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  • Writer's pictureJo FitzGerald

COVID-19 & Working From Home

If you’re working from home at the moment, here are some simple ways to reduce feelings of isolation and support your mental health and wellbeing in these unexpected times.

1. Keep A Routine

Get up at your regular time (unless of course, that was REALLY early – there’s no travelling time needed now); this will help set up your internal clock and keep you feeling more refreshed and less tired. By doing this, you’ll find it much easier to concentrate. Katie Piper advises that, for our wellbeing, we need to make sure we are keeping our dignity – that means getting washed and dressed, even if it’s just changing into clean leisurewear. Doing this helps you get into that work mindset. Do try to have a workspace, however small your home is – or how crowded. Even if it’s an area of your living room, a cleared dressing table – or a seat at your dining table, this makes it easier to separate work time, and a lot easier to switch off at the end of your working day. If you live with other people and have family commitments, it’s a great idea to have a schedule written down. That way, everyone can take turns to share responsibilities and have clear work time/leisure time boundaries.

2. Keep Active

Exercise helps both your physical and your mental health. Try to take regular breaks – I set a reminder on my phone, otherwise I’ll get too engrossed in what I’m doing (watching cat videos mostly) and forget to get up from my chair. You can do some simple stretches, and a few yoga poses, 10 star jumps – or do what I do and walk up and down the stairs trying to remember what it is you really needed to fetch. Try to have a period of the day when you do some planned exercise too whatever you can manage and is your go-to exercise. There are also some great ‘fitness challenges’ on the internet and loads of workout videos on YouTube that you can do at home.

3. Keep Connecting

If you work in a team, try to make sure you touch base with each other regularly, video calls are a great way to do this – it’s much more personal. Helps you make a real connection – and is also a great incentive for you to wash your hair and get out of your pyjamas. Remember that being a team isn’t just about work, deadlines and budgets – it’s also about supporting each other. Have shared video coffee breaks, it’s a lovely idea to keep that team interaction going on a more personal level. You can then check in with how everyone’s getting on emotionally, compare your pets and laundry piles and really bond during these uncertain and unexpected times. That leads us on to…

4. Keep Aware

Have a regular check-in on how you’re feeling. If you’re feeling isolated, stressed or anxious, then do reach out for support. If your organisation has a Mental Health First Aider or an Employee Assistance Programme, then they might be your first port of call. If not, then talk to a trusted colleague, a friend or family member. Practise self-care by doing things that make you happy, get out in nature if you can, watch a funny film, read a book, do some exercise – whatever helps your mood and fills your cup. If you need to take a day or two (or more) away from work commitments, explain that to whoever you need to – and look after you. Do try not to put too much pressure on yourself, these are difficult times, and our whole world has changed. It’s going to be a challenge for most of us, and we need to prioritise our wellbeing and mental health above all.

Jo FitzGerald is an ex Deputy-Head, based in Worthing. She now runs ‘Aiding Mental Health’ providing Mental Health First Aid training across England. She is an instructor for MHFA England and during the COVID-19 event is providing online courses for individuals and organisations. Contact for more info.

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