For the past years, more and more people have started to take their work home. You could agree that there are significant benefits to working from home, such as additional flexibility, avoiding the commute, work-life balance, and even improving productivity. However, it's not the same for everyone, especially working in isolation and spending several hours indoors can take a toll on one's mental health.
Studies show that 70 percent of U.S workers felt more stressed during the pandemic than at any other point in their careers. The rise in cases and work-from-home stress brought a combination of uncertainty, fear, anxiety, and other strong emotions to many people. But beyond acknowledging the mental health challenges and their causes, the question is: what can we do about it?
Below, we curated some tips and tricks you can apply to prioritize your mental health while working from home.
Transitioning from working at the office and having the social aspect of chatting with coworkers and the boundaries between work and personal life to working from home can be challenging. There's always the pressure to hustle 24/7 and the stress from wearing multiple hats. These are all valid. That's why it is important to remember that taking care of your mental health is as important as looking after your physical health.
One of the many factors of stress and anxiety is the loss of predictability and not having a sense of control and familiarity over many things. To achieve personal control again, all experts emphasize the importance of establishing a routine and healthy patterns.
Set a routine as if you're bound to the office. Have a regular start and finish time, and schedule your breaks and exercises. Organizing your tasks also helps because it mentally prepares you for what to expect during the day and makes it easier for you to work towards your goals. You can also create cues, such as preparing for work in the morning by getting dressed in your work clothes and having coffee, then changing into your home clothes at the end of your shift.
Having a healthy set of routines is the best way to minimize the possibility of your work life intruding into your personal life. It allows you more time with family and helps you switch off work when needed.
Since boundaries are the most common issue when working from home, setting up a home office can strengthen the divide between work and personal life. Also, studies show that working several hours at home can interfere with sleep, especially for those who have difficulty switching off from work.
Pick an area in your house where you think you will be comfortable working but avoid your bedroom, if possible. It would also be best if your home office had a door, so you would not associate your everyday living space with your work. Invest in comfortable office equipment, such as a wide desk and an ergonomic chair, to make your work area conducive.
Exercise has too many advantages, to name them all. According to a wealth of research, it is beneficial in lowering the risk of depression and other mental health issues. Even quick workouts can improve your mood and productivity for several hours afterward. You'll feel better inside and out if you exercise every day, and it will be easier to resist the urge to overeat from spending the entire day at home.
Regular exercise can also help you connect with others, get out into the world, and lessen feelings of loneliness and isolation. It can also greatly enhance your sleep, which is advantageous in many ways. Experts encourage adults to engage in at least 30 minutes of brisk to vigorous exercise most days of the week. Mixing multiple shorter periods of 10 to 15 minutes may make up 30 minutes throughout the day. Combining mindfulness practice with it helps you feel less stressed and have better mental health. If you don't feel like going to the gym, you can do it at home, in your backyard, or at the park.
Did you know that a loss of vision could significantly affect a person's mental health? A recent study from CDC shows that 1 in 4 adults with vision loss experience anxiety or depression, with younger adults being more at risk than adults 65 and older.
Thus, improving your vision health is critical in combating these mental health challenges. Preventing digital eye strain is one way to do it, and you can start by taking a 15-minute break after 2-hour device use or follow the 20-20-20 rule (take a 20-second break after 20 minutes of using your device and look at something at least 20 feet away from you). It would also be helpful to make changes to your lifestyle and environment, such as improving your air quality and getting regular check-ups from an eye doctor.
According to experts, focusing on nature, like trees and other greenery, treats anxiety, stress, and depression as it helps distract your mind from negative thinking. Outdoor walks may also lower blood pressure and stress hormones.
Given these, try to get outside at least once a day. Go for walks or bike rides, get some fresh air and sunshine, or even do some exercises, yoga, and meditation with nature. Doing this will not only boost your endorphins and serotonin but also distracts you from work problems so you can take a break and avoid burnout.
The significant benefit of working from home is that you have freedom and flexibility, but there are also drawbacks. Regularly working with coworkers fosters relationships and camaraderie, increasing everyone's sense of productivity and belonging. To maintain solid relationships with your coworkers, stay in touch during the day and occasionally speak to them in person. You can also schedule work dates with them: meet up at your local coffee shops, library, or coworking spaces available in your area, and work alongside each other.
However, if you do work alone, think about reaching out to and collaborating with other independent contractors who could be in a similar situation.
Loneliness and isolation are some leading causes of depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms, such as random pain. Without a way to connect and socialize with others, it's easy to lose touch with reality. Whether you're an introvert or not, seeing other people helps release feel-good chemicals in the brain and gives us a sense of purpose and reason to take care of ourselves.
Make it a point to spend time with your family and friends who supports you. You can even say hi to your neighbor or make small talk with your barista when grabbing coffee. Anything that will help you minimize the isolation brought upon by remote work.
Working from home has its benefits. It can improve productivity, lower the time and cost you spend commuting, decrease the number of remote employees asking for a leave, and give you the flexibility you'll otherwise get when working in the office. But working from home also means being isolated for several hours, which could lead to depression, anxiety, and stress.
While acknowledging is the first part, there are also ways you can combat these mental health challenges. It would also be best to reach out to someone you trust or seek professional support if you're struggling with depression and anxiety.