Now that we’re very much into the pandemic, I think we should have the conversation about balancing productivity and positivity during a time like this. While some people are able to bury their heads into their work, others in the past few months have been struggling to keep up either their productivity at work, or their positivity during and after work-hours. When you throw economic uncertainty, borders restrictions and isolation on top, it’s inescapable that a huge number of people right now are feeling uninspired, unproductive, unfulfilled and in need of some building blocks to transform these negative psychological patterns.
So, with that in mind, what does science and modern psychology tell us about the collective mindset right now, and how can you restructure your day to day activities to prioritise either your positivity, or your productivity?
Let’s find out.
BeyondBlue’s lead clinical advisor Dr Grant Blashki says that “the fact we’re in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic adds stresses we couldn’t have imaged a few months ago. Such as being isolated from family, friends and colleagues, as well as feelings of fear, anxiety, panic and helplessness.” With that in mind, the first and most important step in this process is to build up a support team, be it in your workplace, or more importantly in your friend and family circle.
Quite often, we take these connections for granted, or feel as though we might burden someone with how we’re feeling. Dr Blashki says that “isolation leaves too much room for ruminating, which can amplify depression and anxiety,” and inevitably leads to things like self-doubt, a drop in productivity as well as motivation. Blashki says that it’s important to remember that “our work life is important to many of us, but it’s not what makes us who we are… people have characteristics, skills, values and attributes that go well beyond their jobs.”
This is an important point to ponder for a minute, and one that can be lost in the translation of meetings, deadlines and the realities of doing business day-to-day. If you’re feeling as though your positivity is dropping because of something work related, try to take a step back and gain some perspective. Remind yourself of the support squad that we’ve already mentioned, and share your feelings with those around you that you trust. No one is expected to love every day of their job, but those that dwell on this can force themselves into a much deeper spiral of negative thoughts than is warranted.
In terms of routine, this is where you can really implement things to transform your thought patterns, and both your productivity and positivity. Dr Blashki says that “I encourage my patients to make a calendar for the week, and divide the days into the morning, afternoon and evening. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day, and incorporate regular activities, such as set mealtimes.” Dr Blashki recommends that as you split your day up, you incorporate one ‘pleasure activity’ as well as one ‘achievement activity’ to give your brain those all-important senses of achievement and reward.
A pleasure activity should be something you truly enjoy, while the achievement activity should be something you don’t. These complement each other and subtly encourage you to incorporate more activities into your program; tick something off that you’ve been dreading and you’ll gain from the reward. “Mindfulness is a haven from the ongoing racing thoughts and worry. By practicing it, you learn to slow down your thoughts and focus on the here and now,” he says. The pleasure activity is where this mindfulness should ideally kick-in, so make sure you’re doing something that you truly enjoy.
One point I might add here is to avoid added social media use as a pleasure activity. If that’s what you truly enjoy, then great, but I raise this point because there’s evidence linking social media use with depression and self-loathing that only exacerbates what you’re trying to counteract.
Next, we move onto an activity that you’re either a big fan of already, or you need to do some work with… exercise. Like it or lump it, one of the most effective means of kicking negative psychological patterns to the curb is with exercise. Dr Blashki says that “exercise is key… there’s good evidence that it has a targeted effect on both depression and anxiety,” and there’s a number of studies already out there linking productivity in there, too. Exercise can come in all shapes and forms, and it doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money on a gym membership, either. If you’re self conscious, start at home with some online tutorials, or just head outside – if and where possible – to clear your head, raise your heartbeat and push yourself for upward of 30 minutes. The results can be truly transformational for a person’s motivation levels, as well as positivity and productivity.
Dr Blashki concludes by adding that in his household, “we have what’s called a ‘coronavirus time-out’ – which any one of us can call – and it means that we just don’t talk about it for an hour,” which could be something that you implement at home with your friends or family, or in the workplace if it’s adding to your stress levels. Another worthwhile point I’d like to add is to potentially limit your social media intake.
In wrapping up, the most realistic means of reversing a negative cycle in your productivity or positivity levels is to bite parts of these steps off incrementally, and then move forward when you’ve fully adopted a positive change. Think of it like waking up early… if you all of a sudden change your wakeup time to 4am, it’s likely that you’ll wear yourself down much quicker than if you were to change your alarm from 6am to 5:30, and then 5am, and then 4:30am.
We can’t change things magically overnight, but we can start making small changes in our lives to help overcome the psychological hurdles that the pandemic has been throwing at us. Remember that you’re not alone, and that you have a support squad around you – whether you know it or not.
I’ll see you in the next piece, and hopefully soon, on the other side of this pandemic.
Thanks for your time, Kobi Simmat, Director and CEO of the Best Practice Group.
If you’re in need of help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the equivalent service in your home country.