The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot about our lives. Most notably, we’re spending more time online than ever. Whether it be virtual school or working from home, we’ve become accustomed to the questions “can you hear me?” and “are you there?” on online meeting platforms. While working or schooling from home brings many benefits (no one misses the rush hour traffic), it also brings new challenges to our mental health. The combination of being inside staring at a screen and the colder weather is a recipe for increased anxiety and depression. Follow these tips to stay mentally well and thriving from home.
1) Create time boundaries
It can be easy to grab a cup of coffee, saunter in front of your computer, and begin checking emails without thinking about it. This home and work life blur can be dangerous of our mental health. Set yourself up to adhere to time limits. Set a workday schedule just like you would if you were in the office or at school. Take time to step away to stretch, grab a glass of water, or perhaps throw the ball with your dog. These time boundaries help our mind grab onto a routine and predictability.
2) Make a dedicated space
Avoid working in your bedroom, especially on your bed. Studies show that our brains will associate our room with stress and alertness versus rest and relaxation when we work from our bedrooms. Keep your bedroom a relaxing and calm space. Set up a working space in your home and try to keep all work accessories in this area. If you happen to spread your work all over the house, take a couple of minutes at the end of each day to pick up and place the items back in the dedicated work space.
3) Connect with nature
Get outside. Step away from the screen and get into nature. Research shows that just 20 minutes in nature a day decreases stress hormones. Allow yourself to be fascinated by the rustle of the leaves and the bird pecking at the ground. Perhaps consider gardening. We can learn a lot about caring for ourselves through dirt therapy. It is beneficial for our mental health.
4) Take breaks during the day
When we are in person, there are natural breaks during the day. Remember the days when you’d catch your friend in the hallway and chat about the fame last night? Or the side conversations with a coworker? Those mental breaks allow our brains to relax and decompress. These short breaks actually help boost our productivity. We are not wired to stay focused all day and operate at 100% performance. Our brains need the breaks to recharge. It can be tempting during this time to sit back and scroll on your phone. Avoid this if possible! The key here is to get up out of your working space and get a change of scenery. Take mindful breaths and stretch your body. This signals to your body it’s time to relax and recharge.
5) Consider a digital fast
Blue light glass are all the rage and screens that cut down on blue light are popular. Why? Because this light from screens interferes with the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that is key to sleeping. Consider taking hours of time away from all screens at the end of your work day. Perhaps consider creating a no screen zone time or area in your house. It can be tough to step away. These devices are meant to be addictive after all. The break from screens will allow you to feel rejuvenated and more energetic.
These five tips are just a way to get started in prioritizing your mental health. It’s important to remember along with these to continue to engage in the strong foundations of mental health. This includes exercising, socializing, managing stress, eating healthful foods, and doing activities you enjoy.
Oh and here’s a bonus tip: Get out of your PJs! We all know you’re wearing sweatpants during meetings. Show up for yourself and get dressed. It will help your mood.
If you are struggling with a slump during the pandemic began and thought you’d be out of it by now, you’re not alone. A JAMA survey reveals depression prevalence was 3-fold higher during the pandemic. You don’t have to stay in the slump. Feel energetic again. We’re here to help, get started now.
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