Coping with stress during isolation

Anastasia Filatova
05 November 2020
7 minute read

2020 has been a total rollercoaster; it's been unsettling even to the most unflappable of us. With this in mind, we've put together some top tips on how to tackle stress.

Take a breather

Information overload is real. Practising mindfulness can guide you through times of uncertainty and angst, improving your mental wellbeing as a whole.

The NHS provides a library of useful apps for developing a positive mindset, while apps like Calm and Headspace offer guided meditations and tutorials to lower stress and anxiety levels. Have a look at our list of mental health tools to see which one suits you best.

Supporting mental health during coronavirus

Put your mind to helping others

Looking out for each other is always essential. With so much external change going on, it can be easy to overlook or miss those telltale signs that a co-worker, friend or family member is struggling. We have put together a few key points on what you can do as an employer or colleague.

As part of your team, identify a colleague you believe might be struggling a little bit more than others, and offer your support. It is sometimes the people you’d never expect who struggle the most, like the extroverts who usually thrive on social contact.

As a team leader or as an employer, you might need to adjust your management style to empathise and support those needing it most, as well as maintaining an overall team culture. Tools like Unmind, that provide workplace mental wellbeing support, have been actively tackling the increased demand for mental aid. There’s no time like the present to provide your team with this kind of support and put mental health first in your workplace, as it can be vital for some of your team members.

Our leadership team at Superscript has been extremely understanding and helpful during the last few weeks, providing support and guidance throughout this work style shift. This week, they introduced an extra service that can provide support and help those who need it. We started using Spill, an online therapy and counselling service integrated with Slack, for seamless and confidential support whenever we need it.

Communication is key

The upkeep of general communication is more relevant than ever before. Whatever the tools you use within your team, this is the time to take full advantage. Using Slack for constant communication will help with transparency upkeep, while Skype, Zoom or Hangouts are great for video conferencing, among others.

Connecting with others and sharing your concerns will help you build a strong support system for your emotional health and maintain healthy relationships. That said, make sure you don’t overpopulate your communication channels with the current news - instead, use it as a getaway.

If you’re spending lockdown with a partner, friend(s) or family, and everyone in your household is healthy, a good old hug every now and then does wonders. At the end of the day, it’s all about comforting each other when we can.

Finally, isolation itself is known to be a major contributor to poor mental health. At Superscript, we have found that healthy daily communication through messaging and video conferencing has kept our company morale up. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, talking it out with a close colleague via a video call is the next best thing to real conversation.

If you or someone you know are looking for immediate help, please contact an NHS approved support line. The link can be found here.

Stay in rhythm

Adjusting to a new routine that is unexpected and overwhelming can affect your overall mental health, leading to unnecessary stress when you’re trying to keep up with work deadlines. Creating an updated ‘working from home’ routine can bring many benefits as a result. There are a multitude of tips and tricks we can learn from those working usually working from home, but all of them constitute a simple rule - you have to maintain your usual working schedule.

Though it is perfectly acceptable to take advantage of the extra time, don’t wake up 5 minutes before the start of your workday. More importantly, you have to create a full day’s schedule and adhere to it. Having a dedicated time for breakfast and lunch, as well as intentional and regular breaks will help you keep the right mindset about your workday. It will also help you stay productive and motivated. For tips on how to make the most of your day, read our blog on how to stay productive.

If you have an office playlist, get your speakers on loud. And in case you don’t, Spotify has a range of playlists for concentration, focus, or generally working from home.

If you’re used to switching to a standing desk in the afternoons, get your laptop on that chest of drawers. If you don’t have a designated home office, make sure to leave your makeshift workspace when the day is done, just like you would leave the office. Bottom line - you need to find a way to transfer your usual habits into a new environment instead of changing them altogether.

Divide and conquer

It’s super easy to fall into procrastination when there are so many distractions on offer. Taking control of your time, on the other hand, can help reduce stress and the risk of anxiety levels rising. According to an occupational psychologist Emma Donaldson-Feilder, there are several steps to better time management, where the “aim of is to achieve the lifestyle balance you want.” Our Operations Director Annabel, who has been working remotely for a long time, shared her personal tips with the team:

  • Make a to-do & to-don’t lists While there are great management tools like Asana and to keep track of your projects and tasks, there is something else you need to get straight - your “to-don’t” list. Inspired by an author Adam Scott, this is an approach that helps you prioritise and stay focused.
  • Start with the jobs you’d much rather avoid Tick off the daunting tasks you don’t particularly enjoy in the first hours of the day. This way, you can get that sense of achievement first thing and have a clear head for the day ahead.
  • Avoid distraction Working at home comes with a risk of intrusion that can easily ruin your workflow. Check out our list of the tools you can use within your team to stay focused and achieve great results.
  • Break smart Without a fear of breaking your flow, take small but smart breaks throughout the day by adding different activities: break away from your screens, add active movement and maintain a healthy snacking habit.

A healthy body equals a healthy mind

As self-isolation rules are constantly changing, we may not be able to leave our homes soon, so your daily exercise goals will have to be achieved in your living room (or indoor gym, if you’re lucky). Many fitness classes are now available online. Check out those classes offered by MoveGB and the NHS. Let’s not forget the endless list of exercise videos on YouTube, too!

At Superscript, we have organised team-wide video workout sessions with a personal trainer. This new scheme ensures a regular training session, while providing a certain level of accountability - no excuses allowed.

You’ve got time. Use it wisely.

Having limited options for entertainment comes with its positives. Setting yourself goals and challenges is one of the stress busters, according to the NHS. Instead of binge-watching the next 10 greatest dramas on Netflix, this time can be used for hobbies, activities and experiences you never used to have time for. It is just as much about taking advantage of the time you have, as keeping your mind occupied.

TimeOut, currently rebranded as TimeIn, released an exhaustive list of things you can do while stuck at home, from virtual museum tours and cultural events all over the world to the best of online learning. Many businesses have launched their own initiatives to provide their services free of charge for the foreseeable future, which can also help during self-isolation.

There is no room for stress when your blood is flowing, and it flows when you challenge yourself. Learning new skills online is one of the most useful ways to achieve that, with an abundance of resources offering courses and tutorials for free.

This is also the time to give back, as a number of local volunteer groups organise support for elderly and vulnerable people in times of need. Organised and coordinated by Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK, every local association in the list of local volunteer groups can benefit from extra hands (only if you washed them).

Keep the glass half full

When there’s nothing you can do to fix a problem, staying positive and hopeful can set your head straight. Take control of your feelings and emotional state by appreciating the good things you have.

Self-isolation brings plenty of positives. You don’t need to shove your sleepy self into the tightly-packed Underground each morning. You can reconnect with your partner by spending more quality time together, doing all the things we mentioned above. You can finally catch up on your sleep and revitalise your beauty routine.

Many of us use humour as a coping mechanism, particularly in stressful situations, so look at the bright side. A good technique to keep the high spirits is writing down three things that went well every day and revisiting your notes as you go. Don’t let the fear of the unknown cause you more stress than needs be. Stay happy and healthy!

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