Sir Cary Cooper, 50th Anniversary Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health, on how to maintain positive mental health during the current crisis.
One: Follow a routine
Follow a routine and keep to it. It can be any routine, a totally new one if you wish, it doesn’t matter. But make sure everyone in your family knows what your routine is. My routine is to go for a walk along the canal early in the morning with my wife. We then come home, have breakfast, and will do some writing or work in the morning. Later in the afternoon we would, for instance, typically do an indoors gym session of some kind, there are lots to follow on the web at the moment!
Two: Stay active
Which brings us to point number two. Stay active both physically and mentally. In terms of exercise we can still keep physically active and go out for a run, walk or cycle once a day. But staying mentally active is really important too. If you have a favourite hobby which you can do indoors, make time for it every day.
Three: Do something new
Talking of hobbies, do something new as well. Even if you are working from home, the likelihood is that you probably won’t be quite as busy as usual. Take this rare opportunity to do something that you have never had time to do and always wanted to. Learn a new language or a musical instrument maybe, or read those books that have been gathering dust on your shelf for years. Remove yourself from the everyday negative headlines all around us as much as you can.
Four: Don’t be a news junkie
And talking of headlines brings us to the next point. Right now the headlines are depressing and I’m afraid far too many of us are spending too much time watching the news, which will just make you psychologically anxious. Of course keep in touch with the news but limit yourself to just once or twice a day, maybe just in the morning and evening to watch the main headlines. If you do watch TV watch something entertaining or educational instead, or a film maybe.
Five: Take control
Yes, we have lost a lot of freedoms in the past few weeks. But remember, we still have some control over our lives. If you are suffering financial stress because you have either lost your job or are unable to work, don’t just sit back and worry. Collect information, find out as much as you can about your rights, and what steps you can take. If you run a small business then find out about loans, call the bank or the mortgage company. If you work in a large organisation keep in touch with the HR department. If you just sit back all you will do is worry. Take control.
Six: Stay connected
Stay connected with family members like older children and grandchildren, whether over the phone or via face to face communication such as Skype, FaceTime or WhatsApp. Talk to your neighbour from a safe distance over the garden fence. And stay connected to other people you care about such as old friends, especially if they are less well off than you. Put your situation into context and help people who are more vulnerable than you such as the elderly and those suffering from serious illness. Helping others will make you feel better. Pick up the phone.
Seven: Reflect on working life
Yes, continue to work from home as instructed. But take the opportunity to reflect on your job and lifestyle. Are your usual working hours really good for you and your family? Do you really want to carry on doing 12-hour days in a job that you maybe don’t really enjoy? Think about your work and your career. Take this time to reflect, and also to reconnect with both your partner and your children.
Read more on Cary’s seven rules of home working.