Many of you will currently be working remotely as our organisations bring into place ‘social distancing’ measures. These measures, while essential for public health, can be detrimental to your personal mental health says Petris Lapis.
It is such an acknowledged issue that the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently released a mental health guide to help people who are self-isolating cope. Here are eight things you can do to help maintain your physical, mental and emotional well-being while you are working remotely:
1. Watch your kitchen habits
When you work in an office, you tend to pack your lunch in the morning and keep your snacking to a minimum during the day. The physical environment helps with this as you often have to leave your place of work, walk to a café and then return if you want a coffee or a snack. When you work from home, the same physical barriers don’t exist so you have to be careful not to turn the fridge into an easy distraction device each time you encounter procrastination or need a break.
2. Keep a routine
Some of us experience anxiety when our routine changes or our day is uncertain. To keep this to a minimum, keep yourself in the routine you have established for work. Keep setting your alarm and getting up at the same time, keep getting dressed for work and keep sticking to your regular working hours. This will help with feeling you have purpose and direction even though your physical environment may have changed.
3. Build ‘Micro-Lifts’ into your day
Without our conscious awareness, we normally have ‘micro-lifts’ peppered throughout our day. These are the little moments where you treat yourself to a coffee from your favourite coffee shop, you smile someone in the street, you walk past a garden and smell a flower any of the other little things that give you a little boost or micro-lift without you even realising. When you work from home, these things don’t tend to happen so naturally and the impact begins to accumulate and normally hits at around the two-week mark according to Dr Lucy Atcheson, a counselling psychologist. You can create these micro-lifts for yourself by doing something that generates a sense of achievement such as learn a few words in another language, join an online group, try a new form of exercise or talk to a family member or friend on the phone.
4. Get outside
Within the limits of the health guidelines and the building you are in, it is helpful for well-being to connect with nature. If you can go for a walk and combine exercise with nature as part of your routine that is wonderful. Spend time on your balcony or open the window and let in some fresh air.
Exercise is beneficial for our well-being in so many ways including both physical and mental. If you are not able to do your preferred exercise regime, look for ways you can replace it within the health guidelines or within your own home. Can you, for example, set up a circuit on your deck or in your loungeroom using equipment you have at home? Can you safely go for a walk once a day and still keep your social distance? Exercise is necessary to break up the amount of time you might otherwise spend in front of a screen while working remotely. You need to replace the movement that you had getting to and from work and walking around an office, going to meetings etc.
6. Don’t get sucked into the negative thinking spiral
One of the dangers of working remotely is that you have a lot of time on your own that you wouldn’t normally have. One of the unhelpful things humans tend to do when they have time on their own is self-reflect and not in a positive way. You spend the time passing judgment on yourself and thinking about all the things that are wrong in your life. If left unchecked, this negative spiral can turn into massive life dissatisfaction. It can help if, instead of seeing this is a negative period in your life, you see it as a different period. One that has a different rhythm from what you have experienced before. You can head off the negative spiral by finding things to be grateful for. The negative thinking spiral will not be helped if you are getting a steady diet of doom and gloom from news websites or social media. If you can feel your anxiety levels rising, watch your media habits and choose healthier ones. Check the news once a day, instead of every time you need a mental refresher while working.
7. Stay connected
We have a wonderful range of technology to keep us connected even while we are socially isolating. Stay in touch with your family and loved ones and check in with your colleagues.
8. Do things you enjoy
No one can thrive on a steady diet of isolation and bad news. While you are working remotely, find the time also to do some things you enjoy. Is it time to try a new craft, pick up that musical instrument you have sitting in the corner, try cooking new dishes, reading a book, gardening or do it yourself projects around your home? Ensure you make space during the day to keep enjoying life, the work you do and the colleagues you work with.
Petris Lapis has worked in accounting, law, academia, banking, business and training. She has consulted for government and industry and published several books and hundreds of papers. She has studied commerce, law, coaching, NLP and hypnosis. www.petrislapis.com