By Elaine Corcoran, Clinical Director at Brain Training Australia, Perth, WA
Cabin fever refers to the irritability, weariness or restlessness experienced by a person stuck in isolation. It can be acquired by someone placed in quarantine for an extended length of time or working from home.
Isolation can generate feelings of loneliness, sadness, and decreased motivation. You may have trouble concentrating, lose patience easier and even crave more food.
As a nation, we have been asked to work from home and practice social distancing. For some of us, this level of isolation may result in distress and the emotions associated with cabin fever. However, each of these symptoms can be overcome by adjusting our mindset.
A mindset coach can provide one-on-one coaching over the phone. This is a powerful way to effect change in your life. A coaching strategy is tailored to your needs. Your coach then builds a program that will help you get from social isolation to social closeness.
The physical and cognitive effects of loneliness.
Loneliness can be toxic for your body. It produces fear, stress, and anxiety via your amygdala. The sustained release of stress hormones suppresses your immune response and triggers inflammation. This results in tissue damage and a lowered immune system.
On a cognitive level, social isolation hinders the processing of your thoughts. Studies show that social isolation can produce changes in brain structures.
Your brain and your mindset are responsible for how you view social connections. With the help of a coach, you can learn how to turn your thinking about isolation into a positive experience. Right now, it is essential to remain focused and clear-headed.
How can you change your mindset?
Your brain is a threat detection machine. It is designed to detect danger and recognise patterns for a single-minded purpose – to keep you safe. Almost every mind on the planet is on high alert right now. But this does not need to be the case.
Neuro coaching or mindset coaching provides self-awareness exercises to stimulate neuroplasticity. This can change ingrained neural networks. Emphasis is placed on the brain-body connection to generate performance and health.
Even though we may think working from home will be sufferance, we are not forced to keep this pattern of thinking. Rewiring new neural pathways is possible.
Our subconscious mind or limbic system handles our initial emotions and behavioural reactions. It is, therefore, the key to causing physiological change.
Our coaching methods are designed to target these brain regions and reset them for better connectivity. As a client you would learn self-empowering techniques to help develop the mindset you desire.
Practical solutions to help develop a healthy work-from-home mindset.
The best method to counteract your bodies preprogramming is to take control of your immediate situation. By creating a plan and maintaining social contact, your brain will think working from home is a normal situation. As long as you don’t feel scared and alone, your body’s response will remain relaxed.
1. Create your space.
Have a dedicated office space for work and reduce the clutter in that space. You may need to work from home for quite some time, and research shows disorganisation has a cumulative effect on our brains.
Our brain loves order, and constant visual reminders of disorganisation drain our cognitive resources, reducing our ability to focus. The longer we are visually distracted, the more we experience cognitive overload. This, in turn, reduces our working memory.
2. Plan your day.
Working from home is going to disrupt your daily routine. As much as your brain loves order, it loves patterns more. Create a new schedule and implement it as soon as possible. Be firm about your office hours and avoid distractions.
Create a schedule that includes work times, eating, hydrating and taking breaks. Your mental breaks should consist of going for a walk or some form of exercise and listening to your favourite music. These activities boost your dopamine levels, increasing your mood and your motivation to get work done.
3. Maintain your sleep patterns.
Wake up at your regular time and add new morning activities that maintain social contact with others. Start your day with a virtual yoga or gym session. Bear in mind that exercising in the sunshine and fresh air will also help decrease the levels of stress hormones in your bloodstream.
4. Use mindfulness exercises to help focus only on work.
A simple exercise is to relax your body and focus on your breathing. Take a few long, slow breaths, each with an equally long exhale. This conscious breathing moves your thoughts from your limbic regions to your prefrontal cortex. Pay attention to what you are thinking during this exercise. Being aware of your thoughts is essential to restructure your brains reflex thinking.
5. Activate your social networks.
Make sure your office space is videoconference friendly. Make use of e-mail, phone, text, instant messaging, and attend meetings via Zoom or Skype.
There are a fantastic amount of free webinars on offer right now. If you have entrepreneurial tendencies or want some upskilling or self-development, start searching your social media feeds for what’s on offer.
Check in with your friends and family. Practice social closening. Call the people you haven’t had time to connect with in a while. Choose to talk on the phone instead of texting.
Better yet, grab a coffee and use Skype or Zoom to hold your usual get together with friends and co-workers. Invite them to lunch regularly. You can even organise after-work activities, with cocktails, music and mood lighting or visit the virtual pub. Each of these activities helps overcome feelings of isolation.
What does a positive work-from-home mindset look like?
Adjustments to your mindset and communication with the people you around you can result in a whole new attitude to working from home. Here are some of the new thought patterns you can establish after mindset coaching.
- Working from home will allow me to develop and enhance my critical thinking, organisational skills and ability to communicate. It goes a long way to improving my discipline, focus, commitment and ability to block out distractions.
- I enjoy having the flexibility to work the hours I prefer.
- My health and finances can benefit from this situation.
- Working from home is providing me with an excellent opportunity to connect with my family and community. Improved work-life balance and more quality time with the people I care about. At the same time, I can still provide exceptional service to my company.
- I can create a work culture at home that suits my beliefs and not just the culture of my organisation. There will be less micromanaging and no interruptions from co-workers.
If after these implementations you are still feeling lonely, you can take your laptop or phone outside. Fresh air, sunshine, cars whizzing past and the odd pedestrian will help your mind understand you are not alone.
Remember that social distancing doesn’t mean you cannot smile and say good morning to your neighbours. You can keep a physical distance but still interact with people in real-time. There is no rule against being friendly. Smiling and waving are definitely still permitted.
If you are struggling with working from home, please reach out. We can help you through this transition.
Yours in wellness,
Elaine Corcoran, MSc Work Psych, BSc (Hons) Psych.,
Brain Training Australia, Perth, WA