Now that we have been working from home in some form for a substantial time, you may have noticed some changes in your mental health that weren’t exactly expected.
Do you feel more stressed, despite giving up the daily grinding commute?
Do you feel isolated even though you clock in and out of your work whenever you want?
Remote and work-from-home jobs can be challenging at the best of times. It can turn optimistic, productive, focused people into complete lounge dwelling sloths.
Before you find yourself three days without a shower and firmly nailed to the lounge, eating chocolate ice cream…take note of the signs that you are declining in mental health and what you can do to address the problem.
What are the known effects of working from home?
Loneliness and isolation
Generally, when working from home, you spend your days isolated from the usual chatter in an office space. Although at first, it can be comforting that you bypass distracting teammates, some social aspects of light chat and venting are good for you.
This disconnection from the office and the world can make you feel alone. And social isolation is associated with higher rates of depression and anxiety.
Anxiety when you work from home can have a few root causes. You are pressured to hustle 24/7 because you don’t want the boss or your co-workers to think you are slacking off. This is extremely common, even for people renowned for slacking off in the office.
Another part of the equation is that you don’t get away from your work. You are at home. When you clock off, there is no mental or physical separation from the work. This leaves a blurry line around work and play when you have technically finished your day.
This can happen when you don’t have career milestones or regular feedback, and you feel stuck in a rut. You may not feel you are not achieving as much as you did when situated in an office space with others around you.
Depression isn’t about feeling sad. It includes:
- sleeplessness or even sleeping too much
- angry outbursts, irritability and frustration over small things
- loss of interest in activities that would usually bring you happiness
- generalised lethargy, and body aches and pains – back pain, headache etc.
- increased carbohydrate or sugar cravings
- trouble focusing or recalling information
- difficulty in making simple decisions
However, mental health doesn’t have to suffer when working from home.
Looking after your mental health
Taking care of your mental health is just as important as your physical health. It is good to know that taking care of your physical health will improve your mental health – a two for one!
Now sit down and pick out a few of these suggestions to implement so you can bulletproof your mental health before you slide down the slippery slope.
1. Upgrade your home office
You will hate working from home if you don’t have a dedicated workspace or one you like. You should have an area where you can physically separate your work and home life. That isn’t always possible, but make it your best option.
Next, ensure you have a wide desk and the best chair you can afford to maintain good posture of your neck and back. Buy aids to support your wrists, arms and elbows while using your mouse and keyboard.
The best thing about working from home…is you can play whatever music you like. Get a great speaker and put together a rocking playlist.
2. Organise your schedule
One of the best things about working from home is the flexibility of when and how you work. But how you organise the incremental hours during the day makes the difference.
Try to arrange your jobs and outline your objectives for the day at the beginning to prepare yourself. Then you have something to focus on. If you stick to the plan, you won’t feel like you have been chasing your tail by the end of the day.
It is crucial to plan digital free breaks into your day. This is a time when you escape all forms of digital screens to give your eyes, neck, shoulders and back a rest.
This one most people miss…schedule fun activities. It doesn’t have to be during your work hours, but you need to have permission to break from work. Focus on hobbies you want to develop, self-care or anything you like.
3. Move your body
You have heard it all before… regarding your physical health. But moving your body also protects and fortifies your mental health.
Exercising for around 30 minutes a day has been shown to significantly lower anxiety levels and boost endorphins and serotonin, which help with depression and mood.
Fight the urge to stay sedentary. Schedule time to move your body. That can be having a dance and sing around the room, or hitting the mat for some yoga practice. Go for a walk, run, roller-skate or bike ride. Whatever gets you up and away from the computer and your blood moving.
You may also find that the solutions to your problems come flowing in by getting away from your work and focusing your attention on something else.
4. Work around others
You may be lucky enough if you have a coworking space close to you. This may not be possible for some and a complete turn-off for others. But never say never.
Coworking spaces are becoming more common all over the world. And you don’t have to be 25 years old to enjoy them. Working with like-minded people in a modern space for a small price few days a month could be precisely what you need to keep you sane.
You can also schedule work dates with others in your team. Meet up at a local library or café and work alongside each other instead of communicating over Slack.
5. Thrive with your tribe
Support from your peers and friends can be as valuable as therapy. So carve out time each week to spend with a core group of family and friends who make you laugh and lift you up.
It is easy to look after your mental health, but you must be consistent with your actions.
If you desire to take responsibility for your mental health and implement activities to support and protect it, you will be less likely to fall into serious mental health issues further along the track. You may even find you enjoy life more.
Remember, if you feel you can’t shake your sadness, anxiety or overwhelm, reach out to your doctor or find a mental health professional. You are definitely not alone.
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