Minding Your Mental Health and Wellbeing During the Covid-19 Crisis

The outbreak of Covid-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation in March 2020. Ireland, like other nations around the world, has begun to implement measures to limit the spread of this infectious disease and contain the outbreak, including the closure of Schools and Colleges, encouraging workers to work from home and social distancing.

During this time, UCD employees may be facing some challenges associated with caring responsibilities, working remotely and being unable to socialise and interact in person with colleagues, friends and family. Amid all this focus on physical health, it is important to remember to also take care of your mental health and wellbeing, particularly in a time of uncertainty, stress and isolation.

Meet UCD's Mental Health First Aid Peer Support Group. Your colleagues are fully trained and available for a chat over Zoom to offer support and information.

START (Suicide Prevention Skills Online)

START (Suicide Prevention Skills Online) training is an introduction to suicide prevention training and the precursor to safeTALK and ASIST Training. It is not suitable if you have already completed safeTALK or ASIST training. 

START is a Level 2 alertness skills programme. Whilst not as advanced as safeTALK or the two-day intervention skills workshop ASIST, it does, however, provide the opportunity for participants to:

  • Become more comfortable talking about suicide
  • Feel more confident in keeping a person safe in times of distress
  • Be able to support members of the community, friends and co-workers
  • Build personal professional skills
  • Have peace of mind knowing the readiness to help is obtained
  • Gain awareness of the supports and services that are available.

A licence is required by each individual to undertake the Start programme. START training is free. It is imperative that anyone who applies for a licence is committed to completing the programme. START training takes on average 90 minutes to complete. Participants have 60 days to complete training after which the licence expires.

Further information can be found here  and to register please contact admin@breakingthrough.org

Supports for UCD Employees

EDI have compiled below a list of initiatives, guides and practical tips to help mind your mental health and wellbeing during the Covid-19 outbreak, internal and external to UCD.

  • UCD employees have access to the Employee Assistance Service (EAS) which offers professional counselling sessions available remotely via phone/web during this time. You can also access their online Support Hub, which includes guided self-assessments, self-help courses and digital intervention tools, a well-being database and information library, as well as a mood tracker.
  • UCD has launched the new Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Peer Support Group. The members are trained in Mental Health First Aid and offer support and information to colleagues who are feeling overwhelmed and are concerned about their mental wellbeing. While Covid-19 restrictions are in place, UCD MHFA Peer Support Group will be reachable via Zoom as opposed to face-to-face. 
  • UCD supports the See Change Green Ribbon Campaign to end mental health stigma each May.
  • UCD colleagues as part of the SPARC Initiative created this helpful guide on finding reputable sources of information: Believe It or Not
  • UCD is endeavouring to offer a range of engagement activities to help colleagues stay engaged with each other. Please visit the new webpage on offline engagement created by Culture & Engagement for suggestions of activities such as online yoga lessons, lunchtime sketching and upcoming initiatives.
  • Find tips on holding a video meeting on our Employee Relations' website.
  • Our Multicultural Employee Network of UCD (MENU) hosted their first virtual coffee morning on Thursday 26 March and all EDI Networks are now going to start holding virtual coffee mornings weekly (see the linked webpage for the list of networks and schedules.)
  • We also know of other colleagues who are making the time to catch up via video calls over their tea or coffee breaks. Team video calls and google hangout group chatrooms are ways that each area can use to keep in touch with colleagues.
  • Coping During Covid-19 Workbook (SJOG)

Tips on Working Remotely 

Many UCD employees are working remotely for the first time in isolation from co-workers and it is important to maintain a regular schedule. You can also read the new UCD policy on Remote Working during Covid-19 outbreak.

See more information below in relation to remote working and creating your new routine:

  • Structure your day: Get up early, shower and get dressed
  • If you are used to working out or walking before work, try to fit this activity into your new routine
  • Set up daily tasks and be realistic - this way of working can be more trying and tiring. Speak to your line manager if you find it difficult to prioritise
  • Take plenty of breaks
  • Make one room or space an office - the psychological distance between workspace and domestic space is important
  • Have a cup of tea or coffee during team catch ups
  • Try to bring some of the normal aspects of work into remote working by checking in with colleagues via phone or Zoom - not only about work - and scheduling virtual lunch or coffee breaks with friends

Infographic: Working from Home - Extraversion and Introversion (Myers Briggs Company)

Tips on Minding your Mental Health and Wellbeing 

To support your mental wellbeing, you may like to build some of the suggestions below into your new routine:

  • Limit the time spent consuming news and on social media as the constant stream of information on corona virus, which may include incorrect information, might lead to unnecessary anxiety
  • Ensure you update yourself with news from reputable sources such as Health Safety Executive (HSE) and the World Health Organisation (WHO)
  • See also this resource created under the UCD SPARC project on finding crediblemental health information online: Believe It or Not
  • Continue to implement healthy eating and sleeping habits to counter the effects of stress – include plenty of fruit and vegetables in your diet and aim for 7-8 hours’ sleep each night
  • Build time for activities you enjoy such as reading, listening to music, drawing or painting and other creative activities
  • Going for a walk in a green space will benefit your mental wellbeing. However, it is important to avoid crowded spaces and observe social distancing
  • Open a window to let fresh air in - this has a positive impact
  • Continue to connect with family and friends via telephone calls, video calls and voice messages as well as text messages and emails
  • Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include: Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones; Changes in sleep or eating patterns; Difficulty concentrating. Recognise that any of these are normal reactions to stress. If they persist, consider speaking to a health professional
  • Try minduflness and meditation apps such as Headspace or do 10-minute check-ins to assess how you're feeling and where your mind is

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Useful Links and Resources:

The World Health Organization compiled all information and resources on Covid-19 on this webpage.

The WHO also developed a guide on coping with stress during the outbreak and a guide on helping children cope with stress.

The HSE website offers helpful tips on how to ensure your mental health is not affected during the coronavirus outbreak.

HSE Health and Wellbeing created a set of five videos on Minding your Wellbeing.

UCD supports the See Change Green Ribbon Campaign to end mental health stigma. More information .

BBC Article on Recucing Zoom Fatigue.

Derek Mowbray's Tips for Strenghtenig the Resilience of Remote Workers (Management Advisory Services)

You may find these LinkedIn Learning Videos helpful during this time (available for free):

Ibec Networks have put together five quick webinars from industry experts to help those who are facing challenges various reasons at this time. Please note that name and email address must be entered to view the below recordings.

1. Fighting Covid monotony – 8 minutes

Susannah Morrissey, OM Wellness shares tips to overcome that feeling of Groundhog Day.

View recording

2. Eat right, stay bright – 7 minutes

Explore links between gut and brain health. Advice on simple changes to your diet with Jenny White, Beoga Nutrition.

View recording

3. Big stretch – 21 minutes

Learn simple techniques and stretches to support you at your desk with James Kennedy, Kos Ergonomics.

View recording

4. Improving sleep quality – 14 mins

John Paul Hughes, Zevo Health will reveal some useful tips to enrich your sleep.

View recording

5. And breathe… - 14 minutes

Uncover the power of effective breathing. Susannah Morrissey, OM Wellness will coach you in the art of mindful breathing.

View recording