Everyday life has changed in ways we never expected.
We’re all stuck indoors by order of the government. Schools are closed. Essential services are struggling. Many people are worried about their jobs. Just add an outbreak of a dangerous disease and it’s no wonder that you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed and stressed. Do you feel afraid? Worried for your loved ones? Are you having trouble sleeping? Are you eating more or less?
Does any of this feel familiar? It should, because it’s entirely normal to react in this way. We are all collectively going through an anxiety-ridden, generation-defining event. What matters most is what we do next.
People respond to stress in different ways. You may be able to get up and do yoga at 6am. Then you’ll have a green smoothie for breakfast and go for a run. Or may struggle just to get out of bed at all. You might then find it even harder to face the day ahead. Staring at a laptop and trying to concentrate while chaos erupts around you doesn’t always inspire you to take up mindful activities. It inspires you to pour an extra-large glass of wine at 6pm. The best way to combat stress and anxiety is to set realistic goals for yourself.
Read on for three simple ways to set goals for yourself while remaining:
The gyms are closed. You’re allowed one outdoor activity a day. Food options are limited. Your walk to work has been cut down to a 10 second commute and you do so in your pyjamas (more on that later…) Right now, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of mindlessly scrolling through social media channels.
You drink in the couples who are doing at-home workouts in matching Lycra. You see the parents who are home-schooling four children while remaining charming in Zoom meetings. And then there’s that friend from university on social. She’s tweeting inspiring quotes and Instagrams the gourmet meal that she somehow whipped up using half a tin of chickpeas.
Please remember that social media is the same as it ever was. People only show you the shiniest parts of their lives. Don’t beat yourself up over what you haven’t done. Focus on the positive things that you’re already doing.
It’s never been more important to stay connected. Connected with your friends, family, co-workers, neighbours… Thankfully, we live in a time where technology enables us to videocall. Have you facetimed an old friend since all this began? All those coffee dates that you never got around to are finally here. We all have a minute. We have a lot of minutes.
People are getting creative too. Co-workers turn themselves into vegetables. Families use conference call software to host their own pub quizzes. Even the Prime Minister used Zoom to address the nation. All of these technological advances help you stay in touch with those you love. You can see their faces, hear their voices and feel connected to your community.
And all of that is wonderful. But what about members of society who are cut off from the rest of us? Isolation is, well, isolating. The British government has laid out clear guidelines about how we should behave for the next few weeks. Over 1.5 million people in the UK were sent letters advising them to ‘shield’ themselves for 12 weeks.
Many of us are stuck in an apartment completely alone. Others have to self-isolate from their families upon returning home from work. Consider those around who perhaps aren’t as tech-savvy as the rest of us. Post a note through the letterbox of your elderly neighbour to check that they’re ok or leave a sign of encouragement in the window for passers-by.
So you’re working from home? Seemed like a great idea in the beginning, didn’t it? Working in your slippers. No commute. Your new workmate is fluffy and has four legs. You’re saving a fortune on carry-out coffee. Three weeks in, your opinion may be changing. Most of us are simply not used to checking emails from the kitchen. There are a lot of articles touting the best way to transform your dining room into a home office. But you may be sharing your ‘offices’ with partners and pesky kids. It’s just not feasible to set up a designated zen area when you’re wrestling a toddler into Peppa Pig pyjamas.
But working from home doesn’t have to be a chore. So, let’s keep it simple. Go for the two easiest, and most effective, ways that you can remain focused while on lockdown.
Have a routine
Step one: get dressed on a morning. Seems simple, and that’s because it is. This doesn’t mean you have to don a suit and tie. Jeans and a t-shirt are fine, but avoid working in your pyjamas. When you work in actual ‘going outside in public’ clothes, you associate the outfit change with a new focus. You’d be surprised how different you feel just by wearing shoes and socks instead of slippers.
Don’t wear socks and sandals though. Not even a pandemic excuses this lapse in taste and decorum. Getting up on a morning and getting dressed draws you back into that pre-Covid19 frame of mind. You can still have a routine, just a slightly tweaked version of your old routine. Try to replicate that normal routine as closely as possible. Set the kids up with schoolwork before you ‘go to work’. Have a coffee break away from your screen. Take a proper lunch break. Finish work at the same time you would leave the office.
Don’t forget to turn off your laptop. Put work away and leave the ‘office’ behind at close of play. Slip into something more comfortable for the evening.
Set up a work area
What does your desk at work look like? Do you have office plants? Funny birthday cards from six months ago? A sticker that has something to do with an inside joke that has been long forgotten? Now look around your current workstation. Are you currently reading this article from the sofa? Kitchen table? Patio step?
Wherever you’re working from, try to do so on a flat surface. The change in posture from slumping on the sofa to sitting upright at a table will improve your workday, and keep back pain at bay. Small changes can make a big difference. Work near a window. Put a plant on the kitchen table. Treat yourself to some nice coffee. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference it will make, especially if you spend most of your day glued to a screen.
You don’t sit in silence all day at work, do you? So, call your co-workers, talk to your flatmates, chat to the kids. The stereotype that working from home really means watching Netflix has caused a lot of people to overwork and panic about productivity levels. You would normally take a few breaks during the day. Take time to shoot the breeze with your colleagues.
One silver lining is the glorious realisation that most meetings really could have just been an email. By following these tips and tricks, you can dodge some of the avoidable stresses.
There are many methods, tools and techniques to reduce stress. So, use them to keep an eye on your wellbeing during the next few weeks. And check in with those around you to see how they’re doing. It’s important to make the most of these modern tools in a way that is beneficial to you and your life. Don’t set yourself unrealistic goals just to punish yourself for not fulfilling them.
For the record, that means that it’s ok to eat frozen pizza for dinner three nights in a row. If you feel you have to let your toddler look at Netflix for a little while so that you can regain some of your sanity, that’s fine too. You didn’t learn Korean during the quarantine? Cool. You can learn it some other time if you still want to.
If you didn’t go for five-mile runs before lockdown, don’t force yourself to do so now. Go for a walk, do some yoga in your living room or dance around to disco classics with your kids. Give yourself realistic goals but don’t pressure yourself. These are strange times and we are all doing the best that we can. Stay healthy. Stay at home. Stay safe.