Working Well: Improving Your Mental Health While Working at Home
The nudge you need to do more for your mental health while working from home.
First published at…
I’m sure you’ve noticed a change in your own mental health since making the adjustment of working from home? It’s a topic you’ll find across social media, in marketing content, maybe in podcasts that you listen to. Either Way, you’ve probably noticed the increased conversations surrounding mental health. But let’s bring it back to you.
Are you feeling more anxious even though you wake up an hour later because you no longer need to drive to work? Do you feel more stressed because you find yourself working through lunch? Have feelings of isolation crept up because you don’t physically interact with your colleagues anymore? When was the last time you gave yourself a mental rest day?
I’ve had conversations with people who have thoroughly enjoyed working from home — I am one of those people. However, work from home, for all the benefits that it has, has also been quite a challenge when it comes to mental health.
Productivity may be sky high, but it certainly has impacted even the busiest of bees.
So in this post, I want to share some of the signs that show your mental health is being impacted with WFH life, and how you can work towards improving it so that you feel more balanced and at ease.
The Mental Impacts of Working from Home
From my own personal experience and from conversations I’ve had with others, here are some of the ways that working from home can impact your mental health.
1. Feeling Isolated
It was rather jarring to think about how, in March 2020, South Africa had entered into a hard lockdown and the normality we knew had been turned upside down. Less social gatherings, turning to online methods of shopping and of course, no longer going to the office for work.
While the office was a source of connecting with your coworkers, working from home lessened the social aspect of an office environment.
Remember the lunches you had with colleagues or the coffee catch ups you’d have with someone from a different department. That’s not so easy to do over Slack and Zoom calls.
This sense of isolation from your colleagues can feel amplified when working from home. You haven’t just been isolated from your coworkers — it was friends and family too, and this sense of disconnection from the very thing that makes us human (which is interaction and connecting with others), can impact your mental health.
2. Increased Feelings of Stress and Pressure
As someone who has a full time job and has a side business, there was a moment where I felt an increased amount of stress, mainly from the self-induced pressure I added onto myself when it came to working from home. While I had created boundaries to keep the two as separate as possible, I never realised how easy it is to keep working long after 5PM has rolled around, and resting and relaxing was the last thing on my mind.
I don’t have the best time management skills in the world, and it’s something I’ve had to work on continuously, because for a long time, I struggled to disconnect from work and make time for myself.
Burnout was a very real experience for me throughout 2020 as the boundary between work and home got blurred, and it may have been your reality as well as you shifted to the WFH life.
That added pressure to prove productivity, the extra hats you feel you are wearing, the time you need to squeeze in to just be human. This can all be stressful but it really is important that you find ways to ensure that the boundary lines are crystal clear for you and that you have stress management strategies in place to help you when you feel the heat.
How to Work Well When Working From Home
Before I share some tips, let me just say that it is completely OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY. And this is coming from someone who has a tough shell and tries her best to have it all together.
At some point, I was not okay and I was really struggling to balance working full time and creatively, maintaining social relationships with family and friends, and still making time for myself to just be.
It was a lot and I had to just humble myself, remember the Psychology courses I did in university and admit that I just wasn’t coping so well with life.
I also happen to be my own biggest critic and I can be quite hard on myself. However, I’m unlearning this and instead, learning to be so much kinder to myself, to remember that I am where I am supposed to be and that it’s okay to seek help when I need it.
1. Don’t forget to connect with others
It might not seem like you have the time, but trust me, you do. Even if it’s just 30 minutes of your day, make time to connect with other people, especially the ones who uplift and support you. This is a quick way to combat feelings of isolation and to surround yourself with the support system you need to help you when you feel low.
2. Stick to a set schedule
I once loved being a busy bee but there is nothing fun about having a diary that is just full of tasks and deadlines and meetings and content creation and, and, and… Now, I’ve worked towards breaking down my tasks into smaller, daily, actionable steps that I can take to reach the goal and get things done. A great concept I learned from Hi5 was to assign myself with 3 things that I would get done in a day to help me feel accomplished. I’ve used this in my personal business and it helps tremendously with sticking to a set schedule that’s dedicated to getting 3 things done daily.
3. Incorporate exercise into your routine
I am not an avid hiker or runner but I do enjoy long walks to my fridge. While I would love to say that’s my exercise for the day, making an effort to get moving is so important for boosting endorphins and serotonin in your body. You don’t need to walk mountains to achieve this; yoga or a 20min online Zumba class will work just fine.
4. Say no, and mean it
This is something else I heavily struggle with, and probably a big reason why I couldn’t quite strike a good balance in my life. I am a YES woman; I aim to serve and help wherever I can, and I have a tendency of sometimes overextending myself instead of saying No when I need to. This was a tough lesson to learn, but I won’t always be able to do everything for everyone to be a hero, and still remain sane. I needed to remember that I have limits, and going beyond them will negatively impact my mental health. So, I’m learning to say no, and I encourage you to do the same.
I hope this post gives you the nudge you need to do more for your mental health while working from home.
If you need to, reach out to your support system for guidance or speak to a mental health professional for help. There is no shame in speaking up about the impact working from home has impacted your mental health; so many more people have felt this for the past year so you aren’t alone in what you are feeling. But do take care of yourself holistically as you navigate the WFH life so that you can bring the best you to the work that you do.
About the Author
As a South African based in Cape Town, Khalipha Ntloko is a content creator who shares a lifestyle based blog focused on being inspirational, promoting self improvement and highlighting travel and beauty.
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