Working from Home and Maintaining Mental Health
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
Signs Your Mental Health May Be Suffering
So you’re “living the dream” living and working from home, but somewhere along the way, things started to lose their shine? You are not alone. Working from home comes with various burdens that can be small to start, but the build-up can amount to severe mental health problems over time.
Some of the warning signs that your mental health may be suffering include:
- You are lacking motivation
- You have fallen off the wagon in diet or exercise regimen
- You have difficulty prioritizing work or staying on top of to-do lists
- You are feeling isolated, lonely, or disconnected from the rest of the world
- Your mood and/ or self-worth is low
- You are having insomnia or waking up exhausted
- Unexplained weight gain
Believe it or not, you can find balance while working from home-- with the right tools and support. Finding the groove may take a while when adjusting to spending so much time in the house, but the tips below will help set you up for success.
Tips to Maintain Mental Health While Working from Home
1. Have A Routine
One of the benefits of working from home is undoubtedly the flexibility to flow more with your day. You may not have an exact set start or end time, or a scheduled lunch time, but it’s essential to stick to a schedule to maintain your mental health.
At work, the eyes of your co-workers promotes a certain routine in of itself, the whole office culture does. It can be easy to take a long lunch, sleep in, or spend all day in your pajamas without anyone ever noticing! This will, however, overtime take a toll.
Pretending that there is a certain degree of accountability when it comes to your routine will not only help you keep on top of your work, but it will also give a sense of normalcy with your day.
Having a morning routine that includes some sort of grounding (like sun gazing, earthing, or a short meditation) followed by showering or just getting dressed for the work day. Nourishing yourself properly and then getting into “work mode”, where you start your work day as you normally would in an office.
Set a specific time for lunch to make sure you don’t skip it (or extend it too long), and most importantly: set a time to end your day. It can be very easy to let work take over your life when there is no clear divide between the end of a work day and getting home. So after your work hours are over, put away the work, and get into “home mode”.
A routine to get you out of work mode and into home mode can be very helpful. This could look like a shower, a bath, dancing around the living room, going for a jog-- something that you can do daily to hit the “off” button. In addition, you can change out of your work day clothes, just as a mark that the work day is indeed over!
2. Set Boundaries
Boundaries are essentially your capacity to say no, to enforce your values and priorities. Setting boundaries when working form home is crucial because otherwise it can be very easy to have no distinction between work and home time.
Boundaries play a big role in your routine, because they enforce the routine. For example, having boundaries means learning to say no to answering the phone at 9pm on a work day or on the weekend, when this is your scheduled time off. It may look like many things to different people, but ultimately it’s drawing the line to protect and preserve your mental health.
Some healthy boundaries may include:
Don’t work from the bedroom. Avoid working from the bedroom, ever. This means no phones, computers, or ideally any technology in the bedroom. Instead, keep your bedroom a sanctuary where you can relax—and where the body knows it won’t be stimulated by work activities.
Don’t work after work hours. Put the computer and work phone away, and know that although you work from home, it does not mean you are on-call 24/7. You can set an automated e-mail to reply to e-mails after work hours saying that you will be back in office the following day, if need be, or set your phone on ‘do not disturb’ mode.
Don’t informally socialise during the work day. Another problem is diluting your work day with activities that should be done off-work hours. Spending lots of time on social media, catching up with friends, or playing with the kids may seem tempting, but it will throw off your work-home balance. Getting clear on when it’s time to work, and when it’s time to play can help make sure you are fully present, for each.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you can also perform all the home-tasks during your workday. Your partner or roommates may assume you can also finish the laundry, sign for the package, or do the dishes. The reality is that work time should be considered as if you are not home. Finding ways to navigate the home tasks should be done by all parties, during off-work hours.
Get outside and go for walks during the day. Although we live in times where socializing is made more difficult, it is important to make the effort to see friends or family in person or schedule face calls to catch up.
Spend sincere time connecting with all humans you cross paths with, including delivery people, anyone serving you in a store or gas station. Working from home can make you feel very isolated, so any opportunity for genuine human contact should not be taken for granted! Get to know your neighbors, focus on eye contact and connection whenever you see people (instead of walking around with your neck cranked down looking into your phone).
If many people from your office are working from home, you could consider scheduling an friday after-work online drinks, where everyone meets on an online call to catch up and unwind at the end of the week.
4. Move Your Body
Although you should distinguish between work and play, one of the benefits that you should absolutely take advantage of while working from home is to move more. Since you are not travelling to the office, why not go for a walk or a short bike ride before the start of and at the end of the day? You can also take a break at lunch to get outside and stretch in the grass, or get some sun on your skin.
Working from home can also mean more flexibility about your actual work space. Changing positions (not just sitting on a chair at a desk all day) is great for your biomechanics. Try sitting on the floor on a low table, spend some time standing, or taking your work call while walking around the block.
Anytime you take a bathroom break you could spend five minutes stretching or eating in the front yard! Sneaking in some ways to move and connect with nature will help keep you motivated and focused.
Some fantastic supplements can help you deal with new or chronic stress. Adaptogens are one example; these substances are literally defined in herbalism by their capacity to help individuals adapt to stress—Adaptogens work by helping the body find homeostasis, which builds resilience.
One of our favorites is Biotonic adaptogenic tonic
Biotonic targets Digestion and Aids Detoxification. Biotonic™ contains organically grown traditional Chinese tonic herbs which complement Biocidin® with nutritional support for the gastrointestinal tract, liver, and adrenaIn addition, these tonic botanicals help strengthen the body’s defenses, and are indicated when detoxing or cleansing herbs are used for extended periods.
- High potency adaptogens support the HPA axis & reduce fatigue.
- Includes Artemisia for support in cleansing programs.
- Chinese tonic herbs restore and revitalize the vital energy or Qi.*
- Organically grown, lab tested for impurities.
A Final Note
Note: Take these recommendations with a grain of salt. The benefits of working from home do include flexibility. Finding a healthy balance between rigidity and flexibility is a part of life, but if you find yourself having slipped too far into difficulties with a work life balance, consider stronger boundaries to start. As you find the flow of working from home, you can be more flexible with your routine and habits!
The key is really individualizing your day to work for you. This may look like sleeping in, doing home chores during the way, or socializing more than you normally would during the work day. But it’s important to know when you’re in work mode, and when you aren’t. This distinction is so important so that you can get the most out of both times!
Working from home is a double edged sword. For every benefit, there can be a slippery slope into trouble, resulting in various mental health issues like feeling isolated, unmotivated, lethargic, and even trigger physical health issues like weight gain and insomnia. Finding balance is possible, by implementing a routine, keeping strong boundaries, making the effort to socialize, moving more, and considering some adaptogenic supplements to help buffer the stress.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based upon the opinions of Revelation Health. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Revelation Health and associates. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD for accuracy of the information provided, but Revelation Health encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.