Maintaining mental wellbeing during the coronavirus

Posted on June 7th, by Dr Rob Yeung .

How are you doing during the pandemic? A few months ago, I wrote about some behaviours that I have personally found useful in terms of maintaining my productivity and psychological wellbeing.

Here are some other things that I am personally finding helpful in terms of maintaining my mental wellbeing:

Work while standing up
Prior to the pandemic, I used to spend about an hour or couple of hours travelling – walking, standing waiting for trains, and usually standing on trains as well. So while I am working at home, I have been trying to stand while working. I tend to sit when at my computer. But when I need to read an article or a book, I have been tending to stand up instead.

There is some research showing that sitting down for long periods of time is not great for our physical health. And I am very careful to protect my physical health – as a healthy mind can only reside within a healthy body. So this is my attempt not to be quite as sedentary as I might otherwise be while working at home.

Focus on physical distancing rather than social distancing
Here in the UK, the government has typically used the term ‘social distancing’ to encourge people to stay more than two metres apart. However, I’ve come across a few commentators and experts who have used the term ‘physical distancing’ – and it is this term that I prefer.

The aim of physical distancing is only to keep us physically safe. But in social terms, I am trying harder than ever to stay in close social contact with family and friends – by using messages, emails, phone calls, video calls and (because it recently became permissible here in the UK) visits with friends while staying physically distant.

I’m quite busy with work and tired (because I’m not sleeping as well at nights). And when I’m busy and tired, my natural instinct is to book in fewer social engagements. But I am fighting against this part of my nature and making an effort to write to people, speak to people and meet up with people (now that we here in the UK are allowed limited social gatherings – so long as we mantain a two metre distance).

Actively manage the mind
I am engaging in a mix of mindfulness and loving kindness practice (meditation) for 10 minutes on most days of the week. Mindfulness has been shown in many studies to help many people to manage their emotions more effectively.

There are plenty of free apps as well as free resources online. For example, you could try one of the short audio tracks that I recorded to go alongside of my Confidence 2.0 book (which was then republished with the new title The Confidence Project):

Master small challenges
Research shows that people tend to have better mental wellbeing when they spend at least some time mastering challenges. So I have been making a more conscious effort to do things that I wouldn’t normally have had either the time or energy to have done.

Work-wise, I’ve been reading some books on management and organisational psychology that I would normally have considered a bit odd. But now is the time to open my mind and form my own views on these other theories and principles of management and organisations!

Outside of work, we painted our back garden wooden fence in wood preserver. I bought some metal paint to cover up rusted patches on our front garden metal railings. And we have cooked more new recipes that we had never tried before – we have cooked more new recipes in the last three months than we did all of last year.

I’ve also been working on my language skills. My parents are Cantonese Chinese but my Cantonese language has deteriorated since leaving the parental home. So I downloaded the Drops language learning app. The free version allows you to learn several dozen languages – you get five minutes of practice for free every day. For months, I dutifully did five minutes a day. But eventually, I paid for the full version and I’m now enjoying doing at least 20 to 30 minutes of language practice a day, which has been really interesting and challenging for me. (And no, I don’t earn anything if you click the link. Personally, I’m just finding it useful and fun.)

Stay mentally engaged generally
In the evenings, we usually allow ourselves to watch one episode of a TV show or at most two episodes. TV is quite a passive form of entertainment so my preference is not to watch too much of it.

My preference is to read – both stuff that’s useful (e.g. I’m reading a book on history and a management book) and stuff that’s just entertaining (e.g. a thriller or the occasional digital Marvel or DC comic).

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