Protecting Your Mental Health When Working From Home

As different industries adapt to rapidly changing circumstances throughout the year, many employees are continuing to work from home. This is obviously an adjustment when you’re used to working from an office, and a lot of advice (like setting a schedule) focuses on staying productive while at home. While this is important, it’s also important to take care of your mental health while you work at home. Here are some strategies to help you manage long-term remote work.

When you work from home and your travel plans have been postponed or canceled, it might seem like there’s no reason to schedule time off. However, it’s important to account for the fact that you’re living through a period of stress, even if things don’t always feel acutely stressful.

Taking time off breaks you out of your routine and gives you a chance to unplug and recharge. You may not even realize how stressed you are until you’ve had an extra day or two to focus on yourself. You also might find that once you’ve had a chance to focus on resting, you’ll have a better outlook once you return to work. Plus, making time to care for yourself tends to increase your productivity. It doesn’t just benefit you — taking time off helps your coworkers, too.

When you’re working from home it’s easy to make excuses not to leave your home. But when your home and your office are one and the same, home can become a stressful environment instead of a relaxing one. Over time, stressful environments can lead to anxiety and feelings of sadness or helplessness. Even if you aren’t too stressed at home, it’s still a good idea to get outside and enjoy nature.

Research shows that natural environments decrease stress. Being exposed to nature can reduce anger and fear as well and contributes to emotional and physical wellbeing. In fact, it can even reduce your blood pressure, muscle tension, heart rate, and stress hormones. You may not be able to squeeze in a nature retreat every day, but you can still reap some of the same benefits just by adjusting your decor. Try adding a plant or facing your desk toward a window to improve your environment.

If your office is right next to your couch, it’s easy to roll over and check that email that came in even though it’s after hours. Feeling as though you have to check in constantly is one of the more difficult aspects of working remotely. The lack of separation between home and office can blur the lines of a work-life balance.

To help with this, consider turning on “Do Not Disturb” mode and setting your phone down for a while. Then focus on a pleasurable activity that isn’t staring at your phone: reading, journaling, catching up with a friend, cooking…there are no shortage of ways to relax. Find at least one activity that makes you feel relaxed, then set your phone down and go do it! Making a point of stepping away from your phone and computer can do wonders for your mental health, even if it’s just a short break.

This of course isn’t an exhaustive list of ways to deal with stress, though they can help. It’s okay to not feel okay during such a stressful period, but that also makes it more important than ever to take steps to care for your mental wellbeing.

Union Square Media is a digital advertising agency.