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COVID-19: Eight tips for staying in good mental and physical health during this challenging time


Most of us have had our work patterns turned upside down by the measures that have been implemented to fight COVID-19. For the many members of the CERN personnel who are now teleworking, “home”, which was previously a private space, has become “the office”, which can be difficult for some of us to cope with, especially when children are around. Wherever we’re working, we’re dealing with an unusual situation that requires us to make certain adjustments.

To help you maintain in good physical and mental health during this difficult time, here are eight tips based on real situations encountered in the last few weeks. All these tips, as well as the HR department’s anti-isolation measures, can be found on the “Work Well Feel Well” web page.

If you need support on a specific issue, the following services are also available to you:

  • The COVID-19 helpline: +41 22 766 77 77
  • The Medical Service: +41 22 767 31 86 / medical.service@cern.ch
  • The CERN psychologist, Christiane Reis (appointments can be made through the Medical Service) 

We wish you all well – keep in good health and high spirits!

(Image: CERN)

Eight essential tips:

1. To stay connected to others, contact your colleagues, friends and family regularly.
Regardless of your lifestyle, changes to your usual social and professional environment can induce a deep feeling of isolation. To stay connected to others, why not join a couple of groups on social networks to discuss subjects you’re interested in? Consider organising regular videoconferences with your colleagues or friends and family: talking face to face, even via a screen, helps maintain social ties. We also invite you to consult the HR department’s anti-isolation measures in this leaflet.

2. To reduce stress, structure your days, take regular breaks and adapt your daily life to the current situation.
If you’re teleworking, it’s advisable to keep to an “office” rhythm as far as possible: get up at your usual time, get ready and dress as if you’re going to work (staying in your pyjamas can have a negative impact on both your morale and your work). Try to establish a realistic but structured schedule and stick to it throughout the week, especially if you have children. Decide in advance what time your working day starts and ends and factor in your (essential) coffee and lunch breaks: don’t hesitate to set alarms to remind yourself that it’s time for a break or to encourage you to switch off your computer when your working day is over. Use your leave entitlements. Even though you can’t go away on holiday and have to stay at home, it’s essential to your well-being and health that you take a break and stop thinking about work for a few days.

3. To banish feelings of powerlessness, plan your day as precisely as possible.
The aim is to set yourself objectives and allocate specific (and realistic) timeslots to each task. At the end of the day, go over what you’ve achieved and plan your objectives for the following day. Of course, it’s not always possible to know in advance how much time a given task will take. Be gentle with yourself if you haven’t met all your objectives and adjust your goals for the following days.

4. To stay productive and maintain a healthy balance, keep your private and professional lives separate.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a home office, but anyone can create a dedicated work area at home, even if it’s just the kitchen table. Define your space and remove everything from it that isn’t related to work. Gather together what you need: chargers, headphones, notebook, pen, telephone, bottle of water and snacks if necessary. The goal is to not have to leave your workspace 10 times a day to look for something you need. Mentally, it’s important to get into “work” or “home” mode and not mix the two (schedule personal phone calls outside “work” hours, for example).

5. Look after your mental and physical health with daily physical and relaxation exercises.
During the lockdown, the number of fitness classes, yoga and meditation sessions and other similar options available online has gone through the roof: make the most of it! Build one or more exercise or relaxation sessions into your weekly schedule. Don’t forget to look at the CERN clubs web page, as some of the clubs are offering online exercise classes open to all, including non-members. If possible, try to go for a walk every day to get some fresh air and sunshine, or sit by the window.

6. Choose your media sources carefully and purposefully.
Too much information or information of low quality creates anxiety. Limit the time you spend glued to the news and choose your information sources carefully. Decide, for example, to watch, listen to or read one news summary per day from a source that you trust and rate highly, and ignore all the rest (in particular, deactivate notifications on your smartphone).

7. To keep your energy levels up and stay positive, spend some time on creative activities.
Even if your days are busy, it’s important to set aside some time for creative activities. Do some DIY, arts and crafts or knitting, take an online course, organise parties and dinners online, and so on. Be creative and invent new sources of entertainment at home!

8. Keep to regular mealtimes and opt for a light, balanced and varied diet to keep your energy levels up.
If you’ve followed our tips up to this point, your days should already be well structured: breakfast, lunch, (snack-time?) and dinner should be at the same time throughout the week. We also encourage you to eat light meals, especially if, due to the lockdown, you can’t take as much physical exercise as usual.