Skip to main content

Alumni thought-piece: How software development can support mental health during a pandemic

Gemma Harvey Article_CSG Artwork

The past year has been a very tricky one to navigate. It’s been full of so many highs and lows, but it’s safe to say that the Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll on us, both physically and mentally. Here, Brunel class of 2019 Design alumna, Gemma Harvey - now a Digital Marketing Executive for Clever Software Group - shares her thoughts and four ways that software development can support mental health during a pandemic.

Alumni thought-piece by Gemma Harvey:

At Clever Software Group we have had to move to remote working; being a close-knit team, we are used to spending time outside of work and socialising with each other. Unfortunately, due to the current circumstances, this hasn’t been able to happen for a while. Instead, we have had to adapt and find new ways of checking-in with each other. Every morning, we have a call with the whole Clever Software team - not only does this give an overview of what projects and tasks are taking place, but also allows everyone to have a catch up and make sure everyone’s doing as well as they possibly can during this time.

We’re a bespoke software development company, so the transition to working from home was a relatively smooth one. However, for so many others, that hasn’t been the case; in a time of such uncertainty, it’s essential that we all take care of our minds, as well as our bodies.

Here are four examples of how the software development world has helped support mental health over the last year and tips on how we can nourish our mental wellbeing and practice some self-care:

1. Keeping your mind and body active

Whilst we’re having to spend long periods of time stuck indoors at home, it’s important to get outside and embrace a change of scenery. We’ve all experienced a sense of cabin fever over the past year, so a breath of fresh air will do a world of good.

During the first half of 2020, downloads of health and fitness apps increased by a staggering 50%. The progression of software development has allowed these apps to use GPS to track our exercise routes and enable us to challenge ourselves. Strava, one of the leading fitness tracking services, saw a rise of 2 million new users on average each month in 2020. Strava’s GPS software has not only encouraged people to get outside and improve their personal best, but has also created a bigger online community for like-minded people to interact and embrace the social aspect of fitness apps.

Getting outside will act as a welcome relief for so many of us; it could be something as simple as spending 5 minutes in the garden as a small reset, going for a walk, or progressing and going on a jog or run.

2. Take a break from social media

It’s something we’ve all heard hundreds of time - put down your phone and step away from social media. As screen time hit an all-time high in 2020, the increase in our social media usages didn’t have an overly positive impact on our mental health.

On average, we each spend 1 hour and 40 minutes jumping from one social media app to the next. As much as social software and apps have allowed us to remain connected, studies have shown that extensive periods of exposure can increase the feeling of anxiety and stress. This doesn’t mean that we need to say goodbye to social software on a permanent basis, but instead be mindful of how much time we’re spending scrolling. Instead, prioritise other activities you enjoy doing. Perhaps start reading a new book, simply make a cup of tea or go for a walk. Even the smallest amount of time spent away from social media can help refresh our mindsets, enhance our self-esteem, and improve our overall mood.

3. Check in with loved ones

A large proportion of us wanted nothing more than to get together last year and enjoy each other’s company, when it was seemingly impossible. Because we’re not allowed to see each other physically, it’s so important we keep in contact virtually. Allow yourself time to check in with friends and family, even if it’s a quick 5-minute call. 2020 saw a surge in the use of video-call software, such as Zoom, enabling us to be as connected as possible in a socially distant time.

Hopefully in the not too distant future, we will be able to reunite with our nearest and dearest in person, but for now, we must still utilise real-time video calls to catch up with one another. Now more than ever, it’s so valuable to make time to call a loved one and have a virtual cup of coffee - it’ll allow a structure to your day, something to look forward to, and help maintain your mental wellbeing.

4. Utilise mental health chatbots - they’re free! 

Software and technology development are rapidly advancing in the field of mental health and psychology. Various tech-based mental health support and treatments have emerged over the past few years, including apps such as Woebot.

Woebot is a piece of software that has been developed as a real-time AI chatbot that uses basic cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) methods to help challenge anxieties and everyday stresses. Studies have shown that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on the increase of anxiety and depression worldwide. Woebot has been developed to use therapeutic clinical expertise that includes AI advancement, to help users challenge, motivate and learn better outcomes for their anxieties.

Woebot is a free app, accessible for anyone - so why not download it, start thought challenging and reframing anxieties.

Read more about Gemma’s career journey:

Learn more about Gemma’s career journey since graduating from Brunel in her #IamBrunel alumni profile.