With 2020 coming to a close and the dark winter days drawing in, it is essential to take action that will better your mental wellbeing so you don’t feel as though you are 'stranded alone at sea'.
Firstly, what is Mental Health?
When discussing Mental Health, people have a tendency to miss the mark and start discussing mental illness; yes that is an element of overall mental wellbeing, but not the whole of it.
Mental health as defined by the World Health Organization, is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”. Mental health problems or illness occur when this definition is not being achieved.
Usually 1 in 4 people in the UK will suffer from a mental health issue in an average year. This year, a survey run by the UK’s largest healthcare charity, Nuffield Health, has shown that working from home has greatly impacted the mental health of individuals all over the country with now 80% of people noting that working from home had negatively impacted their mental health.
It is not enough to say that you have never experienced such issues therefore you are unlikely to, everyone has to work on their mental health just as we all have to work on our physical health; though the rewards are not as visible they are just as vital.
To help you with this, we have put together a small collection of ways to tackle the work-from-home blues.
We no longer have the cut off point that came with commuting to and from work, now the line between bed, desk and sofa can be so close that for some people it is the same thing! Minds work best when we have separation and structure so do yourself a favour and create some.
Make an effort to get up at the same time you would to commute, or at least allowing for some ‘me’ time in the morning before diving into the day’s tasks as this can help to boost your mood and set you up for the day.
Try and have at least 30 minutes of lunch away from your computer screen to give yourself a break, ideally go for a walk and use that time to get some fresh air and Vitamin D.
Most importantly schedule short rests throughout the day, just as you would grab a coffee with a colleague, make sure to give yourself 5/10 minutes every hour to recharge a little bit as this is proven to boost productivity.
Don't forget, these are exceptional circumstances and do not be fooled into thinking that because you are at home you have no reason to be tired. On the contrary, more people are struggling to work now than ever so remember to cut yourself some slack. It is okay not to be okay.
The UK charity Mind encourages the use of ‘Wellness Action Plans’ to put practical steps in place that ensure you are supported when you aren’t feeling 100%. These plans consist of a few questions where each employee can state the particulars of their situation to increase transparency and communication between themselves and the company.
You do not need to have any previous mental health problems to fill in a ‘Wellness Action Plan’ or to feel the benefits of it, these are for everyone.
Here is a link for more information about ‘Wellness Action Plans’.
As mentioned before, lines within the home can get blurred easily so finding a quiet space to work away from people and distractions is vital.
While it might be more comfortable in the short-term to sit on the sofa and work, your back will not be thanking you in the years to come. Investing in a decent office chair and desk to make up a comfortable work environment will also help you with those boundaries mentioned before. Take a look at the NHS guidelines for a healthy work environment.
Also, it is a good idea to gather everything you will need during the day together before you start - chargers, pens, paper and anything else – and shut the door if you can. Even in a small or shared space, designating an area for work will be beneficial.
Setting boundaries with your time, your environment and with people in your household is essential. We have already discussed creating and sticking to a daily routine and having a dedicated work space, now let’s explore boundaries with people.
While working from home does allow you to be more flexible it can also be difficult when you have the distractions of daily life to deal with.
Have a discussion about your needs especially if in a house with family. Explain your working schedule and ask that they be understanding about what it is you need e.g. space and quiet time.
While this is a more prominent issue for those with young children, open communication with those you live with about your needs can only be beneficial.
Being sat staring at a screen all day can put strain on your eyesight, can make you feel stiff or tense and can negatively impact your mental health.
With more reasons to be anxious this year than in previous, taking the time to have an exercise routine can be a healthy way to manage this as it eases tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances overall well-being through the release of endorphins.
It does not have to be an intense routine, just venturing out for a short walk will help. Some more information can be found here.
Use the technology we have at hand to make the most of meetings and check-ins. The 'face-to-face' element that comes with a video conference compared to a call can help to boost your mood and gives some people the interpersonal communication they may not have that day otherwise if they live alone.
Make sure to check in on your co-workers, see how they are, learn about their circumstances. Maybe set up a regular coffee break to have a chat and unwind a little, this will encourage people to take the breaks they may not be allowing themselves in their own time.
While it has been observed that Zoom calls and online quizzes are on a steady decline compared to earlier in the year, I encourage you to find new ways of reaching out to people as it can be a lifeline for some.
This year has been anything but normal so it is expected that you might not be in tip top condition. Remember that being hard on yourself will hurt you and help no one so try to ease up.
If you would like to talk to someone, many charities and mental wellness organisations are offering counselling sessions via skype or phone. They are also holding online physical activity sessions so if you are struggling to motivate yourself alone, this could be a helpful alternative.
To learn more about this, these charities have been linked at the bottom of this article.
The ‘Mental Health Foundation’ have shared a secret with us; helping others is an excellent way to help yourself!
Giving to people in need is believed to promote positive physiological changes in the brain that are associated with happiness. These "feel-good rushes" can help reduce stress and improve your mood, which in turn has a positive effect on your mental health and wellbeing!
At Nova Futur, we are donating time to work on a Charity platform that will provide aid to those in need around the world. Working on this project has boosted team morale and mental health while enabling our people to work on something they feel a connection and a passion for. Many have said they enjoy being able to work on an external project along with their work as it has taught them some new skills while having some fun!
We are so excited to provide more information on this in the New Year!
Mental Health Foundation: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/
The CALM Zone: https://www.thecalmzone.net/
NHS Mental Health Services: https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/