Karepsych

Working from home tips: My secret to maintaining good mental health

Tamara G

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Our Melbourne based practice manager Tamara shares her thoughts and tips to maintaining good mental health during the recent Covid19 lockdown in Victoria.

I think that we can all agree that working from home, if it is new to you, can be an incredibly difficult thing to adjust to. We all tend to have our routines and our set ways. The ways in which we have learned to navigate our day to day life and COVID-19 has thrown a spanner in the works of almost all of these for almost all of us.

Don’t get me wrong, at first it seemed there were some definite perks to working from home; no long commute, no one else’s lunch stinking up the office, no need to change out of my pyjamas, and more time in the comfort of my own home around my animals, but I quickly found that these were not perks and that I needed the structure to function.

So, for those of you that are still trying to navigate having a work life balance whilst making your office your home, here are some working from home tips that I have found have kept me sane and saved my mental health (thus far!).

Go to work

If you normally would have taken 30 minutes to get ready and then 30 minutes to get to work use that time the same way you would have previously. I found the biggest shift in my mental health was when I stopped rolling out of bed 4 minutes before I was supposed to start work and instead prepared myself as if I was going to work. Wearing the same sort of outfits that I would have normally worn to the office and continuing my standard skincare regime made me feel like a functioning member of society, even if I wasn’t able to go into the office to show off how put together I was.

I then use the other 30 minutes before work to go for a walk with my favourite podcast as if I am on my daily commute. If the weather is rubbish outside I grab the vacuum or the mop and find something to keep me moving for half an hour with my headphones in before I get into the ‘office’.

starting work with coffee

Have an office

Easier said than done I know! Not everyone has a spare room waiting around, devoid of clutter, just waiting for a global pandemic to come along, but if Bear Grylls and Corona have taught us anything it is “Improvise. Adapt. Overcome”.

Find a corner wherever you can and make that your workspace. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT roam aimlessly around the house on your laptop from bed to couch to dining table. This will confuse your already muddled brain and it won’t know if you are about to get some work done or engage in a Netflix marathon. Sit down in your designated ‘office’ and as tempting as it may be to put a load of washing on or to get dinner sorted early trust me and just don’t.

On your lunch break take yourself for a walk, or just sit out in the yard with a sandwich and be outside of your home if possible. If not, read a good book. Sunlight, fresh air and turning your brain off for a while are key. When you’re ready, head back to work and finish the day so you can go home.

Go home

I like many other people find this to be the part of my day I most look forward to in my work life but it is far harder to “go home” when you have been there all day. Even if my Jedi-mind-trick-faux-office had you so convinced that you were living life pre-pandemic, it can still be tricky to unwind from work when you can see said office eyeing you menacingly from your dining table. Do not look back until the morning. It will still be there waiting.

If you have a dog now would be an amazing time to take it for a walk and re-enact the work commute in reverse, but with far better company. I personally do not have this luxury so I like to go and change into something other than my uncomfortable work clothes (ahhhh instantly I feel more relaxed) and head straight to the kitchen and start prepping dinner as I normally would when I get home from work so as not to lose momentum.

Unwind

This can be the hardest part when your home and work become one. It’s hard to focus on work when you are at home and its certainly hard to relax when you’re in your office at 9.30pm on a Wednesday night.

There are plenty of easy ways to practice some mindfulness and self-love that can help you to unwind after a long day sitting at the dining room table – I mean ‘office’. I like to start with the aforementioned outfit change and home cooked meal before diving into a Netflix rabbit hole.

I have, however, realised post-working-from-home that I have had to add in a few additional steps into my night time routine to quieten my pesky human-contact starved mind. This for me can be as simple as doing a quick guided meditation on the headspace app or doing a gentle yoga workout to relax my muscles, unwind my mind and carve out a little me time to actively show myself some kindness.

Above all else, know that we are not all in the same boat together but we are all in the same storm together. Reach out to friends and family, colleagues and neighbours and just have a chat. It is one of the simplest things to do but it makes the largest difference in not feeling so isolated in such a confusing time.