Peter Kinselley looks at the 3 core elements in reducing stress and being positive during lockdown.
Prior to lockdown, I have worked regularly from home over a 2-year period. I have my own dedicated office space, learned that the radio was my friend, and have two cats who visit me regularly to disturb my routine.
My working from home routine, prior to lockdown, was to get up around 06:15, drop my wife off at the Park and Ride and collect her when she returned after work.
Lockdown has meant both of us working from home. So, the routine has been broken.
We have established a second office space, and we have had to consider the impact of our work on ourselves as well as each other. This has meant discussing over breakfast what our day looks like so we can manage conference calls and other meetings we attend virtually to not disturb each other.
There have been some great benefits to this period. I exercise daily, the house is sparkling, and the kitchen is undergoing a transformation. The garden looks amazing and we are spending more time together.
There are also negatives. One of my secret pleasures was to lunch out. This has stopped, and I really miss it as I have not been able to find a replacement!
At the time of writing this, we are in week 4 of lockdown and need to consider that we have at least 3 more weeks of formal lockdown before any Governmental lockdown measures will be relaxed.
Even then we are unlikely to return to 'normal' life for at least another 3 months as schools are likely to remain closed until September.
In a very short time-frame, we have become restricted in what we can do and our routines (habits) have been broken. In addition to this, we have the added stress of the COVID-19 outbreak and many of us have the additional burden of having our jobs put at risk.
Research by the has identified that transition to a new environment will initially lead us to feel low as we adapt to the new way in which we are being asked to work and live in.
This feeling is a result of the stress we are likely to be experiencing and that for many of us, our daily routines will have changed significantly. This will include the challenges of being a parent, teacher, carer, and employee all at the same time rather than being able to separate them.
For others, such as those living on their own, the monotony of the current circumstance may cause tiredness and result in changes in routine.
To be able to combat lockdown fatigue we need to consider, how do we get our energy back?
Structure, Exercise and Sleep
It is important, where you live in a shared house, by yourself, or with family, to consider structure, exercise and sleep.
Why is this important? Research by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte into Post-Traumatic Growth found that instead of allowing yourself to go into a dark place, you flip the brain around so you grow from the experience and teach your brain to process the memory differently.
The Conversation article by Sarita Robinson and John Leach identifies that we should look at lockdown as a phase of adjustment. They advise that a reflective journal can help us measure how we are adjusting and look back on how we have felt during this transition. This is important to consider as adjustment will take around 3 months (approximately the length of lockdown).
1. The Importance of Structure
To gain structure we need to plan ahead. We need to think about how our days are structured, try and maintain a routine, and look at ways to fit in exercise and sleep into our daily planning.
Structure means we plan our days and set a routine. This means we get up at the same time, 'go to work', plan lesson times, take regular work breaks, plan family time, keep in contact with friends and relatives, exercise and sleep.
This sounds OK so far, but we also need to understand the importance of other factors such as getting outdoors.
Being outdoors will boost your serotonin levels. This is good! And works in all weather conditions (as I write this it is raining outside!). Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helps keep you calm and focused. A lack of serotonin has the opposite effect so will affect how you feel and can lead to mental health issues.
Sunlight has other amazing properties, it provides a source of vitamin D, lowers high blood pressure and even improves brain function.
2. Exercise is a Miracle Cure
Exercise is good for you and even better if it's done outdoors! The Department for Health and Human Services has put together guidelines on physical exercise for all ages and physical conditions. Plus they’ve put together lots of resources and ideas for getting into physical activity.
Governments have been keen to allow outdoor exercise to continue during lockdown to maintain and improve the health and wellbeing during these difficult times, so make the most of it. We need melatonin from outdoor light to help our body know if it's light or dark. It helps us sleep and shows how structure, exercise and sleep are all connected to health.
Being healthier also helps us if we become sick as it aids our recovery and improves immune system function.
3. Good Sleep is Vital
The last thing to talk about is sleep. A good night's sleep is important for so many reasons and I would encourage you to do a bit of research why – you'll be surprised!
We should try to get around 7-9 hours of sleep every night. But to get a good night’s sleep we need to plan it.
Where you sleep is important and it should be associated with sleeping.
By removing any light (this includes TVs, smartphones, monitors or anything else that emits light) and sound, and making sure the room temperature is lower than the rest of your home, you will make the environment right for you.
If you like to read before going to sleep, you should consider using a physical book, rather than using an electronic device, as the LED light stimulates the waking brain.
You should consider how your mattress and pillows support you when you sleep. If they don't, its time to make a change.
There are other ways to wind down to sleep as well. A warm bath is a good way of relaxing yourself before bed, so too is meditation. These both have the effect of helping you fall asleep more quickly.
It's also important to consider how alcohol and caffeine impact our sleep. Both will affect our sleep patterns, as will sugary foods consumed just before we go to bed. These should be avoided for at least 2 hours before bedtime.
Sleeping is a neglected component of our individual health and wellbeing strategy – we should remember that sleep helps our bodies to repair and prepare us for another day.
5 Tips for a Healthy Nights Sleep:
- Maintain a good routine, this will help to minimize stress
- Get outdoors and exercise
- Turn off screens and avoid sugary foods
- Think about your sleep environment. Is the temperature right? Are there any LED lights in the room?
- Plan to do something that winds you down, like taking a bath or reading
Bringing it All Together
Lockdown is representing change for us all and a challenge for many. Some of it provides us the opportunity to spend time where we have not been able to in the past. How many of us will take up learning a new language, studying subjects we've previously neglected, or taken on that creative project that's been in the back of our mind for ages?
There are unique opportunities for us to grow, but to do so we need to be happy and healthy, and in these uncertain times we need to make sure we're structured, exercising and sleeping well so that we can stay sane.
The learning from the University of North Carolina indicates that we should take the time to 'flip' the challenges we face in lockdown and use it positively.
Get extra support for your employees by download our home working email templates. They cover important subjects like stress, wellbeing and managing discomfort, helping your team fight lockdown fatigue.