Author: Will Allen-Mersh, Partner at Spill
Spill is a London-based startup that lets employees book video sessions with qualified UK therapists and counsellors. We've seen demand for our services increase substantially during the last four months, as both going into lockdown and the prospect of coming out of it leave people feeling uncertain and anxious. In fact, according to Skinny Dip's Instagram poll last week, 66% of people are feeling anxious about the recent and upcoming changes to lockdown restrictions. So Skinny Dip asked what your biggest lockdown-related worries were — and then Spill's therapists shared their thoughts on some of the most common ones.
🗣I'm worried about progressing in my career and feeling like this year has stunted my success, how do I cope with that?
You're not alone in this feeling: frustrations and stress around work have hugely increased since lockdown began. Burnout is becoming increasingly common. It's worth trying to dig a little deeper into what's behind the feeling of being stunted. Interestingly, having too high a workload isn't the main cause of burnout; there are myriad reasons. Six of the most common reasons for burning out or feeling like work isn't working are: chasing genuinely unreachable goals, feeling like there isn't a strong enough link between effort and reward, not enough emotional payoff (autonomy, mastery or purpose), the job feels unfair (workload and recognition are distributed unevenly, for example), there are too many mixed messages (you're told to have original ideas, but your boss feels threatened when you challenge the status quo), or the job makes you chase the wrong goals for you. It's worth thinking about which of these six reasons you might identify more with, to help shed more light on what's underlying this feeling. Spill has a guide to preventing burnout that shares actionable tips for how to get back on track once you've worked on what the root causes are.
🗣I'm feeling overwhelmed with work and personal life being at home — what can I do?
Humans like habit. And that's because habit is safe. Being removed from habit is like being dropped in the middle of a dark forest: suddenly, you're at peak alertness and see a monster behind every tree. That's just natural. Unfamiliar situations should be met with peak alertness (which often manifests as feeling overwhelmed). By cutting us off from our habits, COVID-19 is taking an axe to a very important pillar of our wellbeing. As you'll have heard by now, one of the key pieces of advice for staying sane is to bring some structure and separation to your day. If possible, keep your work area separate from your living area — for example, put away your laptop and work papers once you're finished for the day. Lay down firm boundaries, like turning off email or Slack notifications at a certain time in the evening. Schedule time to socialise with co-workers, for example video call lunch breaks or video coffees. As well as liking habit, there's a tension because humans also need a sense of chance and variance, and COVID-19 has taken this from us too. To combat the sea of 'sameness' that working life at home has brought, try introducing variance whenever you can. Go on a different route for your walk, call a friend you haven't spoken to in a while, or cook something for the first time. This helps bring awareness towards the present, which does wonders for our mental health overall.
🗣How do I maintain a motivated mindset working from home?
Staying positive and motivated while working from home is understandably tricky. Focusing is like sleeping — we find it easier in a familiar setting. You might consider writing down a list of things that are contributing to your lack of focus: for instance, missing human interaction, missing things, feeling out of the loop. Next, for each of the items in the list, ask yourself what is the root cause of that thing affecting you: for instance, you might write "I'm affected by missing human interaction because..." or "I'm affected by feeling out of the loop at work because...". Thus, you will go a level deeper, from the thing that's affecting you to the underlying need that feels unmet. For example, you might discover that you need to have an informal friendly chat with colleagues on a regular basis, in order to feel reassured that your relationships are being maintained. Or, you might discover that you need to be kept in the loop with what's happening at work, in order to feel reassured that you know what's happening and things won't take you by surprise. Once you've identified the underlying needs, the next step is to consider alternative strategies to achieving them. For instance, you might propose to your team that you all have a quiz night over zoom on a Friday after work. Or that you call each other on the phone once a day instead of sending a written message. Or that you do a morning meditation together over video call. If you're feeling this way, odds are others are too, so if you take the initiative to address some of these things, others might benefit too.