Most of us have been aware of the Every Mind Matters campaign for some time, although I guess its usefulness as a coping mechanism has become far more apparent over the last couple of months, since the Corona Virus pandemic became big, ugly bad news for us all, to the point we’re all searching for new ways to maintain our sanity right now!
For those not aware, Every Mind Matters is a national mental health platform from Public Health England which hosts some incredibly useful, helpful FREE resources (articles; exercises; video clips; tips & ideas etc) for gaining &/or maintaining our emotional health & wellbeing – both at work and at home. Its website has almost fallen over in recent times, with the sheer volume of visitors to its super useful platform and I for one, would highly recommend a visit here: NHS Every Mind Matters
When you next take a break from home-working, or you find yourself with an urge to exercise your mind (in a really good way) if you’re furloughed right now, try out the Your Mind Plan Quiz – just 5 simple questions gets you to your own personalised plan of half a dozen simple ideas to maintain your mental health. They’re all quick and easy ways to boost your emotional well-being, like creating a gratitude log (list 3 things you’re thankful for each day); doing a 10 min home workout; relaxing your muscles from tip to toe with a clever little audio exercise or setting specific times aside each day or evening to chat with friends on Zoom or Skype or any video channel that makes you feel closer to others, as if you’re actually there in the room with them!
Then there’s your 7 simple tips to tackle working from home, which for those of us who’ve been used to donning the work gear each morning, doing the same road or bus or train route each day to & fro and going through the same routine at the office each day, this has come as quite a shock to the system.
It’s fair to say that life has become more difficult for everyone right now. Coronavirus has changed everything, and we’re all struggling to adjust to new ways of living and working. While there are definitely some benefits to home-working during this pandemic (you still HAVE a job right!?) stress levels can easily skyrocket, especially if you are juggling other priorities in the home environment, such as kids and partners and other adults working from home too.
Public Health England advise these 7 simple strategies to create a more harmonious home working environment for the whole family – these simple tips can help you adjust to working at home, feel more productive and take care of your own emotional wellbeing in these unprecedented times:
1. Establish a Routine!
It’s really important to set up and follow a steady schedule during lockdown. Follow your normal work and sleep patterns – set your alarm as usual, eat breakfast, and GET OUT OF YOUR PJs! Even if you change into a different pair of PJs, it’s important to change your physical, physiological, emotional and practical being during your home-working hours each day.
Schedule your normal commute time doing exercise or reading or listening to music or meditation, before logging onto the day’s schedule. Most importantly, stop your workday at your normal time each day and properly stop working! Shut down, stop checking emails and focus on your home life and make space for personal time to unwind and try to get to bed at your usual time each night. We are all creatures of habit and healthy habits like work and home routines are GOOD to continue at times of uncertainty such as this.
2. Create a Dedicated Workspace
When we live and work in the same space, the lines between business and life can get easily blurred, which can cause a whole manner of emotions from stress and anxiety to resentment and frustration. Try to allocate a room or specific space in the house dedicated purely to your working day. It can be re-converted to your living room, bedroom, spare room etc at the end of the working day, just as long as it remains your place of work during your working hours.
Get everything you need in one place before you start work – chargers, pens, notebook etc. and shut the door if you can and get comfortable. While it might be tempting to sit on the sofa, it’s much better to sit at a desk or table. If you don’t have actual office furniture like an adjustable chair, try using things like cushions to support you in your chair, or a box as a footrest.
3. Take a Break!
Working at home can make us feel like we have to be available all the time, however just being ‘present’ is no use to anyone if your mental health is suffering! Making time for breaks is important to help manage feelings of stress – try to take lunch and regular screen breaks. Give yourself time to concentrate on something else so you feel more focused when you return. Even just 5 to 10 minutes of short breaks each hour can really help your productivity too. If possible, set a time to go for a walk and get some fresh air (observing social distancing rules naturally )
Working from home means you might be spending a lot more time without moving your body. If you’re feeling stiff or tense, try doing some light stretching or a short HIIT session or workout routine (the NHS website has a fabulous little 10 min rapid workout you might like to try!)
4. Stay connected!
Feeling isolated is normal right now for almost all of us and there are lots of ways to stay in touch with those who matter to us – so that we boost both their, and our own emotional wellbeing.
In and out of work, human interaction matters. Schedule video calls and pick up the phone instead of emailing. If you’re struggling with working at home, then speak to your colleagues or manager about your concerns – remember, your colleagues probably feel the same as you, so lean on each other for moral support during this strange time! Ask how they’re doing and whether there are ways you can support each other. Make time to socialise virtually – schedule in a digital coffee break or Friday online get-together. Many of my clients are setting aside one virtual get together a week, aside from their daily team meetings, to have a fun session – play a game or do a quiz or creative activity – it’s good to have fun at work every now and then, remember!?
5. Set Boundaries!
Setting boundaries with other members of your household is key to EVERYONE’S wellbeing while working at home. You can be more flexible when working from home, so enjoy the freedom that home-working can bring. Recognise however, that it can also be difficult if there are new distractions to deal with, like children at home, who may think you are on holiday and want to spend time with you!
Have a discussion about your needs, especially with family. Remind them that you still have work to do and need quiet time to do it – and share your schedule with other family members so that everyone can respect the time you need to complete your ‘day-job’ and even if you have ‘little people’ round you, who may be too young to understand, create fun ‘keep out’ signs and make a paper clock to show them the time you’ll finish when they can barge in with Mummy or daddy and invade your space, for all the right reasons at the right time!
Similarly, set boundaries with work. It’s easier to stay logged on when your home is your office, however, try to switch off from work when the day is over and enjoy time with family & friends at home – virtually or otherwise.
6. Think Ahead!
We may have to work from home for a while longer yet, so think about ways to improve how you’re working from home and set a proper working day schedule in place. If you have a garden, could you work there if the weather is warm? Or maybe agree with your Manager to work in shorter chunks of time in the working day or week, to accommodate family life or other home priorities?
Try to explore how you work with others – are there different ways to talk online or new software you could use? It’s totally fine if you don’t get everything absolutely right straightaway. It takes time to get used to juggling a new work-life balance.
7. Be Kind to Yourself!
Remember, this is an unusual situation and things will not feel normal at this present time! Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that you might not be as productive as you usually would be. Be realistic about what you can achieve, given the circumstances and relax when your work is done. Taking care of your mind as well as your body is really important while staying at home – we have a responsibility to ourselves, as well as to the outside world by staying at home, however – we must ensure that we are protecting our emotional health and wellbeing at the same time.
You may well feel a whole range of emotions, from boredom, frustration and loneliness to worry, anxiety and concern about your finances, your health or those close to you. It’s important to remember that it is OK to feel this way and that everyone reacts differently. Remember, this situation is temporary and, for most of us, these feelings will pass. Staying at home may be difficult, but you are helping to protect yourself and others by doing it.
Ensure you take care of yourself this week – give yourself a break; take that 10 min relaxation class; eat that piece of good-quality chocolate; drink that glass of vino or ice-cool beer; spend time fooling around with your kids &/or loved ones; have that video-call with your bestie; cook that meal you’ve been wanting to try out for some time now; read that book or magazine; watch that bit of trashy TV you’ve never allowed yourself to watch before; take a long soak in a scented bubble bath; curl your hair; play the games; do the crosswords and take part in the online quizzes. Remember – this too shall pass, so don’t sweat the small stuff OK!?
Next time, we’ll take look at how we can manage our physical and emotional health and wellbeing if we’re furloughed or have lost our job completely and may be finding this whole social distancing and self-isolating situation very challenging, as we come to terms with our fate at this time.
Just remember – we are all in this together and we WILL get through this, because ‘this too shall pass’ and who knows, we may even come out the other side a better human race as a result!
Until next week – stay safe, stay sane and stay FIT