Mindfulness

The importance of looking after your wellbeing when you work from home

When the UK went into a national lockdown in March of this year, it’s probably fair to say none of us expected the impact would last as long as it has. Now in our second lockdown, we’ve returned to a familiar routine of staying at home and only leaving for essential reasons. As part of this, many of us have returned to our desks at home – if we even returned to the office in the first place.

Although there are numerous reasons we should be taking additional care of our mental wellbeing during this uncertain time, this article will focus on people working from home and the unique set of challenges that brings.

Of course, working from home has been positive. We’ve had more time to spend with our friends and family where possible, or time to prioritise health and exercise. Many of us have also been able to save the money we’d typically be spending on the daily commute.

Indeed, these are key reasons why 44% of workers plan to ask for permanent flexible working arrangements after coronavirus restrictions are fully lifted. The research, from Direct Line, also confirms that the pandemic is making employers think differently about their response to flexible working requests and their office space needs. That could be great news for any employees wanting to make the switch to home working.

But as you might have experienced during either of the lockdowns, there are some drawbacks too. It can be hard to find a balance between work and your home life, for example. It may be tempting to check your emails outside usual hours, or extend the working day. It’s easy to see how work can creep into the time you’re supposed to be spending relaxing or unwinding from the day. This is when it can affect your wellbeing.

And it is something which happened during the lockdown, with ONS data from April 2020 showing that 30.3% of employees at home worked more hours than usual.

With more people than ever potentially working from home, here are some of the ways you can look after your wellbeing:

Create a clear divide

If possible, have a designated space for working. Ideally this would be a room where you can shut the door – to keep out distractions while you’re working and to shut work away at the end of the day. But not everyone has the space to give up an entire room. Instead, you might have dedicated space in a quieter room of the house – somewhere you can tidy your laptop away at the end of the day.

The important thing is a clear divide between when you start your working day and when you finish it. Of course, some days you might do additional hours and this might have been something you did in the office too. But when it becomes a habit, it can affect your wellbeing. You need to be able to switch off in the evenings and have time to yourself.

Use a schedule 

If you need to be strict with yourself, create a schedule for the day. And be detailed – include times for showering and getting ready, as well as when you have a lunch break (away from your desk). Not only does this allow you to schedule in key tasks and meetings, but it ensures you don’t forget about essential day-to-day things you’d do without thinking if you were commuting to the office.

Bad habits are common for home workers, so you’re not alone if you’ve been staying in your pyjamas all day or skipping lunch. But pay attention to these habits and start to do something about them. A schedule is a great way of making you do things daily, turning those bad habits into good ones.

Take regular breaks 

How often do you take breaks when you work from home? In the office, natural opportunities for a small break from your screen occur quite often. Making hot drinks, someone coming over to your desk, bumping into someone else in the corridor or having a catch up after a meeting. Having your colleagues around might also encourage you to have a proper lunch break.

But at home – especially if you’re working alone – you have to create these opportunities to have a break yourself. It’s important for your productivity and to avoid burnout. You must allow yourself to have a break and you shouldn’t feel guilty for it.

Continue exercising and socialising where possible 

Although it’s tricky to predict what will and won’t be allowed at the moment, it is important to keep up exercise and socialising while you’re working from home. Exercise is as important for the mind as it is the body. Typical working from home positions are desk jobs, meaning you’re sedentary for most of the day. Getting up and moving – whether it’s a walk, run, online workout or yoga – is crucial. Some people even ‘walk’ to work by doing a lap around the block before they sit down at their desk.

As for socialising, people have been very creative in how they keep in touch with friends. If you can’t meet up in person yet, do plan some time to catch up with friends on the phone or online. Depending on who you live with, working from home can be quite isolating. You need to create opportunities to talk and socialise with other people.

How do you look after your wellbeing when working from home? Share your suggestions with us.

 

 

Article written for Shawmind by Mark Gray
Mark Gray is a freelance graphic artist and content writer from Berkshire, UK. He enjoys travelling, attending tech conferences, surfing, and gaming. He is also a newbie in the small business world but has big dreams in store for him.

 

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Relationships and Mindfulness in Quarantine

The current times are often described as unprecedented. Most of us have been presented with new experiences and challenges to overcome. It continues to be a time where our limits are tested. Not only does being in lockdown or quarantine challenge us personally, it can also challenge our relationships.

Mindfulness is something often recommended to help people re-engage with the present moment. While everyone has the potential to practice mindfulness, it is something you need to learn to do and keep doing to improve. It can bring awareness and caring into everything we do – so in these troubling times it can not only help us personally, but also in our relationships with others.

Being in a relationship in quarantine

You could have gone into lockdown with your partner, or ended up spending the time apart. Both situations may have their own challenges. If you’re apart, it’s hard to have the same quality time together. Video calls are a lifeline, but they are no substitute for real human contact. Although you miss your partner, you may find it difficult to fully communicate and connect with them.

But if you’re together, spending more time in the same space than ever before, you may end up arguing over little things. It isn’t surprising that difficulties arise as people figure out how to live and work together, perhaps without having the same hobbies and social interactions they would otherwise have outside the home.

 

How mindfulness could help your relationship  

Relationship problems are always common, and being in quarantine together makes these problems even more likely to occur. The stress and anxiety of dealing with the COVID-19 situation can take its toll on anyone’s mood, and this can easily create a tense atmosphere.

Mood swings already occur alongside mental health problems, and hormone imbalances such as low testosterone can also contribute to this. The stress of COVID-19 is likely to bring these symptoms to the surface, and make them even more intense.

You need a way to communicate and try to understand each other, including why the same disagreements keep happening. It’s not about “who’s right and who’s wrong”. It’s about understanding behaviour patterns, and influencing them for the better.

Whether these problems are new to your relationship or you feel at your wit’s end, mindfulness could help – especially during these challenging times – for the following reasons:

  • It helps us to be more attentive. With a focus on being in the present, mindfulness helps tackle the problem of being distracted – by phones, emails and so on. You learn to redirect attention to the current moment. That can really help partners listen to one another and feel more connected.
  • It can reduce your negative emotional reactivity. According to Psychology Today, studies have shown that practicing mindfulness for eight to ten weeks can change the brain’s regulation areas. It reduces the part which can send the brain into ‘fight or flight’ mode and inevitably cause problems.
  • It enhances self-awareness. When we spend more time in the present, we can learn about ourselves and observe our thoughts. It can help us identify earlier if we’re tempted to act out in unhealthy ways and then restrain this impulsive behavior.

 

Tips for mindfulness

The great thing about mindfulness is anyone can do it. It doesn’t require any special skills, or knowledge. Anyone can become a master!

You can do it while you’re eating, when you’re on a walk, or even just sitting still. To start practicing mindful meditation, sit quietly and focus on your breath. Begin to notice your thoughts, any feelings in your body and the things you can hear around you.

The idea is to focus back to the present if you notice your mind starts to wander elsewhere.

However you decide to start being mindful, the following principles apply:

  • Pay attention to how you feel – both physically and mentally
  • Accept those feelings, without judgement
  • Choose to return to the present when your mind wanders

Remember to always be kind to yourself. It’s natural for your mind to wander or distractions to take your attention away. You just have to learn to accept, observe and return. If you and your partner dedicate time each week to practicing mindfulness, you could start to see the rewards in the time you spend together as you become more aware, understanding and empathetic.

Mark Gray is a freelance graphic artist and content writer from Berkshire, UK. He enjoys travelling, attending tech conferences, surfing, and gaming. He is also a newbie in the small business world but has big dreams in store for him.

 

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Eleven Ways to Reduce Stress Right Now

We are under unprecedented levels of stress as a society. Even before the C word we were experiencing a stress epidemic.

Stress is self-inflicted (sorry!) when you are trying to do something that does not come to you naturally. You try and be someone else. You don’t believe in yourself and you think that you’re not enough. Or when you are measuring yourself against a set of goals, rather than by everything that you have already achieved.

We have been programmed to feel success or a failure, based on hitting targets, working too hard and whether we can do it without burning out. No wonder we are stressed!

Celebrate everything that you already are. Your challenges, your obstacles and every time you’ve got back up. Know that you are successful right now and you always will be.

Identifying Stress

I’m no techie but more when I look at my website stats, more people are looking for tips on reducing stress and the symptoms of stress.

There is relentless pressure on us to perform as a parent, an employee, colleague and friend.

We spend most of our time comparing ourselves to other people or trying to keep up with those who we think have got what we want.

The last few months have put a huge strain on our emotional and physical wellbeing, which, if it isn’t managed, can cause long term health problems and affect our mental health.

Here are my top tips for getting through tough times or just getting a sense of balance in your life at this crazy time.

Starting Your Day the Best Way

It’s one of the sure-fire ways to make sure you and your team have the best day. You wake up, set the intention of ‘this is one of the best days of my life!’  and ‘I am going to be positive all day long’. Watch your amazing day unfold.

Practise Mindful Listening

Whether it’s a team member or peer, give your full attention to the conversation and rid yourself of any distractions. Knowing what you should be doing and not missing out on vital information makes for a productive, stress free day.

Take Regular Mindful Breaks

Use every opportunity to bring yourself back to the present. Get up and grab a coffee, nip to the toilet, walk from meeting to meeting and take a proper lunch break.

Practise Kindness and Compassion

Avoid getting drawn into office gossip and tittle tattle. See each person without judgement and with their own story. Remind yourself that you are all looking for happiness, health and a stress-free life.

Focus on One Thing at a Time

We all like to multi-task and think we’re being more productive, but did you know you are 50% more likely to make mistakes and you will actually achieve less.

Catch Your Thoughts at Any Moment

If your thoughts are negative think of something positive. Think of what you are grateful for, how far you’ve come or about something you’re looking forward to. Making for a happy more positive day reduces stress and is contagious.

Practise Mindful Breathing

If you feel yourself getting stressed then take a few deep breaths and then notice your breathing for a few minutes. This will help bring you into the present and will help you feel calmer.

Talk Through the Issue with Someone You Know

A friend, family member, colleague or a helpline if you need to. Make use of an Employee Assistance Programme if you have one. Just sharing what’s happening can give you a different perspective and once you have shared, a problem often doesn’t seem so bad.

Make Sure That You are Building in Time

Spend some time doing the things that you enjoy doing. Exercise, hobbies, sport, crafts or getting involved in your community. Having ways to switch off, tune out or focus on something else are all ways of helping to manage your emotional resilience.

Set Healthy Boundaries

Switch off the laptop and phone and put them out of reach. Protect the time that you want to spend with family and friends and don’t let work and life overlap.

Prioritise Your Self-Care

Do whatever it takes to put yourself first. Book time off, say no to things you don’t want to do, make a homemade spa, enjoy a bar of chocolate, get away from it all. Looking after number one is not selfish, it’s essential.

Right now, you need you.

If you’ve enjoyed this resource, you will love 10 ways to overcome Imposter Syndrome.

Louise Hallam, Still Calm

After working in the corporate world for 25 years but feeling like I never really fitted in, I started my own business and finally started to feel as though I was doing the right thing.

After a chance meeting, in the past 18 months I have been working with a spiritual mentor, who has awakened my true potential and purpose. I have unlocked wisdom and healing modalities, which are in my DNA. This has resulted in a powerful combination of services to provide to those in the highest level of management who are struggling to get a sense of self, want to connect to their soul purpose and work with, rather than against, their energy and emotions.

My unique gifts and skills enable me to free people from the things that have held them back from living their true potential. Where they see limits, I only see limitless.

My little bit of genius is that I see things in people that other people can’t. It’s what I have experience in and it’s what I’m known for.

During lockdown I have also been channelling wisdom on conscious leadership, which is guiding principles for leading for humanity and people rather than profit.

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Su Hallam, Charity Manager at Shawmind, has shared her top tips for maintaining good emotional health while working from home.                           

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Claudia, a mental health advocate and theatre artist shares their story of the misconceptions of depression.

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