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Putting your mental health first

Ah, 2020—the ultimate mulligan year. In only 8 months, humanity has faced numerous, significant challenges from a global pandemic to a massive civil rights turning point.

Staying cooped up inside is isolating. Going out to public facilities and stores is anxiety-inducing. When it comes to our collectively-declining mental state, it often feels like there’s no good option, only a choice between bad and worse.

We don’t pretend to be experts on mental health, but after 8 months in self-imposed quarantine, we at Calendly have figured out some methods to relieve stress and strike a healthy work-life balance. Here are seven of our best tips on how to combat the 2020 blues and work toward a better state of mind.

1. Limit your time on social media and news outlets.

With access to information at our fingertips 24/7, it’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed by everything happening around us. While it’s important to be aware of evolving situations and not bury our heads in the sand, we try to limit our screen time.

Try reading your news and social feeds in the morning, either over your coffee or while you’re waking up in bed. Once you’ve acquainted yourself with the important stories of the day, lock yourself out of those apps until evening.

Forest is one of my favorite apps for this: once you activate “away time,” the app silently grows a make-believe tree on your phone. If you return too early, the tree withers. But if you stay unplugged from your phone for long enough, your tree flourishes and becomes part of a beautiful forest.

2. Get outside.

Studies have shown that going outside has numerous mental health benefits. Walking in nature has a particularly rejuvenating effect, promoting general well-being, resilience, restoration, and cognition, while decreasing symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression.

Look for opportunities to take “walking meetings.” By installing your workplace’s preferred video conferencing app on your phone (Calendly uses Zoom), you can pop in some earbuds and join the call from wherever you have cell reception, whether it’s your front porch or a hiking trail.

3. Don’t text, video call. 

It’s no surprise that with recent lockdowns and social distancing guidelines, many people have felt incredibly isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Humans thrive on interaction—we’re not meant to be alone for extended periods of time.

To help combat feelings of isolation, take advantage of video technology and have face-to-face conversations with friends, family, and coworkers whenever possible. Even a birthday chat with your cousin, which might have been a 2-minute phone call last year, is an opportunity to connect over Facetime. (You might even want to arrange to have a slice of cake while you’re “together”!)

4. Establish a routine.

With many people working remotely for the first time in varying home situations, it’s important to establish a daily routine. Routines, especially around morning and evening, can decrease stress levels and positively affect your quality of sleep. 

5. Set boundaries between work and life.

Just as important as making your routine is not allowing anyone to break it for you. One of the critical pitfalls of working from home is that you’re always in the office (so to speak). Your coworkers may be tempted to put meetings on your calendar for 8am or 6pm, especially if everyone’s schedules are very full or if you work in different time zones.

Be firm about where you’re willing and not willing to flex on time. Use preemptive time blocks to prevent colleagues from putting meetings on your calendar in the early morning or late evening. And don’t make it a habit to work while in bed at night—using screens too close to bed time could negatively impact your sleep.

6. Ask for help. 

Everyone is trying to navigate the new normal and it can be challenging and scary. Kindness and empathy go a long way and can help you feel positive. If you’re struggling, it’s important to talk about it with people you trust. You may be surprised to find that those around you are feeling the same way and it can be comforting to know you’re not alone.

7. Be kind.

This seems obvious and intuitive but it's more important than ever. We don’t know what those around us are going through or experiencing. Take a moment to walk in someone else’s shoes. Say hello and give a smile to a stranger as you go on a walk. Wave to your neighbor when you bring in the mail. Have some patience for your coworker who's late to your Zoom meeting because their kids aren’t in daycare. Imagine if all of us were a bit kinder to one another: what would the world be like then?

Some day...

2020 will be a distant memory and we’ll talk about how we all lived through a pandemic, civil rights movement and so much more. Maybe we’ll look back and realize this year was the catalyst for many positive changes that came to pass—and we can say we were there when it all began. Until that day, focus on your mental health and wellbeing and what you have to be thankful for today.

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