It’s been an interesting year for us Australians. Who could have guessed that the start of a new decade would bring bushfires, floods and a global pandemic? For some, lockdown has meant spending more time with family, catching up on podcasts or simply binging their favourite Netflix series. However, the unexpected nature of COVID and its sudden and intrusive arrival into our lives has left others with feelings of unrest and anxiety. Because we’ve never personally experienced anything like this pandemic before, there’s no telling how our community or ourselves will readjust as restrictions ease. What we can do however, is nurture and develop our mental wellbeing with the help of evidence-based methods. With that in mind, Employment Hero has come up with a few simple strategies for ways to help improve your mental wellbeing — from home of course.
Positive psychology doesn’t just mean thinking happy thoughts all the time. Instead, it is about your overall perspective on life and focusing on the good. In the past, the focus of psychology has been on identifying and treating mental health problems like anxiety. Positive psychology differs by outlining how we can achieve and sustain a healthy mindset. Not only will this impact your world at home, but also your world at work. Practicing gratitude is one of the many positive psychology strategies that can help improve mental wellbeing. Gratitude journaling is a simple exercise that aims to help people identify the good in their lives, regardless of how big or small that good thing may be. If watching The Bachelor or seeing which Real Housewife is malfunctioning for the week brings you joy then so be it! However, gratitude journaling is just one of the many ways we can practice positive psychology to improve the way we think. Actively maintaining a positive mindset can also improve work performance and in particular, leadership. Studies have shown that a leader with a positive mindset will be more engaged and have a higher performance level. They will also be more likely to influence others towards a similar mindset. Learning to notice the positive things in our lives creates subtle shifts in our mindsets. These shifts enable us to open new pathways in our minds and change the way we think and feel for the better. Such changes will not only impact our world at home, but our world in the workplace and other social settings.
Even on a normal, pre-COVID work day, it could sometimes be a struggle to find the time and discipline to take a proper break. Now that we’re working from home, the lines between life and work are blurry to say the least. For many of us, that means we’re not taking as many breaks as we should be. Just like any other working environment, breaks are essential for employee productivity, mental wellbeing and overall work performance. While at times it can be tempting to chain yourself to the desk and power through the day’s work, overworking can lead to stress and burnout. Not only does this affect health and wellbeing, but it defeats your purpose of pushing through in the first place. A few examples of the benefits of taking breaks include:
- Increase in productivity and motivation. Stepping away from work can help regain focus and energy. This increase in engagement is linked with an increase in productivity. Briefly taking your mind off a work goal can help strengthen motivation later on.
- Decrease in stress. Everyone needs time to recharge. Working for long periods of time without a break can lead to stress and mental fatigue. A break can help relieve some of this stress and improve your mental wellbeing.
- Boost in creativity. It can be hard focusing on the same thing all day. Taking a break and letting your mind rest can help lead to that eureka moment. Sometimes the best ideas will come when you least expect it.
- Improvement in memory and learning. We are often taught that sleep is one way our brain works to strengthen our memory. However, mental breaks are also proven to help with memory and replenishing attention spans.
The concept of meditation is pretty simple — it is a state of mind when you think about nothing. Countless studies have highlighted the benefits of meditation in decreasing stress and anxiety as well as improving mental wellbeing. However, meditation can also be useful in improving concentration, which leads to productivity. It might sound counterintuitive, but by sitting quietly and clearing your mind, you in turn allow it to work more effectively and creatively. Working in a corporate environment requires attention and creativity. However deadlines, increased workload and other life factors can also lead to stress. Cortisol is the stress hormone that’s found in all of our bodies. When you’re stressed, this hormone releases chemicals known as cytokines which disrupt sleep, increase levels of anxiety and impact our ability to think clearly. Studies have shown that practising mindfulness meditation can successfully reduce this chemical response, benefiting both our environment at home and in the workplace. You can practice many different forms of meditation, and most don’t require any equipment. One of the best parts about meditation is that it only takes a few minutes each day. You could even try setting an alarm to help develop a constant habit. Spotify, YouTube and Instagram are all great places to find free guides to start your meditation journey.
The bottom line
Practicing positive psychology, being diligent with work breaks and meditating are just a few of the many ways you can work towards managing your mental wellbeing while WFH. Other than strengthening your personal tools, a positive mindset can improve overall physical health, mental health as well as the ability to cope with stress and other life challenges. Remember, it’s not easy to change your mindset overnight. But with practice, positive thinking will equip you with more constructive ways of handling stress and other obstacles in life.