Maintaining your mental and physical wellbeing while working from home
These are uncertain and unsettling times for many, with the coronavirus pandemic completely changing both our home and working lives. And during this period, it will be completely natural for you to be experiencing feelings of anxiety, fear or loneliness, whether you are directly impacted by the virus, teaching your kids at home, or else simply consuming the flood of news surrounding it each day.
It can be difficult to let go of these more challenging emotions, but it is important to try and look after your physical and mental health during this time by engaging in more positive thoughts and actions. With all that’s going on in the world, now might seem like an unusual time to talk about being positive, however staying positive is crucial when it comes to successfully coping during a crisis.
In fact, findings in psychology research have shown that positive emotions can actually help to undo the negative effects of stress, which makes forming healthy and uplifting daily habits more important than ever.
So whether you are working from home, or simply following isolation restrictions, here are some ways you can maintain good physical and mental health right now.
Maintain a regular exercise routine
Regular exercise has been shown to release endorphins – known as the “happy hormone” – into the body, which is linked to reduced stress, anxiety and better sleep.
While team sports will be off the cards for now, there are still plenty of ways you can achieve the World Health Organisation’s recommended 30 minutes of movement each day. Many fitness studios and gyms are offering their classes online during the outbreak, some of them for free. All you need is a mat or towel on the floor and a reliable internet connection. Alternatively, you can go for a walk, run, bike ride, or simply play in the backyard with your family or pets.
Eat a healthy diet
Research has shown that chronic daily stress releases cortisol, and in studies this has been linked to an increased appetite and desire for sweet or fatty foods. This means that when we’re anxious, it can be all too easy to turn to processed foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat. And while this can help ease some anxiety temporarily, in the long term it is likely to have a negative effect on your mental (and physical!) health.
The best foods for our mental health are generally the healthiest foods; complex carbohydrates, found in fruit, vegetables and whole grains, provide important nourishment for our brains as they slowly release energy, which also stabilises our moods. Furthermore, filling up on fibrous vegetables and foods that contain pre and probiotics, such as yogurt, kimchi and kaffir, which will help maintain a healthy microbiome in our gut, which has been linked to better overall mental health.
Stay connected to family, friends and colleagues
Though social distancing regulations are most definitely still in place at the time this article was published, this does not necessarily mean we are all being forced into “social isolation”, which would mean no interaction with anyone in any way. This is an incredibly important distinction to recognise right now.
During this time, make the deliberate effort to be in touch with family, friends and colleagues, so as to maintain social connection with others. Thanks to technology, there are many ways in which you can do this now, including video chat, texting, phone calls, voice calls and emails. Try to talk to a friend or relative each day, and if you are working from home, aim to speak with a few people from your office regularly.
And if you are in lockdown with your family or friends, consider this as an opportunity to strengthen your relationships and spend more time with one another. Spend time with your loved ones throughout the day, learn new things about each other and take the time to really engage with them.
Limit your media intake
It can be incredibly easy during a time like this to become completely consumed by every news story circling about the pandemic. Especially if you are at home all day and consuming media on your phone, from your radio and television. And while it is important to stay up-to-date on government announcements regarding safety protocols, workplace legislation and crowd restrictions, you do not have to be an expert on the subject of COVID-19. Constantly being bombarded with bad news is sure to increase stress and anxiety, making remaining positive difficult.
Instead, stick to one reliable news source and choose to check this for a few minutes each day. That could be for 10 minutes in the morning, or in the evening. It’s enough to keep you informed, without completely taking over your life.
Create a healthy sleep pattern
Stress and anxiety can have a huge impact on your sleep cycles, either making it difficult to fall asleep or causing you to wake constantly throughout the night. Furthermore, if you are spending much more time around the house, or not having to make the commute into work, there can be the tendency to oversleep or take extended naps.
According to the Oxford Sleep Research Society, getting enough good quality sleep is essential for our bodies to not only repair cells, clear toxins and consolidate memories, but also in reducing anxiety and depression.
For this reason, it is important to create a healthy sleeping pattern and routine, just as you would for eating, exercising and working. Try to go to bed and wake up at similar times each day, to create a sense of normalcy for your body and maintain a consistent circadian rhythm. If you are finding it difficult to get to sleep, try to reduce screen time before bed, as the effect of the blue light can disrupt sleep quality.
Seek professional help if you need it
If you are finding yourself extremely overwhelmed, becoming increasingly anxious or depressed during this time, it is a good idea to speak to a medical professional. While practicing positive habits and rituals can indeed be helpful, if you feel that you need more support right now, there’s plenty of assistance out there for you.
Beyond Blue has a dedicated Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Service that is available 24/7 at. The organisation has also established a dedicated phone line, staffed by mental health professionals briefed on the pandemic response, that is also now open on 1800 512 348. Lifeline also has useful resources and tools on coping with anxiety during the COVID-19 outbreak, and support services are available on 13 11 14.