The uncertainty of the world around us has caused high levels of stress as our brains constantly try to answer the questions that really have no answer, like “Why is this happening?” and “When will this end?” To combat the endless tension and fight off our natural fight, flight, or freeze reaction, we have a few tips that take less than five minutes and are completely free to try.
- Change your questions. It’s common to have “Why” questions floating around your brain throughout the day and as you try to fall asleep at night. But your mind will attempt to come up with an answer when there really is none. Instead, try asking yourself “How” or “What” questions:
- What can I do to make working from home more productive?
- How can I make today the best it can be?
- Move. When we say move, we’re saying in the easiest way possible. Finished a meeting? Great, walk a few laps around your office or run upstairs to grab something and get your heart pumping a little. These small opportunities to move will help get the oxygen flowing to your brain and make you more productive and energetic throughout the day. Studies show that merely standing up between meetings raises measures of well-being at the end of the day.
- Appreciate the good and the bad. Many people have been affected by this pandemic in devastating ways. If you have your health, your family has their health, you’re still working, and your business still has customers, take a moment to imagine how it could have been. A lot of things have changed, but if you reflect on how things could have gone wrong, you come back to your reality with a whole new appreciation for what you have. Just taking a brief moment to meditate and think over what you’re grateful for at the beginning of each day primes your brain to filter in positive things.
- Visualize the future. Stress narrows our view and gives us tunnel vision, allowing us only to see what’s directly in front of us. While this short-term view may help us to feel in control as we tackle the issues we encounter, try taking a long-term view. When you reflect on this period in a year, how do you want to be remembered? Salient times stamp memories deeply into our brains—your family and your coworkers will recall how you made them feel when things were difficult.
- Sleep. There used to be a time when getting no sleep was seen as a badge of honor, but thanks to science, nap pods at Google, and Arianna Huffington, getting enough sleep is very much in vogue. Not only will you feel better as a whole, but you will be more productive, creative, and rational in your work. Try setting an alarm that lets you know it’s time to go to bed to ensure you get enough sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep, pop in some headphones and listen to a sleep meditation through an app or on YouTube and drift off as you listen to a soothing voice. A fundamental of emotional intelligence is self-regulation. Sleep is the foundation for self-regulation. The math is easy.
- Change your space. Working from home makes it hard to separate your work and personal life. It’s easy to look over and see a pile of dirty dishes or a cluttered desk full of unopened mail mingling with your work documents. Find a dedicated space that is just for work. You get extra points if this space has natural light and a view of the outdoors. An iconic medical study demonstrated that people heal substantially faster from surgery (and need less medication) when their room overlooks nature. Even photos count and are shown to boost moods.
- Hide your phone. Just having your phone near you, even if it’s off, is a huge distraction and divides attention. This is why research has demonstrated that the sight of a phone essentially lowers a person’s IQ on aptitude tests. Finding a dedicated phone-free time lowers stress and lets you immerse yourself in things fully.
- Find new ways to connect. As you try to maintain your distance, there are still ways to connect. Consider doing a five-minute favor: as you run out for groceries, is there something you can pick up for a friend? Could you lend your neighbor the book you recommended as you made small talk months ago? As you walk the dog through the neighborhood, call up that relative you haven’t spoken to in a while or check in on a friend who was having a hard time at work the last time you spoke. Schedule a game night over FaceTime or Zoom with a group of friends you would normally spend Saturday evenings with. Distance doesn’t have to mean isolation.
- Breathe. When things get to be a bit much and you can’t stop your brain from swirling with the demands of work, the kids doing school from home, uncertainty about what is going to happen a month from now, it’s time to reset your system with some breathing. Count to five as your breathe in, then slowly release as you again count to five.
- Smile. “But I don’t feel like it!” I understand. Sometimes, the last thing we want to do is smile, but even a fake one can signal your body into releasing stress. As one scientist was paid to do, try holding a pencil between your teeth. This neat little trick forces you to smile, and in turn will help boost your mood.
We hope these tips help you cope with these very strange times. If you have more tips that have helped you, your team, or your family and friends deal with this new world, we’d love to hear them. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.