Psychologists recommend maintaining a routine and controlling the flow of Covid-19 news to reduce anxiety
A number of simple steps can help employees maintain productivity and reduce stress and anxiety while working at home during the coronavirus pandemic, according to psychologist Dr Sarah Rasmi, managing director of the Dubai-based Thrive Wellbeing Centre.
In an interview with Arabian Business, Dr Rasmi says that Thrive – which is now conducting all its therapy sessions remotely – has witnessed a surge in patients reporting anxiety and relationship issues related to Covid-19, as well as concerns about how to maintain focus while working.
“People are also reaching out to us for suggestions on how they can be more productive at home,” she said.
The primary advice that Thrive gives, Dr Rasmi adds is to work to establish a level of structure and routine, even while physically separated from their workplace.
“What we experienced a week ago, and what we even knew a week ago, is quite different from what we know today and probably what we’ll know in a week,” she says. “With uncertainty, we tend as human beings to experience stress, anxiety and worry.”
“One of the ways that we can be productive and one of the ways that we can relate to each other in a productive way is if we feel some sense of safety, stability and security,” Dr Rasmi remarks. “Routine really brings that.”
Additionally, Dr Rasmi says that it is strongly recommended that those working from home during the Covid-19 crisis try to do many of the same things they would have done when they were still going to office.
“There’s an urge to work in pajamas because nobody can see us, or can’t see us from the waist down,” she adds. “There’s so many different lifestyle things that we know are important for maintaining productivity, like maintaining a healthy diet, finding some way to exercise and trying to make sure we’re getting a good amount of sleep.
Lastly, Dr Rasmi says that much of the anxiety that people feel about the coronavirus pandemic – workers and non-workers alike – is related to the constant stream of news about Covid-19. This, in turn, often leads to disrupted sleep patterns.
“A lot of people are experiencing disrupted sleep because you can’t escape news about Covid-19 unless you very deliberately put up boundaries around what you’re going to consume, and when and where.”
Maintaining productivity, however, is not the only aspect of the quarantine that is causing people anxiety. Many families – and couples – are now spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week together in close quarters, which in many cases can create stressful situations and relationship issues.
“We have a lot of people who are struggling in their relationships with the transforming family dynamic now that all of us are practicing social distancing. It’s completely transformed the amount of time and the way we’re interacting with one another,” Dr Rasmi explains. “That can be great, but for a lot of people it’s very challenging.”
As an example, Dr Rasmi that many parents may find it difficult to balance their need to work from home with new responsibilities related to having their children at home.
In other cases, husbands and wives may find themselves grating on each other’s nerves amid constant exposure to one another.
“One of the things that I advise to couples in general is to have some level of dependence and some level of interdependence,” Dr Rasmi explains. “The same thing applies when we’re living and operating in these conditions…it’s really importance we try to stake out independence at home, like very deliberately coming up with a plan every day to have 30 minutes or an hour to do your own thing.”
A helping hand
Recognising the potential for mental health issues as a result of the pandemic, the UAE’s government has stepped in to support Emiratis and expats alike through an online initiative by the National Programme for Happiness and Wellbeing (NPHW).
As part of the initiative, 50 psychology experts are now on hand to conduct live sessions in both Arabic and English. The various programmes include awareness-raising videos about coping methods as well as virtual support groups that provide support for specific segments of the community, including students and elderly caregivers.
One of the most important aspects of the pandemic for people to remember, Dr Rasmi adds, is that no matter how anxious or stressed they may feel, they are not alone.
“For must of us, we haven’t really lived through this same type of situation or this constant stress in our adult lives,” she says. “We’re all doing our best and are managing, even if we are struggling. I think it’s going to show us how tough we can be.”