Written during lockdown, these simple solutions to mental health to see you through COVID-19 stand the test of time.
1. Aerobic exercise: running and walking
Running keeps me sane, is something I’ve said a lot — pre and during coronavirus. The FT conducted a survey and explored how running is a lifeline, you can read some of the comments here. Does this resonate with you?: “The daily run becomes an essential piece to a day well-spent” and “Makes a day WFH bearable and achievable”. For me a newfound joy is also walking, another perspective on roads I’ve travelled as a runner and time to talk to my children, and see things I miss when I’m running. Whether you choose to run or walk, both will help lift your mood and studies have found that aerobic exercise can prevent and lift the dark cloud of depression (a quick google and you’ll find them but here’s one).
2. Connection with Colleagues
In 2018, Jeff Boss writing for Forbes on the subject of Leadership Strategy, cites a number of studies to support the idea that connection at work matters: ‘Bottom line: when there’s belonging there’s engagement, and when there’s engagement there’s productivity,’ he explains. Boss cites Gallup research which shows that ‘only two out of 10 U.S. employees strongly agree to having a best friend at work, but, if that ratio increased to six in 10, organisations could realize 36 per cent fewer safety incidents, seven per cent more engaged customers and 12 per cent higher profit.’ Okay, right now we don’t have the water fountain, or the office kitchen to gather at but we can still connect and make time for non-work chats. Don’t just sit at your home desk/living room office for hours in pointless meetings. Just as you would at work set aside time for some idle chat. At the hub where my business is based a conversation cafe has been set up where we can spend 30 minutes every morning to catch up, simply, grab a coffee and chat before you get into your daily to do list.
3. Accountability clubs
It’s not a new idea. Being accountable means you’re more likely to achieve your goal. Women’s Health highlights a book which showed that participants had a 65 per cent chance of completing a goal if they told someone else about it. Those chances of success rose to 95 per cent if they committed to meeting up with that person in real life. Okay, we cannot meet face to face right now but we meet virtually to run or run/walk before work. Set a time to meet pre-run and post-run and say how it went (even it’s just a virtual high five on a SLACK channel).
4. Yoga and meditation
The ancient art of yoga helps to relax the body and focus your mind, couple it with meditation for an extra boost to your mental wellbeing. According to the American Psychological Association, yoga’s positive benefits on mental health have made it an important practise tool of psychotherapy. Stillness, as I’ve written before is something we may learn to value at this time of uncertainty, as after all we only have the now. Headspace, the meditation app, recently put together a White Paper Learn How Mindfulness Can Reduce Employee Stress. In it they revealed that in one study found that after eight weeks of mindfulness training, nurses had significantly decreased stress levels and improvement in general health. The same improvements were sustained four months after the training. And they point to a Harvard study which showed that meditation can have a longer-lasting effect on reducing stress levels than a vacation. After 10 months, the vacationers’ stress levels returned to baseline, while the meditators’ reduced stress levels persisted. There’s so many great apps that will help with meditation, Calm, Headspace and Ophra and Deepak Chopra’s free 21-day mediation experiences are all worth a go.
If nothing else, in these unprecedented times, now is a great time to journal about the scary, weird and often wonderful moments we’re experiencing. It’s history in the making — and something to read back in years to come. There are lots of resources about journaling, and recommendations. For example, use your journal as a place to say thank you and experience gratitude. Simply writing down what you’re grateful for and looking at what you have will help you feel better about life. An article in positivepsychology.com states: ‘Journaling requires the application of the analytical, rational left side of the brain; while your left hemisphere is occupied, your right hemisphere (the creative, touchy-feely side) is given the freedom to wander and play (Grothaus, 2015).’ The article then goes onto list 83 other reasons why journaling is good for your mental health and is packed with some tips on how to get the most from writing.
A mood board is a great thing to do when you have some space and are in a reflective mood, which no doubt many of us right now. Get a pile of magazines, some Pritt stick, and a big roll of paper or a large piece of cardboard. Don’t overthink it. Cut out images that you like, and ones that trigger an emotion. As you do this you will begin to create a vision of how you want your life at home or work to look and feel. You may visualise yourself closing a deal, holding a yoga pose or crossing a finish line — enjoy it. In His book The Morning Miracle, Hal Elrod recommends you look at your vision every morning, and take time to visualise how the day ahead will go – and see it going perfectly. When it’s in your head, it’s more likely to happen that way.
7. Volunteering and giving back
In the UK 750,000 people responded to a shout out for volunteers to help the NHS operate during the crisis. Volunteering provides many benefits to your mental health, countering the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety. How much better to see the world as a place you can give to, rather than get from. A publication from mentalhealth.org.uk entitled Doing Good Does You Good provides evidence showing that helping others is beneficial for your own mental health and wellbeing. ‘It can help reduce stress, improve your emotional wellbeing and even benefit your physical health,’ say the publishers. Want to test it, why not try a random act of kindness, like offering to do the shopping for an elderly neighbour, and see how it makes you feel.
Tag @thezone_mag on Instagram or tweet us @thezone_mag to share your lessons: What positive lessons have you learnt? Has your wellbeing improved? What will you do when this is all over and things return to ‘normal’?