Now that we’re a little over a month into the COVID-19 shutdown of regular life, we can start to see what our new normal is, at least for the foreseeable future. It is more important than ever to tend to your mental health right now. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world at the moment. How long this will last, how we’re going to pay our bills or keep our businesses afloat, whether the people we love will get sick, worrying about loved ones working on the front lines – and the stressors only increase with each passing day. Usually, home is a place where we can go to relax from the stresses of the world. However, being stuck at home takes away that option, especially for folks who are also working from home.
Working from home is the reality for millions of people at the moment. Even though working at home sounds like an ideal situation (meetings in PAJAMA PANTS!), it is actually trickier in practice than in theory.
When you work at home, it can be hard to separate your personal time from your work time. It can be tricky to motivate yourself without the hustle and bustle of your workplace around you. You might have a hard time focusing on work while there’s so much else going on right now. Remember, we’re not just working at home right now, we’re working at home through a global pandemic. There’s a lot going on, so it’s natural if you’ve been overwhelmed. Here are some tips to help you tend to your mental health while you’re working from home:
Give your day structure
Working from home can mean that there’s less of a boundary than ever between your home life and your work life. Give yourself some structure so you know what to expect day to day. Decide when you’ll be available for work. Just because you’re working at home doesn’t mean you’re expected to work all of the time. Make it clear to your coworkers when you are available and then stick to it!
Breaking up the day can also be helpful when working from home. It can be easy to get up and jump right into work for the day, but give yourself time to ease into it. If you normally have a commute, why not spend that same amount of time listening to music to pump yourself up for the day? You could take a walk around the block before sitting down to work to signal to yourself that it’s time to buckle down and get to work. You can do the same at the end of the day – give yourself some buffer time between work and personal time so you can decompress and get out of work mode.
Take regular breaks
It seems obvious, but it’s important to step away from work every once in a while. If you have a hard time taking breaks, try setting recurring reminders on your phone to go off during your work day to signal that it’s time to rest for a minute. Make sure to nourish and hydrate yourself properly. You can use meal times as a natural stopping point to structure your day around, if that works for you.
Try working from home productivity hacks
If you’re not used to working at home, it can be hard to get motivated to work in your personal environment. There are a million and one ‘hacks’ out there designed to promote productivity. One popular ‘hack’ is called the Pomodoro Technique. You set a timer for 25 minutes, work until it goes off, and then give yourself a five-minute break to reset before starting your next 25 minute stretch of work. Other productivity advice talks about “eating the frog”, or doing the most dreaded task on your to-do list first. Since people all have different working styles, some (or all) of the productivity advice you find might not work for you and that’s okay. What works for someone else might not be the answer for you, but it’s worth exploring while you adjust.
Follow some good news sources
As we discussed above, there’s a lot to worry about right now. That’s not to say that there is no hope to be found in the world, though. If you’re working from home, you’re probably on the computer or in front of a screen a lot, so give yourself opportunities to be pleasantly surprised by the state of the world. Follow social media accounts designed to share good news only. Subscribe to an email newsletter that sends out recaps of what’s good in the world every week. Make your home page a website that shares positive content. There is good news out there, even if it’s hard to find right now.
Don’t expect too much from yourself when working from home
It’s okay to not be productive right now. You might have high expectations for what you can get done during this pandemic, but don’t feel pressure to hold yourself to them. We’re going through what amounts to a collective trauma right now. You don’t need to feel pressure to finally tackle a bunch of projects you’ve been meaning to work on. You might find you need more rest right now than you normally do, and it’s okay to honor that. There is more to life than productivity at work. Don’t be afraid to honor your needs.
Working from home sounds like it would be pretty effortless, but it’s actually trickier than it sounds sometimes. You’re only human, so it’s okay if you’re struggling with this transition. Remember to be gentle with yourself and ask for help when you need it. If you’re struggling with the transition to work from home life, our counselors can help you find what works best for you personally.