Social distancing. Hand sanitiser. Zoom. Over it yet?
We are too. So this week we thought we’d give all the Covid crisis management must-do’s and remote working recommendations a rest. And that’s what we want you to do, too. It’s been full-on and we’re all feeling the fatigue – so people, let’s take some time out.
Is your automatic response to this “Nice idea, but not just now”? Then stop right there. Because the first thing you need to acknowledge is that your personal wellbeing is just as much – if not more – of a priority than any ongoing work issues. For a start, pulling up before you hit the point of exhaustion will improve both your creativity and your productivity, as Alex Soojung-Kim Pang notes in his book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less: “The better you are at resting, the better you will be at working.” But – at the moment especially – it’s perhaps even more important to be aware of the effect your mental wellbeing has on your physical health. It’s a well-documented fact that increased stress has a decidedly negative impact on your immune system. And nobody wants a compromised immune system right now.
Ok, so making your mental health a priority is a must. If your next question is “But how do I make this happen?”, rest assured (pun intended) we’ve got that covered too. As with most things, all that’s required is a little organisation in advance. Regaining some sanity is but three simple steps away:
1. Book in your breathing space.
Obviously it’s not easy to just down tools and take off (although if that works, go for it). So take a look at your diary over the next few days. What can wait? And if your initial response is “nothing”, look harder. Because there will actually be tasks, meetings and calls that can be rescheduled. You know it. We know it. Now do it.
2. Communicate your plans.
Ensure that acting to reduce your own stress won’t aggravate any issues for others. Let your colleagues know in advance that you’re planning to take a day or two of downtime. Tell them when it’s happening and, most importantly, explain why. You may find your own commitment to a bit of self-care catches on. And the more people there are actively managing their mental health, the better the outcome for your entire organisation.
3. Change your notifications.
Of course, it’s important to set up the usual out-of-office notifications when you’re out of action. But it’s an even better idea to give both colleagues and clients a heads-up. Add a footer to your usual email signature that signals your upcoming out-of-office plans. This will help to head off any work-related interruptions during your break, ensuring your shutdown is total, not partial. And you’ll feel no compunction about ignoring work calls or emails if you’re confident that everyone’s been informed of your plans in advance.
If you put your mind to it, taking time out really is that easy. And therein lies the key: change your mindset. Stop making excuses. Don’t wait for the right time – there won’t be one. Arm yourself instead with our advice and make that mental health day – or days – happen. Make an effort to focus less on what you’re not doing and more on what you are achieving instead: clarity. Calm. Self-compassion. What’s more important than that?