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Making it (to) Work when you’re not Feeling 100%

Making it (to) Work when you’re not Feeling 100%

While ideally the private and the professional life need to be kept distinct from each other, in reality it is a very thin, and porous line dividing the two. The line is especially blurred and porous when your mental health is suffering, and you are not at a great place in your life. You could be dealing with the insurmountable loss of a parent, an extremely bad break up, a lack of stability in your personal life, coping with being friendless in a new city, or sometimes even feeling anxious and depressed for no reason at all. On days like these, when you are going through hell, how do you get yourself to work? How do you clock it from 9 to 5, without letting the battle you are fighting within, take over?

Half the job is done when you decide to show up

Yes, at times, it is enough to just be able to summon the will power to show up. Set backs can be extremely difficult to deal with. Respect the fact that you are after all a human being who is not immune to hurt and heart break. Your will to perform and be productive at work is not independent of your mental health status. More than anything else, your mental health status is not a switch which can be turned on at 9 am and turned off at 5 pm. On days like these, getting out of bed, getting dressed, having breakfast and just making it to your desk on time is enough. It is progress, and it is something you should be proud of being able to do. Because on days like these, just showing up can be the most difficult thing to do. Just show up – that’s all you need to do until you’re feeling better.

Do the mundane, and the everyday – a routine can work wonders

When you are depressed and still getting over what has happened, you might find yourself craving anything but the ordinary, the mundane. Doing the everyday things scare us the most. Because given our frame of mind at that point, it is easier to distract ourselves, than to focus on doing things that need to be done. It is easier to stress eat, than to follow an established exercise routine. When you feel like you are being swept away by feelings of commotion within you, don’t run to distractions, let it pass and turn to the regular chore that demands your focus. Remember that it is only when you start doing the everyday things, when you start following a routine and discipline yourself will you truly be able to come back.

So show up at work, and do what you would have done on an ordinary day. Even if it is boring. Even if it feels like the most difficult thing to do in the world is to sit at your desk and draft an email to your client. Do it, and give yourself a pat for having achieved what you thought was the most difficult thing ever. And then keep doing enough of these tasks till you start feeling like you’ve got this.

Accept help – it is okay to not be okay

When someone has a broken leg in a cast at work, there are so many people who notice that he might need some extra help. Unfortunately, not many people are good at reading the subtle, and not-so-subtle signs of when someone is suffering from bad mental health. Wish there was some kind of cast for that, but there isn’t-yet. It is important to accept the help that is offered to you when you are dealing with mental health issues. It is important not just because it will help you, but also because it is an exercise in sensitizing other people around you who need to be more sensitive in identifying people who are not feeling a 100%, and offering to help. It is equally important for people who are not feeling okay, to know that they can reach out for help, and accept the help that is offered.

Be gentle with yourself, accept everything you’re feeling

Some days you will succeed in showing up, some days you won’t. And that’s okay. Some days you’ll feel inspired to be disciplined and follow a routine, some days you just want to eat cake all day. And that’s okay. Some days you’ll reach out for help and accept it when it’s given to you, on other days, you just want to be left alone. That’s okay too! Remember that more than anything else, you need to be gentle and patient with yourself. The road to emotional recovery is not linear. You might stick to a routine for a week, and then find yourself in a slump for the next five days. Don’t feel disheartened. Don’t feel like you’re back to square one. Because emotional healing is not linear, it is a constant journey. A journey inward where you discover something new about yourself every day.

If today is feeling especially rough, take courage and know that it will get better. Know that it’s always the darkest before the dawn. And know that above all, you are not alone.

Social Media and Screen Addiction: The Death of Productivity (Part II)

Social Media and Screen Addiction: The Death of Productivity (Part II)

In our previous post on Social Media and Screen Addiction, we spoke about just how big the problem of screen addiction is, and how it is related to “propinquity” (the fact that the things that are closest to us in physical space have the biggest effect on our psychological experience of the world). We also discussed the adverse impacts this has on our productivity and left you with the good news  that this addiction can be dealt with. In today’s blog post we discuss how to do that, but before that, we spend a little more time understanding what it is about screens that make them so irresistible.

Why are Screens So Hard to Resist?

  1. The Elimination of Stopping Cues

    The lack of “stopping cues” make it very difficult to stop our consumption of information on social media. The “feed” we scroll is never-ending. Unlike, say a newspaper, or a book. When you get to the end, you know that is the end and you move on to other things. This is not true for screens. For example, the concept of “binge watching” is a fairly new concept. Earlier after the end of one episode, you knew you had to wait another day, or another week for the next episode to air. Today, “next” is the new default, and without us having to do anything. The auto-play on Netflix, or YouTube does it for us. Stopping cues no longer exist. This inevitably makes us spend more time than we used to spend before, engaging with screens.

  1. The Promise of Instant Gratification

    Social Media brought along with it the promise of instant gratification, and also the need for an instant validation. Every time you post something, you keep coming back to check how many “likes” your post has. And the thought of no one responding feels terrifying, almost invalidating. And so you go back again and again, to post and to seek and experience feedback and gratification.

  1. The Power of Goals

    Social media offers us a real driving force in terms of the power of goals. The goals of acquiring an ever-growing round number of followers, likes, shares, etc. While you may realize at some point that the addiction undermines you in the longer run, it is something you want to return to in the short-term again and again because it feels harmless, and you want to do it. This is true of a lot of screen experiences.

Tackling Social Media and Screen Addiction

The first step towards tackling social media and screen addiction is understanding the consequences of the same. Would you believe us if we said it has physical, financial, psychological and sociological consequences? Here is how –

  • Physical: With the amount of time we spend on our phones and screens, we tend to move into a sedentary lifestyle, and hence there is less mobility in our already limited mobility lifestyles. Over use of screens impacts the eyesight. It can even be dangerous for us, and other people when we use our phones without paying attention to our surroundings – especially while walking or driving.
  • Financial: Self-explanatory, if you are the kind who spend money on games/ apps.
  • Psychological: As discussed in the earlier post, screen addiction has had a big impact on how we deal with boredom. Our attitude to boredom has changed to the extent that we cannot sit with our thoughts even for a few minutes. One seems to be ever so resistant to having an ‘idle experience’, and a notification is all it takes to get distracted and plunge into the screen world.
  • Social: With an increase in dependency on screens, it is no surprise that how we experience time with people has changed. Most of our lives are spent in the virtual world – and isn’t that sad? With access to social media, we have the option to not be in the “now” and hence we are never really in this moment. We always have the option to escape the imperfect real world, to get to the perfect virtual world which is at our finger tips.

Tackling Screen Addiction

Now that we have a fairly concise idea about the hydra headed monster we are dealing with, we can look at what solutions we have to tackle it. At the outset, it must be said that it is not possible to completely abstain from social media and screens. We need technology for everything we do, and hence going cold turkey isn’t a good idea. However, here is how you can have a balanced experience and keep the addiction away.

  1. Working on your Awareness

    The foremost thing to do is being aware. Once you have taken stock of how much time you really spend on screens and social media, ask yourself what is it that makes you turn to screens and social media. For example, is this something you do to tackle boredom, or anxiety, or loneliness? Once you get to the core of the issue, and confront the reason, you will realize that your phone is probably not a solution and that these problems need to be addressed for real.

  2. Setting Limits

    It can be immensely useful to be mindful of your consumption of the virtual world. For certain times of the day, make it a point to not have your phone near you. Make it physically harder to reach your phone. Pick a time, set a basic rule, and tell yourself “between 6 PM and 8 PM I am not going to use my phone. I am going to indulge in mindful activities.” This will enable you to have richer, more real experiences. You will be creating the mind space to read, think and be creative.

  3. Practicing mindfulness

    How about swapping mindless scrolling for hours, for having a mindful experience of the real world? Once you have decided to put your phone away, think about the activities that you really wish you had time for, and immerse yourself. You can spend outdoors, or do things you have always liked, which will make you feel better about yourself.

Summing it Up

Remember that there is never an end to how much you can consume on social media – feeds are bottomless. Therefore, you have to force yourself to break away so that you can be mindful of your consumption and not let it hamper your productivity. The platforms we spend a lot of time on, are designed to encourage exactly that, i.e,  mindless experiences in the forms of clicks and likes. It is always important to remember that you have a choice. And at some point, it pays to make that choice to step away.

We hope you enjoyed the two-part series, and it has helped you to gain some amount of perspective in understanding how screen addiction, social media and a loss of productivity are related, and how you can tackle screen addiction!

P.S. This series is inspired by the Calm Masterclass on Social Media and Screen Addiction by Dr. Adam Alter. Calm is a mindfulness and meditation app which offers guided and non-guided meditations. You can get it  here.

Social Media and Screen Addiction: The Death of Productivity (Part 1)

Social Media and Screen Addiction: The Death of Productivity (Part 1)

When Twenty Four Hours isn’t Enough

Never enough time to do everything you plan to do in a day? Have you ever wondered that your phone and social media usage might have something to do with this problem? The pull of screens and social media has never been more over powering. Our phones might as well be an extension of our being. While screens, and the information that they give us access to can be enabling, they pose a big threat to our productivity when used indiscriminately. It is difficult to tackle a bad habit, in this case screen addiction, unless we understand what it is, how it impacts us and what we can do to deal with it. We delve into this problem in-depth with our two-part series of exploring the problem of Social Media and Screen Addiction, how it impacts productivity adversely and how we can deal with this very real problem.

The Magnitude of the Problem

Screens are very addictive – and though we needn’t really a cite a research to prove this point, for the sake of being factual: a recent research shows us that an average Indian spends about 2.5 hours on various apps every day. This doesn’t come as a surprise because no matter where we are, our phones are within our reach all the time. The very first step towards eliminating, or even reducing social media and screen addiction is to be aware of how dependent we are on it, by checking how long we spend on a screen.

Fortunately, technology enables us to do that through apps. Apps like AntiSocial track your daily activity on your phone, and collate data about your daily, weekly and monthly usage. You can also set a time limit for the apps you use on the phone, and AntiSocial will block those apps from being used after you have exhausted your time limit allotted for them. Of course, you can unblock the apps for usage. However, you do it with the knowledge that you are spending more time than you intended to, on being unproductive.

Understanding Propinquity

There is a concept in psychology known as ‘propinquity’. What it means is, things that are closest to you in physical space have the biggest effect on your psychological experience of the world. Understanding this concept with relation to our phones makes sense. Our phones have become natural crutches that we turn to, even when we don’t really need it for something functional. With our dependency on phones, we see a remarkable rise in our resistance to any ‘empty’ moment. Or, our resistance to boredom.

It is important to realize and acknowledge this, because boredom is how we get our fuel for creativity. It is when we get bored, stay with the discomfort of boredom and turn inward to address how we are feeling that we are truly mindful and aware of what is going on. But turning away from boredom by using our phones as a medium aborts that extremely important process.

With easy, continuous access to our phones, we have almost completely eliminated this opportunity. There are fewer moments of mindfulness and awareness with us being able to reach out to our phones even without moving.

Its Impact on our Productivity

  1. More reasons to procrastinate

    The worst enemy of productivity is procrastination. And our capacity to procrastinate is directly proportional to how many things there are to distract us from staying focused on the task at hand. With our phones, the distractions that we can delve into to procrastinate ‘just a little more’, are infinite. Delaying work becomes much easier when we have ready distractions to turn to.

  2. A loss of mindfulness

    As a result of screen addiction we miss out being present. We miss out on being in the nowThis lack of mindfulness hampers our productivity because we do the tasks we are assigned with just half a mind, and half a heart.

  3. Never enough time

    And going back to what we said at the beginning of this post – as a result of all the mindless hours we spend on our phones, we realize that the time has passed rather quickly and we haven’t gotten enough work done! This in turn plays a big role in influencing our self-esteem and self-worth.

The Good News

But the good news is, one can turn back and stop gadgets from controlling your life. You can reclaim all your time, and boost your productivity even if you have so far been a victim of screen addiction. Stay clued in for our next blog post in which we will tell you why it is so hard to break away from your screen, and how mindfulness can come to your rescue!

P.S. This series is inspired by the Calm Masterclass on Social Media and Screen Addiction by Dr. Adam Alter. Calm is a mindfulness and meditation app which offers guided and non-guided meditations. You can get it here.

Keeping Healthy at Work – A Necessity

Keeping Healthy at Work – A Necessity

Recently, a newspaper reported that every year around new years time, there is a record increase in gym memberships. It attributed the possible causes for this to people wanting to make a positive difference to their lives, look and feel better, before stepping out of an old year, or while stepping into a new year. But, what it did not report is the sudden drop in attendance as the months roll by. Well, we do not need to read this in a paper to realize this, we are already aware of this.

Why do we feel that it is only around the special milestones that we need to move towards making a healthier difference to our lifestyles? While that question is for a psychologist to address, we are only going to advocate why being healthy all year round is really the way to go. We need not sign up for membership at a gym, or try out unsuccessful but expensive detox diets every now and then. Incorporating small, yet sustainable methods of staying healthy is possible. Even when you have a full-time, mind-numbingly demanding job (this being an extreme, of course). And here is how.

  1. Keeping Healthy at Work: Get Moving

    Depending on how active or sedentary your lifestyle is, incorporate at least 30 to 60 minutes of conscious activity into your schedule. For example, if you have a typical 9 to 5 job, chances are the scope for you to find time specifically for working out is difficult. And if you do find the time, you find it hard to maintain it. There are a number of ways you can substitute for it at work. The first thing you can do is focusing on stretching every hour for 5 minutes. This also ensures you don’t keep sitting at your desk for prolonged periods and saves you all that stiffness and cramps. Another way you can focus on being fit while at work is using the lunch break well. Get a step counter on your phone (you don’t even need a fitbit!) and set your target. And cracking. Just walking can help you burn enough calories, and is a start in the direction of staying fit.

  2. Keeping Healthy at Work: Hydrate

    Most, or many of us, especially millenials are very guilty of the atrocious habit of never drinking enough water. The side effects of this are long-term, and in all probability irreversible when one reaches the tipping point. Adequate quantities of water in your system is essential to help you feel active, and stay fit. On an average an adult would be required to consume at least 2 liters of water (it varies according to your Body Mass Index (BMI), you can check how much water you need to consume, here). Cut down on caffeine, aerated and sweetened drinks and make a conscious effort to consume enough water. One method that could help you is keeping track – if you need to consume 2 liters, fill up two 1 liter bottles and make sure you finish them by the end of the day!

  3. Keeping Healthy at Work: Sugar fix? You can stay away

    Every time you find yourself reaching out for a candy bar or a cookie, because you feel “stressed”, or feel like it will help you function better, know that is Lucifer speaking to you. And what do you do when the devil is trying to advise you? You stay away. Cravings are only psychological manifestations. It is not your body that needs these sugar fixes, it is simply in your mind. While this might sound fairly unpalatable, a wise alternative to a sugar fix is fruit.

  4. Keeping Healthy at Work: Speaking of fruit…

    Make it a habit to have at least one helping of fruit a day. Most fruits commonly available are power packed with antioxidants and natural goodness (we are trying to not think about the chemicals injected). Not just fruit, be more attentive to what you see on your plate. Are consuming more carbs and less protein? Moving towards a protein rich diet helps you build energy and muscle, while getting rid of the fat in your body. You can stock the pantry up at your workplace at the beginning of every week, in a way that you know what you are going to consume for the rest of the week. By doing this, you can also stay away from giving into sudden impulses to have fast or junk food.

  5. Encourage your co-workers to hop on

    It is always more fun to do something in a group. And more so when the benefits are remarkable. Form your own buddy/ support group at your workplace. That way you will have each others backs whenever you find yourself deviating from caring for your health, or falling into bad habits again. A great way to keep this group alive would be to meet once a week and share highs and lows of the week, pertaining to your respective health routines. No time to meet up? No worries – technology to your rescue – a group on WhatsApp would be just as good!

Have pro tips about how you can keep healthy at work? We are all ears!