Have you noticed a change in your mental health now that you work from home? Do you feel more stressed out despite not having a commute? Are you battling feelings of isolation even though you can clock in wherever you want?
For the past month, most of my colleagues, including myself, have been working from home. After the first week, I was fine, but the second week I found myself going stir crazy. While I love spending time with my dogs (and my bank account is enjoying the break), I miss seeing my colleagues every day. Working from home can challenge your mental health. It can turn usually optimistic, productive worker bees into tired, unmotivated, irritable toads.
The good news is your mental health doesn’t have to suffer when you work from home. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as physical activity and eating nourishing food. First things first: it’s okay not to be okay — honor precisely where you are, wherever that may be. Second, know it’s in your power to enjoy a happy brain by making a few adjustments.
Create a routine + stick to it. Get to work whenever you want? Over 40% of people say their flexible schedule is the best part of working remotely. But it’s how you organize those hours in your day that makes all the difference. Do you have a daily schedule or set routine you follow? When you hold your tasks and outline your goals, you mentally prepare yourself for what to expect during the day.
It’s vital to schedule analog breaks. Set aside time to escape all forms of digital screens. Give your eyes, neck, shoulders, and back a much-needed rest! Schedule fun activities, just like work tasks. All work and no play stresses all remote workers out. When you have scheduled time for fun, you have permission to break from work. Focus on hobbies, self-care, and anything else that makes you happy for a few minutes every day.
Upgrade your home office. One survey shows 84% of remote workers get their business done from home. But do you like working in your home office? If you don’t have a dedicated workspace, make that priority number one. Bonus points if you have an office with a door you can close to mentally and physically separate work and home life.
Get up + move! Fight the urge to stay sedentary and schedule a time to get your heart pumping. Go for a walk or bike ride, stretch or do yoga, practice a hip-hop dance video on YouTube — whatever floats your boat.
Plus, working out distracts your noggin from work problems so you can take a break.
Leave your house for the wonder of nature. Ecotherapy treats anxiety, stress, and depression with time outdoors. Studies show outdoor walks may help lower blood pressure and stress hormones.
Dr. Jason Strauss from Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance says:
“Having something pleasant to focus on like trees and greenery helps distract your mind from negative thinking, so your thoughts become less filled with worry.”
Work around other people. Get out of your home office and venture into society to interact with other people by Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook, Skype, or Duo. You’ll combat feelings of isolation and loneliness. Plus, studies show that ambient noise may boost creative thinking. Coworking spaces are cropping up in big and small cities all over the world. You can work with like-minded people in a new area for a low price.
Make time for your favorite people. Support from your peers is just as effective as cognitive behavior therapy when you’re down. So carve out time each week to spend with your core group of friends and family members who lift you (not bring you down).
Just say, No. You may want to take on as much work as you can, but there’s only so much you can complete in a day. Know your limitations, set boundaries based on your schedule and workload, and don’t extend yourself beyond them. Be assertive yet courteous, and your clients will still respect you.
If you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or even a bit stressed out, reach out to someone you trust, speak to your doctor, or find a mental health professional if you’re struggling with depression or anxiety. You’re not alone. And remember, tomorrow is always a fresh start.