Hello! Firstly I’ll introduce myself. My name’s Matt and I’m a Wellbeing Ambassador at GoVox. It’s my job to educate people about mental health and wellbeing, and specifically about how the GoVox platform supports this.
The purpose of this blog is to share some top tips on how to cope through periods of increased isolation, restricted living and heightened stress.
The reason why I’m sharing this is because I have lived under (broadly) similar conditions for around 6-7 months on an operational tour in Afghanistan – in some ways, this is starting to feel a little similar! I thought it would be useful to share some things I learned. Many people end up counting down the days and you have to adapt to prevent yourself from, quite frankly, going insane.
1-People will start to grate on each other. Be mindful of this and try to take time to address it
When you’re spending a long period of time in one (or very few) places, with the same people, you will inevitably start to annoy one-another. Whether your usual ‘banter’ winds them up just a bit too much in the pressure cooker environment, or you’re simply not performing the basic chores you once would (as you’re straight downstairs in your pants behind the laptop), your actions (or inactions) can affect people in different ways under these conditions. Keep communication open and honest and try to self-reflect.
2-Routine. Routine. Routine
With most people working from home and with very few places to go to escape, it’s more important than ever to maintain a good routine. Or, if you haven’t really had much of a routine before, create one. Try to get up at the same time each day, set aside time for lunch, exercise, dinner. Set your day of the week to do your essential shopping in advance. Keeping a routine is the most useful way of maintaining some semblance of reality in what can feel like a very unreal situation. Humans are generally creatures of habit, so it’s good for your mental health to keep to your routine where possible.
Goal setting is a great way of monitoring and measuring progress. It’s also something that can be celebrated, with a feel-good factor attached. You can use this in line with your routine, for example, setting goals for the day or week. Additionally, setting fitness-related goals is the perfect way to stay fit and healthy in what would be an otherwise sedentary situation. You could get into the shape of your life in this time! Alternatively, why not challenge yourself to learn a new dish, or take up a new hobby.
4-Keep fit. Or get fitter
Physical health has a huge impact on mental health. After a workout, you’ll usually feel great with the endorphins flowing through your body. Admittedly, immediately after (and during) a run, I absolutely hate it, but a while after, I feel much better and it sets me up nicely for the rest of the day. An additional benefit of keeping fit is that you’ll make it much easier to eat well. It’s too easy to say ‘what’s the point’ and dig into a chocolate bar on the sofa, but this is only really going to have a detrimental impact in the long run. If you’re actively working out, you generally want to cement this with eating something healthier. Burning 300 calories doesn’t mean you have the perfect excuse to eat something rubbish!
5-Eat healthily where possible
Eating healthily is a great way to protect and help your mental health. It’s also good for your body (so doubly good for your brain!) If you’re eating well, it not only feels good but it actually is good too. It’ll help you with your fitness goals, your work, staying motivated and also will reflect better on those that you live with. If you see others in your house eating unhealthily, it’s all too tempting to do the same. If you need to, have a couple of cheat days. Just make sure you’re working extra hard to make up for it!
6-Talk to people and check in on others
Some people cope better than others under time of duress. Your average gamer for example is probably used to living like this, but social butterflies will really be struggling. It’s so important to keep the dialogue open with people you usually speak with, either at work or socially. Share a bit more than you usually would – talking about your mental health for example may open others up to sharing more. It’s great to talk, and often talking is the best medicine. Mental health services are likely to be reduced under these circumstances so it’s important to air things early on to stop them escalating. Equally, if you’re a manager or leader, you should make an effort to check in on your team more often than usual, and in different ways.
7-Prepare your brain for the long run
You might’ve felt an element of novelty about the situation initially, but when that passes, there will probably be a slump. You can’t really count down the days to something if you don’t know how long that will be. If anything, overestimating will help you mentally prepare and cope better. When these restrictions are lifted, it will be amazing, but in the meantime, a good solid routine, a little self awareness and a lot of checking in will equip you well for the battle ahead.