Staying Calm during COVID

Welcome to our Wellbeing during COVID-19 resources blog. Each of our blogs links directly to one of our 6 rules for keeping calm during the COVID crisis.

I can’t take time out and I really need it!

A few weeks ago, during the grip of a heatwave (ah, remember those days!), my friend’s daughter threw open the patio doors and marched into the garden armed with a blanket, book and speaker. She settled in the sun with a beach soundscape she discovered online and declared; “Well, if we can’t go on holiday I’m going to make it feel like we’re at the beach!”.

What brilliant, innovative thinking! When she was physically trapped, she mentally escaped and discovered some tools to help her do so successfully. 

For some of us, the chance of taking any annual leave may not possible right now (although for most people it should be possible to get at least a couple of days off - take them if you can!). And the humble social media brags of friends in relaxing holiday poses is likely to lead us to that dreaded feeling of FOMO, or worse - resentment.

But, let’s take a lesson from a 10 year old and look at what we CAN do to make the most of what we...

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Why being unproductive is sometimes the most productive thing you can do.

If you’re like me, there will have been days throughout the past few lockdown months where you’ve felt on fire, productive, positive and capable and other days where you’re not quite sure what you’ve achieved. Your to-do list seems unchecked, your sense of overwhelm kicked in and the whole spiel seemed never-ending.

On those days you may find a carousel of questions rolling through your mind.

Are you achieving enough?

Have you been productive today?

Why didn’t you tick all of the items on your to-do list?

Were you available to everyone who needed you today?

Were your team heard, your kids fed, the dog groomed - did you drink enough water??

Very early in lockdown, one of the regular things my colleagues in  my social networks were thankful for was  the quieter pace of life. There was a short period of time as we adjusted into our lockdown lives where we appreciated just how BUSY we had been, how unnecessary it was and how tired we had become.

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Finding calm before fighting another storm.

We’ve talked about ‘Zoom’ fatigue, home working fatigue and frontline fatigue a lot over the past few months.

A dip into some research of the ‘re-opening phase’ as some are calling this stage, shows that some major UK corporations will only be able to have up to 50% of their workforce within their offices by Christmas. This way of working looks set to stay for quite some time.

Finding ways to help you work with this ongoing situation and keep your calm is vital to successful leadership and good mental health.

There’s one really simple technique that’s worked well in a number of situations for many people. One colleague uses this before public speaking when stepping onto a stage, when the amygdala takes over and the adrenaline kicks in.  

When this happens, your speech speeds up, your thinking isn’t focused in the right way and you might find it harder to make rational arguments.

By taking a mindful minute before that...

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Start. Stop. Continue. An exercise to help you reflect on the lockdown experience.

I’ve seen a lot of people commenting on what they will miss as we re-enter something of an ‘out of home working life’ again.

Strangely, this lockdown experience that was forced upon us is now creating almost a grieving stage for what we have discovered and might not enjoy again in the same way (no commuting, increased family time, more time for home cooking). But people are also reflecting on what they are highly anticipating (no more homeschooling being top of my list).

To help understand how you feel about this transition try this exercise to reflect on what you would start, stop and continue thanks to the lockdown experience. 

You can run this exercise against your whole self, your professional self, your family life and even on what you think you perceive your partner and family members have taken from the experience so far.

This exercise can show you how your passions or perceived passions have changed (which might also explain why you never got round to...

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Put on your own oxygen mask first.

Sitting on a plane observing the pre-flight safety demonstration, the instruction "put on your own safety mask first" was never a command I questioned. 

Of course, it makes excellent sense. How can I help anyone else on board if I can't breathe?

You have to make yourself safe to be able to help others to safety.

As a doctor, carer, manager, parent - your first instinct in situations of heightened stress, is likely to be 'others first - me second (or even third or fourth?)'.

Stop. You need to breathe. You also need to lead by example.

So what does putting on your own oxygen mask mean to you?

Is it taking a break from a stressful task to allow your brain to relax and your stress to fall? Is it scheduling your day so that you tackle a domestic job every other hour? Setting a half hour time limit to conference calls? Walking outside every afternoon? Singing in the bath?

The answer to the question; what do I need right now, should always be honoured.

In choosing to respond to this,...

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Feeling the pressure of sleep?

There are some really interesting articles out there on why our sleep is so greatly affected by the lockdown. With some of us sleeping more than ever, others are struggling to sleep at all and almost all of us are reporting some downright bizarre occurrences in our dreams.

Our background anxiety is heightened thanks to the COVID crisis and this offers some insight into the state of our dream scenarios. 

There are many factors around the lockdown that are impacting on sleep and a lot centres on routine and structure.   

We normally take 3 months to adjust to new routines of magnitude so it’s not surprising that our routines are still in a state of limbo, 

Understanding your own natural rhythm can be helpful. Are you a night owl or an early bird? Honour your body’s natural inclinations where you can. 

There is so much to explore on sleep and my recent article on the importance of sleep is a great place to start. 

Simple reminders when it...

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How planning 5 minute breaks can help you beat burnout

Beating Burnout sounds like a game. And maybe adopting a sense of play isn't a bad strategy to adopt.

The book Play Anything by Ian Bogost, teaches us a lot about overcoming our daily anxieties and turning everyday mundanity into a world of playful possibilities. 

The problem at the moment, is finding the time to try something like reading can seem challenging. 

Yet another task that we 'should' be doing, but when? It seems that in this uncertain time, many of us are busier than ever - whether we're working on the frontline or contained within our homes. 

Too much or too little rigour in our schedules can easily lead to a feeling of burnout. Which is why it's so important to plan in 5 minute breaks for yourself. 

If you're next question is, 'yes, but what do I do in those 5 minutes to feel satisfied that I've had a mental break?'; then we have a series of suggestions at our Plan Your 5 Minute Break page.

Planning your breaks and sticking to them is...

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Let out some Laughter

Worried that using humour might be inappropriate right now? Don’t be.

According to Dr Chloe Paiddoussis-Mitchell, a chartered counselling psychologist, humour is essential in this time of crisis.

“We can’t control what happens outside of us, but through humour we can avoid becoming overwhelmed by negative emotions such as fear, distress, anxiety, anger and depression.”

Laughter triggers a hormonal response in the brain - your adrenaline levels drop and you become more relaxed. It also increases feel good endorphins and can reduce your stress hormone cortisol.

Laughter is also proven to be contagious, affecting those around you.

There are plenty of ways to get a bit of humour into your life, from podcasts and video clips, to books and films. If you’d like to be part of some collaborative, creative humour take a look at Taskmaster on YouTube!

And if you’re after a bit of political satire and silliness, I love Michael Spicers’ The Room Next Door...

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Is bringing food one of the basic roots of relationships?

Both exercise and sleep have been recents topics in looking after our biggest asset - don’t forget to continue to practice good sleep hygiene and make sure you’re active in some way everyday.

 But this weekend is one where we traditionally enjoy good food around the table with loved ones.

The simple pleasure of preparing and enjoying food is one that can never be overlooked. Shared eating rituals are a huge part of our social complex and reward system.

“I sometimes think the act of bringing food is one of the basic roots of all relationships” Dalai Lama (14th)

So rather than admonish yourself for a little indulgence this weekend, take the time to enjoy it. Plan, prepare and eat mindfully, see how much enjoyment others take from this meal (although you might need to watch quickly if you have teenagers!).

Forget food guilt and don’t make it too taxing; here’s a fantastic, easy no bake easter cheesecake that is as impressive as it is enjoyable....

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Struggling with sleep during COVID-19

Whilst we’ve been inundated with articles on the merits of physical exercise and its benefit to our overall sense of wellbeing, it’s not the panacea of calm.

Even the nation’s PE teacher Joe Wicks has talked this week about his mental health struggles during lockdown.

We’re seeing an increased number of people reporting disturbed sleep, in fact #cantsleep has been regularly trending on Twitter.

In our online resources section, Rachel wrote that sleep is the single most important tool to improving your almost every aspect of your life.

Without good sleep no matter how well nourish our body in other ways, we will increasingly deteriorate in energy, mood and skill. 

You’re probably familiar with the best sleep tips, but here’s a great reminder should you need one.

Personally lavender oil has always tricked my mind into restful sleep, quite possibly psychosomatic conditioning but successful nonetheless.

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