This is a perfect example of our collective human experience right now. Perhaps our memory is ok, but we’re not quite ourselves, a bit out of sorts, feeling kind of ‘blah’, pretty ‘meh’, a little ‘ughh’… This is what researchers and psychologists say, is simply the mental toll of living with long covid – the perpetual state of uncertainty and insecurity that goes with living alongside a deadly invisible pathogen that is disrupting so many aspects of our lives.

This state is referred to as ‘languishing’. Featured in The New York Times by Adam Grant who wrote about it, it got me thinking.  Firstly, if you are feeling a little off right now, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you, it means you are human!  Secondly, read on for my five tips to help you build up your wellbeing and to cope right now.

1. Stop Measuring Yourself Against Your Pre-Pandemic Standards.

An important message popping up all over my social media lately, is the fact that ‘we are not working from home; we are at home, trying to work, during a global public health crisis.’

Understanding this will completely change the expectations you put on yourself, and in my books, helps to mentally balance our current predicament.

Add to this the truism – ‘to perform at our best, we need to work smarter, not harder’ – and we are on the right path.  A sense of achievement gives us a boost; so the trick is to work in a way that lets us get things done under these trying circumstances.

TIP:  To perform well we need to include ‘rest’. Sitting at a desk all day might feel productive, but the longer you sit, the more your creativity, energy, mood and productivity plummets.

Give yourself permission to take lots of breaks – not just because of the pandemic, but because it’s an efficient way of working anyway. Focus on doing short bursts of deliberate focused work away from distractions and you might just find that you get a lot more done doing less anyway.

Try this: Take a few minutes to focus on your breath. This mindfulness breathing activity will help hone your attention into the present moment to help you keep your focus. What’s more mindfulness can help combat screen fatigue.

Mindfulness helps restore energy levels and builds stamina. Remember, if you’re having lots of back-to-back meetings, just take several minutes to do a few rounds of belly breathing and support your attention span.

2. How Are You Really Feeling? ‘Name it to tame it.’

Being honest about how you are feeling is a key to understanding what you can achieve at the moment , and what you need to do to boost your wellbeing.  Naming our emotions is good for us, as Tony Schwartz writes, “naming our emotions tends to diffuse their charge and lessen the burden they create”.

Psychologists use the phrase “name it to tame it ” to highlight the point, because by naming them we can create separation between ourselves and our emotions.

TIP: Slowing our breathing (mindfulness breathing) allows us to  tame our emotions, it slows our thinking to create space between our thoughts, our emotions and our responses.

Try this: Be kind to you! People with higher levels of ‘self-compassion’ react to adverse events with better emotional regulation. Self-compassion is essentially responding to yourself with the same kindness you would give to a friend. Learn how to cultivate self-compassion here.

3. Routines Anchor You.

It’s been suggested, that during times of stress, hanging on to routines e.g., healthy eating, getting enough sleep, doing household chores – helps us psychologically adapt. With our normal daily anchors obliterated due to covid, it’s no wonder many of us are feeling a little lost, a little dazed and a bit confused.

To combat this, routines help us with the growth of other good habits which will boost our wellbeing.  Routines create an anchor and help us move more purposely into the day.

TIP: Think about you at your best:

  • What routines and habits help you to be at your best?
  • What is one thing can you do in the morning, that will set up your day well?
  • What can you do to set up the next helpful thing?
  • How can you structure your day to include some these routines and give yourself the best chance to feel fulfilled and purposeful?

4. If You Can’t Do What You Want, Do What You Can.

    People using ‘intentional coping strategies’ during covid 19, tend to be doing better. What this means is that they are proactively taking the time to make life better for themselves despite the circumstances.

    For example, one study found that people with good wellbeing reported that the things that helped them cope included:

    • having more time with family or people they live with
    • having more time for themselves to rest/reflect/re-energize/slow down
    • getting projects done around the house
    • spending time in the outdoors in nature
    • having the ability to work from home.

    In other words, despite the disruptions, they were still actively involved with people and life.

    On the other hand, people with low wellbeing tended to cope by doing things like playing video games, watching TV, having fewer responsibilities, or “doing nothing” – suggesting they took a much more passive approach to coping.

    By proactively doing what you can to cope, despite the circumstances, aids in enabling us to feel better able to deal with the uncertainty and disruption.

    TIP: Think of ways to connect with the people you live with. Find things you can do outdoors, pick a little project at home to work on.

    Give yourself permission “to do nothing” for a designated short period of time , but not a long time, because as noted with Tip # 1 – understanding the limits on yourself right now, is very important.

    Try this: Research with people working from home during Covid -19 found that those who were most productive were proactive in setting time bound goals. In other words, setting deadlines creates a sense of purpose and urgency – so if you are working from home, try putting some meaningful goals in pace for the workday or workweek to enable that sense of achievement.

    5. You Don’t Have To Enter Every Argument You Are Invited To.

    One thing stressing out my friends, is the constant flood of negative messaging and misinformation spreading like wildfire on social media. It’s backed up as  Research suggests that higher levels of social media use during this pandemic, is associated with worse mental health.

    For example, putting someone right on social media doesn’t always leave us feeling better – it can make us feel worse – so it’s a good idea to pick the arguments you want to get into.

    TIP:  Limit your exposure to social media. Refrain from trying to change the minds of people who disagree with you, particularly if it ends up with personal insults flying everywhere.

    Yes, there’s a place for correcting misinformation with accurate information, but the question to ask yourself, is: “Is it my place to do this?”  And, even if the answer might be ‘yes’, – will taking part trap you into a spiral of conflict and negativity and disrupt your ability to carry on your day?

    Try this: ‘Like’ the posts of people doing the right thing. Promote positive news stories; redirect your attention to posts which share the kindness and good stuff happening in the world. Connect with people in other ways such as phoning them for a chat or video calling them. With a coffee in hand, this can set you up for the day!

     

    By Sarah Harmer, Specialist Consultant – Wellbeing.