By Christine Schulz on Mon, Mar 30, 2020
As we continue to practice social distancing in response to concerns related to COVID-19 (coronavirus), many of us have shifted our daily commutes into the office to a quick stroll down the hallway to a small desk nestled in the corner of a cluttered room at home. This sudden change from one routine to a completely new one can bring on increased levels of stress and anxiety. When stress and anxiety levels increase, it makes it difficult to stay focused and productive, especially while working at home where distractions may be more abundant. Here are six mindful tips you can explore to remain focused and productive during this difficult time.
Stick to a Plan
You likely already have a daily routine for a typical work week, so create a similar routine for when you work at home. Wake up at the same time, get yourself ready, and plan out your day as much as possible. Set guidelines for projects you want to work on, create time for people you need to speak with, and check them off your list as you go. The satisfaction you receive when completing a task releases dopamine into your system, which encourages you to stay positive and keep up the good work!
Remember to Breathe
Those with high stress levels have a low heart rate variability (HRV). Heart rate variability is simply a measure in the variation in time between each heartbeat. Breathing at a rate of six breaths per minute helps boost your HRV, inducing a calm and relaxing feeling that helps lower stress and bring attention back to yourself and your emotions.
Take a Break
When working from home, it’s not difficult to lose track of time as your personal life begins to intertwine with your work life. In the office, you might have a chat with a co-worker, take a walk to the water cooler, or bounce around from meeting to meeting. At home, you’re isolated from these small breaks you would normally experience throughout the day. Get yourself out from behind the computer screen and eat lunch at your dining room table, sit outside in your backyard to get some fresh air, or just walk up and down the stairs a few times to get yourself moving. This would be a great time to meditate! Meditation reduces stress and anxiety by allowing you to focus on yourself while taking your mind off what’s going on around you. This means you’re more likely to remain calm throughout the day and therefore, more focused and productive.
Many of us are working from home with others, whether it be roommates, your spouse, or children. It’s easy to become distracted when your children want attention or your spouse is encroaching on your space. If possible, set up an organized and dedicated work space just for yourself. If you don’t have this option, make sure to set up strict expectations and boundaries. Let your spouse know what you have planned for the day so they don’t disturb you during a meeting. Plan activities accordingly for your kids so they know what to expect. Remember, this concept is new for everyone so it may take some time to get used to.
This may sound counterintuitive, but at a time where we are distancing ourselves from others, finding ways to stay social is crucial. While you may not be able to stop by a co-worker's desk to say "hello" in the morning, make it a habit of messaging them instead. You can also take this time to video chat with friends and family, start an online class to learn something new, or join a social group with like minded individuals.
One of the most important things you can do is to simply remain positive. Negative thoughts often lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety as we are constantly worrying about one thing or another. Start your day off by writing something positive on a sticky note and either sticking it to your desk or computer, or take a few minutes to watch a funny video to put yourself in a good mood. While we may not be able to control the situation we’re in, we can always learn to control how we feel and react to it.
As we all learn to adapt to these sudden changes, it’s important to take some time to focus on your mental health and wellness. This concept is new for many of us, so remember to be considerate of others as well. If you or someone you know needs a way to address their mental health during this stressful time, sign up for a free 3 month subscription to Total Brain! Our mental health and wellness platform offers the ability to monitor anxiety levels and overall mental health, and provides self-care support with over 40 different mind and brain training exercises that help reduce stress and anxiety, increase focus, improve resilience, and more.