You get out of bed. You roll up the blinds. You take a few steps, and you’re there – at your workplace. There are no colleagues, no small talk, no change of environment. Just you and your computer making it through one day at a time.
That kind of isolation and monotony can easily take its toll on your mental health. According to a Nitro Software survey, over 90% of remote workers feel stressed when working from home.
If you have noticed that you’ve become more agitated and anxious, don’t worry – you are not alone. Many remote workers all around the world are in the same boat.
The topic of mental health should be put front and center. Now more than ever, we have to work on our wellbeing.
Here are a few suggestions that can help you look after your mental health when working from home.
Watch Out for the Warning Signs
You can’t know when you are speeding if you don’t pay attention to the speed limit signs. Right? If you can’t recognize the signs of declining mental health, you won’t know when you need to slow down.
We get carried away with work so easily. As warning signs keep popping up, the easiest thing to do is brush it off with an “I’m just tired” excuse.
Don’t turn your head away from what your body and mind are telling you.
The following signs can help you recognize a downward mental health spiral:
- Angry outbursts
- Frustration over small matters
- Lack of motivation
- Decreased productivity
- Loss of interest in things that used to bring you joy
- Sleep problems such as sleeping too much or insomnia
- Consistent lack of energy
- Feeling isolated
- Lost sense of purpose
Don’t take changes in your behavior lightly. No one knows you better than you do. If you notice that you don’t feel like yourself lately, it’s time to put some extra effort into taking care of yourself.
Walking that line between work and personal life is much harder when your home is your workplace. There is no physical distinction of when you are out of work because you never actually leave it. This makes it difficult for remote workers to set boundaries.
The TELUS International survey reported that 4 out of 5 remote workers find it hard to “shut off” in the evenings. When the border between work and life gets shaken or completely disappears, that’s when issues begin.
No matter whether you have fixed or flexible work hours, you need to strictly differentiate work from free time. Otherwise, your mind will never leave work.
Inform your boss and colleagues that you won’t respond to emails or phone calls after work hours – unless, of course, it’s urgent.
You have every right to have disturbance-free time for yourself. Starting to say no without guilt can be your best mental health decision.
Have a Dedicated Workspace
The space you work in has a direct correlation not only to your productivity but also to your mental health.
Working in bed is quite common among remote workers. However, this habit comes with some problems. Experts explain that working in bed can rewire the brain to stop associating it with rest, and start associating it with work. As you try to wind down and sleep, your brain will be alert, waiting for a new notification Slack or other communication app.
The solution here is to set up a workspace. You don’t need a whole new office. However, create a space that will allow the brain to associate it solely with working.
Set Up a Routine
Having a routine is healthy. It gives your life structure and decreases the number of decisions you need to make in a day.
When you go to the office daily, having some sort of routine is a given. Remote working – on the other hand – is a whole different story.
In case you have flexible work hours, and you like the freedom, that’s great. There is no need for a strict routine anyway. What can help is establishing some small habits that will make remote working less chaotic.
For example, you can always take a break after an hour of work, even if it’s a short one. Or, you can make yourself some coffee and read a few pages of a book before you start working.
A little self-care time is a must in your daily routine. Try to include doing something you love before your work. This can set a positive tone for your workday.
One of the most common challenges of remote working is isolation. The bustling workplace is replaced with only one physically present assistant – the computer.
The change to a calmer work environment may be pleasant at first. However, if you live alone, peace and quiet can lose their charm.
Zlatin Ivanov, a New York-based psychiatrist, shared for Insider his thoughts on the aftermaths of social isolation:
“All our systems, including social, psychological, and biological, have developed around social groups and interaction with one another. Social isolation in most cases would bring the negative effect of loneliness, anxiety, and sometimes depression,” said Ivanov.
Balance out the isolation of remote working with regular socializing. Get in touch with someone you love at least once a day. Also, spend some quality time with people that bring you joy every week.
Accept that you are a social being. Having a few laughs with someone you care about will give you a much-needed positivity boost.
Spend Time Outside
Detaching yourself mentally from work is a challenge for remote workers. An activity that can help you with that is spending time outdoors.
Dr. Jason Strauss from Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance explains:
“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,” shared Strauss.
Outdoor walks, for example, can lower stress hormones and blood pressure. Any kind of activity, from sitting in a part to hiking, can be beneficial.
It’s best if you engage in some physical activity when spending time outside. If you team up with a friend for jogging or walking, you can add socializing to the mix.
Step Away from Technology Before Bedtime
You work on the computer, communicate over the phone, and spend your free time watching TV. This kind of modern lifestyle makes people pinned to electronic devices almost the entire day.
Constant exposure to screens has negative effects such as:
- Poor sleeping habits
- Feeling of isolation
- Shorter attention span
- Stifling creative thinking
What’s more, since you receive your work notifications from a laptop or phone, using the same device will mentally keep you tense – waiting for the next work requirement.
A beneficial habit is to embrace digital detox before bed. Spend a few hours before bed (or at least 1 hour) without any digital device. Read a book, draw, do some yoga, or spend time with your family. Let your mind release all the tension.
No one can deny the benefits of working from the comfort of your home. However, we mustn’t disregard the downsides.
Stress, anxiety, and even depression as a result of remote working aren’t a rarity. Keeping your mental health in check is your defense against them.
Health should always come first. Therefore, do your best to employ healthy habits such as these. Your well-being affects your private and professional life. So, nothing can be more important than taking care of your mental health.
Author’s bio. Jessica Fender is a professional writer and educational blogger at GetGoodGrade, an aggregator for useful college resources and websites. Jessica enjoys sharing her ideas to make writing and learning fun.
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.
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