Anxiety and Working Remotely

By Graham, https://myanxiouslife.blog/

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Like so many people, I’ve adopted the work-from-home life. It’s been great to just roll out of bed, make some decaf coffee, and sit down at my computer. I have more time for the things that matter, and I spend less time going to places I don’t want to go. I can work outside when the weather is nice, and if I have to work late for some reason, I can just throw an easy dinner in the oven.

It sounds like the life for a socially awkward introvert with an anxiety disorder, and for the most part, it’s pretty great. But no situation is perfect, and sometimes there are things I miss, or, perhaps more aptly, find less worse about a workplace.

My biggest struggle is the fact that 90% of communication at my job is via Slack or email. Again, that seems like the dream, but text-only communication opens the door for a lot of ambiguity. Anxiety, unfortunately, feeds off ambiguity. I find myself reading too much into feedback, or even just regular daily communication, that I wouldn’t read as much into in person.

Continue reading “Anxiety and Working Remotely”

You Can’t Quit, We Need You! – teaching during the pandemic

By Tangela, first published on her site. She is a writer and educator based in the US.

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When people have to go to work physically, there is a chance for folks to separate the two worlds. You could leave the office at the office and worry about your home life at home. The stress could potentially be divided between the two places. However, with more people starting to work from home, people can’t leave their job at the job.

Myself, for example, I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to work from home. I have a problem with constantly stressing about everything, but I could kind of put my home problems out of my head for a while when I was a work. So when I worked from home, that line of demarcation was gone.

I include schoolwork in this too. I used to get to work early and work on some assignments there. Usually, I didn’t have the energy to work on things after work. Once I got home, I didn’t want to exert so much mental power.

When I’m working from home, it’s all anxiety all the time. Productivity is always on my mind. I stress about work decisions and schoolwork all the time, not to mention home stress. Let’s just say that I argue with my husband before work. I’m in a funky mood, right. Before, I could fume and clear my head during my commute. Get my mind right for talking to the kids. When I’m at home, I have ten minutes between clock in and showtime. Not long enough to decompress at all.

I’m not saying I was in a hurry to get back to class. On the contrary, I want to work as safely as possible. It’s just that people like me that can’t “turn it off” are really burned out. Plus, this new school year feels so much different from years in the past. We are currently three weeks into the year and the stress level feels like a typical late April/early May. The teachers are overwhelmed, and a lot of the kids are over it already. Plus, the ever-present threat of being sent back into quarantine because of the new COVID variants. None of the students in my building are old enough to get vaccinated. We won’t quarantine as a district, but several classrooms have been sent back to virtual learning due to illness.

Over summer break, I felt so much better. I didn’t have deadlines breathing down my neck. I didn’t have work expectations to meet. It was amazing how different I felt. Now, that summer break is over, the stressors are back, and I can feel my nerves starting to fray again. That’s no good.

Other people must be feeling the same.

11 Sept, 2021

Tangela Williams-Spann
https://twillspannwrites.com/

Freedom Day in England? Drastic lifting of lockdown restrictions

Today is being labelled by some as Freedom Day or Free-dumb Day, here in England, as the government has lifted remaining lockdown restrictions concerning face mask wearing, social movement and assembly.

In what is being called an experiment or a gamble by some, the government is acting knowing that cases will sharply rise even faster and are relying on the vaccination programme to stop too many people ending up in hospital or dying, as well as leaving it to local authorities and the public to largely manage themselves, as best they can. There are still national self-isolation and quarantine rules for those who get or are in contact with Covid-19 and for travellers from certain countries – but these too, are being watered down.

The cases in the UK having been increasing significantly, recently, due to the so-called ‘Delta variant’ strain and the previous ending of the stricter lockdown measures that prevented indoor gatherings, with daily cases now hitting over 50,000 a day, recently. Such was the concern, ‘Freedom Day’ was delayed for a month, from the planned date of 21st June. The number who are actually hospitalised or dying of Covid-19 in England is relatively low compared to last year’s disaster, as a reported 68.3% of the population of England have been fully vaccinated and 88% part vaccinated and this is reducing spread and number of serious symptoms. Antibodies from having had the virus and hospitals improving their treatment of patients is also likely reducing numbers of serious cases.

Many scientists and members of the public are concerned that the abrupt end to these restrictions, at this time, is going to accelerate the spread and, some fear that 50,000 cases a day could become 100,000 cases or higher within weeks or months. The National Health System, in England, is experiencing a lot of pressure from influx of patients whose treatments were delayed due to the pandemic, as well as staff burnout and, also, staff shortage as they are being required to self-isolate or quarantine. The NHS was already understaffed and overwhelmed, prior to the pandemic. There are fears that sharp rises in cases could lead to hospitalisation levels that become unmanageable and this could even lead to the need for return to restrictions just to protect the health system from breaking down.

The government is recommending continuation of some public anti-contagion measures, such as wearing face masks in indoor gathering spaces and social distancing but no longer making it compulsory. They have ended, completely, guidance on working from home. The drastic relaxation may affect vaccination take-up and observance of the rules that remain in place, if a culture of resistance or indifference grows, encouraged by ‘Freedom Day’.

Some local authorities, such as the mayor of London, are using their limited powers to make it compulsory to wear face masks on public transport within their areas but not all authorities have such powers. Some retail store companies say that they will insist staff and customers continue to wear masks, whilst others say they will recommend it but not insist from customers, to avoid their staff receiving abuse. It is hard to see how such a piecemeal approach can be effective or fair on customer service staff.

Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as devolved administrations that have control over their own Covid rules, are not removing all rules and face mask wearing and social distancing restrictions remain as do some restrictions on how many people can gather indoors. They may be taking heed of the experience in Netherlands, where most restrictions were lifted on 26th June, as cases fell, only for the government to backtrack soon after, as cases increased from 1,000 to 7,000 a day, by reimposing social distancing rules, meaning the closure of nightclubs and earlier closing for cafes and restaurants.

A difficult balance must be struck and the public need to be convinced. In France, rising cases has moved the government to make it mandatory for health workers to be vaccinated and gone as far as a plan to require a health pass for access to restaurants and cafes, either showing vaccination or a negative Covid test. Whilst polls show the majority of the French population are supportive of such measures, on Saturday, July 17th, over 100,000 protestors marched in major cities in opposition to what they see as an imposition on civil liberties and effectively, a compulsory vaccination programme for anyone who wishes to participate in social life.

A safer approach and one that protects the national health service, in England, would have been to wait until a higher proportion of the public were fully vaccinated and to retain some national anti-contagion measures such as face masks on public transport and for indoor meeting places and retaining social distancing and work from home guidance.

However, the government have put pressure on themselves through promises of a freedom day and have lost popularity for the handling of the pandemic, including through high profile cases of ministers or advisers breaking their own rules and, they seem keen on diverting responsibility from themselves. They have also been under pressure from some business lobbies and other campaign groups to end restrictions. Unfortunately, they are not giving sufficient weight, it seems, to the National Health Service, which will be under immense pressure again and more people will needlessly die or be seriously unwell. How this experiment plays out will likely greatly depend on the number and speed of the take-up of vaccinations in the coming weeks, how much support the NHS receives and, perhaps, the responsible actions of the English public.

The Coronavirus Lockdown – Opportunity & Anxiety

Akashi Seijuro_AnnaVanes
Akashi Seijuro by Anna Vanes (c)

As many are noting, including the blogger, Laury Jenneret, who writes with thoughtfulness about the experience in Britain, there have been some positive, potentially, transformational, aspects to the partial societal and economic lockdown in the UK. For those fortunate to have basic needs met, from food to health care – and to not be stuck with an abuser – and with Internet access available, the pause in lives and unfolding of tragedy has also enabled personal reflection and, often with the help of technology, re-connection with people and communities. Laury Jenneret writes, “…I have had so many more conversations, both with friends and people I don’t actually know, that it has made me wonder if social distancing wasn’t what we were all doing before the coronavirus.”

Many individuals, such as those experiencing social anxiety symptoms, may feel excluded from this silver lining in the tragedy – personal renewal and deeper connection – with their greater isolation potentially reinforcing damaging behaviours, as psychologist, Karin Klassen, warns: “Interacting with other people is one of the things that makes us get dressed in the morning, put our face on . . . Without that interaction we might stop doing some of those things that are basic self-respect things. Then because our behaviour changes we start to feel in a way that supports that negative behaviour. We start to feel icky.”

Technology is being put to meaningful use by some at this time, historian, Robin Reich, writes on her blog, expressing hope that the will for communication persists beyond lockdowns. Writer, Catherine Hume, cites the example of Chinese residents who used their lockdown to develop foreign language and other skills, to recommend individuals struggling in their workplaces to investigate online courses to “retrain into a job you can turn into a business. Be self employed. Be a success and be a success without any hassle from co workers.”

Remote interaction does not, however, enable the physical contact, movement and full range of social cues that can make real interaction so fulfilling. Whilst practically beneficial, therapists have expressed concern about some of the challenges that come with remote interaction with clients, including a concern about the emotional detachment it might enable.

Content on the Internet is so diverse and vast, varying in credibility and accessibility, that its sheer volume and range of options can be a challenge for individuals to navigate without a clear idea of their purpose in its use. This can equally apply to online educational and job opportunities as it can for entertainment.

The current transformational opportunity – and, perhaps, imperative – for job-seekers and job-changers is clearly evident and can place a great pressure on individuals, especially, the most marginalised, burdened and isolated. Without public pressure, it is unlikely that government and their agencies, post-coronavirus, will dramatically change their underfunded service support for disabled and/or jobless groups, despite what should be better awareness of the challenges of being housebound.

There is no general answer to how to improve, train and prepare oneself for the uncertain future – on top of caring for one’s health and dealing with the threat of the virus and its societal and economic consequences.  A psychotherapist, Annie Wright, writing especially for trauma sufferers dealing with the pandemic crisis says, in what feels like a universal truism for people currently dealing with serious health difficulties: “(b)ut for now, our only job – your only job – is to take care of yourself as best you can, to weather this storm, to live with your ghosts but to not let them overwhelm you.” For parents and carers and others, an addition must be made for dependents but self-care and attention will be a necessary starting point for all. Social and professional support may be needed by many.

Image designed by Anna Vanes (c)

To read the full blog-post, ‘Gradually, then suddenly,’ by Laury Jenneret, click the link below.

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked in Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, “Two ways,” Mike said, “Gradually and then suddenly.” I’ve thought about that a lot over the past week, as I, like the rest of the world, have looked on in stunned silence as society as we knew it has ground to a halt. We first heard about COVID-19 at the end of last year, and to be honest it just rumbled in the background on our news agenda. We all broadly knew what it was, that it was a virus believed to have originated from a wet-market in Wuhan, some people had heard that it might have something to do with bats, but everyone was pretty vague on the details, because it felt abstract. It felt like it didn’t have anything to do with us. Not really.

When I took my daughter to…

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