One of the biggest changes to our daily lives over the last few years has been the necessity to work from home. For the event industry, the rise of virtual events has meant attendees and event planners are not only working from home, they’re attending or organising events from home, too.
While this new way to work may negate the need for travel or time away from home, it has also meant the demarcation between work life and personal life is no longer quite so clear.
When our dinner table doubles-up as our desk, how do we make sure we manage our time and stress levels to take care of our physical and mental health?
We sat down (virtually, of course!) with three-time Winter Olympian, Shelley Rudman, to find out.
Shelley, you’re a successful Olympic athlete who has experienced the intense demands of three Winter Olympics. What’s your key advice for managing your mental health in a hectic schedule, especially when working from home?
“One of the biggest things is to have time out. Sometimes you can become so immersed in what you are doing it can become a burden and become quite stressful. It’s important to recognise when that is happening, step away and have some strategies in place.
When you’re working from home most of the time it’s difficult. You wake up and you almost eat your breakfast at your laptop – there’s almost no time to relax! Stepping away to just go out for a walk or cycle – whether it’s meeting up with a friend or alone – is important. Take yourself away from the ‘work’ environment and do something that enables you to disconnect.
If you find you’re in the mindset where you feel you can’t get away – set a time where you have to get out. Even if it’s stepping out into the garden for a few minutes. Refresh your mind then come back to the laptop and start work again after you’ve had that important mental break.”
Most of us start the day with good intentions, but what do you tell yourself to get up and out if you’re feeling a bit lazy that day?
“I think we all have those moments where we feel a little like that, but the key for me is to make myself get out of bed and just do it! There’s a saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing for the weather. Putting the clothes on, putting the shoes on, and just getting out the door – as soon as you’ve done that you’re almost there. So, schedule it in!”
Stress and anxiety have increased over the recent months. How do you manage stress in this kind of environment?
“We’re all susceptible to this and especially now, but it can happen in any aspect of your life.
Sleep is critical for me when I’ve gone through stressful moments. I try to make sure I have a good night’s sleep, but it’s hard because when you’re stressed and you’re constantly waking up and you don’t feel like you can sleep through.
Writing down everything that’s a concern the evening before and putting a plan of action in place, helps. When you do go to sleep, you’re mindful and rested because you’ve got a plan in place for the following day, or to address throughout the week.”
Part of the issue for many of us is around expectations of others, deadlines that need to be met etc. and suddenly you feel the pressure not to look after yourself. How would you recommend pushing back?
“The expectation from other people can be really awful. If you’ve had a bad day some people will really want to let you know that you’ve had a bad day.
I sometimes just had to go into my own protective world and say, ‘you know what, this is what I’m doing today, even though there’s so much pressure on me, I have just got to get on with what I need to do – just follow my plan and what I’m doing and not listen to all of the distraction.”
What small incremental changes can people make who find they have huge back-to-back commitments and are exceptionally time poor?
“It’s hard, but find a moment to say, ‘I’m going to take some time out.’ Go somewhere different that’s relatively quiet, close your eyes and just have a few minutes, not to mediate as such, but go someplace different in your mind. That’s often enough of a break to enable you to get back into it feeling refreshed.
Once the event or project is over you need to have some time to unwind without running straight into the next one. Even if it’s half a day to give yourself a lie-in because that lie-in is going to make the world easier for the next week. Schedule even just one hour in your weekly work schedule to plug in some ‘me’ time, or you will just burn out.”
Once you’ve gone through the stress, how do you recover?
“Big events or work projects can be completely exhausting! I’ve found that you’re on a high running into an Olympics and it’s a real mix of emotions, excitement, apprehension, stress. As soon as the event is over there’s a huge sigh of relief, but one thing to be aware of is that you can almost crash, and it’s the point where you can be susceptible to illness and picking up colds.
As athletes, we realise this and try and bolster our immune systems all the way through. It’s easier to understand now with COVID, but we’d raise our hygiene standards with diligent hand washing and staying away from people a little bit – to try and reduce the risk of falling ill after a big event.
Your immune system does get run down with general busyness and lack of sleep so prepping your body ahead of time makes sense.”
Is there a brain food you recommend to give focus and energy at the start of a busy day?
“For breakfast I recommend porridge or something nutritious like scrambled egg to set-up for the day. If people are in a hurry and need something fast, I recommend a protein shake. But always try and have a proper meal where possible. I do feel we are becoming too reliant on quick fix foods, like protein shakes, and we’re almost forgetting that we need real food and to sit down and eat rather than always taking things on the go.
With regards to drinks (in addition to a proper meal) I’m a big fan of high vitamin drinks, for example a smoothie with spinach and ginger or turmeric. Just anything where you can get a substantial amount of vitamins.
I’m all for moderation however, so while I don’t recommend drinking half a bottle of wine every night, a glass here and there is absolutely fine. Finally, don’t go overboard with one food group or eliminate one food group, unless you have a genuine intolerance.”
Is a winning mindset something you can learn and if so, how?
“You can definitely acquire a winning mindset. It takes a lot of motivation and an inspirational team around you (be that family, friends, or work colleagues). I do believe that if you’re of that mindset, and people can encourage it, you can create that want to win.
A lot of people will give up quite quickly when the going gets tough. The hallmark of successful people is they stay driven and believe that they can do well!”
When working from home, pressure and stress can be particularly difficult to disengage from. These tips can help keep you in great mental and physical shape:
– Be mindful of taking a break from work to refresh and recharge
– Schedule time for exercise breaks, especially when you don’t feel like it!
– Make time for proper nutritious meals rather than quick fixes
– Manage stress by creating action plans to deal with pressure points
– Get plenty of sleep