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Looking after your mental health when working or studying from home

Working from home desk with computer and plants

Working or studying from home for a few days can be a great way to get more done without the distractions of the office or classroom. However, it can also pose its own unique challenges, especially when it comes to mental health.

For example, working alone at home for prolonged periods of time can lead to a lack of connectedness with others, sometimes leading to an increase in anxiety and in extreme cases, depression. These conditions can have a detrimental impact on your ability to work or study effectively from home, as well as your overall wellbeing.

So in this article, we’re going to highlight some of the key ways you can safely work or study from home, while at the same time protecting your mental health as best as possible.  

 

1.Stick to a clear routine

It’s always tempting to bend the rules when you’re working or studying from home. With no authority figure in your house to answer to, things like late starts, working from the sofa (or from bed!) and 24-hour pyjama parties might sound dream-like - but beware. A complete lack of routine and structure can actually make it much harder for you to get stuck into your work, leading to procrastination, frustration and a lack of productivity.  

Even when working you’re from home, it’s important to stick to a clear routine. And while this routine can have a bit more wiggle room than the norm, it’s still important to have an overarching routine that informs the structure of your day. For example, try to always:

  • Get up at the same time every day

  • Shower and get dressed into non-PJs every morning

  • Schedule regular breaks throughout the day and stick to them 

  • Finish your work at a set time 

By sticking to a few simple rules like these each day, you’ll notice that you’re a lot more focused, you’ll get more done and you’ll feel more motivated. 

 

2. Have regular contact with your colleagues or classmates 

While working from home is a great way to get away from the distractions of colleagues or classmates, too much distance from them can be equally negative.

In fact, a lack of connection and communication has been proven to lead to mental health issues like anxiety, with one study finding that of 1100 people who worked from home, 52% of them felt left out and mistreated by the people they worked with. Keeping in regular contact with your team or classmates can prevent any negative feelings associated with being out of the loop or “out of sight out of mind”.

So, dedicate a bit of time each day to check in with the people you normally work with in-person. Call them, instant message or email them - either way, you’ll notice that you’ll feel more reassured, more grounded and more supported - keeping any negative feelings at bay.

 

3. Get some exercise 

However you feel about exercise, there’s no denying that there’s nothing like it when it comes to keeping positive, cheery and more focused. So when you’re working or studying from home, it’s important to try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day.

And when we say exercise, that can be anything that gets your heart pumping. From a high impact online exercise class to taking a swift stroll with the dog - even dancing to your favourite Spotify playlist for half an hour counts. As long as you get your blood pumping, you’re more likely to see your mood elevate.

Head over to Energybase’s YouTube for some home workouts from our trainers.

 

4. Create a dedicated workspace to work from 

Working from the sofa might seem like the epitome of luxury (apart from working from a beach, of course). And for a while, it can be. But when the neck cramp kicks in, and the temptation to lie down becomes an accidental 2-hour nap, you soon realise that the sofa is not the ideal place to get stuff done. 

By creating a space in your home that’s dedicated to getting work done, your productivity will naturally rise. That’s because by separating your home and work life - even though you’re spending all your time at home - you’ll find it easier not to get drawn into the habits you normally do at home (like lie on the sofa and take naps). 

So set up a work station somewhere where you don’t normally spend much time. If you haven’t got any spare space, that’s fine, too. Just set up your station somewhere where you can sit upright. Then when you’re done for the day, close down your laptop and forget about your work or studies. 

This will also let you enjoy your non-work time more, as you won’t associate your leisure time-space with work, making it easier to “clock off” when you’re done for the day. 

 

5. Try your best not to procrastinate

We know that saying “don’t procrastinate” is easier said than done. Everyone procrastinates to some extent, however, it’s a lot easier to get carried away with it when you’re away from the prying eyes of your work or university peers. 

Procrastination that gets out of control can have a hugely negative impact on your mental health, even leading to forms of depression or anxiety disorders. That’s why it’s really important you don’t let it get the best of you when you’re working from home. 

There are lots of ways to try and keep yourself focused on track. For example, you can: 

  • Reach out to a colleague or classmate and ask them to be your accountability buddy. 

  • Work in “Pomodoro” intervals - spending 25 minutes working, followed by a 5 or 10-minute break. While it might seem like a lot of downtime, you’ll be surprised at how productive you can be in those 25 minutes when you’re not constantly starting and stopping.

  • Focus on one task at a time. 

  • Every day, write a to-do list with 3 core tasks for the following day.

 

6. Plan a non-work related activity for the evening

Working or studying from home can often leave you feeling like you have the whole day to get your work done. While this is technically true, that thought process can leave you open for procrastination (the more time you have, the more room there is to say, “I’ll do that later”.)

But spending all-day in work mode, even if it is slightly half-hearted, is no good for your mental health. So having a non-work related activity to look forward to is a great way to ensure that you don’t spend all day thinking about work. 

So, plan something for the evenings, whether that’s a Netflix marathon, a run, call with a friend or any other hobby. This will give you something to look forward to when the working/studying day is over. 

 

7. Eat well and eat often 

Food has a direct impact on our mood and our ability to focus and concentrate. And working at home gives you a lot more access to food on a lot more regular basis (be honest - how many times do you wander to explore the fridge when you’re at home?).

While regular eating is great for keeping you well fuelled, it’s important to be mindful of what you fuel yourself with. 

Try to eat as fresh and healthily as you can. Only eating starch-heavy, sugary foods is more likely to cause spikes and dips in your blood sugar, making you more prone to mood swings and making it harder for you to focus. 

 

8. Listen to uplifting music 

A key benefit of working from home is freedom from headphones. And that means you’re free to blast your favourite music as loud as you want. 

And music is a great mood lifter - and by choosing upbeat music that helps you focus and keeps you in high spirits, then it can be a really effective catalyst to getting work done. Spotify has endless study and work playlists that are designed to help you get in the zone. No matter what genre of music you like, there’s something for you. Alternatively, blast out your favourite guilty pleasure - after all, there’s no one to judge you!

 

So there you have it, our 8 tips for safetly and productively working from home. What are your tips?