As the uncertainty continues, and we are starting to forget which day of the week it is (or even if days of the week and undergarments still exist), it’s easy to start to feel a bit helpless and not in control of our daily schedule. As the initial shock of the pandemic starts to be replaced with the realisation we could be in this for the long haul, and we start to adapt and form new behaviour patterns, there are several things we can do to ensure our health and well-being remain a priority whilst working from home.
At this precise moment, lock down currently consists of everyone except key workers being required to stay and work at home, only surfacing from the abyss for daily exercise, weekly shopping trips or other essential journeys, gatherings of no more than two people, and from one household, are allowed to be outdoors, plus if you go out, there is a requirement to stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people at all times. Phew! That’s a lot to adapt to.
When you then factor in adjusting to your new work patterns and facilitating your children’s (if you have any) daily care and learning, it can become a fast-track journey to Stress City.
We are humans, we like certainty. We have a need to feel safe and to know what’s around the corner so we can plan and adapt effectively. With all these new rules and expectations, which may change continuously in the days, weeks and months ahead, and as we adapt and learn, it’s important to recognise the things we can control, and utilise our own individual coping mechanisms and strategies.
Below are 6 key strategies that can help you adjust to your own personal ‘new normal’:
1. Control – Separate what you can control from what you can’t. Much of our anxiety comes from feeling out of control, such as from external factors, other people’s behaviour and what’s on you news feed etc, but by focusing on those things we can control, such as our own responses to events and situations, our diet (apart, of course, from pasta, who’d have thought THAT would become a luxury item?), our daily routine and our ‘checking in’ processes.
2. What’s a checking in process? – We should be checking in with ourselves daily anyway, but even more so at a time of uncertainty. Checking in involves going through a short tick list to make sure we have clarity over our thoughts and processes:
Check 1: How am I feeling? Am I feeling OK, calm and in control, or am I feeling overwhelmed for instance? Become aware of how you are feeling and focus (not for too long) on that feeling.
Check 2: Why am I feeling this way? If I am feeling anxious, can I pinpoint the reason?
Check 3: Can I do anything about it? If yes, take action. Do something, no matter how small, towards alleviating the anxiety. If no, then just let it go. There is no point holding on to anxiety or thoughts about issues which are out of our control. To help release the thought, focus on something you can control, like exercise, completing a small task you’ve been meaning to get around to, anything that takes you away from the anxious thought and focuses your mind elsewhere.
“It’s not about transforming, fixing, evolving or improving whatever is going on right now, it’s about widening our capacity to work with it, in our own unique way” – Barry Allard, Happy As Barry
3. Remember to breathe – It seems silly reminding you to breathe, we all have to do it, but most of the time during a stressful situation, when we are not focusing on our breathing, we are actually doing it a bit wrong. Our breathing is affected by everything we do. When we sleep, our breathing becomes heavier and deeper, allowing our bodies to take over from our conscious mind and complete its healing processes. When we are relaxed our breathing becomes slower, more rhythmic and calmer, allowing a better supply of oxygen into our systems.
When we feel anxiety or stress, or breathing can often become erratic and uneven, and whilst we probably are not aware when this is happening a lot of the time, it can actually create even more stress as our body subconsciously goes into ‘fight or flight mode’. When we practice mindfulness and concentrate on taking slow, deep breathes, it is often all it takes to regain a sense of composure and calmness. Try it several times throughout your day and see what happens.
4. Don’t fight exhaustion – Even when we are not doing much, the overwhelming magnitude of a crisis can create exhaustion from just trying to mentally process everything. Its OK not to feel productive at certain times of the day. Its OK to take breaks and do nothing in order to re-calibrate. If our body is trying to tell us when it feels most tired and when it feels most able to complete certain tasks, then listen. It may be making its own adjustments to the situation. If you absolutely have to complete set tasks due to work pressures for example, it’s really important to take short breaks, drink lots of fluids, and take regular pauses away from your desk or workspace. You’d be surprised how much more you can get done by doing this.
5. Take regular exercise – Going out for a walk or run in the fresh air, doing a quick workout or a short yoga or Pilates routine will not only keep you fit and healthy, it is also vital for a healthy mindset. We need the endorphins released from regular exercise to keep our well-being and mental health in check, and it’s even more important when in an isolation situation to ensure regular exercise is part of our routine.
6. Stay connected – Whether it’s through checking in on work colleagues, making sure you are part of team catch ups, calling a friend or relative or just shouting over your fence to your neighbours, staying connected to the outside world is really important to ensure you don’t get lost in your own pile of ‘stuff’. Distractions are important and should be just as much a part of our daily routine as everything else.
We don’t know how long this situation will play out for, and currently, we are living in an ongoing state of uncertainty, but what is certain is that life as we knew it before the pandemic will never be quite the same again. Large global crises often trigger a push towards better coping strategies, more effective processes and, as we are seeing here, a better global work-life balance. Once things do return to a more ‘normal’ routine, let’s take a moment consider which of the previous normal practices are worth returning to, and lets ensure that we use the time we have in isolation and quarantine to practice better work-life balance techniques that see us emerging stronger, happier and more resilient human beings.
Original article can be found on Greenacre Recruitment's Insights page. For more insights into Leadership, Performance and Change Management, Diversity & Inclusion and other current housing industry topics join me over at Greenacre's site by following the link, or follow me across social media to join in the conversation.