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Archive May 2020

Jon Neal takes on the 2.6 challenge for Suffolk Mind

Suffolk Mind CEO, Jon Neal explains the benefits of movement on your mental health as he takes part in the 2.6 challenge.

You can sponsor Jon here

During Mental Health Week I’ll be finishing the TwoPointSixChallenge – a national campaign launched by a number of charities and fundraisers in response to marathons being cancelled. The idea is you do something related to 26 or 2.6 or multiples of those. It could be anything. I decided to run 2.6k every day for 26 days…and given I do very little exercise at the best of times, it was certainly going to be a challenge.

As I approach the end, I’m definitely fitter than I was when I started, but my mental health is also better.

When we exercise our bodies release endorphins to reward us. It’s the ‘feel good’ hormone, and it’s partly why we feel good after exercise – even if the exercise itself is tough. We also meet our emotional need for achievement – being stretched and challenged, and feeling competent at something.

One of the unexpected benefits of running at 6.30am over the last few weeks has actually been the social interaction I’ve experienced. People who I only see on Zoom or Teams calls at the moment and who I had no idea lived close to me are out walking their dogs or also running at that time. And it’s helped me feel connected to something familiar in the outside world again.

My legs are begging me to stop when I reach 26 days, but perhaps I’ll continue for a bit longer. Maybe just not every day. But as an unfit person before lockdown, I would encourage anyone considering doing a bit of exercise perhaps for the first time, to just get out there and run a few metres each day. Even if it is literally up and down your street once. Maybe the second week you could do it twice…and then, who knows…2.6k or 26k!

Author: Kristina Brinkley

Posted on: 15th May 2020

How are you dealing with the attention vampires at work?

Workplace Wellbeing Trainer, Sue Gray explains how to manage your attention at work.

I’ve just sat for a minute or so and watched my cat wash her paw – each pad given individual attention – then something caught her attention, she stopped mid-lick and walked off paw half clean. 

Attention is an essential resource – to get jobs done, to give to people, to understand things, to connect. We give it and we receive it – switching it on and off – sometimes consciously, often unconsciously.

Do you feel more tired and less focused at the moment? Many people are saying they are a lot more tired and feel less able to focus, and that they’re being less productive at work and are not sure why.

What’s all that about? It’s not like a load of people have suddenly become lazy and ineffective for no good reason.

Attention is an innate essential need we all need to get enough of in a healthy and balanced way. And it’s a finite resource: it runs out and needs to be replenished by rest, privacy and sleep. Have you noticed that if you’ve given focus and attention to tasks and people all day at work (face to face or online) when you come home you just don’t have enough to give to your partner or children? How does that feel?

Working online takes additional attention and focus, as our brains work harder to fill in the gaps in communication and rapport building. Online we have less information than if we are in a room with someone. Then there’s ‘split’ attention, e.g. working on completing a report while being regularly interrupted by a child asking for help with a school project (the one you set them so as to get some peace to focus on getting this report done for your boss). Meanwhile some of your attention is also on the fact that you are living through a pandemic.

Working online is taking more of your attention than you might realize, and that can leave you feeling the lack of it.

So try this – Five a Day for boosting Attention at work:

  1. Stop and check how you are – every hour for 3 breaths (set a time?). Relax your face and shoulders and breathe 3 times into your belly, looking away from any screen. Takes 30 seconds.
  2. Focus on one thing at a time – multi-tasking takes up more of your attention juices.
  3. Look out for attention vampires – e.g. your phone (attention is what the advertisers are buying). Find ways to relax and connect other than social media, maybe meet a friend for a socially-distanced walk around the block for 10 minutes.
  4. Take work and rest sandwiches – try the Pomodoro method, setting a timer for 25 mins then get up and do something different for 5 minutes. 
  5. Privacy / Reflection time / Sleep – we are all different, but ensure you find a way to get enough for you.

Author: Kristina Brinkley

Posted on: 15th May 2020

Are you suffering an attention shortfall at the moment?

Our Workplace Wellbeing Trainer, Penny Tyndale-Hardy writes about protecting your attention capacity and making sure we have enough to go round at home.

Anyone else feeling more tired and irritable than usual? My emotions seem more volatile and I’m definitely less patient. I get frustrated that simple things take so much more time. And while I crave privacy, I’m lacking the energy or motivation to do anything useful or fulfilling in my downtime. Sound familiar? If so, it’s likely you’re suffering an attention shortfall.

Our capacity to give attention is not an inexhaustible resource. Don’t underestimate how much more you need to give everyday life right now. New situations demand more attention, and right now even familiar tasks have become unfamiliar.

For example, I’m normally pretty good at socialising, from workplace chat to family gatherings or a cuppa with friends. But right now my phone or computer is the only way to manage this, from meetings, to catching up with people, joining quizzes, watching live gigs…

This demands attention in a very different way from face-to-face contact. Not only is the screen more visually stimulating (and therefore tiring), but there are additional demands, such as learning the tech, coping with pixelated pictures and intermittent sound, seeing six (or more) people with six different backgrounds, the etiquette of who talks when – all while tuning out the barking dog or the arrival of the postman. It’s exhausting!

This is just one of the ways in which the familiar has become unfamiliar.

We’re all learning new hygiene skills – not just washing our hands more often and more thoroughly but wiping down surfaces, maintaining social distance, cleaning the shopping before putting it away. I’ve not yet worn a mask, but that’s another new protocol that will take effort and attention to become habitual.

Here are some tips to protect our attention capacity and make sure we have enough to go round:

  • Just recognising the increased demand on your attention can help you feel better. It’s not simply cabin fever – the Covid situation really does alter how much we need to use this essential resource.
  • Keep clear boundaries. Doing everything from home makes things muddled. Set clear time and space boundaries for different tasks where possible so your attention isn’t pulled about by competing things. A good routine will help.
  • Take time in the day to reflect – how are you feeling today? What’s working well? What needs are being met? Have a look at the different ways you can meet your emotional needs by accessing the resources on our website.
  • Learn and practice relaxation techniques (see our video on Mindful Breathing). By directing your attention to techniques that physically calm both body and mind you’ll have more control over how you direct your attention – which makes it go further.
  • Prioritise your sleep – good sleep helps you recharge and regenerate your attention capacity.
  • Move away from screens to rest your screen-stimulated brain – gardening, drawing, reading, exercise, puzzles, board games, meditation, knitting… whatever works for you.
  • Expect things to take longer. We’re in a new world and simple things take more time. Accepting and allowing for this will make it less frustrating.
  • Don’t forget that everyone else is also managing this increased demand for attention. Talk with others about how it’s working and agree ways to help each other.

Author: Kristina Brinkley

Posted on: 15th May 2020

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