Is it Possible to Focus while Working from Home?
10 second tips for working through the coronavirus pandemic
My two word answer: Yes, but…
Frazzled and Unfocused? It’s normal!
You might be fighting for ‘desk’ space on the kitchen table or having to lock yourself away in a dark room, while pleading with your family to please shut (the F) up. Or you might be used to working from home, but now that all of your colleagues are too, your level of productivity is failing.
Suddenly you are ‘busier’ than ever before. Although you are no longer commuting two hours or more each day, your schedule has become packed with back-to-back video-calls.
Although you used to be a heavy sleeper and woke up feeling well-rested, you now wake up at 3am and toss and turn until you finally give in and get up.
Until recently, you were emotionally stable, optimistic, solution-focused and proudly productive. These days you can’t remember what you had for breakfast – did you have breakfast?. You feel frazzled and overwhelmed, unable to concentrate on anything for …wait, what was I saying? You can’t predict how you will feel in the next 5 minutes, nor the next five days. And while your emotions are fluctuating, so is your energy.
Your daily schedule, sleep patterns, emotions and energy are affected now more than any of us dare to acknowledge
This short blog is in reaction to various media requests asking for my opinion on ‘how to remain productive while working from home’ in this new world we now find ourselves in (read the piece in the ITV News and my blog with 47 tips on how to be productive). Should we really be expecting ourselves, or our colleagues, to be as productive as if it were pre-COVID-19?
In my opinion, no, we shouldn’t. But this is not terribly helpful to you, so here are a few things you can do that will help you to remain calm enough to ride this out in a gentle, compassionate way. I’m going to be brief but hopefully useful, just to get you started. This is not an exhaustive list, but feel free to leave a comment below if you’d like me to expand on any of these points.
However you feel is however you feel. You are on an emotional rollercoaster and it’s messy. The more you struggle to deny this fact the more unpleasant you will make it for yourself. None of us like experiencing negative emotions, so we naturally tend to try to get rid of these uncomfortable feelings and we push on through, believing that to ‘man-up’ is the only way to get through this. Sorry, but this is exactly what causes even more stress. Striving in this way can also lead to stress-related physical symptoms (headaches, back ache, neck and shoulder tension… sound familiar?). it’s not easy to go with the flow, but that’s the intention here. Take a moment now to notice your emotional state and try to describe how you feel to yourself. Being interested in your emotions in this way is part of the process of allowing these feeling to be here.
Yes, breathe. Please don’t hate me because this sounds simplistic. Instead, while you are reading this, inhale through your nose for the count of 3 and out of your mouth for the count of six. Then do it again. On your exhale you are activating your parasympathetic nervous system which helps you relax and recharge. And once more… can you feel the shift? Your body is immediately beginning to shift its state from highly alert, anxious, extremely concerned, to a state where it is preparing to slow down. It’s like a traffic light changing from green to amber.
Under stressful situations your body is creating and storing adrenaline – this hormone enables you to act under pressure, which is usually a good thing. However, it also promotes the production of cortisol, increases blood-pressure, causes restless sleep, weight-loss, and anxiety. If you are feeling stressed right now, you can choose to so something to burn off any excess adrenaline – dance to your favourite tracks in the kitchen, go for a run or cycle ride as part of your one-a-day outdoor activities, do whatever you can to release these hormones so that you can help your body reset.
The most enjoyable way, I think, to encourage your body to release feel-good hormones is to have a good laugh. What one thing makes you laugh out loud? There’s a French & Saunders series that’s my all-time favourite. I know all the words to every sketch, which somehow makes it even funnier. List and watch your all-time favourite comedies, join an entertaining Facebook group, speak to friends who make you laugh or find you funny.
You’ve read lots of blogs with tips on how to sleep better. The question is, are you doing any of them? And I’m not blaming you here, I’m just pointing out that it’s easier not to do the very things we know we should be doing. Your challenge tonight is to choose ONE thing from this list below and commit to yourself that you will do it: set an actual bed time (e.g. 10pm), turn your blue light settings on your devices to the orange light at least two hours before going to bed (the blue light tricks the brain into thinking it’s daylight and keeps you feeling alert); create a bedtime routine that signals to your body that it’s time to slow down and shift into rest mode (e.g. take a bath, read something relaxing or fun (and not gripping or depressing), change into your PJs (if you actually changed out of them this morning). When you do find yourself awake in the middle of the night, follow the ALLOW and BREATHE steps to protect your mind from rumination and reduce any feelings of anxiety.
Until next time, please be kind to yourself