For many people, the Government’s order to stay at home will put significant pressure on their mental wellbeing. This is not surprising, as many of us rely on the freedom to meet others outside our homes to give us a sense of connection, variety and meaning. New challenges and anxieties may have emerged for those now working from home, who have been furloughed or lost their jobs.
At Changes Bristol we are doing what we can to keep people connected via online support groups, but we realise these won’t be for everyone. Here are some resources and tips for managing your mental health if you are self-isolating. This is the first part of a series including working from home, anxiety, relationship strains and loneliness.
1. Working from home
If you’re used to working in an office you may now be missing out on exercise from your commute, interaction with colleagues, the separation between work and home, the ability to get things done quicker and a whole host of other challenges.
Here are some tips to managing if you start to feel your mental health is suffering:
Create a ritual
Close the door on your working space when you’re done for the day. If you can’t close the door, try clearing your desk area away, shutting things down or placing a tea towel over your work materials. It can be tempting to leave everything out for tomorrow, but taking the 2 minutes to clear it away can give you some necessary closure.
Punctuate the end of the day with something you enjoy that will change your energy e.g. an online dance class, getting outside for your daily exercise, running up & down the stairs x10. Whatever it is, it should change your body physically to help kickstart your mind into a new place too.
Is the staff WhatsApp a bit too active in the evenings? How could the team zooms be shorter and more efficient? Are we texting each other things that could be emailed? Are we interrupting each other too much? Or not enough?
Open conversations about how you are communicating now will be beneficial for others too – be brave!
Try to use video calling as much as possible so that you can gauge facial expressions.
Invite someone to be your ‘checking in’ buddy and send each other a text / voice message or have a 5 minute call at the end of each working day to reflect on how you’re getting on and to congratulate each other for tasks done. This could be a colleague or a friend.
Introduce 'wellbeing check-ins'
This doesn’t need to be ‘airy fairy’ (as one member put it!) but a moment for each member of the team to report how they’re doing. We recommend adding it to the team agenda so you don’t forget it.
If you’re the one suggesting this, perhaps volunteer to go first, awkward as this may feel. Or, if you’d like to suggest it but aren’t sure how it will be received, chat to a colleague one-to-one first and ask if they’ll support you in suggesting it.
Talk about it
If you feel like you’re starting to slide up the scale towards a high level of mental distress (whether anxious or very low), reach out. If there is someone you trust, tell them honestly how you’re feeling.
Avoid telling multiple people on social media or a WhatsApp group – people are often much better at listening and responding when outside of a group context.
If you need to talk but don’t know who to talk to, join us on one of our online groups – nobody will try to fix you or tell you what to do, but you may find solidarity and support.
Working remotely can be immensely frustrating. Technical issues can make meetings slow, explaining things to others using screen sharing can be tedious, the list goes on. Try not to fight this. Use this lockdown to practice finding more patience. This goes for queueing for the supermarket too…
You will probably make mistakes. Like the hasty Mailchimp sent to the wrong audience, or the typo in the press release. Forgive yourself. Your brain is processing a lot right now.
Make sure you are taking regular breaks from your screens, and stand up from your ‘desk’ every hour to bring some energy back and let your eyes relax. It is very easy to get lost in work on your laptop when you have no office colleagues or coffee breaks to distract you.
Here are some external resources we recommend:
- Zoom Fatigue: There’s been a fair bit of discussion about Zoom Fatigue recently. The best articles with tips on managing all the zooming can be found from Mindful here, and from Psychology Today here.
- Esther Perel’s new series on Youtube: “How to adjust your entire relational world being confined to one place” https://bit.ly/3erhMrr . Esther is a counsellor, author and speaker who we couldn’t rate highly enough.
- Mind have also created a useful guide to supporting yourself & your working team here.