Although some people are relishing their new opportunity to work from home, others are wondering how they’re going to cope, practically, mentally and emotionally, during the next few months of isolated working.
If you're one of those people, this post is for you.
Below, I've shared some of the strategies that I used daily to minimise the downsides of home-working (like feelings of isolation, distraction and purposelessness), and maximise the upsides (e.g. developing your own routine).
I hope they help you as much as they've helped me.
This first piece of advice that I’m sharing with you is probably the most important one:
1. MOVE REGULARLY
Because your mind and body are inextricably linked, whatever you do with your body will have a direct impact on your mind. In a nutshell, ‘motion creates emotion’.
For example, when you're sat in the same spot for hours – either at your desk or on your couch - your body becomes stiff and sluggish, which makes you feel groggy, agitated and unmotivated.
On the flip side, when you move your body – for example, by exercising– you experience an emotional ‘high’ that can last a long time. Most people feel more energised after exercising because physical movement stimulates the production of mood-boosting chemicals in your brain.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you hit the park-gym every day to offset the impact that working from home is having on your body, but making sure you're doing some form of movement whilst at home is definitely a good way to ensure a balanced mood, healthy body, and a sharp mind.
So, how can you practically keep yourself moving whilst working from home? Here are some of my own go-to's (which don't contain exercise because I have already mentioned it):
I know I've already said it but I can't stress enough how helpful exercise is for your mental health. If you hate the thought of exercise but want to reap its benefits, I would suggest you start small, by going for a daily walk perhaps? My next few suggestions are also geared towards the 'subtler' ways you can fit regular movement into your day.
- Make a brew
Just like doing the tea and coffee round at work (if you don’t do the rounds in your office, shame on you.), this is a discreet way to keep yourself mobile and take a breather every hour or so.
- Do some housework
I often use my breaks to get some cleaning done (my house gets suspiciously sparkly when I work from home). But in case you're anything like me and have a tendency to get carried away when cleaning, set a 15-minute timer on your phone to remind you to put the pots down and get back to work.
- Take a walk
And don’t stress about rushing back for once! In my experience, if you’re still able to get your work done on time, there’s nothing wrong with taking a longer lunch.
Working from home means flexibility, so take advantage. More often than not, going outside for a walk helps your productivity by increasing your blood flow and refreshing your mind. But I already mentioned, don’t get carried away. Your work unfortunately does need to be done at some point!
- Home workouts
If you’re a regular gym-goer like me, you’re probably feeling anxious about how the pandemic is going to affect your gym routine. And realising this, health and fitness influencers have turned to sharing some really great home workouts, in case we find ourselves without a gym in the next few weeks.
If you have Instagram, search for and bookmark these posts to use when the time comes.
2. STICK TO A ROUTINE
Now that you don’t need to get up, be in the office, or start work at a certain time, the temptation to start having lie-ins and dawdling about the house with no real plan for the day will emerge.
But take it from someone who’s been in charge of her own schedule for the last 18 months… getting up later than the rest of the world midweek, and having no real plan for your day loses its novelty very quickly. Left unaddressed, this way of being can really take its toll on your sense of purpose and self-esteem
So, to avoid feeling unproductive and purposeless (one of the biggest causes of depression worldwide), try and stick to a routine that you’re already familiar with. Though, you might need to make a few substitutes.
For example, instead of enduring the morning rush, wake up at your usual time, but enjoy the first hour of your day with a fresh cup of coffee and a good book or journal.
I’m aware that the thought of connecting with others during self-isolation or home working sounds contradictory, but ‘connection’ doesn’t have to mean physical contact.
For all the downsides that may come with working from home, one of the biggest upsides involves having more time to reconnect with friends and family; more time to catch up and distract yourselves from the shit-storm outside and your any anxieties you might have about it all. It takes a few minutes to arrange a call or FaceTime, and the payoff will be tenfold.
I used to work from coffee shops whenever I felt the walls closing in on me at home, but that's likely not going to be an option soon,.So, I’m making it a priority to book in a few catch-up calls with friends I haven’t seen in a while, over the next few weeks.
4. FIND UNCONVENTIONAL COMPANY
You might think this one's a bit weird but it really does help me stay sane when working from home...
People used to laugh at me when I told them that I put Friends the TV show on in the background when I work from home because it makes me feel less alone. (I also let my guinea pigs run around in my living room, but they're slightly more distracting – it all depends on your ability to focus around certain things)
The truth is, feelings of Isolation come part-and-parcel with working from home. And when no one else is around, there’s nothing like a group of friends to keep you company.
If you don’t get distracted by background noise, then I would definitely recommend sticking something light-hearted like this on while you work (I also use: How I met your mother, Suits, and Modern Family).
The above are just a few of the things that I use to keep myself from going crazy whilst working from home. They might not all work for you in the same way as they do for me, but I hope you can take some of them as inspiration for your own home working routine.
As always, if you're struggling with your Emotional Wellbeing or Mental Health during these turbulent times, please visit our help page for access to our Helpline and more Mental Health resources.