Mental health matters: Be a wellbeing warrior in the new workplace
The workplace has changed beyond recognition in recent weeks. For many of us the office is now our spare room or dining table, and our co-workers are partners, housemates, parents or children. While many are revelling in the new setup – enjoying the lack of commute, a more relaxed routine and quality time with the family – there are inevitable anxieties that come with these unprecedented times.
We may be worried about juggling work and home schooling, or protecting the health of ourselves and our loved ones. Those living – and now working – alone may feel isolated. Looking after our mental health is always important, but it has taken on a new meaning during the current crisis. So, as we approach the end of Mental Health Awareness Week, how can we tackle this issue head on and become warriors of wellbeing in the new workplace?
It’s good to talk, but sometimes silence is golden
It’s no secret talking and connecting with others is positive for your mental wellbeing. Keeping in touch with colleagues and clients even when you are physically distant, is good for you and your business. It may feel like it takes more effort to communicate via phone or video chat, but the benefits are massive. A regular catch-up on Zoom could help you spot when a colleague is struggling, allow you to talk through an issue that has been troubling you, or just share a joke or a useful link.
But don’t be tempted to judge every conversation or feel everything has to be 100 per cent upbeat. Being sympathetic to your colleagues’ ups and downs is also important, as is recognising when someone needs some quiet time to process their thoughts and feelings. The Mental Health Foundation has some great advice on how to nurture your relationships during the coronavirus pandemic.
Make having a routine part of your routine
Having a routine is key to successful and stress-free homeworking, and there are a number of tools and strategies you can use to provide structure to your day. It’s good to create a daily list of actions. Use online planners, calendar updates, coloured Post-its or a written ‘to do’ list; whatever works for you. Setting goals for the short and long term is also a great way to focus your mind, particularly if you are not used to homeworking. What do you want to achieve today, this week, this month? Always make sure these goals are realistic as a long list of things you haven’t done are counterproductive.
Another top tip is to mix things up at the weekend, or at times you aren’t working, and don’t be tempted to let your work and leisure time blur into one. Switch off your computer, only check emails when necessary and even change up your living space if you can, to draw a clear line between ‘work’ and ‘home’ time. And try and build regular exercise, eating and sleep times within your new routine too, as mental wellness and physical wellbeing are very much reliant on each other.
Get your brain and body lockdown fit
Being well-informed at the current time is important, but being over-informed can create anxiety. As part of your new routine, earmark set times to check news sites or other channels. Find a small number of sources you trust and stick with these, and try to avoid misinformation and fake news. If you feel like negative headlines are having an impact on you personally, take a break from them.
We’re all spending much more time on our computers and mobiles right now, so it’s even more important to take regular screen breaks and do something that exercises other parts of our brains and bodies, whether it be running, painting, cooking or meditation. Or you can use your screen time to learn a new skill – start a hobby, learn a language or pick up some DIY tips – which you can then put to practical use.
Venture into the great outdoors
With the rules about what we can do outside our homes shifting, it can be tempting to stay indoors because it’s the easy option. However, getting regular fresh air is important for so many reasons. There’s a wealth of scientific studies about how being outside – and in particular having access to nature or green spaces – helps improve memory, alleviate stress, depression and anxiety, and can even help lower blood pressure and improve vision. Not to mention ensuring you get your daily dose of vitamin D.
From a work perspective, it can boost your energy levels, enhance your ability to focus and improve your creativity. Now restrictions are easing, it’s the perfect time to get outside regularly – within the current guidelines – as it will help us feel rejuvenated and better equipped when we get back to our desks.
Embrace having more time on your hands, but don’t get ‘project fear’
One positive outcome from the current situation is it has given many of us the opportunity to do things we wouldn’t normally have time for. This could be spending more time with immediate family, decluttering our homes, volunteering or learning a new skill. Making the most of this time provides us with respite from the worrying scenarios created by this unique set of circumstances.
But if revamping your entire house, writing a novel, or training for a marathon all sound like a step too far, then don’t worry. Catching up on that box set or regularly reaching out to a relative or friend is just as important. We should all take comfort in celebrating our achievements at this time, however big or small.
For more help and ideas on looking after your mental wellbeing, check out Mind’s website. The Mental Health Foundation also offers support and resources, along with information on Mental Health Awareness Week, and its 2020 theme of kindness.