Eight self care tips to reduce anxiety and boost well-being
If you’ve been on furlough or working from home during the lockdown, you might find yourself now having some concerns about what life will be like if you are returning to your workplace. This article gives you eight self-care tips to help you reduce anxiety and boost wellbeing as you move through these changes.
But first, what worries might you be having? As a coach, I’m seeing a broad range of worries, but the following ones often come up:
- Fears about catching Covid-19 in the workplace.
- Familiar workplace routines are likely to have changed.
- Worries about childcare and other home-related issues.
- Concerns about using public transport.
These concerns might make you feel unusually anxious, stressed, or frustrated. And, as a result, you might notice yourself becoming more irritable or easily distracted. You might find you aren’t as motivated as you usually are about work, and that you either don’t fall asleep as easily as you used to, or are more wakeful during the night.
These are all understandable effects, but the good news is that there are some things that you can do to help yourself to feel less anxious and look after yourself during this time of change.
Tips to help with work-life balance as you return to the workplace
1. Make a list
Write down all of the things you are looking forward to at work, such as seeing work friends, going to your favourite sandwich shop or park at lunchtime. When your mind thinks about the worries you have about returning to work, remind yourself that it’s not all bad, there are some good things to look forward to as well.
2. Eat regular meals and stay hydrated
It’s easy to skip meals on busy days but this can have a negative impact on blood sugar levels and anxiety. Try to avoid sugary snacks where possible, and drink plenty of water.
3. Manage your caffeine and alcohol intake
Caffeine is a stimulant and studies show that too much can increase anxiety and can make you feel jittery. The NHS warns that it can speed up the heart rate, too. So try to limit your intake, and switch to lower or zero caffeine drinks towards the end of the day so it has less impact on your sleep quality. Meanwhile, too much alcohol can cause you to have lighter less restorative sleep, so watch out for this, especially on workday nights.
4. Get enough sleep
We all know that if we don’t get enough sleep it makes us tired and irritable, which is not great if you are already feeling anxious. It can also give us a ‘brain fog’ making it difficult to concentrate and can lead to high blood pressure, too. Try to get some downtime before bed, turn off your emails and stop thinking about work long before you go to bed and allow yourself some relaxation time.
5. Exercise regularly
Whether it’s a lunchtime walk, a 5k run, or an online Zumba class, it really doesn’t matter, just do something regularly to get your body moving! This helps to release stress in your body and helps you to relax.
6. Take up a hobby
If you already have something that you enjoy doing outside of work, then that’s great. But, if not, why not think about starting something new? Hobbies are great for helping to distract our minds from work and find something else to get excited about.
7. Try mindfulness tools
Mindfulness is evidence-based and has been shown to help reduce anxiety and stress. It teaches us to bring our attention to the here and now, instead of spending time worrying about what has happened in the past or what might happen in the future.
Here are two quick techniques that you can try right now:
- First, take three very slow deep breaths, breathing in for a count of four, holding the breath for a count of four, breathing out for a count of four and holding that out-breath for a count of four. Notice how you feel before and after doing this.
- Second, take a slow breath and bring your attention to your feet, notice the weight of your feet on the floor for a moment, and then look around the room or space you are in for a particular colour, for example, blue. Notice everything you can see that is the colour blue. By bringing your attention to this present moment, you give yourself the opportunity to break the worry cycle that you might have been in, and calm both body and mind.
8. Try Cognitive Behavioural Coaching
Think about something that’s worrying you, notice what you are saying to yourself about it, and write it down. What are you saying? Perhaps you are using phrases like "I’m making a right mess of this," "I must do this right," "It would be terrible if such and such happened," "I can’t deal with this right now."
We can use Cognitive Behavioural Coaching to help us challenge unhelpful thoughts and beliefs and to find more helpful ways of thinking. One way is to think about whether you would say these things to a good friend. Would you use such harsh words, or would you find kinder, more encouraging language?
Write down some of the kinder, alternative language that you would say to a friend in the same situation and see how that feels. This technique helps us to challenge unhelpful thoughts and beliefs and find more helpful ways of thinking that reduce our anxiety and help us to make better decisions.
Some people feel that it is selfish to take good care of themselves, but it is hard to take good care of others if you first haven’t taken good care of yourself.
If you are on an aeroplane, during the safety briefing you will hear the flight stewards tell you that if the oxygen masks come down you are to put the mask on yourself first before trying to help anyone else. It’s the same with self-care. Take good care of yourself and you’ll have better resources to take care of others.