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Coronavirus and Judicial Wellbeing

Coronavirus and Judicial WellbeingThe Coronavirus pandemic has delivered sudden change and uncertainty to everybody in the community, and introduced new challenges and anxieties into the already complex working lives of judicial officers. The purpose of this web-resource is to cut through the noise, and curate a careful selection of relevant and trusted resources for judicial officers and those working alongside them on the following topics:

We will continue to update and refresh these resources throughout the pandemic. 

Also:

  • Victorian judicial officers have 24/7 access to free, confidential counselling and support through the Judicial Officers Assistance Program. Call 1300 326 941
  • A range of materials and supports directed to maintaining wellbeing through the Coronavirus period are available to judicial officers and court staff through the Courts Services Victoria intranet.
  • We would love to hear from you. To send us your thoughts, suggestions, experiences and questions relating to judicial wellbeing through the pandemic, please email the Judicial Wellbeing Team

Staying in role

Issues

  • Role clarity is a well-established cornerstone of professional wellbeing, and a protective factor against occupational hazards such as vicarious trauma and burnout.
  • Judicial role clarity, and thereby the sustainability of judicial work, has historically been supported by a range of rituals and structures, from the architecture of the courtroom to the conventions of court hearings. In lockdown, the task of judging continues in the absence of many of these rituals and structures. 
  • In addition, working more from home has entailed a blurring of the boundaries between work and personal lives, with many judicial officers having to bring troubling case materials and evidence into their homes.  

Strategies

  • The consistent advice from experts is to consciously establish a new work routine - one that builds in healthy habits, regular start and finish times, and daily connection with colleagues.
  • Bookend the working day with ‘transition rituals’. Transition rituals are simple processes that bring to consciousness the psychological change in and out of the judicial role - and can include: taking 5 deep breaths, changing clothes, consciously saying to ourselves ‘I am stepping into / out of my work role now’.  
  • To consciously connect with ‘role competence’ and your sense of professional efficacy, incorporate a simple daily ritual of writing down what you accomplished over the course of the day, or “I have…, I did…., I can…”
  • Remember that you are not alone - judges all over the world are grappling with the same challenges and collectively maintaining the integrity of the judicial role. 

Resources

  • What is the shadow I am casting - 10 questions from Dr Peter Shaw, UK Leadership Coach who has worked extensively with leading judges in the UK and Australia, to ask yourself as you continue your role under these very changed circumstances.  
  • Get dressed and set goals - a short article from The Conversation on the routines not to break when working from home. 
     

Screen fatigue

Issues

  • Evidence shows that, although technology saves us time and allows us to remain connected, it also increases fatigue.
  • Virtual communication requires the brain to be ‘hyper-focussed’ on verbal cues, due to the loss of non-verbal cues.
  • The brain is required to ‘decode’ a high volume of unfamiliar stimuli which increases fatigue. 
  • The use of technology can also affect our eyes, described as ‘Computer Vision Syndrome’. This contributes to the feeling of fatigue associate with technology.

Strategies 

  • Computer Vision Syndrome can be managed with the ’20-20-20’ strategy, which suggests that for every 20 minutes of screen use, users should focus on a point 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • A sector with a longer history of managing screen fatigue is Air Traffic Control. The industry standards recommend that workers do not have a period of two hours without a break of at least 30 minutes. This can be extended on a pro rata basis (15 mins for every hour worked) if the workload pressures demand it. 

Resources

Anxiety and worry

Issues

  • Anxiety and worry are common experiences at the best of times, especially among high achieving, highly conscientious people.
  • Ambiguity, unfamiliarity and unpredictability are well-known triggers of worry. They are also defining features of the Coronavirus pandemic.
  • When anxiety intensifies or persists, it can interfere with our social and occupational functioning, and our capacity to problem solve.

Strategies

  • The resources below are detailed guides prepared by psychologists for managing anxiety during the Coronavirus period, and each includes a range of evidence-based strategies.
  • Behavioural strategies include organising a daily routine that involves a balance of activities that give you a sense of achievement, help you feel close and connected to others (albeit within restrictions), and provide some experience of pleasure.
  • Cognitive strategies include focusing our energy on what is ‘real’ and within our control, and challenging worries that are ‘hypothetical’ or outside our sphere of influence. 
  • Other strategies include mindfulness, self-compassion, values-driven action (some additional resources on these practices are under Self-Care, Compassion and Mindfulness below). 

Resources

Grief

Issues

  • Collectively, we are experiencing grief.
  • This grief includes grieving loss of connection, mastery and professional efficacy, changes to the economy and our sense of ‘normal’.
  • We are also experiencing anticipatory grief, fearing about the future impacts of coronavirus.
  • Failing to recognise this grief has led to experiences of disenfranchised grief, which can enhance feelings of isolation for those experiencing it.

Strategies

  • It is important to recognise and name the grief we are feeling.
  • Acceptance allows us to find control in the situation. This helps us to manage our grief.
  • We shouldn’t ignore grief; however, we need to find a balance in our thinking. 

Resources

Coming in and out of isolation

Issues

  • The pandemic has brought about sudden changes to our everyday life, and it is likely that there will be an ebbing and flowing of restrictions over the months ahead.   
  • Studies indicate that stressors associated with self-isolation and quarantine include ‘longer quarantine duration, infection fears, frustration, boredom, inadequate supplies, inadequate information, financial loss, and stigma.’ These stressors can have long-lasting effects, if not properly addressed.
  • Humans have a biological need to form bonds with others and this need is not met in isolation.
  • In addition, coming out of isolation entails its own anxiety, and the prospect of ongoing change and adjustment is unsettling.

Strategies

  • It is important to take steps to manage our mental health, including stay connected with our loved ones whilst in isolation. 
  • We should look for creative ways to connect with others in a way that satisfies our need for connection.
  • We should also establish healthy routines and engage in activities that we enjoy whilst we are self-isolating.
  • It is also helpful to focus on the broader purpose of self-isolation: protecting the community.

Resources

Supporting your family

Issues

  • Talking to our children about Coronavirus is complex and can trigger anxiety in some children.
  • The change to routine may be disruptive for children and create extra pressure for families. 
  • There may also be disruption to our children’s regular healthy routines, including sleep, healthy eating and screen time. 

Strategies

  • It is important for parents to start the conversation, rather than waiting for children to start the conversation. 
  • Using age-appropriate language, and choosing the right time and tone for the discussion will ensure the messages are understood.
  • Encourage questions and an open discussion.
  • It is important to try and create new routines, to minimise disruption to children’s healthy habits.

Resources

Physical fitness

Issues

  • Judicial work has always been sedentary, but the Coronavirus restrictions have meant that many of us are sitting more and moving less than we would usually.
  • Out usual routines and places of physical exercise may not be available to us, and incidental exercise is dramatically reduced.
  • Meanwhile, we may find ourselves eating and drinking more, as other forms of entertainment, comfort and pleasure are limited.

Strategies

  • The World Health Organisation recommends that over the course of a week, adults undertake 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise, as well as 3-4 minutes of light movement or stretching every few hours.
  • With gyms and classes all closed, exercise videos have filled the vacuum. Here we recommend two websites offering a library of free video classes for general exercise and yoga. 

Resources

  • Blender fitness - a broad selection of short, professional fitness classes and programs. This is a free resource and the classes are designed to be completed in the home without equipment 
  • Yoga with Adrienne - a series of free, online yoga classes, varying in length and style, from beginners to advanced.  
  • Healthy at Home: Physical activity - advice from the World Health Organisation about the physical activity requirements for different ages.   
     

Self-care, compassion and mindfulness

Issues

  • The state of the world is rapidly changing due to Coronavirus and this rapid change can take a toll on our mental and physical health.
  • We may be unable to be as productive and efficient under the changed working conditions as we were before
  • It is important that we take practical steps to manage our mental health so we can reduce anxiety and stay connected and grounded.

Strategies

  • Practical steps can include mindfulness practice, self-compassion and other meditation practices to cultivate acceptance and groundedness

Resources

  • Self-Compassion meditation - a series of short, guided mediations for mindful self-compassion from, Chris Germer, a clinical psychologist and co-developer of the mindful self-compassion framework.  
  • Self-compassion test - a ‘self-test’ to provide insight into our own level of self-compassion. 
  • Smiling Mind app - the leading mindfulness meditation app in Australia.