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How to stay mentally healthy when you're stuck at home

17 April 2020

The COVID-19 situation remains unpredictable. For many of us it poses significant financial challenges, including loss of income and unemployment. As social isolating measures to slow the progress of the disease in our communities become more rigorous, many people will be experiencing anxiety.

If you’ve lost your job or you’re working from home, and you’re trying to cope with the local impacts of a global health crisis, we understand it isn’t easy. Worry and fear play havoc with mental health. If you’re experiencing a significant drop in your finances, please click here to read about what you can do to begin securing your financial well-being.

If you’re experiencing mental or emotional distress, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636, for support.

If you’re employed and/or you’re financially secure, looking after your mental well-being during these stricter measures of isolation is important.

Firstly, if you’ve never worked from home or haven’t in a long time, it can be difficult to get into a rhythm and remain focussed and productive.

We’ve put together some mental well-being tips to help you cope in these unusual times.

Mental well-being tips

Whether you’re at work or not, if your thoughts feel frayed, you can’t concentrate, or you’re beginning to experience feelings of panic, your mental well-being is under attack.

Shannah And Lyndall

Australians Shannah Kennedy and Lyndall Mitchell (above), recommend in their book Ignite: 20 tools to fire up your life (The Dickens Boy), the use of mindfulness strategies to maintain calm in anxious times and cope with self-isolation.

(The New York Times best seller, Gabby Bernstein’s comprehensive website may also be helpful. She’s another Mindfulness advocate.)

Mindfulness provides the brain with the space to be calm, to clear away competing thoughts and reduce the anxiety you’re feeling. Here’s a quick Mindfulness routine we use at Ruby: stop and consider 5 things you can hear, you can see, you can feel, you can smell, you can taste. When your thoughts runaway to the “what ifs”, bring them back to what you’re sensing right now. Don’t forget to breathe.

Music is a positive note. Kirrah from Ruby is listening to DJ, ‘Dnice’: “He’s playing 9-hour sets every day on Instagram Live. He DJed Barak Obama’s Farewell. He has more than 2 million followers and growing. There’s something uplifting and connecting about being part of a 150k community listening to the same thing.”

Check ins: especially with those who live alone or anyone you know in isolation and their family. A quick straw poll around the virtual Ruby office shows that many of us feel isolated and we live with people. Being on your own and not being able to socialise is hard and a phone call or quick check in can be helpful.

Exercise: it’s so good for your mental health and your physical well-being. Maybe get some very basic equipment to exercise at home daily – resistance bands, small weights, for example. One of our colleagues found in just one day they went from 20,000 to 1000 steps. That’s a big change.

Creation: set yourself a few creative challenges – maybe doing some digital drawing. In the meantime, get your coloured pencils out.

Gratitudes: each morning, thank the universe for what’s good in your life.

Tech breaks: take extra tech breaks, especially from your phone and media.

Daydream: spend some time dreaming about what you’ll do on the other side of the pandemic when things return to predictable. Some people call this thinking and researching time “development work”. Pick a subject: yourself, your life, a project and get going. The possibilities are limitless.

Social media: unfollow or skip past anyone that is not currently adding something positive to your social media world to protect your energy.

Home sanctuary: this allows us to stay safe, protect our energy and headspace. Pets are soothing, good for getting you out of yourself. They’re also excellent for making you laugh. (Below: Frank self-isolating.)

Frank, the cat, self-isolating.jpg

Working from home

Shannah has worked from home for the past 17 years. Her list of tips for creating a positive and productive working-from-home environment, as well as maintaining mental health, are here.

Pre-starting

Establish a designated work area

Tidy it up

Write your to do list the night before

Daily routine

Get up at your normal time and exercise, wash and get dressed

Start your day with mindfulness and set your intention

Establish clear working hours

Assign timeslots to your tasks

Close non-work-related tabs

Write things down

Schedule at least one call or meeting

Notify your team about your priorities

Stay connected to teammates

Set an alarm for 25-minute work interval

Step outside to reset and give your eyes a rest from the computer

Incorporate bursts of movement

Open the window

Eat your meals in a different room

Take a real lunch break

Switch up your working space

Shannah’s 7 mental well-being tips

  • Write your plan for next 7 days - who you will connect and how. Get yourself a buddy to check in with each day - by facetime, social media or phone
  • Write what project you can do each day that would make you feel good
  • Write your exercise plan for the week - don’t just sit on the couch
  • Now is the time to try meditation, download free apps and do twice a day for 10 mins
  • Now is the time to write in your journal how you feel
  • Write down before bed each night 3 things for which you're grateful

What to do with all that time

Use your defunct commute and weekend time for self by making this time count for you and get yourself a cracking list of things to do, according to Shannah:

Exercise
Clean out your emails
Set up and clean your home desk
Fully update your finances
Clean out your car
Sort your photos, get those photo books printed
Clean out your wardrobe
Revamp bathroom cupboards
Get out in the garden and tidy it all up
Clean out the laundry cupboards
Donate old books to charity
Start a jigsaw puzzle
Write in your journal
Clean out the linen press
Read a book
Start the project you always want to get going on
Get some indoor plants for each room
Upgrade your supplements to boost your immune system
Write up your fitness plan for home
Toss all the pens that don’t work
Get ready and organised for when the world starts up again

Here are a few other things to do

Melissa Browne - has InstagramTV episodes looking at various aspects of the Federal Government’s stimulus packages. https://www.instagram.com/moremoneyforshoes/

Kids at home - check out https://ed.ted.com/lessons

Audible - have you been looking for those 19 hours to listen to Michelle Obama's book 'Becoming'... The time is now.

Oprah's The Path Made Clear book or her MasterClass podcasts Free Yoga for 30 days, click here to get started with Yoga Girl.

Marie Forleo Podcasts/YouTube, click here, for how to grow your business and more.

For more tips, click here to explore Brene Brown, American research professor and courage guru.

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