Tips and strategies for Good Mental Health
Wellbeing when Working from Home
How can we look after our Mental Health and Wellbeing when working from home?
With the current COVID-19 situation many of us are now working from home, which, as amazing as it might sound, the new experiences, the isolation, lack of contact and the change of routine can result in struggles with our mental health and wellbeing.
Whilst there is no right or wrong way to self-care when working from home, some of the following ideas have been recommended by a range of mental health professionals which hopefully might help during this difficult period or for those who work from home in general.
Most people will have a workday routine and this structure is important to our mental health and wellbeing. Wherever possible it is a good idea to stick to a routine when working from home. This routine does not have to be the same as your normal workday, however, whatever your “new” routine is, it is good practice to stick to it.
When people first start to work from home, often they will see it as a perfect Pyjama Day/s opportunity. Whilst the odd PJ Day is fine, getting up, washed and dressed will help improve your state of mind it also helps to prepare you psychologically to start your working day. You may need to still dress in business attire if you are conducting any webcam work, or you may be able to dress more casually. Whichever is applicable for you, the act of getting changed out of clothes that you associate with sleep and rest and being forced to shower or wash will kick start your brain into work mode.
In a similar vein, especially if you are wearing formal attire to work from home it can help our brains switch off and relax if we change out of our work attire at the end of the working day.
It is important to set and maintain boundaries when working from home. These boundaries include;
Structuring your day – schedule breaks, time to move and importantly a start and finish time to your day.
Sticking to your working hours – it can be hard to stop when working from home as the work is still there. If possible, use a separate space to work from and when your “workday” finishes tidy away papers, divert your phone to its answering service and put away your laptop.
Family and friends – ensure they know that you are working from home and that you are not available between certain times, unless an emergency. Keeping this this boundary not only allows you to focus on work, but also prevents any awkward situations arising.
Space – Having a dedicated workspace can be beneficial to mental health and wellbeing. It gives you a space to work, but more importantly a space to move away from, for breaks and at the end of the day. Often one of the biggest stressors of working from home can be the fact it is hard to separate from work and it can feel like you can’t “get away” from it. This is eased by having a dedicated workspace.
Online work – It is also important if you work using online cameras to make sure this workspace is as neutral as possible, for your protection not having photos of family or children visible or personal details that people can see. If you use “Zoom” you can create your own artificial background.
Don’t overcompensate – Often people will feel the need to be seen to be working or communicating when working from home. This can result in people putting extra pressure on themselves, which over time can wear us down.
Whether self-isolating or restricted to you one exercise session a day it is important to try and include some exercise within your day. Sitting in front of a computer or paperwork for long periods of time can be draining on both physical and mental health. Making sure you move regularly is important. Whether going for a walk, doing some yoga, or following an exercise program at home, you will produce hormones and neurotransmitters called endorphins, these have positive effect on memory, mood, energy levels and sense of wellbeing.
Food and Drink
Eating and drinking healthily all the time is always great for your mental health and wellbeing but this becomes especially important when working from home. It is easier for us to snack or “graze” when we work from home.
It can also be tempting to work through particularly when it makes for an earlier finish time. Don’t! A day of no food is a sure way to burn out! It reduces brain activity, decreases concentration and leaves you reaching for the junk food. Managing your diet to eat at regular intervals, healthy food, including fruit and veg, protein which contains amino acids and healthy gut foods including wholegrains, pulses and probiotics.
Limiting caffeine intake and drinking plenty of water are also highly recommended. It can also be tempting to open an extra bottle of wine, or an extra beer when we know that we don’t have to “go in” to work the next day. Limiting your alcohol intake is important for mental health and wellbeing. Drinking regularly or to excess decreases the levels of serotonin, a key chemical relating to depression. Alcohol can also interfere with sleep patterns, make our bodies work harder to process the alcohol in our systems and depresses the central nervous system which can make our moods fluctuate, combined with the extra stress of working from home and the current situation, reducing rather than increasing alcohol consumption would be beneficial.
Plan something fun
Whilst this is difficult with the current restrictions on leaving the house and closures, try to plan an activity or hobby for the end of the day. Whether it be watching a movie, cooking a healthy meal, exercise or catching up with friends and family on the phone or using programs like Skype or Zoom. Having something to look forward to at the end of the working day is beneficial to our mental health and also helps make the split between work and your evening.
Selfcare and Mindfulness
Use of mindfulness techniques can also be used to help improve our own mental health. There are many free resources for these online including guided meditation on youtube. The following links provide a couple of options but it is worth finding the ones that work for you;
A short guided meditation for loneliness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2L_ynaW5CE
A guided mindfulness program for relaxation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jyy0ra2WcQQ
Some Mindfulness tasks for working with anxiety: https://www.healthline.com/health/mindfulness-tricks-to-reduce-anxiety
Communication can also be beneficial to our mental health, but if you live alone it can be hard and lonely especially when seeing friends or family might be difficult. If you are finding this a challenge there are a number of services in Cornwall these can be found on the following link; https://www.supportincornwall.org.uk/kb5/cornwall/directory/results.page?qt=befriending&term=&sorttype=relevance
or if you have access to the internet there are a number of online communities like Elefriends; https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/support-community-elefriends/.