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Although working from home is a great solution when going to the office or a physical location is not an option, it’s not as easy as it first seems. Staying at home for long periods of time is not as pleasant as just putting on comfy clothes, logging into Netflix and lounging the day away.
In our current situation, there are other stresses to deal with – anxiety about health, finances, cabin fever. And these can have a huge impact on our mental wellbeing when trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
When thinking about ways to help keep on top of your health, we spoke to Kaitlin Maud, a brand strategy consultant from Current Forward, to learn how she stays mentally well while working from home.
Take care of your body
When spending large amounts of time at home, try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals and try to get a proper night’s sleep. Along with exercise, this will help you stay feeling well, both mentally and physically.
Taking regular breaks from work tasks and screen time helps to give your mind a rest. Constantly working or spending time on social media and news sites can be overwhelming. Stretching, breathing deeply, and physically moving releases tension and can help you to re-centre yourself.
“It’s healthy to take a step back from work, but that can be hard when you’re in your own space. At home, you’re not moving from meeting room to meeting room or going out to get lunch, so, for me, being mentally well means prioritising movement throughout the day. Taking 30 minutes to walk my dog a couple of times during the work day allows me to refresh my body and my brain.”
If you don’t have the option of going outside for a walk, try doing something active indoors – like walking up and down the stairs or dancing to your favourite song.
Avoid burnout by sticking to a routine
When your home life becomes your 24/7, it’s so easy to drift and lose any routines you used to have. This starts to impact your mental health as it becomes difficult to distinguish between work, home and social time.
Kaitlin notes that, “staying in a routine helps me stay mentally well. I have a coffee ritual in the morning that lets my brain know that it’s time to start my day.”
It’s important to be intentional – get up, get dressed and make plans for your day. Try to go to bed at your regular time and make sure to give yourself time to unwind after your work tasks.
Monitor your mental health
Keeping a journal helps you stay on top of how you’re feeling and encourages you to set aside time for yourself.
“I’ve been dealing with a bit more anxiety than usual, so one new thing I’ve started doing with more regularity is making time to write in my Five Minute Journal. Each day you write down your priorities and some things you’re grateful for. This helps me maintain focus and stay well at a time when it’s easy to get distracted by everything going on in the world.”
Meditation and practicing mindfulness are helpful and therapeutic ways to deal with stressful situations and help you feel more calm and relaxed. There are plenty of meditation apps that can help guide you through the process, whether you’re a complete beginner or more advanced.
Some ways to be mindful include:
- Breathing exercises
- Eating healthy meals, savouring each bite
- Meditating on a positive word or an image that makes you happy
- Intentionally connecting with an old friend (electronically, of course)
- Taking a bath, noticing the warm temperature and its effects on muscle tension releasing
Practice self care
Take time during your day to do activities you enjoy. Whether it’s cooking a meal, taking a bath or reading a book, setting aside some time for yourself helps to keep you in a positive mindset.
If you are feeling anxious, depressed or overwhelmed, then it’s a good idea to get some help. Kaitlin makes sure weekly therapy is something she prioritises. “Even now while ‘sheltering in place’, my therapist is able to run our sessions through a video platform, so I still have that dedicated time to reflect, connect and process whatever is coming up for me.”
If you share your space with others, it’s also important to allocate “together” and “separate” times. When everyone is at home all day, it’s easy for emotions to run high and for arguments to arise. Making time to be alone can help avoid stressful confrontations and keep your atmosphere peaceful.
Connect with others
Working from home can make you feel isolated, which in turn has an effect on your mood and mental health. There are plenty of tools to help you meet up with friends and family online, meaning you can still enjoy socialising – even if it’s from your own sofa.
If you are feeling down, sharing your thoughts and feelings with people you trust can help to take a load off your mind, and can even help you out with any issues you may be having – often someone else with a fresh perspective can help you see things differently and elevate your mood. On the flip side, helping others can also make you feel good, so be sure to stay connected, even when you’re staying in.