How to Manage Your Mental Health during Change

Tiara Sanders

Tiara Sanders

Client Services Manager, North America

Have you noticed a change in your mental health?

The year 2020 has been a big year of change and has indeed changed the way we will live our lives forever. No matter where you are in the world, we all have had to adjust to the “new” way of living and working. It started off as a perk to work from home; no long commutes, cooking lunch versus buying lunch, the list goes on. While some have worked from home prior to the COVID-19 restrictions, I think we can all agree that working from home can challenge your mental health. Whether you live with family or alone; it can sometimes be hard to pull yourself out of the sudden funk of loneliness, stress and anxiety.

A year later, with the remote workforce expanding it is important that we continue to practice healthy habits in our day to day lives. 

Deloitte surveys 18,000 Millennial and Gen Z people every year. The study reveals startling trends. This year the study was repeated during lockdown to get a perspective on changes. The regular survey had established a backdrop over the last 4 years of a rising number of Millennials and Gen Z who declare that they feel stressed “all or most of the time”, peaking this year pre-COVID at 40% for Millennials and 50% for Gen Z.

The issue here is that stress has a cumulative effect if it is continuous. Chronic stress is more damaging to mental health than heightened short term stress. Millennials entered the COVID-19 pandemic with low reserves of resilience.

We have recently written a paper, The Mindset Advantage, where we identified 6 areas of wellbeing management include sleep, breathing, meditation, access to nature, nutrition, exercise / activity, and mindfulness. The key is for the body to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system with Dopamine, Serotonin and Oxytocin and to quash the Cortisol stress hormone stimulated by the sympathetic nervous response to change.

Even now we are still processing and managing new changes. As the world returns to the ‘new normal’, many are suffering with ‘re-entry anxiety’ which is a fear of not being able to adapt to previously established routines and habits. Anxiety levels can increase for individuals as some return to their offices for the first time in over a year. These 6 habits below can help you feel more productive while managing your mental health:

Dedicate space for yourself

If you are working from home full-time or have started to go back to the office, try and find a quiet space to work away from distractions. Whether it’s a shared space or corner of a room, try to re-create your desk/office aura in a designated area. 

Create a routine, set expectations and stick to the schedule

Working from home can make you feel as if you have to be available 24/7. You may still have this mindset when returning to the office. Align your thoughts and set clear goals for the day. Write out the duties you would like to accomplish and set your mind to tackle the list one task at a time. It’s important to schedule breaks in as well.

Incorporate wellness activities

If you own an Apple Watch, Fitbit or an electronic device with a health app, you are constantly reminded to keep your body moving. According to Psychology Today, Exercising 20 to 30 minutes daily can significantly lower anxiety levels. You’ll also boost endorphins and serotonin to flood your brain with happiness. So get out and go for a walk if you can.

Control your information intake

While staying informed on what’s going on the news is important, it is also just as important to protect yourself from the amount of information or misinformation you digest. Select a news channel or outlet to view at a specific time of day and try not to go down any rabbit-holes that can potentially cause a stint of anxiety.

Schedule team building activities

We’re all in this together. Scheduling team calls 1-2 times a month can help you show up for team members that may be struggling and help boost the team spirit. If allowed, you could try and meet as a team in person. Use this time to get to know your co-workers a bit more.

Make time for those you love

Carving out time for loved ones is necessary during this time. Having a core group of friends and family that can help uplift your spirits is key. It is important to stay connected to loved ones; a quick phone call, video call or text can change your mood in a matter of minutes. 

Change of any kind can be a journey of trials, challenges and set backs. It requires us to be at our strongest mentally and physically. As some continue to work from home indefinitely and some begin to return to their offices, it’s important individuals actively put personal plans in place to support themselves and it’s equally as important for organisations and leaders to enable their colleagues to access the necessary physical and mental health support. 

As ‘back to a new normal’ begins to take shape leaders must focus not only on new systems and ways of working but also on their people and rebuilding their confidence. Confidence to act, make decisions, take risks and move forward. To find out how you can support your team as a leader, read and download our Rebuilding the World’s Confidence research paper.

As a leader, ensure you are actively supporting your team’s mental health and providing the appropriate support at the right time:

  • Create a Wellness Action Plan
  • Implement flexible working plans
  • Role model your expectations
  • Measure wellbeing and wellness as much as you measure revenue and share prices!
  • Create TEAM belonging activities (‘cook along’, workout sessions, walking meetings)

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