Maintaining good mental health in a time of isolation

Harris Asher our consultant managing the role

At Marks Sattin we are well into our second week of working from home in accordance with government advice on social distancing and self-isolation.

It has been quite the change – working in a recruitment office typically comes with an energetic atmosphere; colleagues bouncing ideas back and forth (as well as harmless banter), praise if someone closes a deal, or successfully headhunts a great candidate, as well as the all important element of instant constructive feedback.

This is tough to replicate whilst working from home! With this in mind, I have put together some advice with our candidates and clients in mind, who may be going through the same adjustments. Focusing on good mental health and wellbeing in these strange times is a priority. Below are a few of what I believe to be some key considerations of maintaining good mental health during this time of social distancing/working from home.

These are:

• Routine
• Exercise
• Contact 
• Stress and anxiety

Routine

Working from home carries with it a big change in your daily routine. No tube or train back and forth every day, which will be a blessing for some, but equally no chat with colleagues over lunch, and no longer being in an environment which encourages a structured approach to your working day. Here are a few tips on how to adjust to the change:

Create a dedicated work space

Productivity can be a challenge occasionally which can be made more difficult at home – there are more distractions and no colleagues around to keep you in check. Do your best to make your home office as work like as possible – no sitting with your laptop in bed. Have a separate, quiet space where you are less prone to outside influence.

Invest your commuting time into something productive

The general commute is typically around 50 minutes each way, although plenty of people will suffer worse than that! It doesn’t take much imagination to think of ways you could use that time, both to improve your mental health as well as invest in yourself.

Stick to your normal wake up schedule and use the early morning, rather than lying in and waiting for your work day to start, do some exercise. A morning run (especially in the sunshine) will put you in a great mood by the time you get back to your home desk. You could read a book, educational or otherwise, or just put a bit of extra time into making yourself an indulgent breakfast – the possibilities are endless and using your time with a purpose is essential to good mental wellbeing.

Make positive changes to your diet

An often unavoidable downside of office life is the effects it has on your diet – speed is prioritised over nutritional value and often an unhealthy pick-me-up or two is inevitable. It’s rare that a day goes by in our office that someone doesn’t show up with chocolate or sweets!

Working from home offers a great chance to flip this on its head. Put time into meal planning for the week; get creative, eat more vegetables (immune boosting) and less processed food. Time to cook for yourself can help you eat better which is beneficial for your mental health, physical health and not to mention your wallet!

Exercise

For many, exercise is a big contributor to a positive mental outlook, and as we’re all aware all our usual gyms and exercise studios are now closed. This begs us to reinvent our exercise routine, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Get outdoors if you can

As the saying goes; outside is free! If you are healthy and focusing on social distancing rather than self-isolating, then now is a great time to utilise any nature spaces you might have nearby. Put on your running or walking shoes and go explore.  On top of this it is more important than ever to get a regular supply of vitamin D - it may even be worth considering purchasing a daily supplement.

If you want to get serious and specific about your running, think about entering an event later in the year and kick off your training for it. I was already down to race the Yorkshire marathon in October, so I have plenty of time to get some mileage in! Do research, invest in a heart rate monitor or another activity tracker, put all your runs up on Strava (other apps are available) and use this challenge to motivate and inspire you and others.

Home gym

Indoor training can be just as beneficial, even just to break up the working day – you can’t exactly crack out push-ups in the middle of a real office can you? 
Try and do a set number of your chosen exercise on the minute, every minute for 30 minutes – 10 push ups like this and you’ll have done 300 in far less time than the average London commute. Three times a week and in a month you will have done 3,600.

Google and YouTube are your exercise friends, research some videos and keep track of what you do and share it with your friends or colleagues, maybe even make it a company competition. Setting challenges for yourself outside of work will help you stay mentally strong through these tough times.

Contact

As difficult as the current predicament is, never in human history have we been better equipped to deal with the human contact aspects of pandemic induced self-isolation. 

Colleagues

Interaction at the workplace helps the day go by, whether that be productive conversations or just back and forth about the daily news or sport. Since working from home our team have held a daily google hangout at 9am where we talk through our work related plans for the day but a section of it is just general conversation – it’s a great way to make sure you have some form of human contact that is also productive to your work!

Friends and family

With the new stricter self-isolation rules imposed by the government, seeing your family and friends is all but impossible. This can be a serious drain on people’s mental health, especially on weekends where normal plans have evaporated and time can stand still. Again, video is a wonderful tool to maintain contact. Applications like Houseparty have made it easier than ever to stay in touch with those you care about; why not try a virtual movie night or virtual happy hour?

Stress and anxiety

Apprehension about the future plays a large part in mental wellbeing. So the question is how can we maintain a positive mind-set?

Health

The situation we find ourselves in is one where an individual’s health, and that of their immediate family members, is at a higher level of risk than normal. The best way to deal with the tension that this can cause is to take a hold of the areas you can control. Practice excellent hygiene, stay healthy and follow isolation guidelines. If you’re taking charge of these, you can make a difference to your wellbeing, making you less anxious about health impacts.

Overall mind-set

This won’t be for everyone but it’s important to limit your engagement with COVID-19 related news to once or twice a day, don’t let it overwhelm you. Too much information from too many sources is a recipe for anxiety. Control the “controllables” and don’t try to change what you have no power over.

Set goals; it is hard to stay positive without a purpose. These can be long or short term; enter a running race later in the year, learn a language, start a house project – whatever it is, focus time in your day towards achieving it and this will give your mind something to work on. Track your progress and watch as you improve week on week.

What do you think? We would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on how you are coping with the lockdown and indeed how you might be making the best of it! Comment on our LinkedIn post here.

 
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