This is a guest post by Ashley Ostrowski from The Perusing Muse.
I recently got a new job and found out after that most days I get to work from home! I was initially surprised that I got to work from home. My company has an office that is about fifteen minutes away from my house which in terms of commute isn’t too bad. I can still go to the office if I need to, but most days, I get to work from home. While working from home comes with many advantages, it can also be taxing sometimes working by yourself.
Here are some mental health tips that help me navigate working from home:
#1: Get a desk and work setup
Getting a nice desk and setting up a personal office space is a great way to succeed while working at home. I bought a desk from the Facebook marketplace, and I set up my computer and monitors on the desk. Pick a spot where you have an outlet, both literally and metaphorically, to use. Make sure to choose a place where it is quiet and you will have minimal interruptions (admittedly, this can be hard if you live with other people and/or animals). I chose my bedroom because it is in the basement and I don’t have to deal with the dog or family members passing through my space. I have a window in my room, and it is really nice to see outside. If you’re able to, find a place with at least one nearby window. It is nice to look at the outside world and enjoy the view. You can also add plants to your desk to make it feel comfortable.
#2: Clean your workspace (unless you feel like you can thrive in a messy room)
Whether you work at home or in an office, it is super important to have a clean workspace. Working in my bedroom is a challenge because I have to keep my room clean! I make sure to put my laundry away right away and to clear my desk and dresser. I have started making my bed in the mornings and it makes a big difference. I remember when I came back from college during the pandemic, I often worked in a messy room, and I barely felt motivated to work. With clothes on my bedroom floor and excess papers strewn around my desk, I felt like a mess. It feels much better to clean my room and put everything in its place.
Also, personalize your space by adding knickknacks, pictures, or plants. Put stuff on your desk that will make you happy. I have a box of Little People from The Office in the drawer beside my desk.
#3: Give yourself time to get ready
It is so easy to slide out of bed, maybe grab something to eat, and then head to your laptop to start work. DON’T! Every time I have done this, it feels miserable. I get it, it is so tempting to sleep as long as you possibly can and spend minimal time getting ready. That’s a major benefit of working from home. You don’t have to dress up or wear makeup, and no one cares if you’re wearing the clothes you slept in or notices if you brushed your teeth or not.
But that doesn’t mean you won’t notice. Trust me, getting dressed—in fresh, comfortable clothes does wonders. When I don’t put effort into getting ready, I don’t feel ready to work, period. Pick out a nice, but comfortable outfit to wear during the day and the night before. It can be a t-shirt and shorts or sweatpants, but not the ones you slept in. I usually wear a blouse or t-shirt and shorts or jean shorts in the summer, and leggings or jeans and a sweater in the winter months.
You also should be prepared to look presentable if you have to do video calls that day. Most jobs that are fully remote require video calls at some point.
#4: Put a cup of water on your desk (not just coffee or tea)
If you’re working a full-day job, or even half a day, you’re going to want to drink some water. Keeping a cup of water on your desk is the best way to drink enough water all day. I personally use a Yeti, and I love it. But any kind of cup will do. Keep it on the desk all day. Take breaks to refill the bottle. Not only does it give you a break, but it also gets you moving a little and out of your desk.
I like to drink tea and occasionally drink coffee, so sometimes I will have a cup of one of those at my desk. But I always keep a glass of water on my desk. Water keeps me alert, hydrated, and more focused. Coffee actually dehydrates you, so you’re going to really need water if you’re drinking a cup of joe.
#5: Exercise before or after work
I am not a part of the 5 AM club, but I do think that exercising in the morning has its benefits. You can also work out after work like I usually do.
If 5 AM isn’t your thing but you want to wake up early, you could wake up an hour earlier and do a ten- or twenty-minute workout. That counts and it can make a big difference. Even a five-minute workout or some morning stretches could help wake you up and get you ready to work in the morning. I normally work out post-work or after dinner, but I worked out on the elliptical once before work one day and felt more awake as well as more productive. I might have to try more morning workouts.
I would recommend getting exercise throughout the week because you’re sitting at a desk all day. Getting exercise is good for your mental health, productivity, and for your sleep. Go for a walk after work, do a workout, or hit the gym. I like doing yoga and stretches because it helps my back and shoulders feel better after sitting at a desk all day. Going for walks is a great way to get outside and enjoy nature too.
You can also exercise a bit during breaks from work. Some people call them “micro-workouts” where you do some jumping jacks or lunges for a few minutes. This can help you maintain energy throughout the day. Moving your body helps you feel less sluggish and even boosts productivity.
#6: Get enough sleep
Whenever I am sleep-deprived, work is so much harder for me. I feel like a sloth throughout the day and the clock moves so much slower. Even six hours of sleep means I can barely function.
In college, I pulled a few all-nighters and would get in the habit of staying up late. I would not recommend it. Nothing is worth going to work or school the next day trying to function. Not a video game, not time on your phone or binging that TV series (guilty), blogging (extra guilty!), or even (gasp!) spending the night reading a good book.
Make time during the day to do those things, and if you get in a habit of staying up—it is not too late. Set a bedtime reminder on your phone, brush your teeth, put on pajamas, and get some z’s, your body will thank you for it later.
I struggled with sleep deprivation in college. I get it. I feel like staying up late is my “extra-free time” where I can do whatever I want. It was the time when I didn’t feel guilty for not being productive or, in reverse, it was when I did a “mad-dash” to get my homework done. Again, I would never recommend this.
Luckily, this isn’t the case right now. Post college, I’m working a job where I’m done at 4:30. I don’t have to work again until tomorrow. So, it is easy for me in that regard to “turn off” and stop thinking about work and responsibilities. So, that has helped me feel more motivated to go to bed on time.
Okay, so I’m not an expert, but meditation has been helpful to me in both my work and personal life. I struggle with anxiety sometimes, and mediation is something that helps. I have an Apple Watch, and I use the breathe application. I meditate for a minute or more. I like how I can focus on my breath and not have to think about work or life stress. There are studies on mindfulness and mental health, and if you are working from home, you likely have a lot of work and personal responsibilities to think about and you can’t easily leave them behind once you leave an office or your home.
Meditation doesn’t always “turn off” my thoughts, at least not at first, but when it does, it feels fantastic. Sometimes you have to try it a couple of times for it to work. You basically pay attention to your breath and then breathe in and breathe out. I usually meditate using the Apple Watch app, or I watch a video on YouTube.
There are different kinds of mediation. Some types will ask to you visualize somewhere, like your favorite place, and others just guide you as you breathe in and out. I have done both. I usually feel most peaceful doing meditation sessions where there isn’t someone talking a lot. But it depends on my mood for me, and some people will prefer different types of meditation. I like simplicity. I like the Apple Watch mediation application; you watch flowers move in and out and match your breath and that’s all there is to it.
I feel like meditation gets me out of my head and helps me relax and reset either after work or during the break. There isn’t really anything else like it, and if you are interested, I would recommend giving it a try. Sometimes, if I’m stressed, I’ll take a minute or a few and meditate.
#8: Do something you enjoy after work
My last tip is to do something you enjoy after work. Sometimes, a long day of work makes you feel exhausted. Even without the commute to the office or the social interaction, I feel super tired. Working from home can feel like one day in front of the computer after another, even when you like the work that you do.
Luckily, life exists outside of work. I try to do something I enjoy every day, whether it be reading a book, taking a walk, trying a new workout, watching a show, or spending time with family or friends. I try to schedule some time to call my friends and keep up with what they are doing. Working from home can feel isolating (especially if you live alone), so it is good to stay connected to people throughout your day.
So, that’s my list of mental health tips for working from home. I have enjoyed it pretty well so far, and I like the job I’m doing. I get to write, so it’s cool! I also feel like it is extremely important to take care of your mental health. You are a wonderful human being who has worth and value outside of work. You deserve to take care of yourself and focus on staying healthy and happy at home. Your mental health is so important and you are worth it.
So, what do you do to take care of yourself while working from home or even from the office? What are your go-to techniques? Let me know down in the comments below.
Thank you Ashley for this great guest post. Taking care of your mental health is so important, especially with the impact the pandemic has had on all of us. If you aren’t following her already, do check out her amazing blog where she analyzes books, movies, adult cartoons, sitcoms, philosophy, and pretty much anything that tells a story.
Note: If you are suffering from any mental health problems big or small, please visit a qualified professional to get help.
Note 2: If you also want to guest post on my blog, drop me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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