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Your Mental Health Survival Guide to Working from Home

Did you always dream of working from home only to get your wish and then find out, it’s actually not that great to wear yoga pants every day?

Working from home offers so many incredible benefits, from avoiding a stressful commute, to being able to make a healthy lunch in your own kitchen. However, like most things in life, there are also some negatives. Working at home can be lonely, repetitive, and, if you don’t make an effort to get dressed and get out of the house, it can take a toll on your mental health.

If you are currently working from home or considering it, read through this list of tips to ensure you have strategies in place to take care of your mental health.

Tips for maintaining your mental health when you work from home

Create a routine

Routine is important for maintaining mental health because it gives a sense of control and normalcy. Try and plan your day the night before so you know what to expect when you sit down to start your day.

Be realistic

When you create your plan for the next day be realistic. If your “to-do” list is getting unmanageably long, then you may need to reassess.

Pick the top 3 to 5 tasks you need to accomplish and leave it at that. If you burn through your modified “to do’s,” only then can you start to add to your list.

If you always feel stressed out because you can’t achieve everything you’ve scheduled, then maybe it’s time to lower your expectations. And, that’s okay.

Get dressed

I know this totally goes against everyone’s vision of working from home. I mean, this is your opportunity to wear pajamas all day, why on earth would you want to get dressed?

I’ll tell you why — after a week or two of wearing pajamas and comfy sweats you will crave an opportunity to dress up, or at least I did.

Research suggests that what you wear does have a psychological effect. The clothes we wear carry a symbolic meaning that can affect our experience. So, if pajamas symbolize sleep and relaxation, perhaps dressing in more professional attire will make you feel more capable and productive.

Natural light

Researchers have also found that exposure to natural light can improve the quality and duration of sleep as well as our overall well-being. So, an easy thing you can do to try and boost your mental health is to position yourself by a window while you work.

If a window office isn’t possible, then make a big effort to spend time outside in the sunshine over your breaks or lunch hour. This is especially important in the winter months when we lose a significant amount of daylight.

Don’t work harder

When I first got the opportunity to work from home once or twice a week with my employer I was so worried that my boss would think I was taking advantage of the situation and slacking.

This led me to work way harder, and way longer hours than I needed to when I was working from home. If someone sent me an email or messages me, I responded as fast as humanly possible as a way of proving that I was available and working.

When it comes to your mental health this is a trap you do not want to fall into. Of course, working from home doesn’t mean sleeping in and watching Netflix all day. But it also doesn’t mean that you have to work overtime just to prove that you are in fact working.

Treat it like a normal day in the office. Take lunch, take breaks, and for goodness sake step away from your computer to go to the bathroom.

Take breaks

Breaks are imperative to our mental and physical health. Research has demonstrated that standing up and walking around for as little as 5 minutes an hour can improve your overall state of wellbeing. Taking breaks also helps to restore motivation, increase productivity and creativity, and it even improves memory function.

But, not all breaks are created equal. If you want to get the most out of your break, put down your phone and try going for a walk, taking a nap, meditating, or just give your brain a break and do some daydreaming.

Move your body

Exercise is scientifically proven to increase your mood. It helps to decrease depression and anxiety, reduces stress, promotes better sleep, and even increases intelligence and memory.

Whether you take a walk on your morning break, do a workout over your lunch or just stand up and do some stretching, every little bit helps.

Meditate

A mindfulness meditation practice can help to ease anxiety, depression, and pain according to some research. Mindfulness meditation has also been shown to improve quality of sleep,

If you’re someone who thinks that you can’t meditate because you don’t have time or you can’t sit still — then you are definitely the type of person that should try meditation. Trust me, I used to be “that” person and I have benefited greatly from a short mindfulness practice that I fit in when I can.

If you’re worried that you don’t know how to meditate, no problem. There are tons of online resources, apps (Waking Up) and podcasts (Mindful in Minutes) that can help you to get started.

Help others

If working from home has you feeling stressed another thing you can do to improve your state of mind — help someone else. It might seem counterintuitive to offer help to someone else when you feel like you’re the one who needs the help but, research shows that engaging in prosocial (helping) behavior can lead to decreased stress and a more positive mood.

Even when you’re working alone from home you can reach out over email or video chat and offer to help a coworker, you can donate to your favorite charity or even offer to walk your neighbors’ dog when you take your morning break.

Focus on the positives

Working from home is awesome…for the most part. You have the power to control the temperature in your office, there’s no need for forced small talk, and you even get to use your own bathroom. These are all major pros. Try to focus on the positives.

Practice self-care

At the end of a long day do something that you find relaxing or something that just makes you happy. Have a warm cup of tea, take a bath with a glass of wine, read a book, or call a friend. Think about the things that bring you calm and joy and then make time to do them.

Working from home is not a fleeting trend

Working from home has only increased in popularity over time and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. As communication technologies continue to advance, making remote more reliable and efficient, there will likely be more opportunities for people to work remotely.

While the benefits of working from home are many, there’s also a downside. Loneliness, distractibility, and not knowing when to stop for the day are real concerns that can have a negative impact on mental health.

If you’re using a lot of the strategies mentioned here and you still feel like your mental health is suffering because of your work from home situation, make sure you talk to your boss or manager and see if you can come up with a solution that promotes your happiness and wellbeing.

–By Jessica Martel

SmartCents Mom

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