How to look after your mental health at work
During this challenging era of social distancing, with risks to our health and the health of our loved ones omnipresent, self-care is essential. Meaningful social contact is key to maintaining good mental health, as is the structure of our daily routines and healthy eating habits.
While we all try to establish a new normal, often bound to our laptops in seclusion from colleagues and management, maintaining an attachment to the office community can be challenging. With social contact diminished and the impending uncertainty of the trajectory of COVID-19 overwhelming, taking control of our thoughts and enforcing constructive mental processes which promote positivity and optimism are paramount.
The following is your essential guide to emotional survival during the next few weeks of self-isolation.
The phrase, 'healthy body, healthy mind' is on point right now. Feelings of wellbeing are inextricably linked to the consumption of nutritious foods. Keeping sugar levels low facilitates better concentration. Eating five fruits and vegetables a day floods the body with abundant minerals leading to increased vitality, while too many starchy, carb-laden foods will spike and subsequently reduce energy levels, predisposing the body to lethargy. Healthy eating will improve your mental performance and boost the serotonin and dopamine in your brain, making you feel good and optimistic.
Boredom fuels anxiety which can stimulate comfort eating. Long term this won't leave you feeling good or being more productive in your work. Stick to three meals a day and, if you need to snack, either nibble on fruit and veg or take a walk; Fruit and vegetables should make up a third of the food we eat in a day, along with starch and protein and dairy/dairy alternative food combined making up a final third. Top tip leafy greens, berries, fish and nuts are all brain-boosting foods.
Regular breaks and exercise:
Stepping away from your work space and moving your body or quietening your mind is essential to self-care. At the moment, in these difficult times, focussing on your work tasks can feel stressful and overwhelming and can lead to you feeling disconnected. By approaching the working day like chapters of a book, broken up by intervals of meditation, a walk around the garden or a chat on the phone with a friend, will give you time for yourself and and help you to achieve the headspace you require to work diligently. Don't view these breaks as time lost, but more as your efficiency improved.
There is a range of apps which you can use during intervals in your working day which will inspire you to feel more connected and grounded. Try Duolingo to learn a new language in bitesize steps, Fit30 Home Workouts for exercise circuits to try out wherever you are and Elevate as a great brain training app designed to improve and focus your speaking skills, processing speed, memory and mathematical ability.
Productive routine supports wellbeing and leads to contentment. Giving structure to your day can be stress-reducing. By planning your day effectively, anxiety around achieving working goals can be reduced. Be sure to wake up and begin your working day at the same time each day, eat a healthy breakfast and write a 'to-do' list. Try to eat lunch and take breaks at a similar time each day and do so in a separate space from your desk. Bad behaviours centred around time-wasting and distraction are easily formed when we are in a state of flux, as at the present time.
Once a new routine is learned, practised and enforced it can become the new normal replacing negative behaviours. Endlessly scrolling your social feeds may seem harmless, but you are silently stoking silent beliefs in yourself about your ineptitude, choosing to promote and invest in other people's lives rather than your own. Switching that vacuous time to productive, endorphin stimulating activities (learning, exercising, mindfulness) will improve your self-worth and give you a sense of achievement. Cognitive behavioural therapy is a useful tool for easing your way into new habits and enforcing self-discipline.
At Method we love TED talks during our tea breaks, here are our top three: