How To Keep Your Mental Health in Check When You Work From Home
Take steps to improve your mental health when you work from home and you’ll shrug off the anxiety, depression, and loneliness many remote workers face.[Work From Home; Stay Happy]
Have you noticed a change in your mental health now that you work from home?
Have you noticed a change in your mental health now that you work from home?
Do you feel more stressed out despite not having a commute? Are you battling feelings of isolation even though you can clock in wherever you want?
Work from home jobs can challenge your mental health. It can turn normally optimistic, productive worker bees into tired, unmotivated, irritable toads.
So before you hit rock bottom, learn how to spot the signs of declining mental health so you can address your next steps.
What are the Psychological Effects of Working from Home?
Here are the three most commonly reported issues that remote workers and digital nomads face:
LONELINESS AND ISOLATION
You could spend days not talking to anyone when you don’t have to go anywhere to work.
Although you bypass distracting coworkers, you do miss the social aspect of chatting and venting about work and life when you’re remote. This camaraderie doesn’t translate the same way over Slack.
This disconnectivity from your coworkers and the rest of the world may make you feel lonely and isolated. And loneliness is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms like random pain[*].
ANXIETY, STRESS, AND PRESSURE
Working from home anxiety takes on many forms, including:
Pressure to hustle 24/7. Have to find work and then create it? You probably squeeze in work whenever you can. But without time to disconnect and unplug, you risk burning out.
The boundary between work and home life blurs for people who work in the same place they sleep. You may feel pressure to be on when you should be off.
Stress from wearing multiple hats. Working from home requires time management, invoicing skills, marketing, IT troubleshooting, customer service, and much more. Switching between these hats multiple times a day will wear out anyone.
Work from home depression can happen when you feel stuck. Without career milestones like a new nameplate on your desk or a fancy corner office, you may not feel as if you’re achieving as much as your peers.
The anxiety, stress, and loneliness of working from home can lead to depression or make it worse.
Depression isn’t just feeling down. The Mayo Clinic says symptoms of depression include[*]:
- Angry outbursts, irritability, or frustration (even over small matters)
- Loss of interest or happiness in activities such as sex or hobbies
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia and sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
- Increased cravings for food
- Anxiety, agitation, and restlessness
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
- Often wanting to stay at home rather than going out to socialize or do new activities
The good news is your mental health doesn’t have to suffer when you work from home.
How to Take Care of Your Mental Health When You Work From Home
Taking care of your mental health is just as important as physical activity and eating nourishing food.
First things first: it’s okay not to be okay.
Honor exactly where you are, wherever that may be.
Second, know it’s in your power to enjoy a happy brain by making a few adjustments:
#1. CREATE A ROUTINE AND STICK TO THE SCHEDULE
Get to work whenever you want? Over 40% of people say their flexible schedule is the best part of working remotely[*].
But it’s how you organize those hours in your day that makes all the difference.
Do you have a daily schedule or set routine you follow?
When you organize your tasks and outline your goals, you mentally prepare yourself for what to expect during the day. Then it’s easier to work towards achieving the goals you set out, rather than vaguely meandering towards them.
This scheduling also prevents tasks not on your to-do list (like falling down a Reddit rabbit hole) from creeping into your day.
It’s important to schedule analog breaks. Set aside time to escape all forms of digital screens. Give your eyes, neck, shoulders, and back a much-needed rest![Disconnect]
Schedule fun activities just like work tasks. All work and no play stresses all remote workers out. When you have scheduled time for fun, you have permission to break from work. Focus on hobbies, self-care, and anything else that makes you happy for a few minutes every day.
#2. UPGRADE YOUR HOME OFFICE
One survey shows 84% of remote workers get their business done from home[*]. But do you actually like working in your home office?
If you don’t have a dedicated workspace, make that priority number one. Bonus points if you have an office with a door you can close to mentally and physically separate work and home life.
Next, outfit your home office like you want to be the next Twitch star.
Buy new or check second-hand shops and Craigslist for a:
- Wide desk. Support for your wrists, arms, and elbows will keep carpal tunnel away while you use your mouse and keyboard[*].
- Comfortable, ergonomic chair that supports your back. Long work hours require a supportive chair for your back, neck, and spine. Look for strong lumbar support for the curve of your lower back.
- Dope sound system (and other creature comforts). Without coworkers to annoy, you can blast your Spotify focus playlists and get in the zone. Get a wireless mouse and keyboard for the ultimate tether-free work life.
#3. GET UP AND MOVE!
Fight the urge to stay sedentary and schedule active time to get your heart pumping.
Go for a walk or bike ride, stretch or do yoga, practice a hip-hop dance video on YouTube — whatever floats your boat.
Exercising 20 to 30 minutes daily can significantly lower anxiety levels[*]. You’ll also boost endorphins and serotonin to flood your brain with happiness.
Plus, working out distracts your noggin from work problems so you can actually take a break.
#4. LEAVE YOUR HOUSE FOR THE WONDER OF NATURE
Ecotherapy treats anxiety, stress, and depression with time in nature. Studies show outdoor walks may help lower blood pressure and stress hormones[*].
Dr. Jason Strauss from Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance says[*]:
"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."
Try exercising in nature to accomplish two tasks in one trek. Or organize a group hike to add a social layer to your outdoor time.
#5. WORK AROUND OTHER HUMANS
Get out of your (now killer) home office and venture into society to interact with (gasp) other people. You’ll combat feelings of isolation and loneliness. Plus, studies show that ambient noise may boost creative thinking[*].
Coworking spaces are cropping up in big and small cities all over the world. You can work with like-minded people in a modern space for a small price.
Schedule work dates. Know other freelancers in your circle? Meet up at your local coffee shop, library, or brewery and work alongside each other.
#6. MAKE TIME FOR YOUR FAVORITE PEOPLE
Support from your peers is just as effective as cognitive behavior therapy when you’re down[*]. So carve out time each week to spend with your core group of friends and family members who lift you up (not bring you down).
#7. START SAYING "NO"
You may want to take on as much work as you can, but there’s only so much you can complete in a day. Know your limitations, set boundaries based on your schedule and workload, and don’t extend yourself beyond them.
Be assertive yet courteous and your clients will still respect you.
Improve Your Mental Health When You Work From Home and You’ll Never Go Back To Traditional Jobs
Follow these tips and you’ll protect your mental health from the loneliness, anxiety, and depression many remote workers have a hard time dealing with.
Reach out to someone you trust, speak to your doctor, or find a mental health professional if you’re struggling with depression or anxiety. You’re not alone. And remember, tomorrow is always a fresh start.
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