It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme this year is kindness. It’s important to be kind to yourself as well as others, so here are our top self-care tips you can follow while working from home.
At City Pantry, we put a strong emphasis on employee wellbeing and wellness, so we wanted to bring together our top self-care tips to help you and your colleagues better cope with feelings of isolation, anxiety, and stress while you work from home.
Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 takes place from 18th to 24th May, and it couldn’t have come at a more necessary time. According to polling data commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation in partnership with the Institute of Public Health at the University of Cambridge, “millions of UK adults have felt panicked, afraid and unprepared because of the coronavirus pandemic.”
The week’s theme this year is kindness, and as a community, we’ve certainly pulled together to show kindness to our neighbours, colleagues, friends, and family, and to the key workers helping to care for us during this crisis.
However, we often forget to be kind to ourselves, even though it has many benefits such as “prevent[ing] shame from corroding our sense of identity and help[ing] boost our self-esteem”, so that’s why we’ve put together this guide to self-care during lockdown to help you and your colleagues cope with the ‘new normal’.
Please note that we aren’t mental healthcare professionals, and if you are struggling with mental illness, please seek professional help. We have linked to some resources in our final self-care tip.
Stay connected, but make space for yourself.
Mental Health UK states that “relationships are key to our mental health”, and while the COVID-19 has made social distancing and working from home the norm, it shouldn’t stop us from connecting with others. Actively seeking human connection is essential.
If you live with friends or family, be sure to spend quality time together regularly - but not too much that it puts a strain on your relationships! Arrange film and game nights, eat together at dinnertime or go for walks as a household outside.
If you live alone or live with people that you don’t get along with, reach out to loved ones over the phone or by video call or arrange a time to meet a friend face-to-face (at a safe distance) as per the new government guidelines.
As an employer, you can help colleagues to connect and socialise with each other by organising virtual team activities, like quizzes and coffee clubs.
That said, it’s also important for you to spend time alone to recharge and relax. Read the following tips to help you find healthy ways of spending time by yourself.
Take breaks from work, social media, and the news.
Working from home during a global pandemic is bound to cause stress in one way or another, whether you’re struggling to strike a work-life balance, dealing with loneliness, anxious about your physical health, or overwhelmed by the constant barrage of negative news.
The World Health Organization recommends minimizing your news consumption by only watching or reading updates at specific times during the day, and only then from trusted sources to avoid misinformation and rumours.
While social media can be a good way of connecting with friends near and far, it’s also become awash with information that can be misleading or exaggerated, so it’s sensible to limit your time on social media platforms as well as the news. Other potential negative impacts of social media include sleep disruption, heightened anxiety, and poor self-esteem.
You can try putting limits on your social media consumption or screen time using apps, particularly around the times before you go to bed and immediately after you wake up.
During work, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends stepping away from your computer screen for 5-10 minutes every hour. So, be sure to get up, go for a short walk outside, make a drink, or do some stretching.
It’s also important to take some annual leave while working from home, even if you can’t go on holiday or visit family and friends. It gives you an opportunity to unwind and spend the day doing something you love, like listening to uplifting music, reading a novel in the park, baking and cooking, or watching your favourite films and TV shows.
According to mental health charity Mind, mindfulness is a “technique you can learn which involves making a special effort to notice what’s happening in the present moment . . . without judging anything”.
This technique aims to help you:
- Become more self-aware
- Feel calmer and less stressed
- Feel more able to choose how you respond to your thoughts & feelings
- Cope with difficult or unhelpful thoughts
- Be kinder towards yourself
When practising mindfulness, you can notice how thoughts come and go in your mind, notice what your body is telling you, and create space between you and your thoughts.
"Most of us have issues that we find hard to let go and mindfulness can help us deal with them more productively. We can ask: 'Is trying to solve this by brooding about it helpful, or am I just getting caught up in my thoughts?” says Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre.
You can practise mindfulness by journaling, meditating, doing yoga, or simply by pausing throughout your day to notice thoughts, sensations, feelings, and the world around you.
During a time when for many there are fewer activities to distract us, being present with our own thoughts can be intimidating. But mindfulness invites us to sit with our thoughts, acknowledge them, and let them pass without judgement upon ourselves.
“Mindfulness doesn’t eliminate stress or other difficulties; instead, by becoming aware of unpleasant thoughts and emotions that arise because of challenging situations, we have more choice in how to handle them in the moment — and a better chance of reacting calmly and empathetically when faced with stress or challenges.” - Headspace
Nourish your body, mind, & soul.
What we eat and drink affects how we feel, think, and behave, and while the role of diet in mental health isn’t yet fully understood, there is a growing body of evidence indicating that nutrition may play an important role in the prevention, development, and management of certain diagnosed mental health problems.
So, how do you nourish your mind, body, and soul?
Your body and mind need a variety of vitamins and minerals to function properly, and certain deficiencies are implicated in a number of mental health problems. The government’s Eatwell guidelines encourage people to eat the following foods for a balanced diet:
- At least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables
- Meals based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta, or other starchy carbohydrates
- Some dairy or dairy alternatives like soy milk
- Some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat, and other proteins
- 6-8 glasses of fluid a day
Eating nutritious foods is really important, but it’s equally important to not put pressure on yourself to eat ‘perfectly’, as this can lead to disordered eating and eating disorders such as orthorexia.
Eating intuitively or mindfully can help us to overcome restrictive and binge eating, allowing us to enjoy food (including cake, chocolate, biscuits, and chips!) while giving our bodies and minds the fuel they need to perform well.
As for Coronavirus, eating a balanced diet while self-isolation can be difficult, so Emma Carrington, advice and information manager for Mental health UK suggests: “If you haven’t got people who can bring food to you then see if you can sign up to home deliveries from your local supermarket . . . [or] have a look to see if there are any community support groups in your local area that can provide support with shopping”.
If your company has the budget to continue or start providing food benefits for your employees, City Pantry has a range of solutions for in-office or at-home food delivery solutions, including nutritious recipe boxes and pre-made meals through our Pantry Packages service.
The NHS recommends adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (e.g. brisk walking, riding a bike, dancing) a week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity (e.g. jogging, walking up stairs, aerobics) a week.
While gyms are closed and team sports put on hold, we need to find other ways of moving our bodies to feel the mental health and wellbeing benefits of exercise. Thankfully the weather is on our side at the moment and we can once again enjoy the great outdoors as much as we like!
Here are some examples of exercise you can do while the gyms are closed:
- Jogging and running
- Bike rides
- Yoga & pilates
- Socially distant games of tennis with a friend
- Online workout classes & home-gym routines
But remember, exercise should be something you enjoy, or it won’t be something you can do sustainably throughout your life. So, don’t punish yourself with gruelling HIIT classes or long runs if that’s not what you enjoy. Find what you love and keep your exercise routine varied.
Finally, if you can, make use of greenspace and experience nature as it too can improve your overall wellbeing.
Get plenty of sleep.
Getting enough sleep is vital for our mental health and wellbeing. The official recommendation is around eight hours of good-quality sleep, with some people needing slightly more and others a little less.
However, getting less sleep than your body needs can leave you feeling irritable, fatigued, and unable to concentrate in the short term, and extended periods of sleep deprivation may lead to more serious medical conditions in the long-term, including mood disorders like depression and anxiety.
However, it’s not always as simple as getting into bed earlier and waking up eight hours later, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and ready to tackle the day ahead. There are lots of factors that prevent us from sleeping, including mood disorders themselves, which can create a vicious cycle.
If you struggle to go to sleep and stay asleep, here are some tips that may help you:
- Keep to a routine. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends.
- Reduce screentime, particularly in the hours before you go to bed. This is because devices emit light of a blue wavelength that may trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime.
- Practise relaxation techniques, meditation, or mindfulness in bed.
- If you’re stressed, try writing down your anxieties on a sheet of paper and leave them outside of your bedroom.
- Get professional advice if your sleep disruption continues for a prolonged period of time.
Seek professional help.
If you continue to feel anxious, low, depressed, or hopeless, it’s important to seek professional help. Self-care is great for your general wellbeing, but sometimes it’s not enough on its own to help you through especially difficult periods of time.
You can also book in an appointment with your GP to discuss your mental health if you are concerned, and they may be able to refer you to a free counselling or therapy service or prescribe you with medication. If you don’t want to see your GP you can refer yourself directly to a psychological therapies service by visiting this NHS site.
Some therapists have moved to online and over-the-phone appointments during the Coronavirus pandemic so that they can continue supporting clients while social distancing.
Seeking help for mental health is nothing to be ashamed of, and you are not alone as one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.
So, let’s talk about our mental health and break the stigma because #MentalHealthMatters.
We hoped you enjoyed reading our seven top tips for self-care at home. Follow @mentalhealthfoundation for more tips, advice, and support this Mental Health Awareness Week and beyond.
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