By Marilena Andreou – November 2020
Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist
The Covid-19 pandemic has given us a huge sense of uncertainty around the globe. From frequent government announcements causing regular disruptions to our lives and the need to make adaptations to our lives has become apparent. Some people actually enjoyed going to work and being in that work environment, but this security feels as though it has been suddenly taken away for a huge part of the population in the UK. Working from home has become the new ‘normal’ way of delivering the duties of the job role. Consequently this has left people feeling a mixed bag of emotions, from feelings of anxiety, frustration, anger and low mood. Both young people and adults have really struggled to adapt to the changes and they have noticed feelings of loneliness, isolation, feeling unmotivated and a lack of structure in their routines.
Some people with families and children have reported that working from home and constantly being in the same environment, whilst working and being with their families, has not allowed the clear separation between work and family life. For those that live alone, they have mentioned really missing those human interactions that they would typically get from colleagues and peers. After all, as human beings we are designed to desire these interactions. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be effective in helping to manage your thoughts and emotions.
CBT strategies for working from home during the pandemic;
Normalise the thoughts and challenge how we think:
Many people are likely to be thinking and feeling similarly under these unusual circumstances. From a cognitive behavioural therapy perspective, the way we think in turn effects how we feel and our behaviours. Therefore negative thoughts can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression etc. Notice your negative thoughts, capture and record them in a journal/ notepad and challenge the thoughts by adopting more rational thoughts and write them down. In time, negative thoughts can be replaced by more rational thoughts, leading to improvements in emotions. This technique does take some practice, so perseverance is crucial.
Ensure that you are continuing to work from home with a structure to your day. You could draw up an activity diary for the forthcoming weeks and schedule in the activities (necessary) that you need complete combined with pleasurable activities for each day. You can prioritise some of the necessary activities. You could experience a huge sense of fulfilment when you manage to complete these on a daily basis. If you do not manage to complete all the scheduled activities, do not be too hard on yourself; just reschedule some of them on another day.
Be kind to yourself. At times it can seem as though you are the only one going through these difficulties, rest assured you are not alone. Some people just do not express their feelings, that is not to say that they are not suffering. Take some time out, ideas can include; listening to music, going for a walk, taking a bubble bath, speaking to friends, going for a coffee etc. You could make your own personalised list of ideas and choose one item from the list each day to practice being kind to yourself. To make it more exciting you could write each idea on paper, fold it up and put them all in a jar- select one item from the jar each day at random.
Become aware of your environment
Ensure you are working from a comfortable chair and desk that is tailored to your individual needs. If you need a cushion or a foot rest then make sure that you have all the equipment and that you can use a suitable room from the house to work from. Sometimes companies can provide these, just ask your employer. If you are self-employed it might be worth thinking about purchasing certain office equipment that could improve your home working environment.
Connecting with colleagues/friends/ relatives
As it is unusual to spend long periods of time working alone, be mindful of this and how it might be detrimental to your wellbeing. Try and make the effort to connect with at least one other person each day, this could be by telephone or video calls.
Remember that if you are really struggling with any of the issues highlighted in this article, you could speak to your employer to see what support they can provide or your GP. If you want to find a CBT therapist then have a look at the BABCP register. Speaking about your difficulties can be a good first step in seeking the right support to addressing the issues.