Ways to keep your mind healthy during COVID-19 lockdown
26th March 2020
Times of uncertainty can take their toll on our mental health – especially as we’re being thrown out of our normal routines - so here are a few tips to try and help you come to terms with your new surroundings, written by Viridor’s Director of Power Portfolio Management Mark Knights.
Mark has worked for Viridor for more than five years and is also the founder of a mental wellbeing project called EnergyMind.
Just about everything about our daily lives has been turned on its head in the past week – some of us are sharing kitchen tables and home office desks with housemates and family members, while others are working in isolation.
With that comes a few extra pressures which are different to what we’ve been used to.
I think it’s important right now that we don’t drift in our thoughts too much or let all the hype of the pandemic get to us. One of the best pieces of advice I was given recently was around creating some structure to our new day, which can prevent feelings of anxiety or boredom.
It has helped me these past few days to give dedicated time and attention to particular important calls or pieces of work, but I’ve also had to allocate time for dealing with things I don’t normally have to consider.
Planning in breaks, so that I maintain connection with the family at home, so that meals, help with homework, and time for exercise is all sorted.
I also have allowed myself a bit of space for me too (I’m a nightmare otherwise!). It also works better when children are given structure– so they know the difference between holidays and home school days.
Building in exercise routines is really valuable for your mental wellbeing – and it’s been good to see that in almost every Government message there is clear encouragement to exercise each day (while keeping distance from others).
It takes a bit of discipline sometimes to make this a priority. Get a change of scenery when you can, especially now that work and home boundaries are blurred – and if you can combine exercise with something that involves being near nature or getting out in the sunshine then that will double the benefit.
It’s Good To Talk
In the space of the last two weeks almost all work calls have migrated from phone to video in a unanimous effort to stay connected with one another more personally.
I am definitely having more catch ups with colleagues than normal – some are partly as a result of the fact we are having to adapt our business to its new environment, but some are just to check on people and also to make sure I’m talking too.
My team is having a number of video calls each week, just to catch up on life, which I think is connecting everyone well. Remember to have some one-to-one calls with your team members and to reassure each other that we’ll all be okay, and the extra pressures that we’re experiencing are perfectly normal.
I’ve seen some quite funny images of messy offices and desks on the news channels this week and seeing each others' homes on video calls has been a great talking point.
It goes without saying that doing something to remove the clutter is proven to help with clearer thinking, as is shutting down laptops at the end of the working day and to switch off – especially important if you are working on a kitchen table or don’t have a separate space for working at home.
This is a much-used technique that just helps us make sense of what’s real and what’s not in a world where the media is bringing us new information every minute of every day and where things are changing around us quite quickly.
- Stay in the moment - Some of us will have felt that we have gained more time now that we’re not travelling to work or going out much. We might be slowing down – and that might be a positive thing to come out of this experience. But it might also lead to more thinking time, which is important to keep in perspective. Try to catch yourself during that thinking time and acknowledge that it’s led by thought and that thought isn't real – it isn’t our true experience.
- Breathe - If you ever feel overwhelmed, take a moment and practice deep breathing. It works brilliantly for controlling your brain’s fight or flight mode and restores calm in your thinking.
- Write it down - Being thankful for what we often take for granted is hugely beneficial – I think over the years we have become obsessed with growth and the next thing to do, and we’ve forgotten how lucky we are to have such wonderful people, spaces, and experiences in our lives. Keep a book and write some of those reflections down. Write down what you’re grateful for right now.
- One task at a time - This is probably a time to take on less and hold something back for you. Prioritising in our new situation can prevent feelings of being overwhelmed. I use ‘to do’ lists, and I’m quite firm about what goes on it and what I just let happen anyway, so the list doesn’t get too long. Allow yourself a bit of extra time for important tasks too.
- Be easy on yourself - This isn’t a time for perfection, or guilt if something doesn’t go to plan, so don’t beat yourself up. Things are going to be different for a while, and everyone’s experiencing those changes, not just you. So while I’ve given you some ideas to help – you can’t expect to be able to do them all, all of the time…and that’s okay! Remember that we’re all in this together.
If you need help
If you are feeling like you need more support, please don’t ignore the signals that are telling you to seek that extra help. Talk to your boss, talk to your partner or family, talk to your friends and let them know. Check what support you might have access to, just in case you need it.
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