Many states have issued shelter-in-place orders to combat the coronavirus spread, remanding people to an unfamiliar, socially distant new normal. Business owners are scrambling to figure out how to move forward financially, strategically and creatively, and employees working from home are trying to stay productive. Some of them will be going on week four of working from home, which may be causing stress that can take its toll on mental and emotional well-being.
How can business owners and employees prioritize their emotional and mental well-being while social distancing? To find out, I spoke to experts who offered their perspectives and insights on staying healthy:
1. Separate your work from your personal social media and news consumption.
Without the physicality of going to an office, it can be easy for business and personal life to bleed into one another. One example is checking social media and news. As a business owner, it can be easy to try to manage your company's social media account, and then switch over to your personal account without even realizing it. The same goes for news. Maybe you are deep in public relations activities for your business, but you're also interested in the national/global happenings of the day, so you check both at the same time.
This practice can get overwhelming. Instead, try to separate the times when you work on social media and news for your business and the times when you do so for personal use. Many of us unwittingly do both at once and find ourselves in front of screens for hours at a time—a practice that can damage our mental health.
“As it sinks in that this is a marathon, not a sprint, we need to think about how to stay resourced and think clearly,” says Tara Mohr, leadership coach and author of the best-selling book Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead. “Everyone has to ask themselves what level of news and social media consumption is of service to them right now.”
For personal news consumption, it might make sense only to check the day's happenings at 6 p.m., or to look at social media channels at the same time every day.
As career transitions coach Laura Riordan, Ph.D., explains, it is important to know what we can and cannot control at this moment.
“We may not be able to control how long we will need to stay quarantined, but we can control what we are consuming,” she says.
2. Ask how you can be of service.
Acts of service can be powerful antidotes to fear, explains Mohr. These types of activities can help us think outside of ourselves and feel more connected to the world around us. Business owners, in particular, can ask their customers for ideas on how to be of service to them.
“If you’re a yoga teacher, you can transition your classes online and offer free classes on yoga for fear and anxiety,” offers Mohr. “If you have employees, you can urge them to stay home."
If you are working alone or living alone, it is psychologically important for you to see other people’s faces.
—Laura Riordan, career transitions coach
Another way to be of service is to ask your community what it needs. If you are in the fashion industry, you could consider putting your collection work on hold to make masks for hospital workers. And if you aren't sure how to help, you could simply create a crowdsourced campaign for your community, promising to match donations to local businesses like restaurants and retail shops.
3. Embrace structure.
Sitting down at your computer at 8 a.m. and not getting up until 6 p.m. can seem like the most productive thing to do, but as Riordan explains, doing so can actually hurt your productivity.
“I suggest working for 90 minutes at a time, then taking a break,” she says. “Set a timer, go outside if you can and then come back for another 90-minute session. It is better for your mental health to work in chunks."
She adds that when working in an office, many business owners are jumping in and out of meetings, thereby organically breaking up their days. But when at home, that isn’t the case. Therefore, it is important to set up structure that allows for mental breaks.
4. Seek out other humans.
Yes, we’ve all been recommended to stay at least six feet away from people not in our immediate housing/family units, but that doesn’t mean we can’t smile as we walk by. In fact, it is smiling and saying hello that is vital for our mental health, says Riordan.
“If you are working alone or living alone, it is psychologically important for you to see other people’s faces,” she says. “I recommend walking around your neighborhood and connecting with someone from six feet away. As you walk by, look them in the eye, smile and say hello. It will help both of you, and you never know, it may be the only interaction each of you has with another person that day.”
Don't want to go outside at all? No problem. Thanks to technology, there are a myriad of ways to connect via video conference (Zoom, Google Hangouts and Skype are a few popular platforms). Try checking in with people in your network who you haven't spoken to in a while. Schedule phone dates and virtual conference meetings with local business owners to brainstorm how to do something good together for your community.
5. Prioritize (non-work-related) self-care.
Make a list of the things that help you stay mentally healthy. Maybe it's exercise, meditation, listening to music, dancing, seeing friends or being in nature.
Importantly, as a business owner, it is important to schedule in time where you aren't thinking about work. This can be difficult without the separation of space an external office provides, but by creating intentional time for non-work-related self-care, you may find your productivity increase. Better yet: try sharing this practice with your employees; your leadership may inspire them to do the same.
"Identify your top three self-care activities, and schedule them into your calendar,” recommends Mohr. “If you are like me, days are flying by. I might make a list of things to do, and only get to a few things. But if you make a list of your top three self-care activities and schedule them into your weeks, it can be incredibly helpful, mentally.”
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