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Mental health & Wellbeing: Taking time out

8 minutes

It’s important to make some time for yourself and focus on your wellbeing.

All the uncertainty and change this year may be making you feel stressed and anxious. We take a look at some tips that are simple to follow and could help you reduce the risk of stress.

Ways to focus on your wellbeing and reduce stress

This year has been anything but normal. With many of us working from home, defining the balance between our work and home life may have become a challenge. If you’re not taking time out to look after yourself you could be heading towards burnout.

The tips below are simple to follow and could help you focus more on your wellbeing and reduce the risk of stress.

1. Switch off

The constant pinging and buzzing of our smartphones can make it hard to switch off – quite literally! Plus, with many of us working from home at the moment we also have our ever-present laptops to contend with. However, we should all aim to get some time away from technology, especially before bed as it can disturb sleep. Equally important is knowing when to switch off your work technology so you keep a good work-life balance.

“Weekends should be as work-free as possible. If you have a work mobile, then I suggest turning that and its associated email function off at the end of the working day,” says psychiatrist Dr. Mark Silvert, a Medical Director & Consultant Psychiatrist at The Blue Tree Clinic.

“It's all too easy just to check your emails on holidays, weekends and evenings and then find yourself subconsciously feeling nagged by some piece of unfinished work. The key to being happy and stress-free is being strict with yourself.”

2. Take time for yourself

In order to be focused, mentally alert and happy, it’s vital that you dedicate some of your time to yourself! Find something you enjoy and do it often, taking time to re-energise and relax.

“I always recommend that people take 20 minutes for themselves a day, whether that’s meditation, listening to music or reading something that inspires them. Alone time will allow you to really clear your mind of any negative energy and focus on what is important,” explains Pete Cohen, life coach and author of self-help book Shut the Duck Up.


3. Take annual leave

Our research suggest only 12% of UK workers took time off work in the last 3 months [1]. With limited holiday options you may think it’s not worth taking any annual leave right now. However, taking time out is important to keep a healthy work/life balance and avoid work related stress and burn-out.

Work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted almost half (44%) of ill health cases at work in 2018/19, showing that it can have a significant effect on your health and wellbeing – and even put your ability to work at risk [2].

Making sure you take time off will help you be more productive and focused when you return to work.  It also means you get to spend more time with your friends and family, and simply enjoy not working!

4. Practice mindful meditation

If you want to reduce the stress in your life and improve your focus, mindful meditation may help. There are thousands of free, guided meditations online that’ll allow you to spend some quiet time with your mind and reap the benefits afterwards.

“We spend so much of our life living in the future or the past. Taking time out to live in the present moment and practice mindfulness meditation can be a powerful reset switch,” says Neil Shah, Chief De-Stressing Officer at The Stress Management Society.

5. Take a breath

No-one quite knows how the mind and the body are connected to each other, but we all know that they are. Use this to your advantage when you feel like you’re becoming stressed and need a quick way to calm down.

“When we are calm, our breath is calm. When we are tense, our breath is tense. The good news is that it also works the other way round – so if we calm our body through our breath, our minds will follow, “explains mindfulness expert Rohan " Gunatillak, creator of the popular mindfulness app buddhify and director of creative studio Mindfulness Everywhere.

“So even if we don't feel calm, by taking some deep, measured breaths, we can fake it before we make it!”

6. Create manageable ‘to-do’ lists

When you have several balls in the air, it can become difficult to keep track of things so that things seem to spiral out of control. The humble to-do list can be a great help, allowing you to stay focused and on top of your tasks.

“Try to break tasks down into small and manageable components, instead of a general to-do list. For example, instead of saying ‘complete assignment’, break it down into smaller elements that you allocate a set amount of time to and which you can then tick off the list,” says psychologist Niels Eék, Co-founder of Remente and Sweden’s very first specialisation psychologist.

“This will help you concentrate on the task at hand without losing focus and procrastinating.”

7. Eat a brain-healthy diet

The foods we choose to fuel our bodies can have a direct influence on how well we are able to concentrate, as well as on how well equipped we are to deal with potentially stressful situations.

"A brain-healthy diet is essential for keeping your memory and intellect sharp and your mood buoyant. This means foods rich in healthy omega 3 fats and mono-unsaturated fats like oily fish, avocado and olives, protein to support production of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that influence mood, memory and concentration) and antioxidants found in berries, green tea, leafy greens to improve blood circulation and protect the brain from damage,” reveals nutritionist Christine Bailey, Director of Advance Nutrition Ltd, Nutritionist (BSc Hons), TV Chef and Presenter and works as a Food and Health Consultant.

“In addition keeping the sugar low and blood sugar levels stable through the day can improve concentration.”

Conclusion

Recent announcements from the government have made it clear that the coming months will continue to challenge us.

So remember, take time for yourself, take breaks from technology and make sure you book some leave. 

 

Sources

[1] LV= surveyed 4,004 nationally representative UK adults via an online omnibus conducted by Opinium in September 2020

[2] Health and Safety Executive, 2019. Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain, 2019