Some are calling COVID-19 “the global health crisis of a generation” and one cannot help but to have their eyes glued to social and the mainstream media. If it’s not regularly checking case and casualty numbers, it’s imminent stock market recession and horror stories of individuals, families and friends being directly affected. Earlier in the year, like most people in the western hemisphere I was not so concerned about this virus. Then I read the articles like Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now and watched videos like Joe Rogan Experience with Michael Osterholm.
Then the government sanctions started…
Amidst all the uncertainty this event is bringing to the global community, you are or are about to be at home for a period of time. I have compiled practical, simple ideas on how you can care for your mental health and well-being from home.
1. Stay (Virtually) Social
The globe has not had the volume of individuals working from home (WFH) and self-isolating like this in all history. There has never been a more vital time to consciously connect. A colleague prophetically messaged me; “I think this will change the way we work forever”. I have heard a concerning number of times that people are already feeling a sense of loneliness, anxiety or depression. We are social beings and we have a primal need for social contact. The advice or force of social distancing is something very foreign to the human race.
Now is the time to reach out to your friends and family over video conference. There is a range of different ways to connect over video conference and although it is never the same as in-person, it’s vital that we do this not only at work. Reach out to the ones that matter most and organise a call every day or so. Don’t feel like a facetime? Set up an online game, puzzle or WhatsApp/Messenger group to keep you engaged.
For work purposes, regular (daily or every other day) huddles would be advised for teams that are working from home. Begin the call by circling the group and checking in on how individuals are feeling before diving into the remainder of the agenda. Also, be prepared to exercise more diary flexibility and tolerance for any colleagues that may need something from you. Remember it’s not a simple as someone walking up to your desk right now.
Miss your work-friends? You might also want to have virtual lunches or create message groups. Utilise social networking platforms like Yammer, Monday.com or Workplace alongside Skype For Business, Webex Teams or Zoom-style platforms. For small businesses or individuals that do not have this capability, use the free services linked above. Where possible, air on the side of avoiding an increase in email volume and pick up the phone.
Maintain your social and meet-up groups by utilising Video Conference (VC). Due to recent government advice, my local Toastmasters group had to suspend physical meetings and for the first time, move to virtual meetups. We had a wonderful and successful meeting last night. For an activity that leans heavily on in-person interaction and non-verbal communication, it was a huge success and incredibly enjoyable.
2. Generate your own joy
Meditation may be a little foreign to some but the uptake of this practise during this time can help you to centre and calm yourself. Even if it is for 5–10 mindful minutes, this allows you to set or reset throughout the day. I do a guided mediation for 10–15 minutes immediately after rising and find it a fantastic way to set the tone for the day. Don’t know where to start? There are about 2000 different apps out there but I have been using Headspace daily. If you don’t want to use apps, YouTube has a plethora of free guided meditations.
If you are feeling a little uneasy, write it down. Poetry, music, drawing, painting or whatever you please, just put it to “paper”. For me, Journaling is a proven way to get things out of my head in order to clear the mind for creativity and productivity. I spend a short time in the morning writing down what I intend to achieve and reviewing how I did in the evening. The Five Minute Journal is an excellent resource for this but you don’t need to spend money to adopt this practise. Simply start a rolling document on your device with the date of each day followed by:
Morning journaling (aim for 2–3 items per section)
- I am grateful for:
- What would make today great:
- Daily affirmations, I am:
Afternoon journaling (aim for 2–3 items per section)
- Amazing things that happened today
- What would have made today even better
Begin (or rekindle) that hobby. Find something you are passionate about and make no excuses but to pour yourself into it. Following a hobby or pursuit that you are passionate about has powerful affect our well-being. I have a guitar collecting dust in the corner of my flat so you can guess what I will be up to later today. Don’t have time? I will tell you why you now do in section 4.
Take regular breaks. have a 20-minute siesta (nap) at lunch, stretch or re-stock your beverage and snack station. It’s the small joys that get us through the day.
3. Diet and exercise
You’re likely going to be restricted but you will still need to Move your body. Whatever country you are in, your gym/sporting club/etc is closed or about to be closed. Yes, it is annoying news but essential to our health, the experts say. If you can still go outside, find a hill to run or go for a jog. If you are confined to the indoors and in particular have a smaller space like me, there are so many things you can do on the spot. Don’t know what you can do? Yoga is a wonderful practise to take on and I know a wonderful teacher that has a how-page to follow (talk about flexible working at its best). If you need more intensity, there is always The 7 Best At-Home Workout Routines: The Ultimate Guide for Training Without a Gym.
As you will be at home, you are going to have direct access to your fridge! Therefore you may need to set eating boundaries. I previously discussed your energy expenditure going down, which means you either need to burn just as many calories as before or adjust the amount of food you eat, usually disguised in the way of snacking. If they work for you, don’t change the eating habits you maintain at work. If your current habits aren’t working for you and you are trying to reach weight loss goals, why not give intermittent fasting a try. Don’t know where to start? I am notorious for frequent fridge visits at home, however these days I usually restrict an “eating window” to eight hours, having my first meal and 11 am and my last at 7 pm, known as the 16:8 fast. Studies show that this kind of fasting routine can help to regulate blood sugar levels and boost your metabolism. You can start and finish whenever you wish, as long as you stick to the eight-hour window. Please be sure that you are healthy, comfortable and confident before you try it.
Moderation is key. For those that like a drink or two. Please don’t drink more alcohol to try and cope with the anxiety! Try not to overindulge on anything and everything that you would not normally do at work; everything in moderation. Swap that final tea or coffee for a hot water, lemon and ginger tea, you will notice a better quality of sleep if you cut caffeine after 2 pm. If you want an alcoholic beverage, reward yourself at the end of a productive day with one or two as you might usually do, but not before you finish! Remember the key is drink water, water, water.
4. Schedule and routine
Never had that corner office before? Now is the time to set up the home mini-office of your dreams. A great home-office space can be a testament to your productivity, creativity and happiness. Some ideas on creating the ideal space:
- Find a place of comfort, but not too comfortable like your bed! For me, it is toggling between the sofa and the dining room table.
- Design an atmosphere conducive to productivity or creativity. For me: incense, low-fi jazz and a tidy desk.
- Consider what practical items need to be at your fingertips so you aren’t distracted looking for them? For me: a flask of tea and a water bottle (no snacks allowed).
Don’t compromise on getting things done just because you are at home. It may feel like a time to ease off the gas, however, that is a trap. I discussed the importance of taking breaks and resting, which are conscious, purposeful activities, just like sticking to your schedule. This makes for an all-encompassing satisfying day. Avoid switching gears between different tasks and distracting yourself. Working from home provides the perfect opportunity to chunk your time so that you can do the deep work, the meaningful work.
Still dress up for the day. Act as if you are heading out into the world to be the best version of yourself. Put something comfortable but snappy on. Most of the time people will only see you from the hips-up, so put 80% of effort into what the camera sees and 20% for everything else. Tip: don’t get too comfortable, you never know when you might need to get up during a VC call!
Reclaim your time to do the things that serve you well. Commute times vary across the globe but now have time back in your “time bank”. I am lucky to usually have a 20-minute bicycle work-commute each way. For example, if I had to WFH for just two weeks, that’s just over six and a half hours back to the time bank; almost a whole workday. I trust that you are likely taking back far more time than this. Reclaim the time back; If it is your essential sleep, that morning jog you never got to, or quality time with family. Make sure you consciously use that time wholeheartedly.
Take a tech break and bring your devices offline (when allowable). Feel what it is like to be human again. Combine this time with your reclaimed time bank credit; Take a bath, do a puzzle, pick up a real book cook a delicious meal or play some cards. If you say you are bored it’s a feeling that is likey real, however, if you consider the myriad of offline activities available to you, there is always something to do. The payoffs won’t be apparent until you start the activity. If you don’t know where to start, here are 100 things worth considering.
Make the critical list for the day, chunk your tasks and use the Josiah Ross’ Pomodoro Technique| A Productivity Guide to crush them. I have used this technique for several years and there has been no better time to catch up on those lagging tasks.
5. Things to avoid:
- Getting obsessed with news-feeds and social media
- Considering misinformation as true sources of information
- Overthinking and creating unnecessary scenarios in your mind
- Wasting this opportune time by doing nothing different or better
- Panic buying
- Thinking you are alone in this
Finally, I am aware of the many people that are confined to their homes but do not have the luxury to work from home because their work requires them to my on-site. People are and will continue to go through hardships and now is the time to help one another more than ever. Remember, please reach out to someone if you are finding it tough. We will make it through this and this too will pass.