Staying Healthy while Working at Home during the Covid-19 Outbreak
Many people are daunted at the prospect of life without the usual routine of Trinity. Here are some tips from the College Health Service team on how to stay healthy.
Getting Started at home
To start, orientate yourself in the same way you would do for any working day. Life continues: this includes work, self-care and obligations. The challenge is to find a way to manage in different circumstances.
Maintain your routine
In ordinary circumstances you would shower, dress, have breakfast and have to go outside each day to get to Trinity. Try to replicate this routine. Rising at the same time daily, showering and dressing, having breakfast and getting out for a walk.
Should you follow your academic/work schedule?
It may be helpful to try and follow the academic/work schedule you have in Trinity. By doing this you might reduce your anxiety about whether or not you are doing enough and you also will not have to reinvent the wheel. You may find that this does not suit you. Do not be afraid then to try and create a schedule that works better for you and agree with your line manager. It is probably helpful to set this out in a timetable.
Managers will decide how to deliver business critical work and it may be necessary to recall and/or redeploy staff to support critical work across Trinity.
Virtual Social Time
Try scheduling some virtual social time during the day, similar to what you might do in work. Maybe schedule a group chat at lunch time or 11.00 with colleagues. It might be a time to compare notes, how you are getting on, share good ideas, and get support. Whatever technology suits is best but Skype, Microsoft Teams and Zoom all allow multiple users to video chat. Use these methods to connect on work related matters too in order to maintain good working relationships.
Don’t eat at your workspace or if you have to, clear your work away while you do. Try to clearly delineate its function.
Ensure you have good ergonomic practices including i.e., proper computer set up, monitor positioning, rest breaks and engineering or ergonomic controls (i.e., furniture design, lighting, glare control, computer workstation configuration and layout).
Mind your Eyes and Ears!
Give your eyes a break, you will be spending a lot of time working with texts and screens. Schedule time during the day to have your eyes focus in the middle to far distance. When out for a walk, try and allow yourself the opportunity to look at objects far away. This is really only achievable in the outdoors. Give your ears a break, take off audio devices when out walking and again try and allow your brain absorb sounds from the environment rather than forcing auditory input. This will facilitate mindfulness.
The end of the Working Day
Make a distinction between the working day and the end of the day. Clear up your work station and put your work away.
This is often a good time to tidy your area, do laundry, go for a short walk etc. These physical activities activate a different part of your brain that you are not actively using when you are doing your work. Whilst doing this, your brain is starting to unwind so that you can resume your home life.
Wind down before bed
Allow around an hour to wind down before bed. Try and avoid exercise too close to bedtime.
Turn off screens for at least an hour before bed. Blue light is activating and wakes up your brain, you are trying to prepare to sleep! Try and allocate at least 7-8 hours for rest each night, you may not sleep for all this time but don’t worry, your body will still be resting, even if your mind is still quite alert.
Make time for exercise
The human body is designed to move, and through movement you can achieve better mental health too. On top of that, those who exercise regularly are more productive.
30 minutes of exercise that leaves you out of breath is recommended per day. But you should also incorporate movement throughout the day.
What's the best type of exercise? The one you will do, of course. Here are some suggestions:
- Walking/Running: Even if you’re self-isolating, you can get out for a walk or run or cycle. It’s quick, free and available to all. Some people like to use apps like Map My Run or Couch to 5K, others prefer music or some enjoy the sounds of nature or their own thoughts. It doesn’t matter how you exercise, once you do.
- Online exercise videos are an obvious resource and a great way of getting a quick fix of exercise. We like the usuals: Joe Wicks for a quick, high intensity workout with plenty of muscle strengthening exercises, Yoga with Adrienne for a mellow work out or Jessica Valante for Pilates. If you’re stuck for time, 7 minute workouts are great. The less fit you are, the more you have to gain from exercising.
- Move all day: Take every opportunity you can to move. Stand up and move around at least once an hour. By the end of the day you should have walked 10,000 steps. Taking the stairs is great exercise, the Trinity physio recommends jumping jacks as a work break or some people like to do lunges while the kettle boils. The point is, we need to move all day long.
- Two minute stretching videos by Karita Saar-Cullen, Trinity’s Physio to try at your workspace: Seated Desk Stretches, Standing Desk Stretches.
Eat Colourful, Unprocessed Foods, in the Right Portions
The eternal question, what should I eat? The answer: colourful foods with as little processing as possible. That means mostly fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Or to put it another way, the bottom two layers of the food pyramid. The further up the pyramid you go, the smaller your portions should get. And remember, half of every plate should be vegetables, fruit or salads.
Could cooking become your new hobby? Is lack of time your biggest barrier to eating healthy? Why not allocate an hour a day to learning how to cook new recipes? Here are some simple and inexpensive recipes that are tasty, and easy: Lentil Taboulleh, Halloumi Flatbreads, Garlic Mushroom Quinoa.
Consider monitoring food and mood by keeping a diary of what you ate and how you felt in the hours afterwards. You’re going to be eating for the rest of your life. This time could be the perfect opportunity to develop a healthy and joyful relationship with food.
Inspire Workplaces Counselling Services provide the University’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) service. University staff and their immediate families (those living at home with them who are 18 years of age and older) can avail of emotional support such as telephone counselling by calling 1800 817 433.
The HSE also provides advice on looking after your mental health, the details can be found on their website.
Altruism and Health: It’s Good to be Good
Helping others is good for your health. While you may be restricted by what you can do, find ways to help others either by donating to charity online, writing to your local politician about an issue that matters to you or connecting with a friend you think might need to talk. As long as you have the resources yourself, helping others helps you.
If you can’t go out, go in
Could you use the time to develop new skills, hobbies or interests? Trinity has LinkedIn Learning content available to all students and staff, a great resource for upskilling professionally. Or how about a course in history, creative writing, social change, mindfulness, sustainable food. There are lots of options on FutureLearn.com. Obviously, we have to push the excellent Trinity ones: https://www.futurelearn.com/partners/trinity-college-dublin
Additionally, below you will find some courses that you may find useful:
- Working Remotely – 1 hr
- Time Management: Working From Home – 1hr 25 min
- Being an effective Team Member – 31 min
- Productivity Tips: Finding Your Productive Mindset – 59 min
- Leading at a Distance – 36 min
- Balancing Work and Life – 28 min
- Thriving @ Work: Leveraging the Connection between Well-being and Productivity – 41 min
- Managing Stress for Positive Change – 57 min
Dealing with Anxiety and Low Mood
It’s important to stay informed but also set limits for news and social media. Our team recommends checking the news and social media maybe twice a day and otherwise, observing the suggestions above.
If you feel your mood darken or you've started to argue with your family/random people on Twitter, it's a good time to get some exercise.
Ní neart go cur le chéile is an important message we believe is the most fundamental thing to consider at this time, we're all in this together, strength through unity. By doing your bit: washing hands, social distancing, looking after each other; you contribute to a collective approach and you should draw strength from that.