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Using mindfulness for effective home working

Amy Thomas Career Advice

The majority of the UK’s office based work force have worked from home for almost 2 weeks now and this will have been a huge transition for a large number of people. It is important to stay healthy whilst working from home, not only for the physical benefits but also to feel happier and to be more productive. I have collated some of my personal recommendations in this area along with ideas on mindfulness in order to provide calmness and clarity.

Mindfulness is often associated with mental health wellbeing, but what does it mean? Being mindful is being fully aware of the present time and the activities of the current moment. Applying mindfulness techniques allows for clarity on a situation – positive and negative, and this clarity allows for greater ability to choose effective responses.

The following are my key recommendations for healthy working from home, including mindfulness techniques.

1. Choose a space in your home to work in.  This allows your mind to get into a working process within a specific physical area, and will also allow you to “take a breath” from work by moving around other areas of your home. From the current lockdown situation that we are abiding by, this is very important due to the limited amount of time that we can spend outdoors.

2. Keep the work area/space tidy. “Tidy your room” is synonymous with the teenage years, but it is important to keep your work area at home tidy. Being in a physically tidy area allows for greater cleanliness, but the mental impact is large, allowing the mind to open up and think more freely. If your work area is the kitchen table, then clean and tidy away the work benches and dishes; if your work area is the living room then tidy away the clutter and straighten up the cushions and newspapers. This physical set up will feed into your mental set up.

3. Scents. Essential oil diffusers and burning scented candles can help lift a mood and give an energy boost or mind stimulation. In the current lock down, specialist shops that sell a large range of scents will not be open, but essential oils can easily be found in larger pharmacies and different scent diffusers can be bought in supermarkets or online. Examples of some key scents include sandalwood to help with focus and calming nerves; lavender for relieving stress, and peppermint can boost energy.

4. Timetabling technology and social media. The TV, radio, listening to music and looking at social media outlets can be comforting when working alone at home, but they can also be distracting. During the current coronavirus situation, it is easy to become absorbed in the 24 hours news and social media updates, but these can also be overwhelming and will affect your mood. I recommend to deliberately have significant periods of the working day where you do not have additional technology playing and you don’t look at social media, and this quiet time will allow your mind to be 100% focused on the tasks you are performing. Switch on the TV or radio, or play your favourite hits during breaks or even keep their usage to the end of the working day.

5. Eating well. It is incredibly easy to snack frequently when working from home and to reach for the biscuit tin, but it is important to keep to a strict meal plan of breakfast, lunch and an evening meal, with the option of a healthy mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks (such as crudites and humus, a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit).  Eating healthily and at certain times in the day will have a massive impact on mood and brain functionality and will also keep these to an equilibrium throughout the day. My suggestion is to avoid processed foods and foods which are high in sugar, which give rushes of energy followed by a large dip. Also to limit caffeine to before midday and to drink 2 litres of water per day, as this will also aid with sleep.

6. Get moving. During the lockdown we are all allowed to carry out 1 exercise session outside per day (in line with the social distancing rules) and it is important to use this. But when working from home it is very easy to become engrossed in a task and to not have stood up for a while. Moving around the home and carrying out exercise can raise the endorphins in the brain which have a large positive mental impact. To get moving more, it is a good idea to put an hourly alarm/reminder on your desktop or mobile phone, and allow yourself a minimum of 5 minutes to stand up, have a stretch or even to walk around your home. Other ideas of getting moving include walking up and down stairs or if you have access to a garden or balcony to take advantage and walk outside for a change of environment. On the internet it is easy to find exercises that can be done at the desk and this includes some yoga moves.

My tips for staying healthy are not revolutionary, and they act as a reminder of some positive changes that you can make in the new environment that we all find ourselves in. Sometimes it is not easy to apply too many changes, but by applying at least one of the above techniques will allow you some mental and physical breadth and assist in the mindfulness of working.