Psychologist and resident sleep expert at SIMBA, Hope Bastine, explains what she is doing to recalibrate her routines.
Once we’ve had a taste of a different life, it can feel hard to ‘go back’. But it’s not impossible. Just as the idea of working remotely seemed hugely daunting at the beginning of lockdown, we’ve adapted and navigated lots of challenges thrown at us.
The circumstances in which we return to work are going to be far from normal so it’s a given to expect change! While some of us thrive in the face of change, others are a little slow to warm up.
Fortunately, there are a host of techniques to help us become a bit more adaptable. Mindset is crucial in this. Take some time to think about how you wish to go forward into this new chapter in your life; instead of focusing on the things you can’t do focus on the things you can do.
Reframe your mind
Try reframing any dread of returning to work into intrigue, and you may well feel excitement about what our working life looks like ahead. Be sure to take note of whether your feelings are and ask yourself what it is that you look forward to:
Lockdown life has given us the chance to press the reset button, catch up on much needed rest, soothe our burnout, and evaluate what’s meaningful and important to us. Conduct a productivity-based work-life balance lockdown audit. Reflect on what’s worked for you and what hasn’t and see what changes you can carry into the new post-lockdown world. For example, if you managed to run or walk over lunch during lockdown – really try and keep this routine back at the office.
Try to match what’s worked for you in your lockdown-life and match it frame for frame. You may want to prioritise different types of tasks differently so that they make you feel more in control of your ever-changing life.
Manage your expectations. Life has been at a very different pace since lockdown so expecting to run a marathon when you haven’t warmed up is a recipe for disappointment. Set productivity goals that gradually build up your speed and strength so that you continuously feel a sense of achievement rather than disappointment and inadequacy.
Adapting to the new normal
It’s very likely that when we return to work it’s not going to be under normal circumstances; your employer may be considering staggering the workday or bringing people back in shifts.
Rather than waiting to simply be allotted a timeslot, take the Chronotype Sleep Quiz on the Simba Sleep App and find out if you’re a night owl or a lark and speak with your employers about the possibility of modifying your working day to match your genetically encoded optimal performance time.
Adjust your sleep schedule toward the 9-5!
Let’s be honest, since lockdown most of us have been falling asleep later and later and waking up later too. Waking up at 9am when lockdown eventually loosens simply might not fly immediately!
Pick a goal time to wake up and go to bed and micro-adjust your schedule incrementally toward your goal time.
Aim to give yourself 2 weeks and start with waking up 15 minutes earlier a day. Create sleep pressure by initially reducing your sleep time. So, if you are someone who needs 8 hours a day, make yourself tired by only sleeping 6 hours for about 3-4 days. It’s easier for us to stay up late than it is for us to wake up early so waking up earlier to make yourself tired is a simpler formula. After about 3 days you should create enough sleep pressure to then start going to bed a little bit earlier too. After about 3 days you should create enough sleep pressure to then start going to bed a little bit earlier too. Then give yourself about 6 days to catch up on any lost sleep and adjust to your new schedule.
Work hard play hard
When it comes to getting back to your desk, alternate short bursts of work with short bursts of play. In this way you can minister to both aspects of our mind.
Rest is an active process. Meaning that your brain needs time and space to process information before we can problem solve. If you are feeling stuck on a problem or you just can find the words, take a walk or refresh your body or don’t be afraid to bounce off some thoughts with a colleague – we’re all going through the same thing so getting a different perspective opens up our vista
Burn off stress
If you are particularly activated in the morning, starting the day with a short workout you can burn off just enough stress cortisol to get you in the optimal zone of performance.
Ritualise - take some time to settle into your workday: organise your desk, write up your to-do list, and plan/structure the tasks ahead.
Easy does it
Gear up your performance demand by kicking off with simpler easy tasks sending off the straightforward emails,to the projects that are less mentally demanding. Then work for an hour – if you have a Mac ask Siri to ‘turn on Do Not Disturb’ or go into your notification settings and turn it on. You also install Chrome Plugins like Freedom or Hocus Focus to block access to apps and websites to help you focus.
Once this is up, take a 15-minute break but move your body – whether it’s a stretch, or a short walk.
After four cycles of the 60-on-15-off, take a one-hour break. Give your mind a period of active rest – or go for a walk/exercise etc - go for a walk to clear the head, clarify the mind, and wring out any residual cortisol coursing through your veins.
Find your sweet spot
When you’re in the zone and you’ve found your focus set up a ‘in the zone’ signaller to let your colleagues know you’ve found the sweet spot.
Use a post-it or flag system and equally, let people know if and when you’re available to talk.
Block off time in your calendar when it's your best productivity time and when you’re better suited for meetings and calls. Working with our unique chronotype will make us feel more satisfied with our life overall.
Create a visual time report
Use Apps like Toggl to track your time and performance. See how well you are doing to help kickstart your motivation and focus when you’re hitting a bit of a slump. For some of us setting the timer has a way of driving us to the finish line. Similarly, when we’re stressed, we’re easily distracted and end up switching between tasks which are not time and energy efficient. With Toggl you can aslo track where your time went and on what. The visual time reports, motivates and empowers us to make more productive adjustments.
Mentally prepare for the day
Don’t schedule important calls and meetings first thing in the morning. Having a high-valued, high-demanding event causes us to suffer from performance anxiety which contributes to tossing and turning throughout the night. By scheduling in that presentation later in your day, if you are a little tired in the morning you have a little time to lie in and gently mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for the task at hand.
Create a sleep space sanctuary
Night owls are more likely to suffer from the ‘Sunday Night Insomnia’ when there’s a perceived added pressure to feel you must perform at your best on Monday morning when you’re sleep deprived.
Try to make your bedroom environment and bedtime the most enticing space and time and save all your favourite relaxing activities until the end of the day to make it a place you want to be rather than a space to avoid.
Ensure you have a mattress that properly supports your spine and keeps you cool, like a Simba Hybrid Pro, to reduce overheating so that your immune system can operate at optimal temperature and to reduce pain, discomfort, and anxiety.
Keep healthy habits
Feed your body and rest your mind – eat, drink, and sleep in ways that enhance productive creativity.
Introduce supplements to your everyday life
Take nootropics like ashwagandha and L-Theanine that mitigate against the negative effects of cortisol and try Magnesium and electrolytes to replace and support the high cognitive demand of neuronal function
Dial down the caffeine
Those 5 cups of coffee are not your friend right now - and won’t be for quite some time. Caffeine mimics the stress response so pumping up on stress is going to tip us over the optimal performance zone.
Aim for acceptance
Accept the things you cannot change! For the foreseeable future we will be in a state of heightened alert and worry. Once you access this is reality as the new normal, it becomes the path of least resistance. You will soften into a way of being that will reduce the extreme highs and lows of this rollercoaster life