2020 made us all more resilient. If you’re reading this, always remember – you were able to persevere through a global pandemic. You were able to push through despite a world health crisis, and the seemingly never-ending setbacks and obstacles it threw your way. Be very proud of yourself.
We now enter 2021 with a better understanding of how to navigate through uncertainty, and a full understanding that it will entail a lot of stress and fast changes. But how do we maintain our resilience? Before moving forward, take a step back to look at your mental health – be honest with yourself and attend to your needs. Like any physical activity, in order to power through, you need to be fit.
What is mental fitness?
As our mind is a muscle, it needs to be trained and strengthened. Mental fitness involves exercises that develop our mental and emotional abilities – the more we exercise our minds, the stronger it gets. No, these activities aren’t done to increase your IQ. Mentally, they help us become healthier and fitter with skills that allow us to focus better, be more optimistic and connect well with others.
What are the benefits?
Mental fitness has physical benefits too – by being able to slow down, especially at night, our bodies will be able to rest properly. Having a calm mind will also help us become less reactive to stress and solve problems in a more relaxed manner. When it comes to concentration, mental fitness builds cognitive strength, which allows us to ignore distracting thoughts. Socially, it benefits us with the ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships as we become less judgemental and more understanding.
How do we practice mental fitness?
- Meditating – Meditating isn’t the only mental exercise, but it does help us focus and tune out distractions. By working on our cognitive strength, we’ll be able to improve our attention, thinking and memory.
- Being present – Pay more attention to your senses daily – what do you see, hear, feel, smell and taste? When we practice being present, we’ll be able to apply it to moments of stress and worry, preventing us from overthinking and becoming more anxious.
- Letting go of control – We can only change ourselves, not others. Accept the fact that you can’t control everything and you’ll find yourself happier and grateful without the disappointment that comes with unmet expectations.
- Exploring – Open yourself up to new things, perspectives and ideas to get a better understanding of how other people feel. Breaking out of your routine can also help keep your brain healthy and active.
- Socialising – As a social species, engaging and interacting with others is beneficial to our mental health. Reach out to your family and friends, join an online community, care for others and you’ll care for yourself more.
When it comes to training, whether physical or mental, consistency is key. It won’t always be easy, but by adding these small actions to our daily routines, we’ll be able to achieve our goals of having a stronger mind. Be patient, be kind, and remember that improving your mental fitness will take time.
With 2021 less than two weeks away, we’ve all been reminiscing on highlights and lessons, as well as planning to start afresh for the new year. Building a new habit is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions, but making it work has also been a common challenge.
James Clear, the author of the New York Times’ bestselling book Atomic Habits, explored the science of forming and breaking habits. He concluded that there are four important components that we should be aware of when it comes to Habits 101.
- Cue – cues trigger our brain to initiate a behaviour. They help us imagine the possible pleasant outcomes that will occur if we take the necessary steps. An example of a cue would be wanting to be fit.
- Craving is the second step, which motivates us to do the work. Without a sense of motivation, cues cannot become visible changes. For example, if we crave being fit, we’ll plan to be more active.
- Response is the action that we work on to achieve our goals – it depends on our level of motivation and how achievable the plan is. It would be more realistic to start out with a 15 minute morning walk, followed by flexible 10 minute of home workout, three times a week rather than jumping into a daily high-intensity interval training workout.
- Reward is the outcome of our efforts – you may feel less lethargic and more upbeat following your new routine to stay fit. Without the feeling of accomplishment, it would be hard to make habits stay.
Now, here are four steps you can follow to navigate through a new habit. New year, better you!
- Make your goal so small that it would be almost impossible to fail. Let’s say you strive to read more – rather than reading a book per week, perhaps you can start with a page a day!
- Gradually improve your progress every day – consistent progress will certainly keep the momentum going and excite you to reach your goal.
- Break down your habits into smaller chunks. Say your goal is to do 50 pushups per day, try to commit yourself to 10 pushups and five rounds instead.
- Steer yourself back on track once you have missed a target. At the end of the day, we’re only human – so it’s normal to slip up, but do try your best not to prolong that one day into days.
- Be patient with yourself, and do not rush results. It is most important to be kind to yourself and consistent as you work through your goals.
Let’s all aim for New Year’s resolutions that will manifest into great habits worth living up to. May the force be with you!
While working from home has its pros (like wearing PJs all day), it also brings with it some very real pains. Most of our workstations are now beds and couches, but as comfortable as they sound – their lack of support has caused a lot of discomfort. An uncomfortable sitting position is just one of the many distractions you have to deal with when you work from home.
So from improving your posture to tackling blurred work-life boundaries, here are some changes you can make for a healthier and more productive WFH experience:
For the Body
Without our walks to lunch, or even from the carpark to the office, working from home has made us less active. This can lead to stiff necks and sore backs, as well as a higher risk of sedentary diseases, such as diabetes and obesity.
- Set up an ergonomic home office
A healthier body begins with a posture-friendly work desk. Sit up straight, adjust the height of your chair so your feet are on the ground (or on a footrest), and raise your laptop until the top of the screen is at eye level.
Check out this video for more tips explained by an ergonomics expert.
- Stand up and walk around
Your body needs to move to keep the blood flowing, and sitting in the same position for hours can take its toll. Schedule a reminder to stand up and move every 30-45 minutes – why not dance around your room to your favourite songs!
- Stretch and move some more
Regular stretches and exercises can help loosen tight muscles, strengthen them, and improve overall flexibility and mobility. Try following an online yoga class or these exercises for better back health.
For the Mind
If you find yourself struggling with concentration or working longer hours at home, you’re not alone. With the line between work and rest as fuzzy as can be, it’s easy for the mind to feel overwhelmed.
- Take mental breaks
Just as your body needs breaks from sitting, your brain needs regular rest from the screen too. Take a break after completing every task or try the Pomodoro Technique, which rewards you with a 5-minute rest after every 25 minutes of work. There’s even a Google Chrome extension you can install.
At the end of the work day, log off and keep your laptop hidden in a drawer to stop the temptation of replying to emails at 10PM.
- Plan your days
Write down a to-do list and estimate how much time you need to spend on each task. Having this fresh plan every morning keeps you focused and sets you up for a more productive day – it can also help you avoid the stress of rushing to meet deadlines later on.
- Remove distractions
From the comfy bed to your furry friend, distractions at home can make it hard to focus – identify what’s distracting you and remove it from your workspace. Is it your bed? Work in another room. Is your family talking a little too loud? Put on your earphones. Is it Netflix? Sign out of your account until you’re done for the day.
Share these tips with your friends who are hustling from home too!