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Stress Management during Self-Isolation – Tips for employees

Tiina Hoffman, Wellness Specialist - Firstbeat

UK workers have been asked to avoid non-essential travel, work from home, and socially isolate in a bid to minimise the effects of the current Coronavirus pandemic. During this time, managing stress when working from home is essential for mental well-being. It is important employees are capable of managing their stress levels, especially when common mental stress relievers such as gyms and pubs are closed. A CIPD study found 32% of remote workers couldn’t switch off in their personal time, so being able to separate work from leisure is key.

Practical advice tips on stress management and working from home comes from the leaders in advanced performance analysis and corporate wellbeing tracking,

Optimise your workspace & separate work from leisure
Working from home on the odd occasion is not usually a problem for most people. However, when it becomes your everyday, it’s important to ensure your workspace is working for you.

  • Creating a designated home office can help you switch off at the end of the day
  • If space is more limited, an organized workspace that can be packed away can help make that psychological break from work to leisure
  • A proper, supportive chair, a separate keyboard (and screen, if possible) make it easier to work in an ergonomic position, reducing your risk of musculoskeletal issues.
  • Take a lunch break and a few other short breaks – just like you would at work.
  • Make sure you include some physical activity in your day because you don’t get the natural bits of walking that you get when going to the office. Go for a short walk or learn some creative 5-min home exercise routines.

Maintain habits – but be flexible
Where possible maintain your current habits. If you usually walk 20 minutes to work, try to maintain this pre-work movement. If you usually go to the gym before work, switch to at-home workouts to keep up your fitness levels and exercise that worry away. The fitter you are, the better you can deal with, and recover from, stress. Good fitness has been shown to help you deal with, and recover from, stress. However, don’t stress about your normal exercise amounts or goals! It might actually be best to avoid very high intensity exercise if you want your immune system to be functioning at its strongest. It’s ok to switch to a maintenance mode and accept that it might not be realistic to stick to your usual volumes or variety. Habits are good, but we also need to adapt and be flexible!

Perfect the pre-bed routine
Sufficient, good-quality sleep helps you maintain immunity and resilience and is the best way to cope with the extra stress that the current situation is causing. Make a clear plan for when to turn off the news and start focusing on winding down. Try to turn off your phone 30-60 minutes before you’re intending to sleep, this will help you wind down and stop you looking at work emails.

Examples of good evening activities are:

  • Reading, or listening to light music or podcasts
  • Light stretching or Yoga
  • Easy stroll around the block
  • Meditation and practicing Mindfulness

Avoid:

  • Just one unit of alcohol close to bedtime can delay the onset of restorative sleep by around one hour, stopping you from recovering from the day’s stress. The effect is much bigger if you drink more.
  • High-intensity exercise close to bedtime. This spikes the heart rate and increases cortisol levels (the stress hormone) which can impact your ability to sleep.
  • Intense TV. Try and avoid shows that get your heart racing to ensure the best night’s sleep.

Exercise
Increase your exercise levels from nothing to something. Firstbeat data shows that many people can simply increase their fitness levels by walking. Aim for moderate exercise most of the time. It is best to avoid high intensity, or excessively long duration exercise if you want your immune system to be functioning at its strongest. Moderate exercise might be a brisk Sunday walk, so try and get a bit more active every week. Firstbeat data below shows how two short walks provided a good hit of physical activity.

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