What You’ll Learn

Category: Articles
  • Many of us are working from home due to the coronavirus global pandemic.
  • Working from home is comfortable and convenient at first glance.
  • Mental health challenges like the Groundhog Day Effect (feeling stuck in a rut, decline in productivity, and loss of motivation) is consequences of a prolonged quarantine.
  • We discuss six ways to combat the Groundhog Day Effect and reclaim your mental health.

Is this quarantine making you feel demotivated, anxious, and stuck in a rut? If so, know that you are not alone. Working from home can come with its own mental health challenges.

We have now become a country of remote workers for the past several weeks, thanks to the global coronavirus pandemic. Essential jobs such as healthcare roles do not lend themselves to remote work. However, most organizations have received a shelter-in-place, work-from-home (WFH) mandate. This quarantine has thrown us into an extended working from home scenario. It is by no means considered “normal”; particularly for employees who thrive in office environments.

A couch-meets-cubicle, work-in-hygge-pajamas situation might seem like a cakewalk at first glance. But, maintaining high levels of productivity through such unprecedented times is decidedly the most challenging aspect of work that many employees are currently facing. 

In a recent report by Aternity, global productivity has plummeted due to the increased reliance on remote work. This data set noted that both China and Europe continue to be the worst hit in terms of company performance and employee productivity.

Let us take a closer look at why working from the comfort of your own home is resulting in a productivity decline during this COVID-19 crisis.

Mental Health Challenges During Quarantine

According to the CDC and the Lancet’s report, now more than ever before, prolonged periods of isolation, and constant fear of an impending financial collapse have the ability to spike up anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues across the nation.

In addition to these reports, the hustle culture of the US that has been hard-wired into the mindset of many millennials, cannot be ignored. Trying to make every second count towards productivity and progress has become a norm in the corporate world. With the entire nation being on-hold currently, this pandemic has forced us to redefine “normal”.

Left unaddressed, temporary mood swings, disrupted sleep-wake cycles, and feelings of isolation can quickly escalate into chronic mental health issues across the nation.

Does Working From Home Make You Question the Day of the Week?

What is the Groundhog Day spiral?

The Groundhog Day Effect gains its familiarity from the 1993 film featuring Bill Murray – now considered a cult classic.

Are you finding it extra challenging to focus on work assignments? Have you noticed a marked decline in your productivity? Are incomplete checklists leading you down a rabbit hole of anxiety and restlessness? If you answered yes, you could be encountering the Groundhog Day Effect

This is based on the monotony that is derived from having too-much-routine. Bill Murray’s character effectively portrayed this in the classic film “Groundhog Day” where he repeats the same day over and over again.

Too much routine can create predictability and push us into a comfort zone where we feel safe and cocooned. Endless cold and gray pandemic days blend together. Ultimately we might feel a sense of being stuck in a rut and frozen in time. Whatever your routine is, too much discipline kills spontaneity, and the motivation to perform better at working from home every day. Toxic thought patterns are another important yet often overlooked aspect of groundhog day effect.  These thought patterns and limiting self-beliefs have a major impact on your ability to perform at maximum productivity. Ways to break the habit of being yourself and the importance of rewiring your brain are vital for achieving better health and wellbeing.

Here are six strategies to help you combat the mental health challenges and Groundhog Day effect.

Six Ways to Overcome the Challenges of the Groundhog Day Effect

1.    Create a New Routine

How can creating a routine fight the monotony that comes with too-much-routine? It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Contrary to this notion, however, not having any routine can result in the Groundhog Day Effect spiraling out of hand. Without a schedule in place, days can go by aimlessly. Stay-at-home distractions add up in no time and you might find yourself listless and unmotivated to work. Too much routine can feel like a brain drain. The key here is to find a fine balance by setting realistic goals.  Creating a realistic routine that allows for spontaneity, unwinding, and creativity can be a great tool to optimize your focus and gain work-life balance.

2.    Learn a New Skill

Dedicating time to learning a new skill during this pandemic will help you emerge stronger, post the crisis period. The skill could be either a professional class that adds value to your resume or a new hobby in your personal life such as cooking, photography, or gardening. Irrespective of the skill, psychologists claim that the mere act of showing up and keeping a promise to oneself is a confidence booster and also helps rewire neural networks in the brain. Long-lasting happiness and lower mental health challenges have been correlated to the ability to adapt and learn new skills. 

3.    Take Short Breaks

(Wo)Man’s best friend can be a helpful reprieve to get your productivity back.

Our ability to devote ourselves to work and plunge into productivity is not going to be per “normal” in these times. The sooner we accept this fact, the better it will be for our overall mental health.  Acknowledging when you have hit a dead-end and identifying that a rut has set in, is a good mental health practice. Taking short breaks to unplug from your work routine can include simple tasks such as walking your dog, breathing exercises, connecting with nature, running an errand, or completing a house chore. These breaks help ease the feeling of time flying by when seated at a computer desk for extended hours. Furthermore, short breaks have been scientifically proven to improve focus and alertness. Additionally, stretching and short exercises during breaks were found to help prevent mental stagnation. Therefore learning to schedule time for breaks is a good way to increase long term productivity.

4.    Pomodoro Method for Productivity

The Pomodoro method is a popular time-management strategy to help counter the distractions which come with the work-from-home territory. Working in sprints, i.e 25 minute short bursts of hyper-focus intertwined with short breaks is the basis of this system. Also, having an accountability partner, be it a friend, family member or co-worker with whom you can be transparent about your distracted state of mind goes a long way in setting realistic work goals. It helps maximize your remote work routine.

5.    Connect With Friends and Family

We humans thrive on connection with each other and our immediate environment. For this reason alone, social isolation due to this pandemic poses grave danger to the overall wellness of both individual members of the community and the larger human collective as a whole.

A Harvard study found that healthy relationships and the connection people seek has an undeniable influence on happiness experienced. In such isolating times, connecting with your tribe can seem impossible. Yet, making every effort to stay connected is vital for your mental health which ultimately impacts work performance and general wellbeing. Scheduling FaceTime sessions with friends & family,  and engaging in virtual happy hours with co-workers can be a game-changer to enliven your mood.

6.    Marie Kondo Your Work Space

The line between work-life and home-life is becoming increasingly blurry thanks to social distancing. Given this situation, maintaining a dedicated decluttered home workspace directly impacts work efficiency. Scientists in a 2011 Journal of Neuroscience report have shown that visual clutter contributes to excessive sensory stimulation. According to them, this overwhelms the visual cortex resulting in reduced focus and attention to detail. Decluttering and tidying up your home workspace can be an effective strategy to keep you motivated at the beginning of each day.

Marie Kondo, in her book “The Life-Changing Habit of Tidying Up”, describes how clutter can contribute to confusion and lack of focus. She presents a case for clutter negatively impacting productivity. 

Furthermore, Feng Shui suggests that pausing and evaluating how the energy of your space is serving you and making necessary changes can prove beneficial in maintaining inner calm. Adding a green plant to your work desk is a great way to bring in a feeling of calm and peace. Also, incorporating colors that stimulate concentration, and diffusing essential oils that promote alertness are a few other ways to enhance your home office experience.  

While this global pandemic has the potential to dampen bright spirits and weigh us down, it need not be all doom and gloom. If you have been feeling stuck in a rut lately, we hope these strategies help you navigate your mental health challenges related to working from home. Write to us about your lockdown journey. Subscribe to Innovative Medicine to learn more about how you can engage in holistic health and wellness practices during the coronavirus crisis.

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About Anupama Sataluri

Anupama began as a clinical researcher with a Master’s in Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics. Working in healthcare for the past seven years gave her a bird’s eye view of how the industry operates. She worked with state-of-the-art diagnostics and witnessed the tremendous progress made by western medicine in robotic surgery, but also noticed disappointed patients walk away with minimal relief because of symptom based treatment. Her work in healthcare combined with her personal interest in ancient holistic practices has urged her to believe in a future of integrated medicine. As a content writer at Innovative medicine, she strives to make IM readers aware about their health & well-being. Through her articles, she hope to encourage them to rethink their beliefs about disease & healing, with a goal to ultimately empower individuals to become self-healers.
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