The importance of self-care. Interview with corporate psychologists
- Life Inside
It’s been almost a year that the world has been living in an elevated state with a lot of uncertainty and fear of what’s to come. The concerns of health, employment, and lockdown restrictions have greatly affected the daily life of many. We call it “the new normal” and try to go on with our lives. But how normal is it really?
We learned how to take precautions for our health, vacated the offices and continue the daily grind from the comfortable isolation of our homes. But let’s not forget about a vital part of our health and well-being that cannot be helped with frequent handwashing and coughing in your elbow. The lockdown puts a lot of strain on people’s mental health, and it may be just as distressing psychologically as it is physically restricting. It’s important to draw attention back to the topic of mental health, now more than ever. No need to try and save the world. Instead, practice some self-care and address your personal needs first.
No matter the circumstances, here at Symphony Solutions we try not to despair. Whatever may try to strike us down, we’ll have a solution ready in a moment’s notice. And a solution just so happened to be ready all along. Symphony prides itself in its generous Benefits program. And one of our proudest moments is having corporate psychologists, operating in the Lviv office for now, who provide their support to each Symphonian in the form of 10 free therapy sessions a year.
In “the time before”, this may have seemed like a “nice to have” benefit. But now we have discovered the true worth of having a professional psychologist within arm’s reach. Time and time again, we turned to corporate psychologists seeking new ways to supports Symphonians in these troubled times.
As part of the Mental Health Program, pioneered across all locations by Symphony Solutions People Office, we’ve talked to our Symphony Solutions psychologists about their stance on the current situation, how it can affect our mental health, and asked them to share some tips on maintaining a healthy attitude in the new Covid reality, life-work balance, health anxiety, and the strive to success.
1. Why is self-care important?
N.S.: Self-care is taking care of your mental and physical health, taking care of your surroundings, your present and future. It is care for your inner and outer world and, accordingly, for your life in general. It is impossible to worry about only one aspect of your life, and expect that we will feel good in general. And prevention of feeling badly is always easier than its “treatment’. Therefore, constant self-care is a necessary condition for good mental (and physical) health. In addition to physiological needs, we also have emotional ones -this is also worth remembering. Because the approach “the main thing is to have something to eat and what to wear” is not suitable neither for children nor adults.
K.T.: As a child, parental figures took responsibility for our worries and needs (if, of course, everything was fine). It was they who were worried about whether we were getting enough sleep and eating, whether we were experiencing overload or stress. It was they who cared about our physical and emotional state. And, of course, if the child did not have enough such figures, the situation with their mental or physical condition was disappointing. It was a catastrophe when there were no such figures at all. Now we have become such “parents” for ourselves. We have mastered their function and take care of ourselves, and the situation has not changed -the lack of self-care will have a negative impact on our condition.
2. Working from home or living from work? How to avoid burning out?
N.S.: Work should always be only a part of life. If it becomes our whole life, then quickly enough we can get tired, exhausted, and burn out. Burnout entails a negative emotional background and an inability to cope with previously manageable tasks. Then work causes, without exaggeration, suffering. Balancing between work and other activities will help to properly distribute your forces, respectively – will allow you to recover in time and feel your life full. Usually in the workplace itself you can find something that restores this balance: breaks, communication with colleagues, activities that are not directly related to work, but which can be performed in the workplace (benefits provided by the company). When working from home, when there is no longer such a clear line between work and leisure, it is important to keep a balance. Separate breaks and tasks, leave your new “workplace” on time and remember that you work to live, not the other way around.
K.T.: Yes, in fact, the answer itself is already in the wording of the question. The danger of working from home is that the work and home space is mixed and it is no longer clear where the home and where the work is. Of course, there are people who deal with this separation quite effectively. But there are those for whom separating work and home is difficult for a number of reasons. For example, work may be the only area where they are in control of the situation or the only place where they feel valuable; work may be an escape, and then work and the personal sphere are mixed not only physically but also mentally. If a person feels that such mixing leads to the fact that they lose their home as a space of security and comfort, then their home and work must be separated physically. That is, to determine the time and space for work and adhere to such a separation.
3. Fear of Covid-19 affects people’s lives all over the world. Are there any tips on how to avoid unnecessary worrying?
N.S.: For almost a year now, we have been living in greater uncertainty than usual. Of course, the number of anxieties and concerns in such conditions is increasing. The first rule is to remember that anxiety is normal. It is unpleasant, uncomfortable, energy consuming, but normal. Anxiety becomes a problem when it is constant or its intensity becomes difficult to withstand. Then the best option to help yourself is to consult a specialist to get qualified help. If we talk about the prevention of such conditions, it is a shift of attention from anxious thoughts with the help of classical meditations or informal mindfulness practices, filtering trigger situations (do not face unnecessarily the things that are alarming), cleaning up your information space so that there is room for something different than disturbing events. And, of course, healthy safety measures. Again, this can work if you don’t have any problems with your “relationships” with anxiety. Otherwise, it is better to seek professional help.
K.T.: The anxiety caused by the pandemic is not irrational but rather objective. We really do not know for sure what causes the severity of the disease progression. Here we can add the concern for loved ones and the concern for the state of the health care system. Anxiety in this case performs a regulatory function – we keep our distance, wash our hands, follow all the necessary recommendations. It would be a problem if we were not afraid at all. Instead, irrational anxiety, which does not allow you to think about anything else, affects sleep and well-being, such anxiety needs to be corrected. The first methods that can be used are relaxation, autogenic training, and mindfulness techniques. If they do not work, then you need to seek professional help.
4. Pressure of success. How does it affect our well-being?
N.S.: The pressure of success is the culture of our time. Despite the fact that it has many advantages, it is quite toxic. Because this picture of total success shows that everyone in their twenties is already running three companies, closing fourteen projects per hour and has already learned the secret of continuous positive thinking. “I want to be where they are,” almost everyone will think. Because the picture is really attractive: there is no fatigue, burnout, lack of time, doubt and uncertainty. No one tells you how regular neglect of your needs for the sake of achievement leads to moral and physical exhaustion, from which you have to recover for years. Or how trying to deny your own negative emotions and dissatisfaction in the name of believing that successful people should think only positively causes an all-consuming disorientation in your life. Therefore, many begin to fight in this ocean of the successful and happy, trying to find support underfoot, sailing from shore. The strategy is clearly losing.
It is generally important and necessary to develop and achieve. But, as in everything else, balancing is needed here. Is it as important as my mental health? And the physical? Is the potential achievement worth feeling like a loser all the time on the way to reaching it? Imposed goals and needs make us constantly feel bad in order to feel good at some point in our lives or just give ourselves a second to relax. And then forward again to get a new attribute of success that is needed in order not to be worse than others. The best way is not to turn your life into a game “Who will break faster” – it is good to explore your own needs and start from them.
K.T.: The specificity of Western civilization really lies in the fact that we are literally “dictated” to be successful. Being realized, effective, setting goals and achieving them – sounds very optimistic, but sometimes it is behind the denial and avoidance of our “human” traits and problems. The dictates of success do not seem to allow us to be weak, to doubt, to err and to be confused. All these feelings go to the periphery, cause shame and neurotic anxiety to be “losers”. But the fantasy of absolute success is like a magical ice castle of the Snow Queen. Life dictated solely by the pursuit of success will look as if we have ice cubes from which we are trying unsuccessfully to spell the word “happiness”.
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