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As England heads back into lockdown, many are concerned about how the stricter rules will affect their mental health and the wellbeing of those around them. Working from home might keep us safer, but 46% of UK workers experienced loneliness during the last lockdown.

The pandemic dominates many of our conversations, making people feel anxious and stressed. One survey found that 67% of Americans said that the government’s response to the pandemic was a significant stress in their life.

With this in mind, it’s vital that you take steps to reduce your stress and take care of your mental health.

Your mental health affects those around you. If you’re unhappy, or struggling with your mental health, chances are your family and colleagues will notice and worry. You owe it to yourself, and your team and your loved ones, to stay healthy. Both physically and mentally.

Go easy on social media…

And the news. It’s easy to fall into a news and social media black hole. You go online to check one headline and before you know it, hours have passed and you’re in a Twitter stream about local panic buying. News sites are swamped with COVID-19 headlines, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when faced with this media onslaught.

💡 Limit yourself to only checking the news for a certain amount of time each day. And stick to trusted sources.

💡 On social media, try muting certain triggering keywords to keep your timeline free of content that makes you anxious. Here’s how to do this on Twitter, and you can also filter out certain comments on Instagram.

Darkbean by @darkbean.

Stay connected

A lack of social interaction can be detrimental to our mental health. One study even found that loneliness could increase inflammation. Introverts and extroverts alike enjoy hanging out with friends and family. How can we do that while respecting the need for social distancing or isolation?

💡 Check-in with your friends, family and colleagues regularly using video calls. Set up weekly digital meetings and get-togethers.

💡 Worried about your neighbours, especially the elderly? Create a WhatsApp group for your street or apartment building.

Eat healthy

When working from home, the biscuit jar is always in reach. Without the daily commute, we also move around a lot less, potentially burning fewer calories. Plenty of us snack when stressed, especially comfort foods.

💡 Plan healthy meals and resist the urge to snack.

💡 Keep up an exercise routine, get outside and take a break from your computer screen when working from home. If you’re self-isolating, and feel well, join an online exercise course or yoga class.

Find the good

Believe it or not, there are some positive aspects to staying home more. Remind yourself of these whenever you start to feel down.

💡 Have a late call with a client based in another timezone? Working from home means you can be more flexible with your hours. Start the day later if you need to finish late.

💡 If your children are off school, structure some time to play games or help them with their homework.

Breathing exercises

A tried and tested method of reducing stress are simple breathing exercises. These are recommended by the NHS when dealing with stress, anxiety, or panic and can be a part of your daily routine.

💡 Try this NHS breathing exercise and use it regularly when you feel anxious.

💡 There are several apps that offer meditation techniques and breathing exercises for stress.

📺 This short video from Headspace talks you through how to breathe, clear your mind and let go of stress.

Be prepared

If working from home is new to you, there are some things you’ll have to get used to. Like remote meetings. In the “before time”, you just turned up to the right meeting room armed with a pen, a notepad and an open mind. Now, you’ll need to do a few extra checks to make sure your calls and digital meetings are as stress-free as possible.

💡 Before your next video meeting, leave plenty of time to check things like your wifi connection. Is everybody comfortable using the same platform? Practise using it in a less stressful scenario with colleagues before using it with a client.

💡 Any pets or children at home? Make sure they’re settled before you start any calls.

Ignore the “what ifs”.

The level of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 makes plenty of people stressed. But instead of focusing on the many “what ifs”, try to remember the facts.

💡 Think about what you can control instead of what you can’t. Follow the advice of health officials when it comes to social distancing and self-isolating.

🗝️ Your key takeaway
Reduce stress by reducing the time spent gazing at the news and COVID-19 items on social media. Stay connected with your friends, family and colleagues instead. If you do feel stressed, try some breathing exercises and remember to eat as healthily as you can.

Mental Health Works gives leaders straight-talking tools, tips and techniques to support mental health and create a culture of candour and trust that enhances employee wellbeing digitally and face-to-face. You can learn more about the programme and request a demo here.

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