How to stay focussed and productive during the current crisis

Based on the latest Government and medical advice, more of us are starting to practice some form of social distancing. Whilst it can be comforting to know that you’re taking measures to protect yourself and those around you, it can also raise the question – what can I do from home?

For many people, staying at home for prolonged periods isn’t easy, but these practical steps will hopefully help you to stay as positive and productive as possible.

How to improve my mental and physical wellbeing whilst at home

Probably one of the hardest things about having to stay at home during coronavirus is the toll that it can take on your mental health. But spending less time rushing around and more time at home, also has the potential to have a positive effect on your mental wellbeing if you follow a few simple steps.
  • Create a routine. If you’re spending more time at home, then it’s likely that you are missing out on a lot of the activities that you would usually do, such as going to the gym or meeting up with friends. Whilst this can be frustrating, if we want to maintain our sense of purpose and continue to feel motivated each day, then it can be helpful to create a routine that mirrors your old routine as much as possible – working with what you have at home. When our normal routines become disrupted in ways that we didn’t expect, it can be quite unnerving, but it is possible to create a new routine to match your temporary circumstances. Your new routine may not be ideal, but it could have the potential to help you feel more positive about the coming weeks. If you want to make sure that you’re going to stick to your routine, then try keeping track of your daily tasks in your calendar, or drawing out a weekly schedule on paper and sticking it to your fridge. This can help you to stay focussed on each task ahead and hopefully minimise any time spent worrying.
  • Try to eat a healthy diet. Our diet can have a significant impact on how we feel both mentally and physically. Many of us don’t feel great when we spend long periods of time sitting down – but if you’re self-isolating at home, then you may have to. It sounds obvious, but one of the best ways to look after your health (especially when you’re getting outside less) is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. A healthy diet can help to manage your weight, keep your immune system boosted and promote a healthy heart – and at a time when health is a great concern, it’s really important to do what is within your control to look after yours. BBC Good Food has a lot of healthy meal ideas that might be helpful when planning your meals over the coming weeks. We understand that there is currently great concern over the lack of food supplies available in the supermarket, whilst people are continuing to stockpile items. If you are unable to get hold of something, then it’s worth asking a friend, family member or neighbour whether they can keep an eye out for it. It’s also worth looking into meal delivery services, such as Hello Fresh, Mindful Chef and Gousto, which deliver you recipes and ingredients to make fresh meals in minutes! You can also try ordering food from restaurants (those that remain open) using services like Just Eat, Uber Eats and Deliveroo, and asking the driver to simply leave your food on the doorstep.

    It’s also worth noting that some supermarkets are now opening an hour early once a week, to allow older or more vulnerable members of the community to have a chance at getting everything that they need. Whilst this often applies to people over 70 and anyone of any age that has an underlying health condition, some supermarkets are making this option available to anyone over 50 or 60. Each supermarket has their own rules on this, so it’s best to check online or phone your local store to find out what’s happening near you.

  • Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. Exercise helps to keep our endorphins (our happy hormones) topped up so it’s important that you find a way to keep moving, even if you’re stuck at home. If you enjoy walking or cycling, then why not go for a long walk or bike ride along a quiet route where you won’t see many people? There are also plenty of home workouts that you could try – many of which require no equipment at all and can be completed using only your bodyweight. If you’re looking for a relaxing form of exercise that has great benefits for both mind and body and can be practiced anywhere, then yoga can be a great option. Our introductory guide can give you useful information on how to get started with this and there are a number of free online yoga apps or services you could try from your home. If you struggle with the idea of adopting exercise routines, then you could also stay active in other ways e.g. by doing gardening or DIY at home. The bending, stretching and lifting involved in these activities makes them helpful for improving flexibility, strength and balance – and with gardening, you’ll also have the added benefit of being able to spend time outside.
  • Practice mindfulness. It’s understandable that you may be worried about the potential impact of coronavirus on both your health and your livelihood. But it’s important to be able to manage feelings of stress and anxiety as best as you can to minimise their  impact on your quality of life. Worries tend to intensify when you have more time on your hands or when you aren’t being stimulated enough by your surroundings. So, if you’re feeling “stuck” at home with lots of worries whizzing around your brain about what could happen in the future, then it’s important to be able to quiet your mind – which is often done by bringing it back to the present moment. When you become truly focussed on the present moment – for example, really enjoying each sip of your cup of coffee, paying attention to your breath as you fall asleep or enjoying the smell of the freshly baked loaf that has just come out the oven – then we can often be more content in the present moment and let worries about the future fall away. Anyone can practice mindfulness, anywhere at any time. If you’d like to give it a try, then our handy guide can talk you through the process in more detail.
  • Stay connected. Just because you’re at home and unable to connect with friends and family in person like you usually would, it doesn’t mean that you’re not loved and cared about. There are plenty of ways that you can connect with your loved ones without actually coming into close physical contact with them – with voice and increasingly video calls. Video calls can allow you to feel much closer to your favourite people, see them smiling and share in each other’s daily activities from any distance. You could arrange to have a daily Skype call with a friend or family member, where you have a coffee, a glass of wine, or even eat dinner together and talk about your day. You may be surprised how much these little things can help!
  • Make sure that you still get some fresh air everyday. Whether you are in full isolation mode or not, it’s still a good idea to make sure that you get a daily dose of fresh air. Often when we’ve been out for a walk, spent some time in the garden or aired out a stuffy room by opening up plenty of windows, we feel brighter and more alert. Oxygen is instrumental to many of our metabolic processes, so the more we take in the better we tend to function both mentally and physically – so make sure you get yours.
  • Do something you enjoy. A lot of big events are being cancelled and we have now been told to try and stay at home as much as we can – which means avoiding social places like pubs, bars and restaurants. It can feel strange to not be able to visit a lot of the places that we usually go to without a second thought, but the good news is that there are still plenty of ways that you can find enjoyment at home. For example, if you’re a whizz in the kitchen, then why not try working on a new recipe? Or revisit some of your favourite books, TV shows or films that you might usually struggle to find time for? Or maybe your guilty pleasure is to light a candle, stick a face mask on and relax in the bath? Whatever it is that makes you happy at home, it’s important that you make some time for it in your daily schedule!
  • Make the most of being at home with your pet. Although you might be feeling anxious about the thought of being at home for the time being, you may be able to take comfort in the fact that, for your pet, it’s probably the best news ever – especially if you have a dog! Dogs would generally always rather be in the company of their owner, than being on their own. If you’re struggling to stay positive, then just take a look at your pet and consider how much happier they probably are to have you home with them all day. Our pets can bring us so much joy, and when we get too stuck in our heads or spend too long dwelling on the negatives, it can be easy to overlook that. Make the most of your time with your pet(s) – cuddle them, take them for walks (if you can) and show them how much you appreciate them! Your pet(s) know nothing of what’s going on in the wider world, nor do they care – which can offer you a refreshing escape from the worries of everyday life.
  • Reduce the amount of time that you spend reading the news if you’re finding it stressful. Because of the uncertainty of what will happen in the UK and around the world over the next few weeks, it can be tempting to spend lots of time checking the news, hoping that you will find new answers there. Whilst it’s important to keep up to date with the latest information and advice about coronavirus, make sure you only use high quality sources of information to avoid unnecessary panic and try to keep this to a limit. For example, resolve to watch the TV news once a day – perhaps in the evening. It can be very difficult to boost your productivity levels if you’re refreshing the news web page every hour, so just know that it’s okay to step away and get on with other things.

Other ways to make the most of your time at home

  • Learn something new. If you’ve always wanted to learn to play the guitar, speak French or develop your skills and knowledge in a particular subject area, then you could use extra time at home to do so. It’s never too late to learn something new and there doesn’t have to be a barrier to cost, as there are plenty of free resources available online in a range of different subjects. Alison, Future Learn and Open Learn are examples of free adult education websites which offer courses on everything from lifestyle, through to history and IT.
  • Work on your home. There are probably plenty of odd DIY or sorting/organising jobs that you haven’t gotten round to and what better time to work on improving your living space, then when you’re spending much more time in it. Sorting and organising can be incredibly therapeutic activities that become hobbies for many people. Public figures like Marie Kondo and Stacey Solomon are now well known for their love of decluttering and organising spaces to look appealing to the eye. Marie Kondo has a Netflix series which shows people how to clear out the clutter, and choose joy – it’s worth a watch!
  • Start or develop a hobby. Before we were advised to spend more time at home to minimise the impacts of coronavirus, many of us would have spent time rushing around – often with little time to devote to hobbies. If you’ve been desperate for more time to work on your sewing, develop your painting technique or write a song, then now could be the time to do so.
  • Create a bucket list of the things you’d like to do once things start to improve. It’s good to have dreams. Dreams give us hope, and may help you to focus on the light at the end of a tunnel. Coronavirus has presented challenges to communities worldwide, but these challenges won’t last forever and things will get better. It’s important to keep this in mind and to be ready to enjoy life to the fullest when restrictions on movement are no longer in place.
  • Have a spring clean. With the weather getting warmer, it can be the perfect time to start dusting away those cobwebs and planning for the warmer weather. Why not give your home a top to bottom clean over the course of a week or so? A clean and tidy home can be much more pleasant to spend extra time in, and can also help you think more clearly.

How to help others during the coronavirus quarantine

  • If you can, reach out to elderly neighbours and offer to pick up shopping for them. If you’re at home with a car, or you have shops that you can get to on foot, then it’s worth checking in with your elderly or vulnerable neighbours, who may currently be self-isolating to see whether there is anything that they need. Make sure you keep your distance and stay safe for both parties’ benefit, but you could try giving them a call or offering to leave any items on their doorstep. This is a worrying time, but it can be made much easier if we all stick together. Helping others can also help us feel better about ourselves too.
  • Walk dogs for vulnerable or elderly people who are self-isolating. There are plenty of people in high-risk categories who may need to remain in complete isolation. Some of these people still have dogs who need walking, so it’s worth offering to help where you can. A lot of local community Facebook groups are appealing for people to walk dogs, so it’s worth checking whether your local area has one.
  • Reach out to friends and family in the ways that you can (e.g. over the phone) and ask them how they are. Self-isolation can be a lonely time and you could really help to brighten someone’s day by giving them a call to let them know that you’re thinking of them.
  • Share food where possible. With people around the country stockpiling food supplies, you may have friends and neighbours who are unable to get hold of items that they need. If you have something extra, then it can be helpful to share – as the only way that we are going to get through this is if we support one another.

How to stay productive whilst working from home

If you already have a job – then you may have had to swap your normal routine of going into work for working from home instead. Whilst working at home does have benefits e.g. no commute and access to home comforts throughout the day – it can also have drawbacks such as a lack of regular exercise, finding it difficult to stay focussed and missing social interaction with colleagues. To help make your working day as productive as possible, it can help to:
  • Consider how you can transform your home into a suitable workspace. Often the reason that it can be difficult to work from home is because your home is also where you rest, relax and undertake leisure activities. Your brain may not associate home with work, so it can sometimes be difficult to get into the “working from home” mindset. The best way to get around this (if possible) is to create a space in your home that is designed specifically for you to work in. This could be a desk, a comfy spot on the sofa next to a nice bright window, or a chair in a quiet corner of the house. It’s down to you to choose where you feel most comfortable and productive, but your workspace should ideally be somewhere that is free from distractions – like housework or your favourite TV show.

    By having a specific space dedicated to work, you can train your brain to associate a set location in your home with work. This will help you to separate your work and home life, even whilst doing everything all under one roof. It can be easy to get into bad habits like working in bed, but this can not only affect the quality of your work, but the quality of your sleep too – as it can become hard to sleep in a space that your brain has become accustomed to working in.
  • Get washed and dressed every morning. Once you cut the commute and no longer see your colleagues everyday (or anyone for that matter), it can be easy to end up working in your pyjamas. Whilst this may be very comfortable, it can also harm your productivity. Whether you realise it or not, when we get dressed each morning, we are also dressing our mindset and getting to character, ready for a day of work. It is often only once we come home again and get back into our comfy clothes that we go into leisure mode and switch off from our work until the next day. To avoid blurring the lines between work and play and having productivity drop in each of these areas, it’s important to dress for the occasion whether anyone will see it or not!
  • Keep in touch with your colleagues. Working from home for prolonged periods of time can leave even the most introverted individuals feeling lonely. But, please try to remember that you aren’t alone and that many other people will also be feeling the same way. It’s important to check in regularly with your colleagues who may also be missing the daily laughs that you have at work – which could mean a phone call or even a five-way video chat using platforms like Microsoft Teams or Skype.
  • Try to stick to your usual schedule as much as possible. As humans, we are creatures of habit and benefit from having a regular routine. When you can skip the commute and work in your pyjamas, you may also find it easy to do things like eat lunch and breakfast at your computer, or work from the time you get out of bed until the time you’re ready to get back in! To look after your mental and physical well being as much as possible and avoid overworking yourself, try to give yourself regular breaks for meals and exercise, and know when to switch off in the evening to give yourself some well-deserved downtime. Just because you’re now working from home, it doesn’t mean that your entire daily routine should be devoted to work.

How to boost your income from home

Whatever your employment status, during a time of economic uncertainty, there’s no harm in looking at ways in which you can start making small incremental savings to help build yourself a financial safety net. There are a number of different ways that you can top up your earnings from home; for example making and selling things online, taking online surveys and recycling old printer cartridges. Our guides 21 Ways to Boost Your Income, Popular Side Hustle Ideas and Five Ways Your Home Could Make You Money could be helpful places to start.

Use time at home to reflect on your job search

If you’re currently unemployed and looking for work, then it’s understandable that you may be feeling concerned about the impact of coronavirus on your job search – especially now that we are being encouraged to stay at home wherever possible. Certain sectors – for example travel and hospitality – have completely stopped all hiring. However, other sectors such as supermarkets and the food retail sector in general are looking to hire extra staff to cope with the increased demand for food and supplies. With schools now closed, there may also be more children who would benefit from things like online tutoring. At present, it’s hard to know exactly what the short and longer term impacts of coronavirus will be on the UK’s work and unemployment situation, but you might find it useful to read our thoughts on the employment market over the coming weeks, which is available here. Other things you could do to maximise your job search productivity, include:
  • Looking for online/freelance work opportunities. Naturally, with more people staying indoors, home-based job roles will become a popular option and may experience a higher number of applications. But, it’s still worth keeping an eye out for roles that might be relevant to your skills and experience and applying anyway. If you’re wondering what sort of home-working options – including writing and online tutoring – may be available, our article Roles working from home could be a helpful place to start.
  • Using time at home to focus on perfecting your CV and cover letter ready for when things start to improve. With less companies hiring at the moment, it could be a good time to focus on getting your CV and cover letter right, so that you can be prepared for when things pick up again. The CV tips section of our site has lots of tips and advice on how to do this.
  • Use this time whilst the job market is slowing down to think long and hard about what you’d like to gain from your next job opportunity once the job market starts to pick up the pace. It can be hard to accept that your job search may be affected by the current situation, however, this quiet period can also offer you a chance to self-reflect and narrow down exactly which sort of roles and sectors you’d like to work in. There may be skills or knowledge that you could work on developing at home, that could help to strengthen your position later on.
  • Reaching out to other job seekers online who may also be struggling with the uncertainty surrounding the current job market. Our Facebook group Over 50s Job Seekers or our Rest Less community forums are both great places to meet like-minded individuals, who you can share tips and advice with. As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved. By expressing your concerns and mulling them over with others in the same boat, you may be able to work towards your goals together.

And finally…

No matter what your situation, please remember that this is a difficult time for everyone, and you are not alone. Whilst the suggestions in this article won’t solve the immense challenges facing us all, hopefully they may help to make things just that little bit easier. Uncertainty is always difficult to deal with, but it’s important to keep focusing on the things that we can control, rather than those we can’t.

Please keep safe, and look after yourselves and your family, friends and neighbours where possible.

Can you think of any other ways to stay productive during the coronavirus quarantine that may be of benefit to others? Email us at [email protected] or post on the community forum. We’d love to hear from you.

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