The UOC’s online Psychological Help Service has started offering its services to all UOC staff again since 20 April and, with a view to providing greater coverage, the number of weekly appointments has been increased.
Today, we’ll be looking at things from the other side of the screen as we chat with Julián Pérez, the new psychologist providing support to all UOC staff who require the service to help them to get to grips with the new normal.
What type of therapy do you provide and what are its benefits?
I use something called brief strategic therapy, which is a sort of intervention model aimed at solving complex problems with seemingly simple solutions.
We look at the solutions already used to solve a problem, which haven’t worked, and we come up with alternative solutions that haven’t been tried before.
We try to understand the workings of the problem rather than the reason why it exists, focusing on the here and now. This way, the user of the service discovers their own strengths and skills and the tools that can help them to continue to grow and avoid future relapses.
What are the main issues or concerns that have arisen in the current situation as a result of COVID-19 or in relation to the coronavirus?
This unexpected situation has given rise to disorders, concerns and fears that many people do not know how to face and which are stopping them from leading full and satisfactory lives.
As regards disorders arising from COVID, we need to remember that this situation has lots of factors that can trigger stress, and it’s a situation that we’ve been in for such a long time now and, very often, we don’t have the techniques that we need to get through it in a healthy way. For example, people who have taken in too much information about COVID-19 or who have received information that’s not age- appropriate can develop a fear of catching it.
During lockdown, the vast majority of the population saw their established routines disrupted and healthy habits replaced by harmful ones, like swapping their diet for a less balanced one, sleep disorders or irregular sleeping patterns, too much screen time and, essentially, a switch towards a sedentary lifestyle. On top of all this, we had to deal with the sense of isolation that we’ve felt due to not being able to communicate face-to-face with our social circle.
People who caught the illness or have relatives who caught it faced social stigma and rejection, and a sense of defencelessness too, because, despite following all the preventive measures, they still managed to catch it.
What advice would you give to reduce the anxiety or stress that can come with telework in exceptional situations like the present?
It may seem obvious, but I would start with planning my work. Working in a disorganized environment leads to an increase in stress factors and delays that can trigger greater levels of anxiety.
We also need to set ourselves clear and realistic goals, so that we can focus on the task at hand and avoid distractions. On this point, it is extremely important to be firm and to communicate what we can do and what we cannot, and when we can get it done by. This is especially relevant when we live with other people, be it our partner or our children, and we have the added difficulty of juggling family life with work obligations.
In these kinds of settings, it is crucial to be able to switch off. When we spend time on our hobbies, on sleeping well and relaxing, we clear our minds and can even come up with creative solutions to tasks that previously seemed impossible to us.
So rest is important, but so too is sport. We don’t often realize this or give it the importance it deserves, but physical and mental health are closely connected.
What do you think are the biggest challenges for e-workers at the UOC?
Well, of course, the most obvious one is digital disconnection. We often use a variety of communication platforms, such as email or our phones, to help dynamize our work. But we can sometimes find ourselves checking these platforms out of working hours, which means that we never really disconnect from work.
The second is computer fatigue. If we don’t use technology correctly and we don’t take breaks to rest our eyes, we can get headaches, fatigue and even, over time, problems with our eyesight.
And then there’s the sense of isolation from work and the psychosocial problems that this brings about. We need to find the time, even if it’s a virtual coffee with our team, to catch up, recharge our batteries and get back to work with that energy boost.
The last of the big challenges is reconciling work with family life. Setting realistic goals, as I mentioned earlier, will help us to get our work done without neglecting loved ones.
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