April is Stress Awareness Month and if we ever have a reason to feel under stress, we have in April 2020.
Living with the threat of COVID-19 is extremely stressful for everyone, and a situation few of us could ever have foreseen.
If you work or run a business, there’s that extra layer of stress around keeping your job, suffering a drop in income or even losing your own business as your client base drains away.
Stress affects us all, but in different ways. It’s something we will talk about at Purple Lime as we fully embrace wellness in the workplace. We hope everyone on our team feels they can share if they are having mental health or stress issues at any time.
Now facing up to these things is of critical importance to the health of any business and also, if difficult decisions have to be made, to make them from a place of caring, rather than a place of panic and desperation.
Of late, our co-founder, Angela, has been sleep-deprived. It’s not that surprising. Like many of us not only does she have herself and her family to care about, she also has to consider the business and her team.
She is understandably burdened by the uncertainty around the economy in general and Purple Lime in particular as this affects not just her, but all her employees financially. She constantly floats solutions around in her head to maximise the current situation for her clients and her professional family.
Then there is the unseen stress which can come from working from home alone.
Even if you live with a family member who you love dearly, it’s very different to ‘normal’ days spent in a lively office, focussed on work for your clients and having regular face-to-face interaction with colleagues. Working in lockdown can be lonely for all of us.
What does a lack of sleep mean?
Lack of sleep slows our thinking down. It means our mental acuity is not at its best and this can affect our decision-making on a day to day basis.
It also disrupts levels of serotonin, dopamine and cortisol that affect our thoughts, mood and energy.
Therefore, our ability to think rationally is lost, and whereas normally we would be able to deal with large problems, with lack of sleep and the stress that causes, small problems become exaggerated. The small stuff becomes the big stuff and the big stuff can become totally overwhelming.
When we worry, we often can’t sleep, which means we worry about not sleeping and then it becomes like one big groundhog-day nightmare!
What strategies is Angela using to deal with it?
Working at home has hidden problems that may not have occurred to people until now.
It’s so easy to keep on working later into the evening when we have a computer at home, and every hour and each day run into each other. Angela knows that this is a problem for her – screen time late into the evening will affect her ability to sleep so she avoids screen time as much as possible after 7pm.
To help combat this, Angela is ensuring she takes enough fresh air breaks to walk or cycle. She goes into her garden for breaks, and perhaps reads in the sun. She is a keen gardener anyway so being able to potter around outside and be ‘in the now’ is helpful.
She is taking time to talk to the team via informal group chat, setting it up as a sociable space, rather than having work conversations. In fact, it’s a rule of the group that the talk is NOT about work matters. Purple Lime have also started doing a regular team quiz night through video calling.
This is a good way to keep up the morale of the team, but also for Angela to keep in touch. Social interaction also helps with people’s mental health during times of isolation.
Yoga is also helping Angela to sleep better, with thanks to the meditations provided by her yoga teacher. Angela embraced yoga several years ago and has been an advocate ever since. Part of her time management under lockdown is to do some yoga as often as possible.
She also reads before going to sleep, to help quieten her mind. This will generally be a novel so that she can escape from her very analytical thoughts.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Angela has been eager to help the fight against the pandemic. Like many others, she quickly realised that she could put her sewing skills to good use by volunteering to sew scrubs, hats and laundry bags which are all urgently required by NHS staff up and down the country. This breeds some positivity during this hapless time, bringing a small dose of the feelgood factor, which helps with sleep.
Please check your local Facebook groups for ‘Sewing for the NHS’ and see if you can join in by donating textiles, time or sewing skills.
Tips to help with sleeping problems
*Keep regular sleeping hours
Going to bed when you feel tired, and getting up at roughly the same time helps teach your body to sleep better. Most people need eight hours, although that varies, and especially as you get older.
Lying awake unable to sleep – don’t force it. Get up and do something relaxing for a short time, and then return to bed when you feel sleepier. Maybe make yourself a hot soothing drink – not coffee.
*Create a restful environment in your bedroom.
Dark, quiet and cool environments make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Don’t watch TV in bed, or play with tablets or smartphones before sleeping. In fact leave them downstairs. We now know they suppress your circadian rhythms, which is your natural, internal clock that allows you to wake and sleep.
*Move more, sleep better
Being more active during the day will help you to sleep better. Pottering in the garden counts!
*Caffeine and alcohol
Both of these can stop you from falling asleep and prevent deep sleep, so try to cut down on both close to bedtime. In fact stick to caffeine in the morning and, if you are having sleeping issues, try to avoid alcohol if you can.