coped with change before and you will this time too. Understanding resilience and how to boost it will help us stay the course and finish the marathon. Personal resilience can be described as the capacity to adapt to adversity, while looking after your wellbeing. Resilience helps us to develop and maintain some balance in our lives during difficult or stressful situations. Boosting your resilience can help to protect you against challenging life experiences and prevent them from becoming overwhelming. AwarenessThis is about being aware of the situation and acknowledging what’s happening, as well as recognising your own emotional reactions and behaviour, and the behaviour of those around you.  In order to manage your feelings, you have to understand what’s causing them and why.Understanding that setbacks are part of lifeLife is full of challenges. The trick is to learn from any setbacks and be willing to adapt to change. Setbacks allow us to start again. They give us an opportunity to reset and to rethink our approach. This is an important life skill.Having an internal locus of controlResilient people tend to have an ‘internal locus of control’. It means they believe the actions they take will have an effect on the outcome of an event. It’s important for our mental wellbeing that we feel we have the power to make choices that will affect our situation, our ability to cope and our future. Ask yourself, ‘what can I do about this?’There will be occasions when the answer to the question is ‘nothing’. However, analysing the situation gives you a sense of control. It highlights your choices. Very often the list of things you can do will far outstrip the list of those you cannot. Strong problem-solving skillsAs we move out of lockdown it’s essential to calmly look at problems as they appear, explore potential solutions and work towards a successful outcome. Early on there may be a temptation to attempt to do too much, too soon.List a maximum of 5 things you’d like to achieve each day, put them in order of priority and then address them in that order. Stop regularly to ask yourself, ‘how is what I am currently doing contributing to what I want to achieve?’ At the end of each day, reflect positively on your achievements.Strong social connectionsCoronavirus has changed the way we socialise. Many of us will have made greater use of social media, many will have supported vulnerable people and some of us will, maybe for the first time in a long time, have spent quality time with our family.Research has highlighted for some time that stronger social connections in our lives increase feelings of happiness and self-worth. Those connections are valuable, so make time to interact with people in your life after lockdown. Volunteering helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety, makes you feel happier, increases your self-confidence and provides a sense of purpose. This could be a habit to take with you to boost your wellbeing as we move into the future.If you’ve been feeling isolated, use this exit as an opportunity to make a change. Perhaps join a club, take up a sport or re-engage with old friends.See yourself as a survivor, not a victimInstead of focussing on the negatives, focus on the positives as we emerge from lockdown and see yourself as a survivor. Ask yourself, ‘what opportunities does this situation present?’ whenever you’re faced with a difficult choice or situation.Ask for helpWhile being resourceful is an important part of resilience, it is also essential to know when to ask for help.If you’re struggling, you won’t be the only one. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year.  Far too many people wait too long before seeking help, especially men.  For all your practical and emotional needs, contact our in-house CA Support team on mobile: (353) 86 024 3294 or via email: CASupport@charteredaccountants.ieArticle written by Richard Jenkins, Behavioural Psychologist and kindly provided by CABA

Aug 20, 2020

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

Jul 23, 2020
Careers

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

Jul 09, 2020

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

Jun 18, 2020

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

May 01, 2020

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

Apr 29, 2020