10 top tips for enhancing mental and physical wellbeing
Published on 24/04/20
When we announced that one of our employee wellbeing initiatives last October was to promote 'healthy bodies and healthy minds', we didn't realise just how vitally important this focus was going to become less than six months later.
We know that in the midst of a global pandemic with life turned upside down and 'social distancing' the phrase on everyone's lips, it can sometimes be hard to see the light at the end of tunnel.
To help both our employees and our customers to cope with the changing situation, we've come up with 10 top tips to help enhance your mental and physical wellbeing.
1. Take it one day at a time
The big picture can be terrifying and the uncertainty of not knowing what the future holds can often send your heart racing, your nerves fluttering and your stomach churning. All of these are unfortunately indicators of stress and anxiety. To try and manage this effectively, it's important to take a moment and refocus on the here and now - taking it one day, or even one hour if needs be, at a time.
Manage your stress: An NHS calming breathing exercise you can do to lower stress and anxiety.
2. Find your routine
As this is the new 'normal' for a while, it's important to find a new routine for your day to give you structure and keep you focused. Try and allocate a specific area of your house for working in, so that you can definitively 'switch off' at the end of the day and help maintain that balance between your work and personal life.
Top tip: We all know that pyjamas are amazing - but getting dressed each day can help encourage your work/learning mindset. Plus, when you change into your comfy slacks later on in the day, you'll know it's definitely time to relax!
3. Keep in touch and stay connected
Just because you're at home for the foreseeable, doesn't mean you have to be isolated or alone. Make sure to keep in regular communication with your friends, family and colleagues via video calling, voice chat, emails or letters. Seeing the faces of loved ones and/or hearing their voices can really help brighten up your day. Perhaps you can organise a quiz, join an online workout or just simply sit and have a good old fashioned (virtual) chin-wag to pass the time.
Read more: Parent zone has 8 activities to help you keep in touch with grandparents (but we think they're great ideas that can apply to everyone!)
4. Keep active and get fresh air
The majority of people in the UK are allowed one hour of exercise a day* enabling them to get out of their house (alone or with family members*) and go for a run, walk or cycle. If you feel comfortable to do so, this is a great way to leave the four walls and get some fresh air whilst taking in some of the natural sights and sounds around your home.
If you can't leave your house (shielding, isolating or simply don't want to) then there are lots of free online exercises that can be done within your home including the daily workout from Joe Wicks. Some online exercise classes and apps even have free trials for this COVID-19 period.
Alternatively, if exercise really isn't your thing, then make sure to crack open a window or step into your garden (if you have one) every so often to get some fresh air flowing around your home and your lungs.
5. Limit social media and negative news
The Internet is a fantastic way to stay connected 24/7 to the events going on around us but it also has its pitfalls. Too much negative news and social media can be draining, alarming and even distressing to your mental (and physical) health.
Pick a designated time of day to catch up on key messages and only use trusted sources such as the official government website or the NHS website or perhaps choose to just watch the daily briefing on TV. This will help provide you with accurate, up to date information on the latest guidance and advice.
In regards to social media, mute groups that you find overbearing or overwhelmingly negative, unfollow groups that share misleading or upsetting information and try to create a 'positive' social media safe space - following accounts with uplifting, or even unrelated, positive content.
If you can, try taking a break from it completely - or at east limiting it to specific times of the day.
Find out more: Young Minds have excellent advice on social media and mental health
6. Eat well and stay hydrated
Make sure, as much as possible, to keep to a balanced diet. It can be tempting to indulge the sweet tooth or choose more unhealthy snacks for comfort but make sure it's all in moderation, especially if your exercise is limited.
The NHS have a useful Eat Well guide to help show examples of a balanced diet and also have advice on the best drinks to have (and which ones to have more sparingly!), to help you stay hydrated throughout the day.
7. Get lots of sleep
A lack of sleep can have a negative impact on your mental heath. But, as we all know, if you're stressed or worried, then often getting to sleep (and staying asleep) is one of the things that can suffer. Try and stick to a regular bedtime routine, relax and wind down in the hour or so leading up to sleep and avoid tech and bright screens if you can.
Likewise, sleeping too much can be bad for your health - so try and keep to some sort of routine on your off days, especially at weekends or if you have been furloughed, so that you can still get up at a reasonable time.
More hints and tips: Mind have a whole section on sleep problems and ensuring worry-free sleep
8. Take regular breaks
It may seem unusual advice, especially when you're working from home, but take regular breaks. In the office or in school, you'll have moments where you're speaking to colleagues, getting up to make tea or heading into meetings. You are rarely at your desk for 8 hours straight. The same applies at home - you are still allowed to get up and move around and get away from your screen.
Make a drink, go into your garden (if you have one), move into another room for 5 minutes - anything to get away from the screen and allow your eyes to refocus.
9. Keep your mind occupied
Being at home 24/7 can be tough - but it can also be an opportunity to learn something new or get round to that one thing you've been meaning to do, but always put off doing.
Perhaps you have a pile of books you've been wanting to read, a DIY project you haven't had time to do or a skill you've been longing to master? Or maybe, you're just loving the idea of watching lots of Netflix, building forts with your children and brushing up on those baking techniques (and eating the finished products!)?
Whatever it is you want to do, take advantage of this time and get stuck in (within social distancing limitations and following all government advice and guidance).
You'll be keeping your mind active and healthy, plus you might surprise yourself and find yourself enjoying something new or revisiting something old.
10. Be kind to yourself
Remember that you are one person. You can only do so much.
The likelihood is that you're trying to work from home as well as maintain your family life. You may have shielding relatives to look after or be home-schooling your children and you may be worried about sick family members or those on the front-line. And this is alongside everything else that you would normally do in your day to day life.
If this was a friend you were talking about, you'd be telling them to 'take care of themselves' and 'take a break', to 'take a moment for you' or that 'it's okay to not be okay'. We're often far harder on ourselves than we are on others - so remember to be kind to yourself.
Do whatever you need to do to stay safe and well - mentally and physically. You can do this.
Some additional helpful resources, should you need them:
*information correct as of 23rd April 2020 - for most recent up to date information see www.gov.uk/coronavirus