By Helen Pamely, Partner in Rosling King’s Dispute Resolution Group.

With endless lockdowns and one week merging into the next, many of us feel despondent and fed up. It is hard to be excited when walks and takeaway coffee are the only treats left on our ‘free-time’ agenda. But as ambitious professionals, we strive to progress in our careers and find joy in our personal lives.

So what’s the secret? To do well, we have to feel good in ourselves. This results from our inner mindset. You own your personal perspective, no one can take it away: you have complete control. It is your choice and privilege to invest in yourself and thrive both personally and professionally.

Here are my ten tips, as both lawyer and therapist, to reduce stress and increase wellness and balance during lockdown and beyond.

Do One Thing at a Time
List priorities, set realistic goals, and tackle each one in turn. Many of us are misled by a sense that we are more productive dealing with several things at once. In reality, more often than not we are wasting time and energy on re-gaining focus again and again, finishing nothing, and becoming increasingly anxious and stressed.

Set a Daily Routine
Set a manageable daily routine for everything, from brushing your teeth, getting dressed and exercising, to organising work meetings and childcare. This is important because the loss of our pre-lockdown routines has left many of us feeling muddled and ungrounded. We are creatures of habit and most of us thrive off having a structure in our lives.

Exercise helps reduce stress, anxiety and depression, improves sleep quality and physical fitness. Even a short, brisk walk gets your body moving and the endorphins flowing!

Check in With Yourself Daily
Take a moment to ask yourself the following question: ‘What do I need right now to feel well?’ Listen to what your inner self is telling you, and abide by your own advice.

Make Time for Mindfulness
Mindfulness is about bringing intentional, non-judgmental awareness to your mind, body and senses in the present moment, helping you to gain greater clarity, perspective and insight into the way you live and operate. Through mindfulness practices (which are now available on a multitude of free apps) you can learn to rewire your brain and break free of negative thought patterns, allowing for a new mindset, and more creativity and innovation. Mindfulness also helps restore balance to the nervous system, allowing you to recalibrate in the face of ‘fight or flight’ stress responses, so you can think more clearly, and perform better at work and in general.

Slow Down for Sleep
Ever tried falling asleep but your mind is going at 100 mph? Join the club! Many of us race through the day in the fast lane and then expect to be able to fall asleep just like that. But our bodies don’t respond in that way. We need to slow down the pace before bed. Switch off screens, curfew emails, read, and practise mindfulness. Also try writing your own worry journal before bed. Naming and making concrete our inner demons helps put them in perspective and release their hold over us.

Block Out Time for You
Carving out that all-essential ‘me time’ means setting personal boundaries. Block out your diary – even 5 minutes is better than none at all! We need to garner inner energy to have enough to share it with others personally and professionally, or we feel depleted.

Reflect on What You Learned in 2020
Did you learn in the last extraordinary year about your real wants, needs and values? For many of us, 2020 meant a reality check on our priorities in life. We were forced to slow down and consider ourselves and others, because our mental, physical and emotional health became a concern we could not ignore. What valuable tools did you gain to help support you in tough times and how can they be integrated into your life now?

Make Time for Quality Connection
Although feeling ‘Zoomed-out’ is commonplace these days, connecting with others in a meaningful way is hugely beneficial for our mental wellbeing. With the stringent lockdown rules in place, are you getting enough quality time with friends, loved ones and colleagues? While meeting up physically with friends and family might not be possible, are you still taking the time to reach out to people?

Be Kind to Yourself
Let us remind ourselves that we are enough just as we are. In these difficult times, it is easy to feel we aren’t being productive enough or coping as well as we should. Just remember, times are tough and you are doing the best you can.