Updated: Apr 29, 2020
We are now in the 6th week of lockdown in the UK, and we are all starting to feel the pressure of this ‘new normal’. Most of us are working from home, some are trying to balance working a full time job with home-schooling, some are loving the opportunity for some time out from the rat race, whilst others are climbing the walls with frustration and boredom. How you ‘do’ lockdown is a personal thing and it worries me that due to social media there is an element of competitiveness and guilt creeping in; I hear of people feeling bad because they are not doing lock down ‘well enough' (whatever that means) and I’ve learnt from personal experience that even when your regular social life comes crashing to a sudden halt, it’s still possible to experience FOMO!
At the moment we really don’t know how long this current state of lockdown will continue; what we can fairly safely assume is that we won’t be rushing back to life as we once knew it. So how do we keep ourselves relatively balanced, healthy, and as productive as we want to be during this period? Here are some thoughts that I have been collecting over the last six weeks.
Empower yourself by focusing on what’s inside your circle of influence
At times like these, it’s easy to be overcome by anxiety. After all, there is so much to be worried about. The problem is that the more we concentrate on the things over which we have little or no control, the more stressed and anxious we are likely to feel. Yet in this day and age of social media and 24 hour news, it’s easy to feel bombarded by the barrage of bad news stories – some factual, some quite fantastical – that come at us from left, right, and centre.
So how do we manage that, so that we may feel less anxious and more in control? One way is to understand what ‘stuff’ you are worried or concerned about (but over which you have little or no influence or control), and those things over which you have influence/control. Focus your energy on those things that fit within your circle of influence and you will feel better, less anxious.
You might want to draw two circles. At the moment, it’s likely that in your circle of ‘concern’ may be things such as the pandemic itself, political issues, the behaviours of others (my neighbours are walking their dog for the 5th time today!!!), the economy, that thing you just read on Facebook…....and the list goes on.
Chances are there is little you can do about any of those things apart from worry! So, what if you shifted your focus to the things you can exert some influence over? Say, your own behaviour in response to the pandemic, rationing how much time you spend each day on social media or listening to the news, focusing on eating healthily and getting some exercise each day, how often you wash your hands, etc etc? All of these things are within your gift, and by focusing on them instead you have just empowered yourself; you have effectively shifted the focus from the outside in, to the inside out. You increase your circle of influence, and so minimise your circle of concern.
We are all home workers now. So how do we manage it?
Some of you are seasoned homeworkers – some not so much – but even if you’re an old hand at this, you may not be used to working at home at the same time as your other half, whilst also home-schooling the kids! So here are some hints and tips:
Do create clear boundaries. Define a clear start and end point to each working day. At the end of the day, close things down, and walk away. Resist the temptation to ‘just do that thing I thought of”.
Do create a decent space to work in. Give your posture the consideration it deserves. Find a supportive chair. Consult the HSE website. Avoid the temptation to work in bed, on the sofa, or whilst sitting on the floor. Your skeleton will thank you for it.
Do take regular breaks during the day. Get up, walk around. Visit another room or the garden (if you have one). Take your eyes off the screen and focus on the wall or something else in the near distance for a bit. Your vision will thank you for it.
Support your team to follow good practice. Give them the guidance they need to ensure that they are looking after their posture and wellbeing whilst working at home.
Rituals are important for keeping it together during lockdown…
We are creatures of habit and the rituals we have and enjoy are there for a reason. What I’ve noticed is how much I miss the little things – popping out for a coffee to our local café, getting dressed up to go out (so we’re getting dressed up to stay in a couple of nights a week), going for a leisurely walk in Regents Park without worrying how close I am getting to other walkers! But all of these things are on hold for now, so let’s think about how we can maintain, or at least adapt, some of our rituals during this period.
Get up, shower, get dressed. Wear something comfortable whilst you are at home, by all means, but avoid succumbing to the idea that working in your pyjamas is a good idea. Whilst I am sure that might be a real treat for some, I’m not sure that it’s a recipe for good mental health in the long run.
Maintaining the regular rituals are important for the soul, so follow your daily rituals as much as you can under the circumstances. For example, if you normally wear makeup to work, wear a little at home. If you usually buy a latte on the way to work, dig out that cafetiere or coffee machine, and make yourself a nice coffee to start the day.
Keep your body healthy and nimble during this time through exercise. Whether you choose to use the ‘state approved’ one hour of outdoor exercise per day or prefer to work out in the comfort of your own home, make sure you do something.
Create some new rituals! If you have managed to claw back that hour you’d normally spend commuting, why not put that time to good use. Even if it’s a more leisurely breakfast, or spending quality time with loved ones.
Keep a journal. Even if you're not a regular writer, keeping a record of how you are feeling and what you are noticing can be a great way of managing anxiety and stress. The simple act of transferring the thoughts in your head onto the page is cleansing and allows you to get back on with your day. All it takes is five minutes.
And, if, like me, you are fond of a drink, resist the temptation to crack open the wine at lunchtime! Your liver will thank you for it when it’s all over (honestly!)