Every day, there is more tough news and uncertainty about COVID-19, which isn’t helping most of us to get a good night’s sleep. Good sleep is essential for:
- Supporting a strong immune system.
- Mental acuity: clear thinking, improved memory and concentration which helps us make better decisions.
- Improved mood: lack of sleep can make us more irritable and impatient, increasing the chances of conflict.
- Better mental health: studies have found that a lack of sleep can contribute to conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
There is huge potential for stress at the moment – uncertainties surrounding work; health; financial security; childcare; education; family overseas; and we are also navigating the challenges of working from home with decreased boundaries between the personal and professional. These stressors are likely to contribute to poor sleep, but what can you do to mitigate the effects as far as possible?
- Use self care practices to address the stressors in your life. Routine exercise; journalling; meditation or catching up online with friends or family can be ways to stay centred and grounded.
- Try to reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, green tea, sports and energy drinks etc which many of us use to stay awake and alert. Other options could be drinking more water or replacing the caffeine with herbal tea; or to try moving around more
- Limit the amount of time you spend focused on COVID-19 to no more than an hour a day, whether this is on social media or the TV
- Maintain a good sleep routine. Doing the same thing each night teaches your body and mind to relax and fall asleep. Start this at least 30 minutes (but ideally an hour), before you go to bed.
- Stop drinking alcohol at least one hour before going to bed. Many people use alcohol to relax, but while it may help you fall asleep, it disrupts the quality of REM sleep, leaving you feeling less rested upon waking.
- Increase your melatonin level to help regulate your sleep cycle. Getting outside in natural daylight and stopping looking at screens an hour before you want to sleep may help.
- Make your bedroom sleep-friendly. Keep your bedroom a space for sleep and rest. Leave your phone and laptop outside the bedroom and make sure the space is dark, cool, quiet, and comfortable.
Try to stop your mind from racing to allow relaxation. Things that could help are a warm drink like milk or chamomile tea; relaxing scents; meditation or mindfulness activities, or winding down with a good book.
The impact of teleworking and social distancing on businesses and their employees continues to grow. The uncertainty of the situation affects companies’ revenue and future plans; while remote work is impacting employees, with a recent Japanese survey by Keio University finding that 35% of workers interviewed stated that their mental health had deteriorated since starting working from home. The top three worries were: separating work from personal lives; getting enough exercise; & communicating with their work colleagues.
Many workers have worries right now. How successfully or productively can they do their jobs from home? Do they have the right equipment? What does networking and connecting look like in this new world? How do they create routines? Look like a team player? Increase productivity or sales? Manage a team remotely? Many employees are struggling to switch off and set clear boundaries and work hours. Will staying at home impact the security of their jobs?
Change is often difficult to navigate, and combined with the ever increasing uncertainties, we are placing strains on our mental health. Whether you are a CEO, manager, or employee, looking after your mental health is essential for everyone.
Below are some tips to help managers support their staff’s mental health and be successful during this time.
- Lead the change.
- Keep your staff updated on how your business is responding to COVID-19 and be open and transparent with employees about their job security.
- Provide them with accurate resources should they want further information on COVID-19.
- Make sure they are aware of the supports your business offers, such as EAP services, workshops, training, equipment support, leave, etc.
- Provide strong IT support, guidance, and assistance
- Enable flexibility and consider how your team manages their work, as well as their family and carer responsibilities.
- Remember to reach out and include staff who may be off on long term leave, e.g. sick leave, maternity leave etc.
- Encourage dialogue about the challenges people are experiencing working
- from home and talk about managing mental health care and stress levels
- Implement team activities such as squat, abdomen crunches, or push up challenges;
- Encourage virtual workouts of meditation/yoga/mindfulness sessions.
- Hold gratitude and success gatherings.
- Provide Support
- Maintain regular communication with your team
- Be flexible with working hours: let your team know they are not expected to work beyond set hours and be mindful of the challenges that school closures/childcare needs might be causing for your staff.
- Make yourself available for one-to-one meetings for any staff who are struggling, or you notice a change in their performance.
- Be aware that individual circumstances vary and consider options to support each team member’s needs.
- Remind your team to work in ways that are kind to their mind and body
- Let your staff know they are not alone and that it is OK not to be OK.
- Encourage open discussions to enable your team to share or learn from others.
- Remember that being a manager doesn’t make you immune to the same stresses as your employees and that you need to look after yourself too.
It can be difficult to get into a routine when you’re working from home, especially if you’re used to compartmentalizing your life into work and non-work segments. If you’re used to going to an office, it can be hard to separate the personal from the professional, and let’s face it: home has a whole different set of distractions than the work environment, such as kids, pets, chores, partners, or a beckoning refrigerator.
Setting a work from home routine can help get you into–and out of–work mode.
- If space allows, create a dedicated work area. Whether it’s a home office, or just an end table in the corner of the dining room, having an official space to work helps you to get into work mode and out of couch mode.
- Set–and stick to–working hours. It can be easy for work life to bleed into home life. But just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you need to answer emails that come in at 10 p.m. Setting time boundaries will help you keep your personal life personal.
- Schedule regular breaks. It can be easy to forget to take breaks, but taking 5-10 minutes every hour or two to stretch, head to the restroom, or walk around the block will help to stave off aches and pains and stagnation.
- Try productivity hacks. If you’re having trouble concentrating, why not try a productivity tool, such as a Pomodoro timer, a social media blocker, or a digital to-do list?
- Eat healthy and hydrate. One advantage to working from home is that you have your whole kitchen at your disposal, so it’s easier to make something healthy and fresh. If you usually go out for lunch, you’ll probably save money too. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water too.
- Stay connected. It can be exhausting to be in online meetings all day, and many are feeling the Zoom burnout. But checking in with your team from time to time can keep you motivated, strengthen collaborative projects, and reduce isolation.
- Take advantage. There are pros and cons to working from home, but while you’re here, why not take advantage? Add a few little things that help you work that you can’t get away with at the office, like listening to music or white noise, using aromatherapy, wearing fuzzy slippers, or having a cat in your lap.
Happy working, everyone!
We are finding that couples feel more alone and unsupported in this pandemic. When we are stretched thin our needs increase and our capacity to give is significantly reduced. This is true for you and it’s true for your spouse also. But there are moments we can capitalize on and attune to what really matters to help us through this trying season.
- Attune to strengths: Can you list your partner’s strengths? In times of stress we are more prone to look at the negative. Take a look at what skills or gifts your spouse brings to the table that makes your life a little easier each day. If we focus more on what isn’t going well, we will feel unappreciated and more alone. During this time, it is especially important to recognize the small contributions of your partner, and how it supports our wellbeing throughout the day.
- Opportunity: Actively look for 3 things your partner does today that brightens your mood, gives you hope, or takes a burden off your shoulders.
- Attune to their needs: You may not realize it, but you also have a lot to give. When you are emotionally in a good space, let that be the time you carry the “emotional load” for the team. We should expect our mood to fluctuate more during this time, and realistically, we can’t nail it 100% of the time. When you’re able, capitalize on your gifts that add to wellbeing and peace in your relationship, and give what you can, when you can.
- Opportunity: Look for 1 to 2 small, realistic, and meaningful ways you can appreciate your partner today that says, “I see you, I care about you”.
- Attune to your needs: Awareness of our emotions is crucial in this time. Can you pause and notice how you feel inside? Are you angry, irritable, at peace, or sad? If you can identify this, you then have an idea whether you’re in the space to give or if you need to receive. Taking inventory of our emotions throughout the day helps us prevent burnout before we become so maxed out we have nothing left to give. It let’s us know whether we need to connect with others or go for a walk/run by ourselves.
- Opportunity: Check in with yourself now and once again later today. Ask, “Is now a time I can give a little, or take a little”. If you always find yourself needing to give, I suggest scheduling time for yourself each day, or chances are, you will never get around to making time for yourself.