Some tips on how to how boost wellbeing as we return to the office
Summer’s finally here, restaurants are opening their doors and we can hug our mums again. Well, two out of those three are true at least.
Things are on the up. We can start to put the grind of the past year behind us and look forward to enjoying all the things we used to take for granted again.
There’s so much to be grateful for and hopeful for the future.
Although, that’s not completely the case for all of us.
The joy that we’re meant to feel about things returning to normal is palpable - no doubt - but it’s being tempered; gnawed at by something else. A minor sense of unease perhaps, or maybe a lethargy that’s stopping you from being completely overjoyed like we’re expected to be.
For others, it’s more serious and can manifest in stronger emotions like anxiety or depression about the upcoming changes. Especially the return to the office.
People can be anxious about returning to work at the best of times – be that a sick day or a short holiday – let alone with the length of time that we’ve been away now. In that time many will have experienced significant trauma with close friends and relatives having been cut off, extremely ill, or even passing away.
More significantly for many, the fear of catching Covid will still mean that levels of anxiety around trusting colleagues to behave considerately will also be high. In turn giving rise to higher levels of absenteeism.
If we look at how our brains work and adapt to change, it’s remarkable how quickly they adjust to our environment and behaviour. This is the concept of neuroplasticity, whereby our brains create new neural pathways to help us adapt to our surroundings and the stimulus we feed it.
Amazing news if you want to teach yourself to learn a new habit, not so good if you’ve become used to life as a modern-day hermit.
So, for many reasons (not all of them conscious ones) a lot of us aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to get back to life as usual, and for others there’s even serious concern about it.
So, what can we do?
This is where neuroplasticity really comes into its own.
There are many simplethings that we can do to train our minds to create new neural pathways, all of which will help shift the way we think about this situation in a positive way and have a long-lasting effect. Here are just a few.
For a habit that can instantly improve levels of stress and anxiety as well as calm the nervous system, it’s no surprise people have been signing up to apps like Headspace in their millions.
The benefits of meditation are numerous but above all it is a wellbeing practice that has knock on positive effects on many areas of our wellbeing.
Meditation helps improve our sleep, and good sleep is fundamental to feeling properly rested.
This then gives us more energy to exercise - also massively important for positive mental health.
Which helps us make better decisions such as getting enough sleep on a regular basis.
Better decision making as a result of a clear and well rested mind can also mean better financial health, a better diet and so on.
The feedback loop goes on and on.
With each improvement to one area of wellness, other areas benefit too, and meditation can be the foundation of this via improved sleep, lower stress levels, greater focus and better decision making.
The problem is, it can be hard to fit meditation into your day while working from home - that’s where useful tips such as creating a routine and making the experience more of a joy come in handy.
It can be even harder to fit it in at the office, so perhaps even see if your company will invest in creating a specific space to make meditation at work easier.
The game changing benefits of meditation are there to enjoy today. Kickstart your habit with this free intro to meditation.
We’ve mentioned some these already but getting these 5 areas in order really is key to positive mental health at work and in life in general.
Exercise and movement
There are many studies that show numerous benefits of physical activity but three of the main improvements are in stress levels, mood and self-esteem.
For instance, research has found that low-intensity aerobic exercise – for 30–35 minutes, 3–5 days a week, for at least 10–12 weeks – was best at increasing positive moods such as enthusiasm and alertness.
Time in nature
There is a reason why some doctors are now prescribing nature as a therapy for a wide range of illnesses including stress, heart disease, anxiety and more.
The evidence for the benefits of nature on mental and physical health is well documented but just to highlight one study: spending 90 minutes of your day outside in a wooded area led to a decrease of activity in the part of the brain typically associated with depression.
Powerful stuff is nature.
Evidence suggests that your diet not only affects your physical health, but also your mood. Eating regularly to keep blood sugar levels steady, staying hydrated and getting enough protein (key for us vegetarians or vegans) are just some of the ways you can help maintain a positive mood.
This article has some other helpful tips so be sure to give it a read.
I think we all know that sleep is important, but perhaps not quite how important.
There are multiple processes that are essential to the healthy running of our bodies and our moods, which all occur during light, deep and REM sleep cycles.
If you want to go deeper into this subject, Matthew Walker’s ‘Why We Sleep’ is a must read, as well as containing useful tips for those of us who struggle with shut-eye.
Also as we’ll read below, floating can really help with sleep too...
Floating is a hugely powerful tool for enhancing many aspects of wellbeing, including reducing stress and anxiety through lowering cortisol levels and increasing the quality of your sleep, among many other benefits.
This is no surprise given it just makes you feel utterly relaxed.
So if you’re feeling in any way apprehensive or anxious about the return to the office, book yourself a session today to enjoy some of the amazing effects.
Numerous studies have now shown that journaling can have very beneficial effects, including combating depression, reducing anxiety and boosting your immune system, just by writing for 15–20 minutes on 3–5 occasions.
Not sure where to start? This article will help get your pen flowing in no time.
A digital detox
Time spent online has rocketed during lockdown as we all lose ourselves in Instagram scrollageddon or overwork to ensure our colleagues don’t think we’re shirking.
That’s why it’s so key to draw some boundaries.
Close the laptop at 6pm and limit your social media to 30 mins a day - less if you can. Use the time for exercise and real human interaction and you’ll thank yourself for it.Do it.
Last but not least, be realistic about how much you can do.
This is a big change we’re all going through! You may be tired, so take it at your own pace. Prioritise getting some of these tools and habits into your life rather than going the extra mile at work; at least initially.
Be honest with your colleagues, friends and family - don’t try to be a hero and absorb all the stress yourself. Sharing it will help take the burden off.
Above all, thank yourself for doing an amazing job in hanging in there through all of this, for reading this and for taking a step towards a major improvement in your wellbeing.
Onwards to your new normal of wellbeing at work. You got this.