With the global economy being disrupted by the pandemic, more of us are finding ourselves out of work or facing an earlier-than-expected retirement. An expanse of time stretching out ahead of you can seem daunting, but with the right mindset and tools it doesn’t need to be.
1. Make yourself a routine
Routine is quite literally hardwired into us: the body’s circadian rhythm, our natural sleep-wake cycle, impacts the secretion of hormones including melatonin and serotonin. Going to bed and waking up at drastically different times therefore makes it a lot more difficult for us to regulate our mood. And emotional stability is important for our mental wellbeing in the longer term. So, as soon as you can, try to settle into a new pattern that works for you. It doesn’t need to be a rigid timetable accounting for every hour of the day, but aim to wake up and go to bed around the same time each day, and punctuate your day with some key points: for example walking to the coffee shop each morning or exercising in the early evening.
2. Bring in an aspect of variance
Humans are strange habits, needing both routine and variance. It’s not a direct trade-off: the routine acts as the ‘guard rails’ or bookends, with pockets of variance in between. Variance helps lift our mood, expand our sense of possibility, and broaden our horizons. It could entail walking to a different park, trying a new supermarket for your shopping, making a new dish for dinner, or giving a new form of exercise a go: the point is that it provides something different in the day, and makes for something to talk about at the end of it.
3. Find something to look after
One of the psychological draws of work is that it helps us feel needed; it gives us something to get up for each day. Not working presents an opportunity to meet that psychological need elsewhere. Whether that’s having a pet, tending to your garden or houseplants, or helping out in your (virtual) community, a sense of being needed increases our sense of belonging. A study in South Korea looking at elderly people found that their mental health improved significantly after they were given stick insects to look after. The thinking was that, even without the companionship and playfulness that a cat or dog would provide, the sheer fact of having to feed the stick insect every day - having to look after it - had a positive impact on making these people feel needed.
Emotional and practical support for you and your colleagues
We have joined forces with Spill, specialists in workplace mental health support, to offer you and your colleagues access to a wealth of new resources, including qualified therapists.