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A Practical Guide to Self-care When Working from Home

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new “normal” that is nearly unrecognizable for many of us. Gone is the hustle and bustle of life and simple things like running errands, going to school, commuting into the office and spending time with friends seem almost out of the ordinary. Now, your home is also your office, restaurant, school (if you or your kids are remote learning) and hangout spot. Physical distancing guidelines have forced many of us to stay put, effectively blurring the lines of separation between work, play and relaxation.

For those of us who are used to working in a busy office, transitioning to working from home seems to be one of the biggest adjustments we’ve made (who knew that last day in your office would be your last day?) and there’s been a steep learning curve. It’s hard enough to find the right space in your home to work uninterrupted – especially if you share your space with roommates, a partner or children – but now that your office and home are basically the same thing, you also need to step away from your work space and take care of yourself. This may be easier said than done, but, fortunately, we have some tips to help you work from home better and keep your mental health and self-care in mind while you do it.

  1. Separate “work” and “life”: Work-life balance has taken on a completely new meaning. If possible, dedicate a space to do your work that isn’t your bed or bedroom. Studies show that working in the space you normally dedicate to sleep can affect your sleep patterns, and that can be detrimental to your mental health. It’s also important to try to separate your work and home activities throughout the day. It can be tempting to use time between meetings to do the dishes or the laundry, but this can make it harder to separate work and life and lead to burnout.
  2. Ready, Set, Routine: Having a robust morning routine can be a game changer for your mental health – take a shower, meditate, get dressed for the day. Establishing patterns will also ultimately help you know when to log off, so you aren’t taking your work with you to bed. It’s also beneficial to have a night-time routine to make sure you’re not only getting enough sleep, but ensuring that it’s high-quality sleep. Things like ditching your phone or laptop prior to bedtime and reading help signal your brain that it’s time to start winding down.
  3. Breaks are your best friend: If you’ve been working from home for a few months, chances are you’ve more or less figured out what works and what doesn’t. But you can always find ways to take care of your mental health, even if you feel OK – break your day up by going for a walk during lunch or work outside if the weather is nice. Block time off on your calendar so you can play with your dog for a couple minutes or meditate. Taking breaks is a proven way to increase productivity and help you relax, especially when work feels overwhelming.
  4. Stay hydrated and well-fed: This seems obvious, but how many times do you step away from your computer have a healthy snack or take a sip of water? Some studies show that working from home actually makes us work more, so it’s important that you’re fueling your body while you work. The kinds of food you eat also have an effect on your mental health, so skip the junk food, and physically step away to give your brain a mini-reset while you focus on something else. Try having lunch away from your computer.

Regardless of how you work from home, finding a healthy balance is key to ensuring you don’t feel  burnout – compounding stress related to work that eventually leads to a drop in productivity. Unaddressed, it can even lead to symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. If you think you’re starting to feel burned out, we’ve got you covered with our blog, Four Tips to Help Manage Burnout.

For many of us, working where we live will never be easy, but with FDA-approved vaccines being distributed across the country, this arrangement won’t last forever. Meanwhile, it’s important to take care of your mental health. Learn more about how you and your workplace can take a Mental Health First Aid course and learn other ways you can #BeTheDifference for yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Resource Guide:

  • Cronkleton, Emily. (2020). 26 WFH Tips While Self-Isolating During the COVID-19 Outbreak. Healthline, April 1, 2020.
  • DeFilippis, Evan and Impink, Stephen Michael and Singell, Madison and Polzer, Jeffrey T and Sadun, Raffaella. (2020). Collaborating During Coronavirus: The Impact of COVID-19 on the Nature of Work. National Bureau of Economic Research, July 2020.
  • Griffis, Hailley. (2017). The Science Behind Why We Should Never Work From Bed. Buffer Blog, November 29, 2017. .
  • Mental Health First Aid USA. (2020). Mental Health First Aid USA for Adults Assisting Adults. Washington, DC: National Council for Mental Wellbeing.
  • Selhub, Eva. (2020). Nutritional Psychiatry: Your Brain on Food. Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, March 26, 2020.
  • Selig, Meg. (2017). How Do Work Breaks Help Your Brain? 5 Surprising Answers. Psychology Today, April 18, 2017. .
  • The National Sleep Foundation. Challenging Ways Technology Affects Your Sleep.
  • Van Edwards, Vanessa. Perfect Your Morning Routine With 10 Research Backed Steps. Science of People.

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