If I could give you one piece of advice to help you through the ups and downs of life right now and to help improve your mental wellbeing it would be create new rituals.
Working from home comes with many perks but it also removes a lot of the structure and routines from our working life that we probably took for granted. These little daily rituals such as the morning train ride, the scheduled team meetings and the planned lunch breaks were all an integral part of our daily structure and an important part of our working life.
Without realising it these often-mundane rituals were a hugely important part of our mental wellbeing. We’re funny things, us humans, mainly due to the contradictory nature of the brain, in that it’s capable of wild imagination and creativity and yet it also likes to feel safe and secure. We do many things subconsciously to ensure we feel in control and this includes our daily routines.
COVID has changed all our lives and has left many of us feeling out of control, anxious and unsafe. To counteract this, it is important to create new rituals to replace those which we can no longer do such as commuting to the office. Rituals bring regularity and predictability and this in turn makes us feel safe.
I have put together the following simple tips that will help and empower you through the winter months.
Start your day at the same time – this will get your body into a natural rhythm which is really helpful for sleep patterns and, of course, feeling in control.
- Go for a morning walk in the daylight - absorb the vitamin D and get your alpha waves flowing for creativity and to life your mood. During the first lockdown many people hardly left their homes which can have extraordinarily negative effects on mental and physical health. Boost your immune system with fresh air, vitamins and exercise as well as getting your endorphins flowing.
- Become a foodie - Plan your meals and create rituals around this. Cooking is really useful for reducing anxious thoughts and gives you a natural break during your working day. If you set certain mealtimes then it gives you milestones throughout the day; lunchtime cooking encourages you to take a real break from work and not just sit at your desk. It might save you money and help you eat healthier than those meals on the go too.
- Start a project – Setting goals and giving your time purpose is hugely valuable for mental welling. It doesn’t really matter what it is as long as your plan and commit yourself to it. It could be knitting a Christmas stocking, a jigsaw, paint by numbers, planning your new business, getting around to that DIY, reading the books on your shelf anything just give yourself something to focus on outside of your work.
- Evening routines – As we work from home it is really important to consider how we spend our evenings to ensure we detach ourselves from our working day and allow time to unwind for mental recovery. At the end of the working day, make sure that you leave for work by preparing your to-do-list for the following day, perhaps some breathing exercises, going for a walk and returning to “home” rather than “the office” and finally, listing three good things from the day.
- Have fun – Life happens anyway so why not have fun. One of my favourite things is to have themed Friday nights where we cook a particular cuisine, play music, dance and enjoy life.
Remember that there are many benefits to working from home, but it can also have an adverse effect on your mental health so ensure you protect yourself with routines and rituals.
Dannielle Haig is director and business psychologist at DH Consulting