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Part 2: Mental Health Awareness Week - don’t forget to reach out

Kindness – not just to others, but also remember to be kind to yourself.

27 May 2020 | 4 min read
Ben Massey

Be kinder to yourself

It was Mental Health Awareness Week last week and we shared some tips on how you can be kind to your team while they navigate their way through this challenging time. In this article, part two of our story, we’d like to focus on how you can be kinder to yourself. There’s a lot of pressure being piled on right now - to be a good teacher, to take this time to learn new skills – all while continuing to deliver a solid performance ‘at work’.

So, what will be the legacy of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week and how can we use it in the future? 

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Plan your day

It might sound obvious but effective planning will have a positive impact. It’s important to work sequentially as far as possible. Recent neuroscience research tells us that the brain doesn’t really like to multi-task, as we thought (hoped) it might. Some researchers suggest that multi-tasking can reduce productivity by as much as 40%!

In fact, we just switch from task to task quickly. And each time we move, from say listening to some music to writing some text, there is a start/stop/start process that goes on in the brain, and rather than saving time, it costs time (even very small microseconds) because it’s less efficient - we make more mistakes, and over time it can be exhausting (Psychology Today).

Understand your natural rhythm

We all have a point in the day when our cortisol (stress hormone) peaks, helping us to feel more alert. This usually lasts for around 3-4 hours. Some people will peak at different times, for many this is usually be between 7 and 11 am, but for others it could be later, perhaps around 10 am - this will depend on your circadian rhythm.

When you peak isn’t really the point, and it doesn’t matter, what is important is recognising your peak period and using this time wisely - like trying to complete those tasks that require more effort or creativity. Then as the day progresses you can get on with completing those less demanding tasks.

Don't be fooled by all that 'spare' time you now seem to have

For the most part, working from home means we have more ‘spare’ time – we’ve reclaimed our commuting time, which means best of all we can sleep in! However, its important that you don’t spend your morning lying in bed right up until the moment you need to log onto your computer.

Routine matters – it helps keep you motivated and focused. So, if you normally take in some exercise, shower and eat a decent breakfast before work you should continue to do so. You might also consider wearing the same clothes you would normally, this can help get you into the right frame of mind to start your day.

Keep to your normal working hours

We all have days where you're working to a specific deadline and need to put in a few extra hours – but hopefully these are the exception rather than the rule. It’s important to set your hours of work, even when they need to be somewhat flexible. When working from home, it’s easy to work those extra hours, especially as the days get longer, but it’s important that you maintain a healthy work-life balance, to unwind in the evening and relax on your days off. And turning off your work phone and emails can also help you to ‘switch off’.

And take regular breaks

A common misconception when working from home is that you always need to be contactable - this can result in a person spending most of the day at their desk. If you were working in the office would you take regular breaks? The answer is of course yes (and if you answered no you might like to rethink your break habits 😉).

When you’re working from home, taking regular breaks is important for your wellbeing – and not just for lunch, try rewarding yourself with a short break after you’ve completed each task, this will help you to mentally recharge before you start your next project.  

We're here to help!

For some of us, working from home is a privilege and a real positive, but for some it can be more of a challenge. If you find yourself struggling, try to follow the tips above to help you stay motivated and energised throughout the day. And remember, stay connected - we discussed this in our article last week - even if you live with a full household, connecting with someone outside of the family unit is just as important for your wellbeing.

And if you'd like more information about how RPS can support you, perhaps you'd like to attend our wellbeing workshops, then please don't hesitate to get in touch with me, ben.massey@rpsgroup.com.