Working from home certainly has benefits on a cost-saving level, as well as promoting togetherness in families. In fact, a recent survey conducted by All Things Hair found that over half of all people polled felt that working from home had improved their overall well-being, while more than 40% of those polled said that their daily routines had improved just by working from home.
But at what cost to wellbeing, balance, and mental health? More than 30% of those polled felt that working from home had, in fact, negatively impacted their lives and their mental health. This could be attributed to the increased workloads that work-from-home parents are now experiencing, with some employers taking the stance that less commute clearly equals more work.
This is a corporate culture that needs to be changed, according to Arianna Huffington, an American-Greek entrepreneur, mother, author, and international influencer. This article examines the pros and cons of working from home, and offers some common-sense advice to manage your new normal.
How the pandemic changed the working landscape to create a new normal
It’s impossible to pour from an empty cup, as the old saying goes. Self-care has become a vital necessity as the world adapts to working from home. And it’s not just about getting enough exercise, either.
In the old days, you got up to take the kids to school, did your commute to work, finished up your day, picked up the kids, and went home to take care of your family and personal life. Those lines no longer exist from a structural point of view.
And with the blurring of the lines comes much more worry, stress, and pressure. For instance, how do you keep a 2-year-old active, silent, and happy during a Zoom meeting with your manager?
In addition to the structural changes and keeping your home life separate from your work life comes time management and division of workload challenges. The freedom to choose the hours you work can actually create more stress and pressure when you are overwhelmed by too many things to do at once.
How Working From Home is Affecting our Mental Health
It’s become increasingly clear that working from home in an unstructured environment can leave you feeling overwhelmed, confused, and stressed. The virus has taken its toll on mental health, where almost half of all adults polled agree that the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
There just is no precedent for this pandemic and how you should be responding to it. There is no leadership, support, or guidelines that can help you navigate the troubled waters, lead your people, or steer your company.
Where once before we were able to rely on structure to help us get through any given day, those structures no longer exist or have been replaced by “the new normal” – and we’re expected to just deal with it. Parents no longer have the headspace to deal with these kinds of issues, and may find themselves short-tempered, anxious, and decidedly overwhelmed by the enormity of the pressures they’re feeling on the home front.
These pressures and stressors could negatively affect your mental health and leave you with very little motivation to continue. There are, however, some common-sense strategies you can adopt that will help you thrive in these pandemic times. It begins with a mindset change, but it’s not what you think it is.
10 Ways To Boost Your Mental Health When Working From Home
The structure we once took for granted also helped us determine how and in what time frames we would eat, sleep, play, and learn. But as more and more teams go global remotely, those time blocks are also falling away, replaced by schedules that don’t conform to the norm as we dial in to other timezones.
Working 80-hour weeks and staying plugged in for fear of missing out on something is actually contributing to you missing out on a work-life balance that’s critical to not just your physical health, but your mental health and well-being, too.
Self-care is key to coping with our new ways of working
Before the pandemic overwhelmed the world, Huffington was working 80-hour weeks – just like any other entrepreneur would – as an editor-in-chief for Huffington Post. But while others like Elon Musk could manage those hours, Arianna’s wake-up call came out of the blue one day when she collapsed at her desk, exhausted.
Waking up with a broken cheekbone, Arianna realized the time had come to change her ways of working if she was to have any kind of life at all. Almost overnight, Arianna resigned her position at Huffington Post (now HuffPost) and began her wellness brand, Thrive Global.
Thrive Global’s mission is to help companies reduce employee stress and burnout, and improve employee resilience, by using behavior-change technology to make positive life changes. But changing your ways of working is not just about changing your habits and behavior; it’s a mindset change, too.
While it’s true that the pandemic has raised stress levels amongst those working from home, there are many that were already feeling the pressure, close to burnout, even before the pandemic, says Arianna. The pandemic has really just highlighted the need for self-care even more than before, and helping people recognize their stress triggers is vital to maintaining balance, well-being, and overall mental health.
However, Arianna maintains that the pandemic has also given us a chance to learn to take better care of ourselves, to get more sleep, and to find that balance in the process. Remote ways of working can affect your health in more ways than you realize. Fortunately, there are ways to boost your mental health so you can find the balanced life your new normal needs, and guide you to develop strategies that ease anxiety, relieve some pressure, and take a load off your shoulders.
Boost your mental health with these 10 ways to manage your new normal when working from home and learn how to function on a more balanced level than ever before.
It’s possible for the most-experienced and most influential people to experience burnout, just as Arianna did. By implementing self-care habits and routines, you can learn to balance the priorities you now have to manage, and cope with your new ways of working.
Neuroscience studies suggest that it’s possible to ‘course-correct’ in times of stress and takes as little as 60-90 seconds. In fact, Arianna uses these microsteps to simply focus on her breathing rhythm for 60 seconds.
By doing this, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system which lowers your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Use this microstep to reset your system during the day, even while in meetings, and to prepare yourself for the next challenge.
Habit-Stack Your Gratitude
Research here suggests that one way to create a new (healthy) habit that’s built on an old one is through what researchers are calling “habit stacking”. To attach a new habit onto an old one, simply do them in tandem (at the same time) until you are ready to get rid of the old one.
For instance, Arianna uses this technique while brushing her hair or teeth. She takes these few moments to quietly reflect on the aspects of her life that she is grateful for.
By focusing on the good aspects and the things that you’re grateful for, you eliminate negative thoughts and feelings and replace them with feel-good emotions and gratitude, which boosts your serotonin levels. Serotonin is, of course, nature’s own ‘happy pill’, and is vital to your mental health and well-being.
Schedule Active Time
Remaining active while working from home is essential to not just your physical health, but your mental health, too. In addition to this, exercise also boosts your serotonin levels, relieves stress, minimize anxiety, and improve your mood until long after your workout has ended.
For best results, get at least 30 minutes per week of high-energy activities like running, dancing, and spinning into your schedule. This includes activities such as yoga, jogging, skipping, spring-cleaning (Yes, really!), and Tai Chi.
Release the FOMO
While staying informed is vital to remaining aware of your environment, the fear of missing out – or FOMO – can result in doom-scrolling through your feed. Without knowing it, you could be slowly diminishing your own happiness and actually adding to your stress.
Instead, use these quick microsteps to remain informed, but not let it overwhelm you:
- Track your media usage and time online with a productivity-tracking app like RescueTime. The more aware you become of your negative social media habits, the easier they become to change.
- Acknowledge your addiction to your device and the FOMO aspects of using it. Mobile devices shatter the boundaries between your work and personal life and intensify burnout, says Arianna. Understand why you ‘need to know’ so desperately, and learn to let go.
- Set a screen-time limit before bed. Auto shutdown is pretty standard in most mobile devices, and will help you set healthy screen time boundaries so you can let go of the day’s worries and to-do lists.
- Keep technology out of the bedroom so you’re not tempted to check your social media one last time before switching off the lights. Research suggests that the more people use social media platforms like Facebook, the more unhappy they become.
- Don’t let ‘Corona-somnia’ keep you awake and doom-scrolling until you’re exhausted. Choose a bedtime, and stick to it.
Get More Restful Sleep
It is estimated that around 70 percent of people who reported feeling stressed in the last month also experienced trouble sleeping. Sleep deprivation is connected to lowered immunity, heart problems, and depression and anxiety. Using these tips can help you rest easier while reducing stress:
Manage Your Morning Routine
Plan your closet and your clothes for the day well in advance by keeping an eye on your calendar and the events and meetings you have lined up for the week. This gives you plenty of time to take care of wardrobe mishaps such as missing buttons or last week’s accidental gravy spills, and helps you feel more prepared and more in control of your day.
Boost Your Mood By Doing Your Hair
You can institute positive thoughts throughout your day, but nothing beats the quiet serenity you feel when you’re being pampered. Pamper yourself by taking time to do your hair.
And just as Arianna suggested, use this time to reflect on all the good things going on at the moment. Not only will you look good when you’re finished doing your hair, but you’ll feel good, too.
Eat The Right Foods
Mental health begins with physical health, and eating the right foods. Use the healthy eating pyramid to plan your meals properly so you get all the essential vitamins and minerals a balanced meal can give you. Top off your meal with some dark chocolate, which is said to contain many mood-enhancing ingredients including serotonin and flavonoids.
Ask for help when you really need it
At the end of the day, you are just one person, trying to take on many roles all at once now that you’re working from home. Almost overnight, you’ve had to become a parent, teacher, caregiver, after-care center, and still find the time and energy to earn a living.
As the old adage goes, it really does take a village to raise a child. Feeling overwhelmed at times is to be expected, given the times we’re living in. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your village (support circle) when you really need it.
Be The Change You Wish To See
“As leaders, we have to change burnout culture,” says Arianna. Putting the right policies in place is crucial to preventing burnout. Understanding that your employees need to take time out to process and manage their new roles is the first step to creating a corporate culture that values its employees above all else, and recognizes their contributions to be valuable.