How to spot work from home distress in your loved ones

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We are working at a phenomenal pace this year. We are super productive, super-efficient, sometimes to a fault. So much so that this superhuman effort is spilling into our homes. In a year as unusual as 2020, it is not surprising that work-from-home burnout is leading to several mental health issues.

As our homes double up as workplaces and schools, gyms and recreational facilities, and continue to transform according to need, the stress sneaks up on us almost without our knowledge. Look around you. Does your partner seem more irritable than justified? Is your child showing increased aggressive behaviour? Are the elderly feeling even more isolated as you struggle to keep up with the chores and deadlines? It is time to act now.

Recognise the red flags

Mental health is a spectrum of diseases that can manifest in different ways. Some obvious physical signs to look for include:

  • Altered sleep and diet patterns.
  • Sometimes sufferers even report stress headaches and fatigue.
  • This can be accompanied by apathy, anger, or even the inability to focus. For the elderly, isolation has been strongly linked to depression and general cognitive decline.
  • A constant bad mood and tiredness in a working mom are not to be ignored.

One of the most common questions I am asked these days is how to recognise a panic attack, anxiety, depression or burnout in ourselves or someone around us. I use a very simple triad framework for this — watch for changes in the physical, mental and emotional aspects of health. Something as simple as a person not taking as good care of their physical appearance or resorting to aggressive behaviour should spark concern.

It circles back to burnout

According to the latest LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index:

  • Every 2 in 5 or 39 per cent of Indian professionals are experiencing increased levels of stress or anxiety.
  • Around 36 per cent of working mothers are finding it difficult to concentrate on work as they tend to children at home, and 1 in 3 is putting in extra hours to afford childcare.

Burnout has three major symptoms — exhaustion or a noticeable reduction in energy levels, apathy or distancing from the things that you once enjoyed doing, and lastly, a drop in productivity and efficiency. When you spot one or more of these symptoms in anyone around you, it is time for action.

How to approach without offending

First off, listen. They are acting out so their actions can be ‘heard’. Be supportive but don’t brush it off as a bad day or something that they can will themselves out of. Don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help, just as you would if they were running a fever. You can show your support in several ways:

  1. Offer to make the first appointment.
  2. Convince them to start journaling (it serves a two-fold purpose by helping document their feelings while providing an outlet for voicing their issues).
  3. Encourage them to exercise and get into a daily routine.

Authored by Champion of Wellbeing, Dr Marcus Ranney.

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