Raindrops keep falling on my head

May 02, 2020

Ross Abbott, learning and development manager at Green Cross Training, examines how we can create our own silver lining to the clouds brought by coronavirus.

THESE are certainly turbulent times for many of us. The storm that is COVID 19 has affected us all in some way, as individuals, families, communities and businesses.

It is understandable – and OK – that this downpour will impact us all at some point. As individuals we all have a different perspective on what’s important, our frame of reference but as human beings we all react mentally and physically to pressures and forces.

Stressors such as finances, family and isolation can soak us like a persistent fine rain. If we don’t realise we are feeling drenched this can impact our wellbeing and mental health.

With us all experiencing this climate we can use the acronym RAIN to help create our own silver lining with the COVID clouds. 

Ross Abbott, learning and development manager (health and wellbeing) at Green Cross Training.

Routine.

Routine is important as it breeds familiarity, anchors us during choppier times and helps us cope with change and for many of us that is what we have, change.

For many the working week rituals that comfort us with their familiarity have been lost, with structure removed Monday to Sunday just becomes “day”, so re-evaluate our routine.

If possible, keep the old routine, there is enough change happening elsewhere. Set the alarm, shower and get dressed, as normal. Even if the only person seeing you is you, a glance in a mirror can have a positive effect.

If you traditionally commute to work, use this time for self-indulgence, spend quality time with someone but especially with yourself.

Set the workday scene starting with your new office space, formally the dining table. Schedule your day with breaks, lunch and set a finish time. This will allow goal setting and the measurement of progress. 

However, plans have to be realistic or we are setting ourselves up to fail. If we have to support others, such as homeschooling, discuss reasonable adjustment with work. Remote working is not a new concept but our pressure storm clouds are. 

Activity

Our mind and body are united, therefore we need to consider feeding both. Evidence suggests that regular exercise can reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Activities like gym classes release chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin that can improve your mood and self esteem.

For some, activity might be a coping mechanism that we need more than ever but cannot access. As climate changes, gyms and groups are also adapting with virtual classes emerging. From my son’s taekwondo class to household names like Jo Wicks and Mr Motivator all are helping to manage the weather clouds by inspiring and motivating, but also instilling routine and virtual social interaction.

Nutrition can also be important for our overall wellbeing. Planning meal times and our menus can help stop the comfort eating trips to the fridge, is it a coincidence that stressed spelt backwards is desserts?

Just like any organ in the body the brain requires different vitamins, minerals and water to remain healthy and protect from the effects of oxidants, which can impact mental health and wellbeing.

A healthy brain isn’t just about minerals and vitamins, nurturing and rest is vitally important for our wellbeing.  Virtual pub quizzes, listening to music, reading the book you bought years ago and good sleep can help with balance and mindfulness and nurture a positive outlook, which can break through the storm clouds that have formed. 

Interaction

With us seeking shelter from this storm, business and families are distant. My son misses hugging Nana and Papa, and most of us are naturally social animals. Positive interaction can release Oxytocin and Dopamine which boosts our wellbeing, however negative interaction or isolation can impact both mind and body.

Words evoke reactions, but 93% of communication is voice tone and body language, therefore being visible when communicating can be vital. There are many virtual platforms that can facilitate this and over the last month I have felt like Donkey Kong as I have lived on most of them. 

Focus on what has gone well, mood journals can be cathartic and if we find ourselves not interacting as we normally do give ourselves a break, these aren’t normal times.

Narrative

There are lots of reports spreading opinions and suggestions regarding the COVID 19 storm.

As well as reporters and panelist’s opinions, social media is flooded with amateur “meteorologists” all suggesting alternatives and claiming they have a secret source.

Rationing our interaction and working out fact from fiction, focusing on sources such as the World Health Organisation, NHS and government sites can reduce the impact to our wellbeing and provide us with calm from the atmospheric pressures.

We are all in this storm together, there is no doubting that. It is great to plan, self motivate or start new hobbies but for some simply taking refuge from the rain might take up all their effort. 

We need to be kind, to all but importantly to ourselves and remember through this downpour we all have different size umbrellas.

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