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This content is taken from the Maudsley Learning & The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust's online course, COVID-19: Psychological Impact, Wellbeing and Mental Health. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second So I was wrong about the online quiz thing. It isn’t as horrendous as I thought it would be. I admit it. I jumped the gun. I was a bit prejudge-y. But it isn’t all about online quizzes. It’s about people, connections, routine, having a structure. I realize that now.

Skip to 0 minutes and 30 seconds Work have actually agreed to the amount of online hours I should be doing, which is actually really helped. It’s made it far easier for me to unwind literally and just be able to relax in the evenings.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 seconds Every Friday there’s an online quiz, and Tuesdays and Wednesdays I doing online exercise class. I got a list of all the classes available. Turns out that my instructors is the one from my local gym, which is really nice.

Skip to 1 minute and 5 seconds It doesn’t sound like much, I know that. But it’s enough for me, I mean, too little is just as bad as too much, and I probably end up just canceling stuff.

Skip to 1 minute and 21 seconds My moods can still be a bit rollercoasterish, up and down. And online definitely isn’t as good as the real thing. But under the current circumstances, it’s better than nothing.

Skip to 1 minute and 40 seconds I must admit I’m finding it little bit confusing. The messages that were getting. I mean. I was supposed to be staying in or going out. Was it just me? I mean, it’s creating so much uncertainty, well, more uncertainty and there isn’t there enough uncertainty already? It’s all a bit wishy washy. It isn’t doing any good for me.

Skip to 2 minutes and 11 seconds Then there’s work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful. I’ve still got a job, and work is work.

Skip to 2 minutes and 20 seconds To say the management have really stepped up. A lot. They’re keeping in touch far more regularly. And it’s not just about handing out more work. Actually had a chat with my line manager the other day.

Skip to 2 minutes and 40 seconds She asked me how I was doing and I. think that she genuinely was interested in hearing the answer. And I actually felt that I could say to her. Well, today I’m not feeling so good.

Skip to 2 minutes and 56 seconds That I could actually go on and complain and have a bit of a moan.

Skip to 3 minutes and 2 seconds I was the one who really voiced the concerns about lack of support. I really wouldn’t have said anything if she hadn’t reached out first. She was far more open than I imagined her to be, and she really did want to hear and listen to what’s actually going on? That’s also uncharacteristic of me. But I would never have said anything, like I said, if she hadn’t ask first.

Skip to 3 minutes and 38 seconds So at the beginning of the week, every Monday we have a very brief team meeting. It’s just a way of connecting and saying hi to everybody.

Skip to 3 minutes and 52 seconds It’s a reminder of the fact that I’m part of a team. A fact which can easily get lost or forgotten, particularly you know, now and all this going on.

Skip to 4 minutes and 9 seconds It’s helped me to clarify

Skip to 4 minutes and 15 seconds my own role and

Skip to 4 minutes and 19 seconds Yes, it’s helped me to clarify my own role amid all this disruption. We’re adapting, I’m adapting. Another reminder of about the purpose of my role and what we do. A clear focus on the tasks. And. Yeah, it really does help.

Coping with work during COVID-19

This week Susan is clearly still adapting to life and work during COVID-19 with ups and downs. However, there is a lot that she talks about which has improved. We’ll cover some of the team working and the role of organisations in later steps, and focus here on Susan’s individual actions.

To understand the steps that Susan has taken to improve her management of work and wellbeing, we can look at personal, social0, and work-related factors.

Personal factors

Susan mentions one of our wellbeing basics that we’ve touched on previously - exercise and physical activity. She also touches on another problem we’ve spoken about, managing uncertainty and coping with confusing messages.

Susan doesn’t appear to have a solution to this yet, but we’ll pick up on this throughout this week. On an individual basis, mindfulness has decades of evidence supporting its positive impact on our thoughts and mood, and links back to this week’s theme of noticing.

Susan mentions that she’s grateful to have work at the moment. Gratitude can be a powerful tool that is associated with happiness, health, positive emotions, and strong relationships.

Pause for thought

What are you grateful for? If you feel comfortable, please share in the discussion below. Naming 3 things that we feel grateful for each day has been shown to improve our mood.

It is worth keeping in mind that when anyone is in the middle of communicating their distress, such as Kevin, the task of validating how difficult it is and how appropriate it is to be upset must come before any expectation that they can get in touch with things they are grateful for.

Social factors

Once again, the principle of social support is raised by Susan. She reports connecting with her manager and her team with positive effects.

Beyond work, Susan mentions social connections, such as her exercise classes. This can support our mental wellbeing and also our engagement at work.

Susan raises a number of actions that appear to have helped her. Interestingly, these relate back to some of the challenges we saw last week around disrupted routines, roles, and trouble disconnecting from work.

Susan suggests that scheduling work and non-work activities have helped her provide structure and routine to her life. Additionally, clarifying working hours, as some people work remotely and flexibly, has helped her to “switch off” and disconnect from work - a big factor in work-related stress.

Susan has spoken to her manager with positive results, as she feels listened to and valued. This is of course conditional on her manager being open and responsive, and her organisation encouraging this approach.

The additional communication individually and as a team has allowed Susan to clarify her role amongst the disruption of COVID-19. She seems to have found this helpful, and even reports a renewed purpose and meaning to her role, which we know can support workplace health.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of steps that someone can take to manage their mental wellbeing at work during COVID-19. Are there other things that you do?

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This video is from the free online course:

COVID-19: Psychological Impact, Wellbeing and Mental Health

Maudsley Learning