Our lives have changed dramatically in just a few weeks, and the future looks uncertain, hence a certain amount of anxiety is normal. Some people might have responded well to the transition, but it is important to recognise that some employees might still find this new norm difficult.
Staying sane during the lock-down is a matter of planning and caring for ourselves. For some people, self-care is simply about sitting back and treating yourself with compassion. That does not seem like much, but at a time when we are bombarded with terrifying news updates and depressing figures, sitting still might help us get rid of these negative distractions and focus on ourselves.
Self-care is about avoiding overstretching yourself and burning out by setting boundaries mentally, physically, and socially. The triangle of body, mind and soul is the core where self-care is built on. Here, I summarise a few sets of actions for the three parts of the self-care core, that should help you feel rested and more connected to yourself:
Working from home is a great opportunity to eat healthy food. Don’t let the full access to your kitchen tempt you!
Follow these top tips for guaranteed success:
* Plan your meal times – plan out when throughout the day you’re going to eat, just as you schedule the rest of your day. Planning a menu ahead of time will make it easier to avoid eating junk food, which is quick and easy but not good for you.
*Eat away from your work space – try to avoid the temptation to keep working and get as much done as possible, and have a total break from work to help you clear your mind. Being distracted during a meal can lead to over-eating and decreased meal satisfaction and fullness.
*Focus on balanced and nutritious food – it keeps us fuller longer, it helps us focus and it makes us more productive. What we eat impacts our mood and energy level. Focus on protein, fibre, healthy fats, fruits and veggies. You can and should reward yourself though with a sweet snack on Friday after a successful and productive week.
*Drink plenty of water – dehydration can lead to headaches and fatigue, which are both not good for your productivity. Keep water next to your work area at home as you did at the office, stay away from sugar-loaded drinks, and avoid getting overcaffeinated.
*Exercise for at least 30 minutes – studies have shown that doing 30 minutes of exercise in the morning can boost productivity.
*Get at least 7 hours of sleep each day – sleeping the right amount of time keeps you refreshed and energised, and your mind clear for the next day’s tasks.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) are also expecting more people to start experiencing increased levels of anxiety during this uncertain time, and this should not be ignored. On the contrary, anxieties and fears should be acknowledged and addressed by individuals, but also by governments and communities. One of the key factors of experiencing anxiety is a sense of feeling out of control, and especially now this is very likely the main factor.
It is really important to monitor your mental health, especially if you’re prone to anxiety or depression. If you are unable to focus or feel sad or overwhelmed, and you find it hard to function, think of what has worked for you in the past. For example:
*Schedule some ‘me time’ at least twice a week – take some time where you are not focused on achieving anything at all (i.e. having a bath with candles and relaxing music).
*Practice mindfulness and/or deep breathing exercises for at least 10 minutes a day – practising mindfulness and meditation have been scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety, and if practised regularly, can help you feel more in control of your feelings, thoughts and emotions, and protect your immune system.
*Exercise for 20 to 30 minutes daily – it can significantly lower anxiety levels as it boosts endorphins and serotonin and fills your brain with happiness.
*Listen to music – a recent study found that certain songs reduced listeners’ anxiety by 65 percent. It seems like specific melodies can significantly calm stress and anxiety levels. Try out various types of music to see which one calms and relaxes you or makes you more focused and productive.
Humans are social creatures by default, so being at home may feel difficult, especially for those who are extroverted by nature, and enjoy the social aspect of their job. Research has shown that loneliness is one of the world’s most significant risk factors for premature death. If that’s the case, what happens now that people’s freedom of social get-together is severely limited?
It is possible to foster connection and maintain relationships during this time; we just have to use the right tools, be patient, and get used to it!
*Connect with other people – talking to your best friends and loving members of the family is one of the best ways to feel more confident and valued. This is the best time to be thankful for social media, apps like WhatsApp, and even old-fashioned texting. If you need to, or if you feel like someone else might be in need, reach out. Send a message or have a video call and connect, with your parents, your best friend, a colleague, a neighbour. Even if it’s for a minute or two, it can make a difference.
*Invest in relationships that benefit your energy level – if certain people are difficult and drain your energy, preserve yourself and your happiness and cut them off, even if it might be uncomfortable. In case it is not possible to entirely cut off a person, find coping strategies to deal with them without damaging yourself.
To adapt to the current situation, try to think of it not as self-isolating but as self-retreating. The ability to adapt can make us feel that, even though the current global situation is out of our control, we can always choose how to react.
Stay healthy, physically and mentally!
Oh, and if you feel you need some extra support with your academic life at a time when other colleagues or suprvisors might feel miles away, please do get in touch. I’d love to hear from you. You can book a free 30-min slot on my calendar here. Take care!