(PowerInEmail.com) – What do the COVID-19 pandemic, the gig economy and the sharp rise in contract workers have in common? They’ve all contributed to the fact that more people are working from home than ever before. In fact, Fundera reports that nearly 4% of America’s workforce now does exactly that at least part time.
In a general sense, this shift is positive. But it’s certainly not for everyone, and some people may struggle more than others to make it work. The Center for Workplace Mental Health reports that the associated isolation, stress and loneliness can actually do a number on our mental health.
Just quitting isn’t usually an option — not if you want to eat, anyway. So, how can you stay sane while working from home? Here’s how to cope.
Stay on Schedule
It can be tempting to flake off when you’re working at home without the boss constantly checking on your progress. An hour of TV, a nap or a little time away from your desk often starts to seem like no big deal, especially if no one on your team is paying attention.
Be cautious with cultivating this attitude. While breaks are a must, not following a schedule and just hoping for the best is a recipe for getting behind. There’s nothing worse than suddenly realizing you won’t turn in a critical report on time because you didn’t prioritize it.
Set a schedule and stick with it whenever possible. That means coming in at work at a certain time, working for a specific number of hours and not just leaving whenever you want. You’re still at work, and thus, you should be working unless you don’t have anything to do.
Loneliness is one of the biggest contributors to poor mental health when working from home. As social beings, we humans are simply used to connecting with others throughout the day. We like to collaborate, exchange ideas and feel heard — and not having to access to that can be hard.
Use apps such as FaceTime, Skype, and Facebook to stay connected to others, both at work and outside of your job, throughout the day. Ping a team member when you need input on an idea. Reach out to your boss when you’re struggling with something. When you’re feeling like you can’t take another moment of silence, call a friend.
Whatever you do, reach out in some way on a regular basis. Don’t isolate yourself to the point that you forget what it’s like to chat with another intelligent being!
Focus on Your Health
This includes both physical and mental wellness. Wash your hands, sanitize your environment, wear a mask when you have to go out. Eat healthy foods (no ordering pizza nightly) and drink plenty of water. Don’t over-indulge in junk foods, alcohol and sodas — you’ll pay for it in the long run.
For optimal mental health, slot in meditation, yoga and other self-care activities to help keep your mind resilient. Take breaks — they’ll help keep you sane — and don’t force yourself to work harder just because you can. When you feel like you’re losing your grip, reach out to a friend or a helpline or your physician to talk it out. Don’t suffer in silence.
Exercise is also important for wellness, even though we often don’t prioritize it when we’re working from home. Ask yourself how much moving you’ve done lately; if the answer is very little, it may be time to change that.
Don’t stay stuck in your chair all day without moving… get up and walk around every so often. Take a walk around the block if it’s safe to do so; the fresh air will reinvigorate you. Or just blast some music and dance it out until you feel your blood pumping — adrenaline boosts mood.
Be Careful With Media Consumption
Ever hear of the term “doomscrolling”? It refers to the very human tendency to constantly and almost obsessively follow negative news online — especially on social media platforms. It’s especially easy to get sucked into that during a pandemic, when everyone, their uncle and their dog has an opinion on how issues are unfolding.
The reality is that this kind of behavior can become addictive. It’s like driving by a car crash… you don’t want to look, but it feels like if you don’t, the apocalypse will begin to unfold before you can prepare for it. Eventually, you become so wrapped up in the negativity that you, too, start expressing negative emotions and behaviors.
Limit your consumption of media to prevent this. Don’t let yourself spend hours, either during your workday or after, obsessively looking for the next scary tidbit of news. Decide when you’ll check for updates (morning and night for an hour, maybe) and then tune out. Give your brain time to recover from what you do read — things will go the way they go either way.
Last but not least: If you really aren’t coping well, it might be a sign that you’re suffering from something more serious, such as anxiety or depression. Sites like BetterHelp and 7Cups offer access to psychotherapy from a distance; this can be a great way to get your feelings out and strategize better coping skills. Or check with your employer about EAP-provided counseling services. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it — you’re worth it!
~Here’s to Your Success!
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