Just a few months ago, who would have thought our ‘world’ would be confined mainly to our homes and online. As the restrictions begin to ease, certified coach Beverly Landais considers five ways to help you transition out of lock-down and into a new way of living. 

1. Make time to talk and connect with others 

At times like these, it is easy to fall prey to negative self-talk telling yourself that you should be doing more or coping better. Remember that you are not alone. Your neighbours, family, friends, as well as your work counterparts, are all going through something similar. Make time to talk and share experiences so that you can support each other. Try active listening too. Ask open questions and allow the other person to fully answer before responding. It is tempting to jump in with a ‘better’ example, but this can make the other person feel that you are not really interested in them. Take a pause and be curious about their story. It can make all the difference in building a deeper connection, and encourage them to listen when you next speak. 

It is also an excellent opportunity to talk about how things will be going forward. Perhaps there are some benefits to gain from building on what has worked well for you during lock-down, such as spending more time with your family or remembering to take exercise. What adjustments can you make that allow you to create new routines to support your health and wellbeing? For example, you might reset boundaries for using technology so that you and your family have time to talk and play together. Or perhaps begin a weekend breakfast routine where you sit together and eat at a table rather than graze. 

2. Take control of what you can 

As the restrictions on movement ease, social distancing will continue, and this will impact on the way you go about your work and maintain a social life. High levels of personal hygiene with regular handwashing, use of face masks and sanitising gel will be regular features of everyday life. The challenge is to accept the situation and do what you can to improve your experience. 

Think about your job and your situation. Does anything need to change to help you do your job well? If you haven’t been told what to expect, ask what provisions have been made to create a safe work environment. It can be helpful to think through what will happen on the first day back:

  • How will you get to work?
  • Will anything be different as you enter the building?
  • Who will be there?
  • Will you need to do things differently to get your job done?
  • What ‘back to work’ discussions do you need to have with your colleagues and line management? 
  • What self-care measures can you put in place to help you stay physically fit and mentally healthy? 
  • Who can provide you with the support that you need to make this transition? 

3. Get organised 

Getting organised and de-cluttering allows us to exert some control over our lives and therefore help us to feel more empowered. You might want to use this time of transition to de-clutter your life. Whatever needs organising, tackle it a piece at a time; otherwise, it can feel overwhelming. Just 20 minutes a day over a week and you will make progress as well as feel great. 

Here is a simple method to de-clutter your life: 

  • Identify tasks that can be DITCHED and cross these off your ‘to-do’ list. 
  • Now focus on the activities that can be DELEGATED. Next, identify who you will ask to take them on (be considerate). 
  • Then turn your attention to the functions that you can DO. Make a list and get to work on these in order of importance. If you find it hard to get started, DECIDE to spend 15 minutes acting on one specific task and take it from there. 

4. Keep breathing 

Nobody can know for sure how things are going to work out over the next few weeks and months. Uncertainty can prey on your mind and lead to unsettling thoughts. If you find yourself feeling anxious, try this technique from Stuart Sandeman, who is the founder of Breathpod. He says when stressed or anxious, our “autonomic nervous system operates in sympathetic mode, aka fight or flight. This triggers your breath to become short and shallow.” The good news is that, with conscious control of your breathing, you can override the response. Sandeman’s technique is called the ‘If in Doubt, Breathe it Out’ method, designed to reduce your heart rate, cause your body to relax and your mind to slow.

Here is how to do it:

  • Inhale through the nose for a count of four
  • Hold the breath for the count of four
  • Exhale through the mouth for a count of eight
  • Repeat four rounds

You might also enjoy a short mindful walk which can refresh you and boost your mood. Begin with the intention to observe your surroundings as if you are experiencing them for the first time. As you stroll, listen to the sounds that surround you. Look at what you normally pass by without a second glance. See the colours, shapes, and textures. Take a sniff and notice what you smell. As you finish, come back to awareness of the physical sensations of walking. Notice your feet again touching the ground and how your arms swing at your side. As you conclude, think about how you can bring this sense of being present in everyday situations. 

5. Check-in and review how you are getting on

Learn to build regular pauses into your day. This tip is about being present, not thinking ahead or remembering the past, just being in the moment. It takes practice to bring yourself back to the now. Over time it gets more manageable, and it is a great skill to foster throughout life. It is essential to have regular check-ins with yourself (How am I coping? What do I need to help stay physically fit and mentally healthy?). When you notice you are worrying or feeling twitchy say to yourself, “It’s OK. At this moment, I am safe. At this moment I am OK.” 

Remember also to check-in with your team and line manager (How are we working? Is there anything we could do differently to work better together?). This way you can address issues as they come up and start to plan and prepare for the journey through Covid-19 together. 

Be kind to yourself and to be kind to others as we all find our way. How we work is likely to keep changing in the coming weeks so we will need to keep adjusting. Things are unlikely rapidly to return to normal. The upside is that this situation provides us with an opportunity to do things differently and, perhaps, create a better future. Look out for yourself, look out for others and take each day and week at a time. 

Mental Health at Work Toolkit curated by Mind 
Do, Ditch, Delegate by Bev James

‘If in doubt, breathe it out’ by Alice Hall, Health Writer, The Telegraph