It is more important than ever that we all focus on maintaining our health and wellbeing. With ‘the office’ for many of us currently being our kitchen, bedroom or dining room, we need to practice the right habits to tackle anxiety, stress and the potential impact of isolation.
Here, I’ve outlined a few pointers around basic habits that I personally find useful which I hope will help keep others happy and healthy while at work or home (especially when they’re both the same place).
1. Find your “flow state”
You know the phrase “in the zone”? We use this to describe when our performance or productivity level is high – essentially, we are in what is known as a “flow state”. You might get in this zone when doing a creative task, learning, playing a game or solving a challenging problem.
Flow states are moments when your body or mind is stretched to its limits and you are completely absorbed in what you are doing.
To reach such a state more often, switch off notifications and other distractions where possible, and do something that you find challenging, rewarding and intrinsically motivating – something that you enjoy doing for the sake of it. Find times every data for these “flow” experiences and see how you feel.
2. Take regular exercise (once a day, is good!)
Ok we all know that physical exercise is good for us, but not everyone knows why – or the impact it can have on our body and mind.
Essentially, exercise allows your body to get more energy out of the food you eat. It increases blood flow to all your body’s tissues and, as it increases, your body starts producing new blood vessels. This makes it easier to move minerals and vitamins around while getting rid of waste. Exercise also stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin; brain chemicals that make you feel good and regulate your mood. So, when you exercise, not only do you feel better, but you think more clearly, concentrate for longer and regulate your emotions more effectively too.
Try to be active every single day. Schedule in a least a 30 min walk and/or aim for that Holy Grail of 10,000 steps daily. And aim for some more intense exercise that gets you out of breath at least 2-3 times each week.
3. Get enough sleep
Sleep regenerates your mind and body. If you don’t get enough sleep, your mind and body suffers, and you can accumulate what is called a “sleep debt”. This can lead to fatigue, mood changes, difficulty concentrating, difficulty remembering things and heightened feelings of stress and anxiety.
Most people need between 7.5-and 8.5 hours of sleep per night. One study found that, when a person got only 6 hours of sleep or less per night for 5 nights, that person’s cognitive performance was just as low as a person who was kept awake for 49 continuous hours!
At the risk of teaching anyone to suck eggs, a few reminders to help get a good night’s sleep include avoiding caffeine or alcohol in the few hours before bed and turning off any screens/devices earlier.
4. Consider what you are eating (and drinking)
What we eat and drink is not only important for our physical health, it also has a huge bearing on our mental health and our ability to think clearly too.
Now, there are a few general guidelines that we can follow to ensure that we’re eating right but the main thing is to balance your blood sugar. We all know that sugar is found in chocolate, soft drinks and sweets – but there is also a lot of sugar in yogurt, juices, ready meals, cereals and sauces, among many other food products.
Try a low glycemic diet, swapping wheat, potato and sugar with oats, barley, quinoa, rye and other colourful fruits and vegetables. At least half of what we eat every day should be colourful fruits and veg!
Also, stay hydrated. Most of what we drink should be water – so try not to overdo it on drinks with caffeine, sugar, sweetener or alcohol. Over a sustained period, dehydration can lead to cognitive decline affecting stuff like our attention span and problem-solving ability.
5. Nurture your relationships
There is a wealth of evidence showing that staying socially connected has a big impact on our resilience to stress and overall mental wellbeing. And, when working from home, periods of feeling disconnected, isolated and lonely are more likely. Consciously investing time in our relationships – both with clients or colleagues and friends, neighbours and family is essential to our wellbeing.
Book in regular check-ins with colleagues and your manager. See how others are managing and share how you are feeling. Explore different ways that you can support each other and use these opportunities to build rapport and trust.
6. Know when and how to switch off
Working in an office or another site makes it quite easy for us to leave work behind at the end of a working day (as we physically leave that place). But when home working, the lines between home and work can quickly become blurred, which is dangerous as we all need to find time to switch off from work by not having proper breaks from screens. Over time, this can chip away at your resilience, focus and productivity – and ultimately lead to burnout.
Establish a routine with clear boundaries. Set realistic expectations for yourself and agree these with others. Protect those boundaries and role model this for others. You could even use your calendar to create a routine that allows you to completely switch off from work at agreed times daily.