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10 Ways to Create a Positive Back to School Feeling in the ‘New Normal’

10 Ways to Create a Positive Back to School Feeling in the ‘New Normal’

10 Ways to Create a Positive Back to School Feeling in the ‘New Normal’

At the start of the Autumn term I normally write about the steps to take in order to banish the post-holiday blues and how to make the most of the new term.  However, as with most events in 2020, the usual feelings of excitement and anticipation experienced in schools and indeed offices this Autumn are very different to previous years: some reports are suggesting that almost half of UK parents are worried about sending their children back to school due to Covid-19 and other surveys show that around half of office workers are also not keen on returning to their workplace. 

Whilst some parents are relieved that home schooling is over, others are anxious about their children being back in the classroom.  What may have started as somewhat of a novelty during the first few weeks of lockdown, as parents juggled home schooling with online meetings, has now turned in to almost 6 months of trying to create some sort of routine, boundaries and balance between work and home life. 

For many workers, the quarantine restrictions or underlying health issues have meant that they were unable to unwind on a foreign beach this Summer, and instead may have had a mixed or wet and windy staycation, or even postponed their leave altogether.  As the realisation is dawning that the nights are drawing in, Winter’s on its way and working from home will soon look very different to how it did during the sunnier months, leaders and HR teams are gearing up to be alert to the ongoing impact of remote working on the mental health and wellbeing of their workers.

So, how can employees keep motivated and recreate a positive ‘Back to School’ feeling?  Here are some tips:

1. With the negativity in the news around Covid-19 and a potential second wave, a likely hard Brexit, a swathe of redundancies, and predicted worst recession ever, it’s important to limit exposure to the ‘doom and gloom’ on TV and social media and to get your information from reliable sources.

2. It’s worth taking stock to avoid slipping in to the same routine and old habits that you may have acquired since lockdown began in March:  Take action to prevent the downward spiral of tiredness > stress > anxiety > unhelpful behaviours, which can be caused by unhealthy patterns, such as: staying up late watching TV, then not getting enough sleep, so being over tired the next day, then drinking too much coffee, which triggers the release of adrenaline and the flight or fight response; your brain and body are then put into a hyper-aroused state so your emotions overrun your behaviour, resulting in you becoming irritable and more anxious, possibly ending in a disagreement or misunderstanding with your boss/colleague/partner!

3. Stop and analyse what you can change to improve your routines, working environment, work life balance and well-being.  A simple behaviour change such as getting up 10 minutes earlier to go for a run or brisk work round the block as a virtual commute can have a dramatic impact on your mood and productivity.

4. Review your workload and ask yourself: What can I delegate and to whom?  Ask yourself: How can I become more efficient?  Decide which online meetings you can stop calling or attending and get copied in on the minutes instead, or delegate to a colleague.  Be ruthless with your emails: try to read them only once, delete those you can and limit use of the over-used ‘reply all’ button.

5. Prioritize Self-care:  Make sure you take a lunch break and don’t eat your lunch at your desk.  Switch off your phone and email for at least ten minutes every day and, if possible, at least an hour before you go to sleep. 

6. If you are feeling overwhelmed, are job searching, or are worried about being made redundant, keep reminding yourself of what you can control and learn how to  silence your inner critic, turn negatives in to positives and explore the challenges and opportunities within a change process.  Avoid spending time chatting to negative friends or colleagues who may drag you down or try to derail your good intentions. 

7. Take time to develop your levels of resilience in order to be able to ‘bounce back’ from negativity or unpleasant life events. 

8. Ask your chosen supporter, whether a friend/partner/colleague/Coach to provide encouragement, motivation and inspiration.  Express any genuine concerns and fears, assess progress against your career and personal vision and goals and identify when and how you need to change direction again.   Ask yourself what success will look or feel like and diarise little steps to get there, maybe not currently, but in the medium and longer-term.

9. Every evening review each day and ask yourself what worked well, not so well, and what can you do differently?  Commit to changing any unhelpful behaviours and habits tomorrow. Don’t give up, just try harder and reward yourself for the positive changes you make.

10. Finally, Stop saying ‘can’t, won’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t’ as well as ‘But what if...?’   Remember the words of Henry Ford: ‘If you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.’  In other words, despite all the current changes, challenges, negativity and uncertainty, work on developing a Positive Mental Attitude. 

Wishing you all the best for whatever this new term brings!

About Jill Maidment

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