5 Tips for Better Mental Health at Home
For small businesses, entrepreneurs and self-employed people right across the UK, the Covid-19 crisis has caused massive disruption. Whether you’re making do with working from home, or having to dramatically change your business model in order to adapt to this unprecedented situation, the stress of dealing with so many circumstances beyond your control can be overwhelming. In times like these, taking steps to look after your mental health has never been more important. Even small changes and good habits can often make a big difference, especially when trying to maintain a calm, positive outlook in the face of a particularly challenging situation.
1.) Get stress busting
At best, dealing with stress in your working life is unpleasant. At worst, it can have a significant negative impact on your overall physical and mental health. Simply working from home full time can be incredibly stressful; everything from communication issues with your team to struggling to set up an effective workspace can quickly build stress that then spills over into your personal life as well.
Stress can often feel inevitable, but there are plenty of tried and tested methods to help manage it effectively. Exercise is a great place to start, as the endorphins released during the process have a natural (and highly effective) analgesic effect, stimulating the pleasure receptors in the brain. Endorphins aren’t just limited to exercise however: Everything from reading to watching a great movie, playing with children or pets, baking, crafting or engaging any other activity you enjoy will release endorphins, helping to reduce stress and keep you feeling positive. Most importantly, being able to recognise the key signs of stress build up, like irritability or being unable to concentrate properly, will help you know when you should take a break from work and take some time to engage in your favourite method of stress busting.
2.) Practice mindfulness in everyday life
One of the biggest challenges we’re all facing right now is how disrupted our ‘normal’ lives seem to have become. On top of becoming an interim office space, our homes have also become gyms, classrooms and playgrounds for the rest of the family. Juggling work, providing education and entertainment for bored children, as well as taking care of your own physical and mental health can often simply feel like too much to ask for in the space of a single day.
When the pressure of a packed home life begins to feel overwhelming, simple techniques like mindfulness can be invaluable in helping alleviate stress. Take 20 minutes to sit quietly, whether that’s in the bedroom, the study or the garden and use a simple guide like this to help guide your first couple of sessions. Giving yourself the space to properly reflect on your feelings is not only a vitally important aspect of self-care; it can also improve your mood and help you make better, more considered decisions. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you could even encourage your family to join in, creating a more mindful atmosphere around the whole house!
3.) Prioritise good sleep
Sleep is perhaps the most important, yet underrated activity humans can use to help look after their mental and physical health. A good night’s sleep allows the body to recover and repair both mentally and physically and even losing 1-2 hours a night over a number of days can be the equivalent of going a whole night without any sleep at all1.
Many of us struggle to sleep well and are all too familiar with the sluggish, zombie-like feeling you have to battle with the next day. Rather than rely on excess coffee however, there are some simple ways of improving your overall sleep quality. One of the biggest changes you can make is to stop using phones, tablets and laptops in bed. The blue light from screens acts like daylight on your eyes, reducing melatonin production2 and keeping the brain in a state of heightened awareness. This means that when it comes to trying to sleep, your brain simply isn’t ready! Try keeping your phone downstairs overnight to avoid the temptation of sending one more email before bed, or have a cut off point for phone usage that’s the same every evening, improving the consistency of your sleep patterns. There’s no doubt that better sleep is a sure-fire way to improve your mood, your energy levels and your overall motivation the next day.
4.) Embrace acts of kindness
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week campaign is focusing on kindness, and the surprising and uplifting ways unexpected acts of kindness have helped thousands of people in these uncertain times. We’ve seen small businesses right across the UK embracing this trend too, with gyms lending out equipment for their members to use at home, independent cafes and restaurants providing free food and delivery for their most vulnerable customers, not to mention the thousands of other contractors and start-ups all performing spontaneous acts of kindness within their communities.
In the face of the stress and anxiety caused by the current crisis, kindness can be a hugely powerful phenomenon. Much like the ‘pay it forward’ system, where you buy a coffee for the person behind you in the queue and then they do the same, one kind action often encourages another, creating a ripple effect of kindness. An act that may seem small to you could completely transform the entire week of the person who benefits from it, leading them to do something kind for a stranger in future. Whether as individuals or small businesses, each act of kindness adds up, building a more supportive, sustainable and positive community.
5.) Ask for help when you need it
The current disruption surrounding businesses of all shapes and sizes is likely to be one of the biggest challenges they will ever face. Particularly for small businesses, the self-employed and startups, who don’t have access to the same level of resources available to larger organisations, it can feel very much like you’re in this situation on your own. This is simply not true. Friends, family and colleagues can be an incredible source of support when it feels like stress and anxiety are creeping up on you and there are lots of easy to access online resources especially designed to help you take good care of your mental health.
Whilst this crisis has been incredibly difficult, it’s certainly not going to last forever. Businesses will find ways to overcome obstacles, adapt to challenges and continue to innovate and succeed. In the meantime, remember to keep doing the things you enjoy to relieve stress, ensure you’re prioritising a good night’s sleep and above all, if you feel like you need more help, make sure you ask for it!
If you feel like you need to speak to someone about your mental health, charities like Mind and The Samaritans have services available online and on the phone. The NHS also has a list of really helpful resources to help support people struggling with their mental health during this time.
1. ‘Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency’, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute - https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency
2. ‘Blue Light has a Dark Side’, Harvard Health Publishing, August 2018 https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side