Social distancing, self-isolation and working from home all mean huge changes to our daily lives.
These can all have a negative impact on our mental health and wellbeing.
With this in mind, I asked some colleagues and my Twitter contacts to share their top tips for protecting their mental health.
I was overwhelmed with the volume and creativity of the responses. I’ve summarised some of these below.
Working from home: get match fit
I didn’t actually focus on working from home, but people did share some of their top tips. These mostly centred around ensuring you were able to work at your best from your home. Suggestions included:
• Sticking to a start and finish time
• Getting dressed as you would for work in the office
• Taking regular breaks
• Ensuring your home workspace is suitable (this is essential)
• Keeping in close contact with colleagues
• Find some suitable background noise if working alone (For me this is BBC 6Music. For others this was white noise, the sea or even chatter).
Find your escapism; keep it near
The first day I was working from home, I had BBC Five Live on constantly. I wanted the background noise and to keep abreast of the news. Taking a walk after work, I listened to a coronavirus podcast. This quickly started to overwhelm me.
The next day, I flicked back over to 6music and swerved current affairs.
When I finish work, I pick up a book instead. Others have recommended an audiobook. Other suggested getting creative.
There are lots of other ways to escape the craziness. My good friend Dan has come up with a brill list of diversions.
But whatever your escapism, find it and keep it near.
Turn off your tech
A few people mentioned the importance of taking a break from your tech. Our always-connected world can be overwhelming.
So, every now and then, make a point of moving away from your device.
This could mean a short break, having evenings off, or removing yourself from group conversations.
Whatever it is, take time to pause.
Exercise your body and mind
Unsurprisingly, people are keen to emphasise the value of exercise, and I really do agree.
From walking to running, to simply getting out in the fresh air, all will help you feel better and keep your brain fit. The links between physical activity and brain health are strong.
As well as keeping physically active, try to keep your mind active. People suggested meditation and practicing calming breathing techniques as ways to do just that.
Fresh Air Fridays have some brilliant tips around mindfulness, breathing, gratitude and connecting with others – however we can.
Sam Dyllon has been providing free guided mediation to Sellafield employees.
In uncertain, chaotic times, it is easy to throw a balanced diet out of the window. While the hit of sugar or the hug of carbs might give us a short-term boost, we’re likely to feel sluggish in the long run.
I know that on my first day working from home, I snacked more than normal. I nipped that in the bud before that started to affect my mental health and feel better for it.
Learn a new skill or take up a new activity
It really is important to keep our minds active. Lots of people suggested that taking up a new skill could be the way to do just this.
Ideas included learning a new language and brushing up on a skill you’ve not used for a while (where did I put that recorder). Others suggested finding out more about a topic of interest. One of the contributors is an artist who will likely have more time to practise their brush strokes.
My partner has got the knitting needles out of the loft.
Whatever takes your fancy, now is probably the time to give it a go.
It’s inevitable that we feel anxious when so many parts of our lives are changing on a daily basis. Planning the things we can control, can help.
This could as simple writing a to do list, or meal planning. We use Gousto for meals during the week, and this has taken a lot of supermarket stress away
Don’t you forget about me
Self-isolation and social distancing can be lonely. But that doesn’t mean you can’t stay in contact with friends and colleagues.
If you’re working from home, book in telephone meetings with your team.
These don’t need to solely be used for work. Why not have a coffee break catch up with a colleague or friend or have a video chat with friends in the evening?
In fact, a colleague suggested that laughter with friends is the one thing that has been keeping her motivated.
The most positive thing I’ve seen since this situation developed is the number of people who are keen to help others.
This ranges from people checking in on vulnerable neighbours to one of my favourite café bars, providing free food to children who would ordinarily have a free school meal. (Well done to the Square Orange in Keswick).
Things you can do from home include donating to charities, supporting businesses (lots of new takeaways are up and running). You could even support a community group. If one doesn’t exist where you are, you could form one.
Even just offering a listening ear to friends that might be struggling is so important.
Thanks and credits
Thanks very much to everyone who provided me with these tips: Alan Rankin, Sam Dyllon, Hilary Royston-Bishop, Lizzie Anderson, Neil Milligan, Claire James, Megan Lake, Claire Tandy, Terri Hargreaves, Sarah Cooper, Lisa Doran, Chris Wood, Tracy Jacklin, Cara Asquith, Emily Bell, Jatinder Sahota, Laura Johnson, Karl Connor, Fresh Air Fridays, Alison Wood, Dan Slee, Leanne Ehren, Sally Northeast and the brilliant Comms Unplugged Headspace group.
Have I missed anything? Drop me a line.