The emergence of the coronavirus pandemic has led to massive changes and challenges for us all. Learning to adjust to new ways of living and working has been difficult and whilst there are great benefits (no commute, flexible working etc), feelings of anxiety, stress and uncertainty have become increasingly common. More of us will be spending a great deal of time at home and our regular social activities may not be available. It’s completely normal to experience these feelings during these times, but it’s also important to stay informed on how to support your mental health and manage your well-being, especially when working from home.
Try out these simple tips:
1) Avoid speculation and manage how you follow the outbreak in the media
It’s important to keep informed on the news to ensure you are up to date with the latest guidelines, however due to the extensive news coverage on the pandemic, it is vital to limit your news intake. Most media outlets are well known for sensationalising, so it might help to stick to one or two authentic sources. Speculation fuels anxiety, so having access to good quality information can help you to feel more in control.
There are also a number of great apps that help to limit screen time; one notable app is called Hold, where you earn points and rewards for not using your phone for periods of time.
Although it is important to stay updated, it is key to manage HOW you stay updated. By limiting your news intake, sticking to authentic sources and reducing screen time, you will feel more in control.
2) Set up a dedicated space
As tempting as the sofa and bed sounds, AVOID AT ALL COSTS.
It’s important to sit at a desk or table with a chair in order to maintain a healthy posture. The NHS offer guidelines on how to sit at your desk correctly. Being comfortable is important as this does impact productivity.
Try to designate a place to work without distractions, away from the TV in a quiet space. If you’re living in a small space, there are various creative ways to create a dedicated space, such as using a foldable desk and chair, a wall desk or space-saving boxes to store office equipment. For ideas on how to create your own dedicated space, check out Ideal Home’s tips.
A great way to spruce up your space is by adding house plants, which are thought to reduce stress and anxiety by inducing positive, comfortable feelings.
Taking pride in your own dedicated space will help you to achieve a greater sense of wellbeing.
3) Set a routine for working at home
Working from home can be very challenging, particularly when faced with distractions and temptations. However, it is vital to maintain your usual working habits and have a structure in place as it helps to ensure productivity. Avoid working in your PJ’s all day as this can blur the lines between personal and work time. Following normal patterns such as waking up at a set time, getting ready in the morning and setting tasks for the day is essential in leading a productive day. Ensure that you regularly use your diary to set clear tasks for the day/week as this will make it easier to pinpoint
Although it’s essential to stick to your usual routine, working from home does allow for flexibility, so spend your ‘commute’ time on an activity/hobby.
Remember – when your workday stops, STOP WORKING. Close your laptop, get into some comfortable clothes and enjoy your evening.
4) Give yourself a break
It’s vital to take breaks when working from home in order to feel more focused. You may feel like you have to be available all the time but making time for breaks is important in managing feelings of stress. Ensure that you take regular screen breaks of 5-10 minutes in which you should give yourself something else to focus on. Short breaks throughout the day aid your
Working from home means that you are likely to spend more time without moving your body, so it’s important to incorporate a form of exercise (walk, run, bike ride etc) either on your short breaks or lunch break. Why not try out a 10-minute home workout?
5) Connect with colleagues
Working from home can feel lonely but it doesn’t have to be! Find creative ways to keep in touch with colleagues such as virtual coffee mornings or Friday get-togethers on Teams. Engaging with your team is so important in keeping up morale. Instead of emailing, pick up the phone or schedule a video call; there are a variety of platforms out there such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom.
Remember that other colleagues may also be feeling lonely/isolated, so it’s important to ask how your colleagues are doing and see if there are ways that you can support each other. This can be anything from a supportive text message to sharing a cup of tea over Teams to discussing the latest episode of Great British Bake Off.
Regularly connecting with colleagues is vital in uplifting spirits and is also thought to have a positive impact on productivity.
6) Try to anticipate distress
It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and anxious but it’s also important to acknowledge those feelings. Anticipating when you feel distressed may help you to deal with it accordingly. When you are starting to experience signs of distress, it’s good to practice self-care techniques to avoid the feeling from developing further. Good examples of self-care techniques include meditation, watering plants, going for a walk, taking a bath etc…
Mind offer various tips on self-care techniques for combatting distress. It’s important to find which technique works best for you, so that you are able to better manage those feelings of anxiety.
If you’re feeling stressed about work, take a 10-minute break and practice your self-care technique (be realistic about what you can achieve given the circumstances).
There is also a great grounding technique called 5,4,3,2,1 which helps to control distress by shifting attention away from your thoughts. This technique involves listing your surroundings using each of your senses.
7) Focus on your health, sleep, diet and exercise
Looking after yourself is a #1 priority. In order to achieve an optimal state of being, you must focus on all 4 factors (health, sleep, diet and exercise) as they all correlate. Optimising them in order of priority will help you to identify which factors require immediate improvement for better wellbeing.
If you struggle with sleep, there are various methods you can try; Mental Health Foundation offer tips on how to sleep well. It’s important to set a routine (aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, weekend included as this will help to regulate your body clock). Avoid using technology an hour before bed and listen to relaxing music as this will induce calm, relaxing feelings, making it easier to fall asleep.
Try to focus on all 4 factors and ensure that you incorporate exercise and dieting daily.
8) See it as a different period in your life, even if you didn’t choose it
Changing your perspective and viewing this period as a new, unusual experience is likely to reduce unwanted feelings of stress and anxiety.
Create a new daily routine that prioritises looking after yourself. Find a good balance between work and personal time and try out new hobbies that you can do at home. You could try reading more, try out new recipes, schedule a yoga class on Teams with your friends or redecorate the home. It’s important to set small, achievable goals each week so that you know what you are working
towards and you can track your progress.
Remember to be kind to yourself. This is an unusual situation and things will not feel normal! It’s inevitable to feel a certain amount of anxiety and distress relating to the pandemic, however it is important to learn how to combat it. What self-care techniques work for you?
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If you are experiencing signs of depression, anxiety or distress, and don’t feel comfortable reaching out to friends or family, there are a number of great charities that can provide help: