Physical health has (rightfully) been the priority this year, but we must work to protect our mental wellbeing, too.
According to a recent study from medical journal Science Advances, COVID-19 has led to an increase in acute stress and depressive symptoms across the United States. For those of us working from home, this may be compounded by the constant distractions found throughout the house, be it the kids and virtual school, the load of laundry nagging at you, or the ability to endlessly roam the kitchen and snack. With today being World Mental Health Day, there is no better time to find a way to make working from home less stressful, more efficient, and, ideally, more productive.
Even though general stress levels have been impacted by the pandemic, research also shows that working from home has had a positive effect in some ways. This year, Americans have spent less time commuting and experienced an increase in time spent with the family. With 61% of respondents in this recent IBM study saying they would like to work from home indefinitely, it is clear that this way of life could become permanent, and there certainly are upsides to this.
So how do we balance our pandemic-induced stress and the WFH lifestyle during a time where there is no stability and no predictability? The tried-and-true tips below serve as a good start.
Turn Off The News
Not just CNN, FOX, or CNBC, but Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook as well. News can include the COVID cycle, your friends who don’t care about social distancing, or your coworker and their not-so-hot political takes. News and social media go hand-in-hand in their tendency to stress us the f**k out , sometimes without us even knowing it. The news cycle and the social media cycle keep us engaged by triggering quick, emotional responses in us, the viewers. If you’re like most Americans, then 2020 has already served up enough cortisol for the next decade, no need to exacerbate it by flipping through the news cycle after a long work week. Even deleting social media for 48 hours has shown an impressive impact on mood and mental health.
Social Distance From The Desk
Clear divides between our working space and our relaxation zones (no, your bed is not a good substitute for your desk) help us stick to a similar work schedule that we had pre-pandemic, ensuring we’re not losing time and overworking ourselves. Unfortunately for many of us, especially those of us in metropolitan areas, space isn’t exactly a commodity in our home. Thankfully, there are ways to create a clearly defined workspace that can draw a physical and mental barrier between work and life. Whether it's a room divider, a partition wall, or even a whole new room, separating our work space from the rest of our home (DIY style) can help us find a semblance of balance - this balance may be the key between achieving consistent productivity and avoiding burnout.
The Great Outdoors
Year after year, the great outdoors still comes out on top. No, but really - even just 10 minutes spent in a natural setting can lower both physical and emotional stress levels. Whenever possible, stray away from the desk for a few moments, and step out onto the balcony or down the street for a brief stroll to refresh and recharge. A few deep breaths of fresh air and you’re good to go.
While our physical health and that of those around us has taken precedent this year, on World Mental Health Day, let’s not forget that our mental health is just as important. Log off social media, create a workspace that allows you to enjoy your home for living, and get some fresh air. We’ll get through this.