As lockdowns drag on in Australia, concerns for mental health rise. Here, business and life coach Shannah Kennedy offers tips and strategies for workers on balancing competing demands while working from home and outlines ways to manage mental health on a daily basis and provide self-care.

    As most of us are realising in lockdown, managing our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing has become harder to do. Or in the words of life coach Shannah Kennedy, we can’t reach for our normal “tank fillers” anymore to make ourselves happy.

    “If you're feeling flat just now, there's a very good reason for it,” she said while hosting a recent Drake Wellness Hub webinar, attended by nearly 500 participants.

    “We have no tank fillers, they've all been taken away. Going to a class, having some people over for a drink, seeing someone at the coffee shop, sitting down having that nice cup of tea with somebody, the water cooler talk of work. They are all things that add to our tank. They give us energy when we're around other people.”

    With the tank fillers missing, in many ways, what we are all experiencing now is akin to facing a grief cycle in the same way as losing a loved one, she says. “We always thought that grief was for going to a funeral for example, and that's when you grieve. But this whole generation, this whole country is actually now experiencing grief for the first time, because we haven't been through a war or a holocaust.. This is the first time that we've actually experienced grief.

    “So if you're feeling flat, annoyed, angry, down, frustrated or sad, all of those are actually part of the grief cycle. When you feel the heat of grief, sit amongst it,” says Kennedy. “We know we can't change it. Just acknowledge your feelings and emotions, and then let them pass.”

    Resetting our thinking and values and substituting new daily rituals can also help to lift our spirits, she says. Here are five tips to help workers get through each day and manage their four wellness “buckets” – mental, physical, emotional and spiritual – which we need to consciously be fuelling all the time. These tips come under the categories of self-connection, self-management and self-leadership.

    Six “breathing breaks” a day

    Stick a post-it note on the bathroom mirror to remind you to consciously breathe deeply from the abdomen area three times when you visit the bathroom. Do this six times a day. And drink a glass of water as well.

    “We take three deep grounding breaths to calm our nervous system down,” says Kennedy. There is a direct link between the brain and the nervous system and refuelling the brain and getting energy back is possible by using the breath. Think of it as a super skill and a superpower to get you right back to the basics.” This self-connection ritual will help you stay energised throughout the day.

    Start and finish your day right

    Instead of spending time on social media on the phone in the mornings before work, take time out for a walk outside instead. Doing this each morning can help the mind and body to wake up and provide clarity and focus before the work day begins. Do five push-ups and star jumps as well if you can.

    Also use the “four Ms”. Make your bed, Move your body, practise some Mindful breathing and listen to Music.

    At the end of the day, wind down from early evening, stop looking at the phone and switch off from technology, advises Kennedy. “Scrolling causes chaos by producing cortisone, which is a hormone in the body, the stress hormone. That then has an offshoot of more estrogen in your body. It is so taxing for our bodies.”

    Lie on your back in an inverted pose with your legs raised against the wall, which is beneficial for muscles, chronic fatigue and depression. Ask yourself: “What is the gift of today?”

    “Whenever you're feeling really flat, write this one down, change your state, change your story and change your life,” says Kennedy.

    Self-connect - Reset your values and thinking

    Write down the three most important things in the world to you right now. And put those values on a sticky note on your computer. Then ask yourself what you can change today to make your life better. “Have you gotten into a bad habit of having too many coffees, or a wine every night after work, and you really would love to change that?” said Kennedy.

    Ask yourself what better choice you can make for yourself today. “That's where you start and that's the most powerful thing that you can be doing at the moment,” said Kennedy.

    Set out a roadmap

    Another important factor is self-management for the future. And asking where you are going. “The brain still needs a roadmap,” says Kennedy. We all know that we're not going anywhere. We're not going on a plane, we're not seeing our friends and we can't have anybody over, but the brain actually needs to look past that.”

    It's important to think about what life is now and what it may look like after lockdown ends. “Who do I want to be, how can I make this lockdown work for me?”

    Also ask yourself where you want your life to be in five years and think about what you can do today to work towards that – for example, saving more and avoiding spending money online. 

    Try to make changes each new season

    It’s Springtime, so think about what you would like to learn or achieve over the next three months. “It gets your brain to think about a really nice map, [to focus] on moving forward. So I like to plan for the season, the 12 weeks. Type out a few goals and things that are interesting. And podcasts I'd like to get into,” says Kennedy. But the important message is to take things one day at a time and celebrate tiny wins each day. “I think at the moment, the best way for you to be happy and for you to feel a little bit of energy is to just take it one day at a time.”

    This article was taken from a Drake Wellness Hub webinar broadcast on 2 September – From Exhausted to Energised

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