During a pandemic, productivity and mental health may seem to function far apart from each other, but they actually work hand in hand. For many of us, including myself, there has been a lot of pressure to not only stay productive, but to accomplish more than ever before.
Although many are working from home, maintaining productivity may be even more difficult right now due to the state of our mental health. Being quarantined in a confined space, unable to hug our loved ones, continuing to work full time while caring for children – and many more stressors can easily cause anyone’s mental health to deteriorate without adequate (or any) time for self care.
Instead of focusing on our capacity to be as productive as possible, we should close in on our ability to check in our mental health. Here are some tips to improve your productivity and mental health during this time.
1. Start Meditating
The positive impacts on regularly meditating are incredible. According to Healthline, typical benefits include a longer attention span, decreased age-related memory loss, and most well known, reduced stress and anxiety. Even better, its benefits can appear as quickly as one session! In looking at neuroimaging studies, Headspace explained that meditation can change the shape of your brain after 8 weeks.
Meditating also benefits greatly on the cellular level. General lifestyle changes impact NAD+ level, which affects your body’s fundamental biological processes. Although NAD+ level can be raised via diet changes and activation/stimulation of enzymes, those should go hand in hand with lifestyle changes. Here is more information on NAD.
2. Plant Life Is The Best Life
Aside from the fact that indoor plants are trendy right now, and especially beautiful, did you know how much we benefit from them mentally and physically? Many studies point to their ability to boost our mood and productivity, lessen stress and fatigue, clean our air, and overall generate a feeling of well being.
While traveling and shopping isn’t as available at the moment, more and more companies like The Sill and Bloomscape offer a wide range of plants that can be delivered straight to your door.
3. Stop Sitting
If you haven’t already noticed, there are many downsides to working outside of the office, which includes missing our regular office chair. But while working from home has many pros, constantly doing work from the couch and our bed can also be a no go for productivity.
Turns out, in general sitting is bad for us. Yale Medicine found that sitting is linked to numerous medical conditions such as lower back pain, heart disease, obesity, and more. Poor health in no way improves our ability to be productive or manage self care. Whether it’s going to doctors appointments, being distracted due to pain, or suffering from stress – there is no question that dealing with problematic health can wreak havoc on our ability to be our most productive and successful selves.
To combat the habit of incessantly sitting, consider investing in a standing desk, or better yet make your own. If you are still at a loss, practice setting timers to remind yourself to move and talk a walk.
4. Take A Real Lunch Break
On a related note, taking a true lunch break, or any type of break for that matter, can make a large impact for our health and productivity. I myself am guilty of eating lunch while I work at my desk or while watching TV. The problem with this is, even if we feel relaxed, we are distracted, which creates more risk for overeating. If our mind can’t register having a fulfilling meal or break, how is it supposed to register the rest of our work? Something to think about!
5. Drink Water
Always drink water. It’s easy to forget to drink water when we are working non-stop or throwing back espresso shots, but dehydrating can be incredibly debilitating physically as well as cognitively. As reported by the British Nutrition Foundation, even mild dehydration can seriously decline our mental performance in memory, attention, concentration and reaction time.
It is apparent we need water to thrive, but when we are caught up in our work, drinking enough water can quickly lose priority. Combat this by setting up your own H20 goals. This may look like marking a giant water bottle, investing in a smart bottle to alert you, or ask your partner to check up on your water intake.
6. Give Yourself A Pat On The Back
Feelings of isolation and stress can run rampant during a quarantine, which proves it is even more essential now to not be too hard on ourselves. When we know we’ll be appreciated, our mind subconsciously will work harder. However, regardless if your boss or coworkers acknowledge your wins, you still can for yourself. High levels of confidence have a direct increase on performance, so next time you hear “just fake it till you make it,” you’ll know why.
7. Set The Mood
White noise isn’t only for sleeping babies or secret conversations – it can be handy for productivity and self care too! One of my favorite apps for soothing sounds on the go, Noisli explains, “White noise helps to relax and to boost concentration.” Not only this, but it can be crucial in the office (let alone at home), where noisy distractions of co-workers, neighbors, makes it a life saver.
I also love using various sounds as a way to relax, relieve stress, or fall asleep. I highly recommend the Sleep Meditation Podcast (who knew dishwasher sounds could be so relaxing?) and Studying Music on Spotify.
8. Know When To Ignore Your Inbox
If you heard the rumor, it’s true – checking your email less often leads to more productivity. According to the Harvard Business Review, over-checking email wastes 21 minutes per day (at minimum). Although this clearly slows down our productivity, overchecking our inbox harms us in other ways too.
An excessive use of emailing can easily create a culture and feeling of being “on” nonstop. Constant notifications and a replacement for face to face (or screen) time, can understandably cause feelings of isolation and drowning in work because we are continuously bombarded by an email thread (that everyone knows should be a phone call). Labels and filters help deal with this problem, but I suggest setting aside non-email hours, and working on a plan with your higher up for how to reach you for an urgent matter.
Despite what some employers may believe, to be mentally healthy means workers can be more productive – not only because they can produce more, but they can produce more successfully. In examining data from the World Health Organization, the WHO found depression and anxiety can cost the global economy approximately one trillion dollars annually alone due to loss in productivity.