A Psychotherapist’s Tips to Maintaining Work-life Balance in the Pandemic

What can we do to juggle our work and personal lives in these ever-changing COVID-19 times? Here is a practical guide for everyone who is struggling to achieve work-life balance and dealing with stress – brought to you in partnership with OT&P Healthcare.

How the COVID-19 Crisis Affects Our Daily Lives

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted both our professional and personal lives and there has been a steady increase in people feeling burned out as a result. Our ongoing battle against COVID-19 has made us experience “pandemic fatigue” due to the following reasons:

  • A combination of new circumstances has put people in a constant hyper-alert state, which is slowly wearing people down mentally.
  • Essential workers have additional stress factors including an increased amount of workload and increased risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  • People working from home can suffer from undue stress because of typical remote work challenges such as dealing with a new working environment, lack of boundaries between personal and professional life, increased demands in productivity and lack of physical human interaction coupled with “Zoom fatigue” (weariness or anxiety associated with overusing virtual meeting platforms).

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Tips to Manage Mental Health and Work-life Balance in an Everchanging COVID-19 Situation

Allison Heiliczer, Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Head of Corporate Psychology at OT&P Healthcare, shares some professional and practical advice.

Dealing with Stress and Burnout:

Get comfortable with discomfort and cultivate meaning.
The Pandemic has made us all uncomfortable in different ways. Psychological suffering often resides in denial of what has changed and compounds this feeling of discomfort; this denial often prevents people from connecting with a sense of resourcefulness. Acceptance does not necessarily mean liking the changes but rather is a sense of acknowledgement. Once we’re able to accept what’s changed, we’re much more likely to be resourceful. It’s also helpful psychologically to cultivate a sense of meaning around what’s happening – this doesn’t mean downplaying the severity of it all. Instead, cultivating meaning allows us to see that much of what we experience is out of our control, yet what we always are able to influence a sense of meaning.

Stay radically present.
Anchoring thoughts in the past is sometimes tied with depression – wishing life was as it was; anchoring thoughts in the future can sometimes be connected with anxiety. Although it’s common to wish the challenges away, staying present right now will allow you to truthfully connect with your feelings and thoughts. Sometimes taking short mental breaks that allow you to travel to the future or mine information from the past can be soothing, yet the practice of staying present – even if that is connected with being alive – will help you to absorb the truth of your experiences.

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Seek out mental health help.
One of the outgrowths of the Pandemic has been people feeling they have an opening and platform to discuss mental health challenges. Some people aren’t aware of the mental health benefits companies offer so best to seek those out first. If work doesn’t offer this, or you’re out of work, then consider seeking help if financially possible. If finances don’t allow for therapy in the private system, then check with the local public hospital or clinic.

Consider how working from home affects your mood.
For some, working from home is a blessing and allows people to feel they’re more easily able to influence their schedules; for some, working from home feels burdensome; and for others, it’s a bit of both. Be honest with how the experience has been so far, and work out with your employer whether you’re able to maintain or shift arrangements.

To Restore Work-life Balance:

Be creative with your workspace at home and set healthy boundaries.
If you have enough space to demarcate between workspace and space to relax, then do so. If space doesn’t permit, then try doing just one thing when you’re shifting the space from work to before/after work – this can mean changing a photo on your desk, anything that allows your mind to switch more easily to and from relax mode. Also, be aware of the blurred line these days between work and home. Make a commitment to be clear with your boundaries – working nonstop only leads to one outcome: Burnout.

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Forget the myth of work-life perfect balance.
There never was and never will be a perfect balance between work and life – and for some, these two are integrated. There will inevitably be times when work or life takes priority. Check in with your feelings and thoughts each day to see where you need to spend more of your energy.

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Invest in daily self-care.
Daily self-care can take various forms – even closing one’s eyes for five minutes and breathing more mindfully can be a form of self-care. Do what works for you in terms of feeling more alive or at least provides a sense of ease. Some people build this into their mornings, others midday, and some evenings. Make a commitment to build in something that becomes habit – a non-negotiable part of the day.

Seek help.
Seeking help can take various forms. For some, this means speaking with a therapist, for others a coach; some need guidance from their managers or mentors; and some benefit from speaking with HR. What’s important is to normalize seeking help and connect it with a sense of resilience – that by seeking support you’re learning to adapt to new challenges.

Allison Heiliczer, BSc, MA, MA is originally from New York City and moved to Hong Kong ten years ago. Allison is a counsellor and psychotherapist, passionate about working with both individuals and couples. In addition to her counselling work, Allison also leads a range of corporate work and is the Head of Corporate Psychology at OT&P.

This article is brought to you in partnership with OT&P Healthcare. It is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.