1. A little bit of structure
Due to the uncertainty and unknowns of the current environment we put further pressure on ourselves to work harder. Our routines can start to look like this: wake up, eat breakfast at our workspace, work the hours needed without proper breaks, eat lunch at our desk, keep working longer than we normally would, short amount of free time then bed. We lose time that we normally subconsciously reflect and restore our cognitive resources. This structure will only lead to burnout. On top of work throw in looking after your family, thinking about your loved one’s health and not being able to control certain things in your life. Structure is needed whether you like it or not.
Review how you are currently working and involve everyone in the household. Make it clear what time is used for working and when free time is. Set clear break times, eat lunch away from your workspace and make sure you have free time between sleep and work at both ends of the day. This structure will be fluid so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t stick to it. Take these into consideration:
- Manage your screen time
- Don’t waste energy switching between tasks
- Aim for real Impact not busyness
- Our “Eureka” moments come in our downtime
- Staring at it won’t solve it
2. Take pride in supporting others
However, much we want to achieve as individuals, the success of any team is what you achieve as a collective. To win at the elite level, you need everyone in the squad supporting each other and pulling in the same direction. This starts by having a clear and compelling outcome goal. At certain points, it is important to keep connecting back to this goal as a reminder to everyone that whether you are on the pitch or on the bench, we are all working together in the pursuit of a collective goal.
Linked to this, if we really challenged ourselves, I imagine we can all remember a time we didn’t fully support a teammate for whatever reason. Great team players take pride in helping their teammates in whatever way they can – whether this is helping in practice, giving honest feedback or providing encouragement. Take pride in helping to set your teammates up for success. Your input or contribution could make all the difference. In addition, when the shoe is on the other foot, you may hugely benefit from this person’s support.
3. Sharing really is caring
We underestimate the social connections we have at work until we no longer have them. Those coffees breaks, interruptions while you are at your desk and bumping into people in social areas. These small moments add up and benefit our mental health. When we no longer have these social interactions where, we can share, listen and offer support we can feel isolated and less connected.
Create spaces for people to talk like you would in the office. Arrange meetings with the purpose to allow people to share what their world is like currently. Sharing how we are really feeling causes our stress levels to lower, we feel more supported, more connected and we get a stronger sense of belonging and togetherness. Listening is key. Understand what another person’s world is like right now. Let people have the space to share what they are comfortable sharing. Offering support can just be as beneficial to your mental health. By helping others, you lower your own stress levels. Be the one to arrange catch ups and check ins with others as you could really help someone with a simple act.
4. Talk to yourself like a loved one
As humans we find it easier to give advice and guidance to others that act upon it ourselves. Naturally in these times we think of those we love and who are important to us. However, we often forget to talk positively to ourselves. When faced with an environment of unknowns and uncertainty we often develop irrational thoughts. Simply put we get automatic negative thoughts. An example can be constantly looking on social media and listening to the news which can make us catastrophise, think in black or white terms and take things personally.
To combat these negative thoughts, we need to disrupt them. When they come into our head reflect upon this simple question.
- Is this thought helping or hindering me?
Focus on the things you can control, including where you get information from and actions to make yourself feel better prepared. It is okay to acknowledge some things are outside of your control right now but constant repetitive negative thoughts about the situation lead you to feel anxious or overwhelmed are not helpful. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. You are only human like everyone else. Talk to yourself like you would a loved one.
5. Get some sleep
Feeling anxious or worried can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how you feel mentally and physically, so it’s important to get enough. Maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep good sleep hygiene practices like avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment.
6. Small choices, big changes
We have a choice in how we think, behave and act. These choices are based on our daily habits whether they are positive or negative. Our habits are based on our reward system for doing that habit. We start with a cue for example feeling unease or anxious we then follow this cue with an action such as eating unhealth food we then get a reward which is a rush of serotonin, the feel-good hormone. Most of our habits come to us without much thought we have a regular routine.
However, our habits will quickly change as we create a new working routine due to working remotely. Now is the time to create new healthy habits that will enable you to be productive, physically and emotionally well and reduced unnecessary stressors.
Like new year’s resolutions we often aim to change big like our entire diet or exercise routine to Olympic standard. The key to real change of habits is to start small. One example is making sure you are not sitting down for long periods of time staring at the screen. Have a glass of water next to you. Every time you finish the glass get up, pour another glass, take two deep breaths, roll your shoulder back and go back to work. Though it seems like a small thing to do all the above will hugely benefit you. Think about what your cues are, what triggers these for you and how do you react to them? This is how you create real behaviour change for the better. Start small.
Stuart Kelly is a Performance Psychology Consultant at Eclipse. You can connect with him here.