The Mindful Working from Home Survival Guide


Are you new to working from home? Or perhaps you only worked from home occasionally or on a certain day a week. It might feel weird, you might enjoy it. Here are some tips backed by Mindfulness and Positive Psychology to help.

Perhaps now you are working from home all the time and this time you may more distractions around you from family and the media. Or perhaps you may be alone when you are used to having your team physically around you, either way, here are some tips to support you at this time.


Social Connection

We know that social connection is important for our wellbeing and a predictor of life expectancy. Research has shown that if we connect with each other online its really important to use video.


Most technology allows for video on Microsoft Teams, Skype, Zoom or Webinar Software. When using these tools use video because firstly the mirror neurons in the brain will fire as we see the persons emotions, body language etc and this helps us form a deeper connection and build trust as we would do in person.


Secondly video means we can maintain eye contact. This is important and both the mirror neurons firing, creating close connections and eye contact do something very important. They create a release of the bonding chemical Oxytocin. The brain and body release this as a an in built ‘reward’ a ‘well done you are connecting as a human species, that’s a good thing and will ensure survival!’


You can achieve the same release of Oxytocin through eye contact and close connection over video that you would through a hug. That’s pretty powerful. Oxytocin helps shut down the fight/flight response, reduces stress and anxiety. It helps us feel less isolated and protects our immune system (an important one right now). What can you do to feel more connected over technology today?


Boundaries

It’s easy to let work take over when you take it home because there isn’t the physical space between the office and your home.


Set a designated working space where you will have least distractions as possible. It might seem a novelty to work from home at the start but don’t be tempted to work on the sofa as your focus and concentration and even posture will take a hit.


Do something to mark the end of your working day and help you transition, this could be something like a bath or shower, walking the dog or cooking a meal. Doing an activity helps the brain switch between modes and tells it work mode has finished.


Mindfulness will help with these boundaries too. By regular Mindfulness practice we are helping our brain switch between alert and relaxed states, shrinking the size of our amygdala which is our fight and flight centre. So we are reducing stress but we are also growing our areas of the brain which are going to help us better focus on tasks.


Focus is important at times like these where it is easy to get distracted by things going on in the media or perhaps family around us in the house who aren’t normally there when we are working. Take some time each day to take mindful breaths, tune in with your senses when you can get out in nature, do this with family, friends and colleagues online. Remembering thoughts are just thoughts and stepping back from them can really help.

Use the Apple Technique from Anxiety UK when you need it:


Acknowledge - Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty, see it for how it is non judgementally.

Pause- Just pause, and breathe.

Pull Back – Step back and realise this thought or feeling is only a thought or feeling. Don't believe everything you think! Thoughts are not facts, what are the facts?

Let go - Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don't have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.

Explore - Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing, and the sensations of breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell right now.


Then, move your attention to something else - on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else - mindfully, with your full attention.


Move!

Remember to move! As someone who transitioned to home working before self employment, I used to find if I wasn’t careful I wouldn’t move much at home. The kettle and toilet being very close felt like a real bonus however it meant I wasn’t getting my steps in and with the boundaries not being so clearly set it wasn’t easy to start with designating exercise time.


Be strict with boundaries here too, put exercise time in your diary as if it was a meeting and stick to it. Lots of fitness companies and personal trainers are offering online sessions. Pop a workout video on or get out in the fresh air and get some nature.

Exercise releases endorphins and these endorphins will also protect your immune system as well as increasing the ability to focus and switch off.


Optimism, Gratitude and Growth mindset

This one is important if you work in the creative space. At the moment a lot of people are in fear and this means the brain goes into fight or flight mode.


Our brains don’t know the difference between an actual danger and just what we read in the media. This means all the great productive, logical and creative parts of the brain shut down and get us ready to fight or run away from the danger.


Optimism, Gratitude and Growth mindset have been shown in Positive Psychology to be hugely important in switching off the fight/flight mechanism. Positive Psychology has shown how we can harness positive emotion to help us be better version of ourselves and our teams. Less stressed and more productive, positive emotion has even been shown to make more sales! (The Happiness Advantage 2012).


Think about what positive emotion practices you can implement into your working practies. What is the best case scenario (even if it feels extreme or funny go with it) as our brains trying to shut down are going to worst case scenario.


What are you grateful for today? Maybe even sharing gratitude with colleagues virtually over video or with family building that social connection even more. For me some days this is as simple as a cup of tea or coffee!


Then finally Growth Mindset, if you are finding it difficult having to change your working style then it may be worth adopting a growth mindset. Carol Dweck (Mindset 2006) has shown in her research that those who adopt a growth mindset are more likely to keep working when they face setbacks.


By having the belief that we can achieve something and each time we fail we learn from it, this opens us up even further to new ideas and propels us forwards.


Children in schools are taught to add ‘yet’ onto the end of their sentences, I.e. From ‘I can’t do it’ to ‘I can’t do it yet’. This maintains the sense they will do it and as a result they learn and achieve more.


If we take this approach to working from home: What are you finding challenging? What do you think isn’t possible? Adopt the approach of you haven’t figured it out yet. What could you do differently? What could you do that’s even better than before? What could you try?

These questions are like coaching yourself, think about what a coach might say to you? If you have a coach, see if you can get some online coaching sessions in.

Sometimes having a coach holding you to account and asking you these sorts of questions can help expand your thinking and try things you hadn’t thought of before.


So in summary, your working from home survival tips

1.Stay connected over video, keep that oxytocin flowing

2. Set firm boundaries between work and home

3. Move!

4. Maintain, Optimism, Gratitude and a Growth Mindset

If I can help you or your business at this time of uncertainty with Mindfulness, Positive Psychology practices or coaching please get in touch.


Gemma.Sandwell@thehappinessbranch.com

www.thehappinessbranch.com



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For any questions you have, you can reach me here:

Gemma Sandwell, Bsc.Hons.

Mindfulness Teacher & Chief Happiness Officer

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