The new year has been a rocky start for many Victorians — and caring for your mental health is more important than ever as we manoeuvre through yet another Covid outbreak.
Here's a list of tips to help you form a game-plan to cope with stress in 2022.
1. Create pockets of certainty
During times of uncertainty, we need to focus on what we can control – rituals and routines are a fantastic way to introduce a sense of stability and help us navigate each day. Consider setting specific times for your daily rituals (exercise, meals, social connection, sleep, entertainment) as they’ll ground you at a time when so much feels out of our control. By planning these moments of knowing, it will help offset feelings of anxiety. Something as simple as taking the dog for a walk at the same time each morning helps create assurance, by knowing what will be happening at a certain moment in your day.
2. Keep a routine
We can’t control the bigger picture, so maintaining a daily routine is a vital tool to help keep mentally well. Just having a robust morning routine can be a game changer – go for a walk to grab a coffee, take a shower, get dressed for your workday. Establishing patterns will also ultimately help you know when to log off, so you aren’t taking your work with you to bed. It’s also beneficial to have a night-time routine to make sure you’re not only getting enough sleep but ensuring that it’s high-quality sleep. Things like ditching your phone or laptop prior to bedtime and reading a book instead, help signal your brain that it’s time to start winding down. Just because you might not be commuting to the office 5 times a week, shouldn't mean you can’t create structure around your day.
3. Find a healthy balance in relation to media coverage
While it's important to stay informed, being exposed to large volumes of negative information can heighten feelings of anxiety. You may find it useful to limit your media intake if you're finding it overwhelming or upsetting to you or your family. Consider limiting news to ju.st a couple times a day and try disconnecting from you phone, TV, and computer screens for a while.
4. Separate work & life
Work-life balance has taken on a completely new meaning over the last 2 years and the lines can often be blurred. Studies show that working in the space you normally dedicate to sleep can affect your sleep patterns, and that can be detrimental to your mental health. If possible, dedicate a space to do your work that isn’t your bed or bedroom. It’s also important to try to separate your work and home activities throughout the day. It can be tempting to use time between meetings to do the dishes or put on a load of washing, but this can make it harder to separate work and life and lead to burnout.
5. Take care of your body
Start by staying hydrated and well-fed. This seems obvious, but how many times do you step away from your computer have a healthy snack or take a sip of water? Some studies show that working from home actually makes us work more, so it’s important that you’re fuelling your body while you work. The food we consume has an effect on our mental health, so minimise junk food and try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Give your brain a mini-rest by eating your lunch away from your computer allowing you to focus on something else. It’s also crucial to continue with your health check-ups and regular preventative measures (dental appointments, cancer screenings etc) recommended by your healthcare provider.
6. Make time to unwind
Taking small breaks throughout your workday is a proven method to increase productivity and help you relax, especially when work feels overwhelming. If you’ve been working from home, chances are you’ve more or less figured out what works for you and what doesn’t. But you can always find ways to take care of and improve your mental health, even if you feel OK – break your day up by going for a walk during lunch or work outside if the weather is nice. Block time off on your calendar so you can play with your pet for a couple minutes or meditate.
7. Maintain your usual coping strategies
While these continue to be challenging times, it’s important now more than ever to try to do the things that you know have kept you well in the past. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eat well, avoid or reduce your alcohol intake, move your body, practice mindfulness and mediation and keeping connected to loved ones.