27 Oct 2021
Expert tips to help leaders be at their best during lockdown
We are all experiencing some level of fatigue, lack of motivation, and heightened emotions during these incredibly challenging times. In this article, our leadership experts have compiled some simple and practical ways to help leaders be at their best during lockdown.
Notice your own mental state
Check for warning signs – this could be feeling irritable, hostile or resentful, being unenthusiastic, disinterested or forgetful. There could be physical sensations of fatigue or achiness.
Identify the times you feel most agitated, tired or emotionally-spent. Maybe it’s on a Monday after the Government update or on a Friday when you reach the end of another frantic week. What is one thing you can do to best manage these events?
Be kind to yourself
Give yourself permission to cut back
It’s perfectly acceptable (and, in fact, completely necessary) to dial back, slow down, and accept that you may be less productive overall (and especially so on some days, compared to others).
This can be easier said than done, particularly if you are worried it’s sending the message to your colleagues that you’re ‘slacking off’. If you feel that way, pay attention to the story that you are telling yourself:
- How would you feel if someone else was having a rough time?
- What do you think your future self might say about giving yourself some grace?
- Are you really going to create an issue for your workplace by taking a bit of a break – or will it actually help refresh you to perform better?
- Are all those commitments and obligations really necessary and essential?
It can help to share your thinking with others and create a ‘safe space’ where they can feel comfortable sharing their own feelings.
Consider your consumption online
Cut down on the media and social media
Too much social media can escalate anxiety; and the same can be said for too much media consumption at all. In fact, after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, research showed that those with the highest exposure to media coverage had more acute stress than those who were directly exposed to the bombing.
Set limits on your social scrolling, or confine it to certain times of the day.
Look after yourself
Get the basics right – most of the time
For many of us, our lifestyles have changed significantly. Rather than rue the loss of good habits such as going to the gym, just focus on getting the basics right – most of the time.
- Eat healthy food, with some days off, and be prepared with healthy snacks to hand. Reduce stimulants like caffeine and alcohol.
- Get outside – being in nature or in green spaces can increase your resilience to stress. Moderate exercise boosts mood and improves sleep.
- Practice good sleep hygiene – aim to go to bed and wake at the same time each day. Never use your phone while in bed and avoid looking at it as soon as you wake.
- Take breaks – just as you normally would when in the office
Learn to calm yourself when you feel overwhelmed. Stretch, walk, do yoga, be in nature, practice mindfulness, or meditation. Take inspiration from the Navy SEALs by trying box breathing. All these types of techniques reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Focus on what you can control
Take advantage of your instinctive reaction
A lack of control fuels stress. Think about all the different things that you can influence and change.
Keep to a routine. If you no longer have a work structure, create one. Introducing certainty in our day keeps us grounded and calm. It can also have the flow on effect of improved sleep. Structure can be as simple as:
- Getting up and dressed for work
- Clocking off and taking breaks
- Welcoming repetitive activities like chores – these can calm the mind and reduce stress
Even leaving the house to walk around the block before starting work can trick your brain into moving into work mode. You’ve introduced a division between your personal and work life by ‘changing’ location.
Rewarding ourselves delivers a dopamine hit that makes us feel good:
- Creating a to-do list and ticking off some items can make us feel more productive and useful
- Do some new things
- Do some old things in new ways
Ensure each goal is simple, positive, easy and achievable.
Connect with others
Reach out. Connecting with others can provide us with much needed oxytocin – the nurture hormone. The more you’d prefer to avoid social contact, the more you probably need it.
Help others with small things
Acts of kindness to others has been shown to correlate with higher levels of daily positive emotions and better overall mental health for the helper.
Don’t be reluctant to seek help
If you could benefit from some support, there are experts available to help you now. Check if your organisation has EAP, or contact any of the following confidential services available to give you support.
Please remember that asking for help doesn’t mean you are failing – it is what it is right now and it’s a sign of your strength.
- Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
- Lifeline– 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)
- Suicide Crisis Helpline– 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
- Healthline– 0800 611 116
- Samaritans– 0800 726 666
- Mental Health Foundation
- Worksafe NZ
You could also speak to your trusted healthcare professional. Telehealth services are available for those in Auckland.