By Jo Howarth, Founder and Director, The Happiness Club
Working from home sounds like the idyllic life, doesn’t it?
Being able to be there more often with our families, not having to commute, being able to sit out in the garden when the sun is shining during the day instead of being stuck in an office. It all sounds perfect.
But many people are finding that working from home isn’t always as idyllic as it sounds. In fact, it can bring new and unexpected challenges. It can be harder to switch off from work, it can lead to an increase in micro-managing and additional pressure from managers and ourselves to get more done now that we don’t have that commute and so on.
It has become increasingly important to be able to look after your mental health and wellbeing while you’re working from home and this article is here to help you learn exactly how to do that.
So where do we start?
For me boundaries are the ultimate form of self-care. Deciding what we will and won’t accept, from ourselves and from others, setting those boundaries, acknowledging them and then upholding them is the ultimate way of looking after yourself. Start by making a list of all those things you will and won’t accept, about how people treat you, about how they speak to you, about how you treat yourself and how you speak to yourself and so on. But also build in the boundaries around your working practice. What hours will you accept working, when will you accept being contacted, how will you accept being contacted?
And now comes the hard part. Upholding those boundaries. If you have promised yourself you will work from 9 am until 5pm then make sure you don’t start any earlier and do your best to finish on time. If you have decided you will take an hour for your lunch break then do your best to honour that (and eating lunch at your desk doesn’t count as a lunch break, just so you know). Make sure you communicate these to your colleagues so they know if they try to message you at 6pm or 8pm then you won’t pick it up until 9am the next day. If you need help to uphold that boundary then put your work phone on top of a shelf at the end of your working day and don’t look at it again until you start work the next day. You absolutely have the right to your downtime, and indeed if you don’t take that downtime then you could easily end up in that place of stress and overwhelm.
How else can we look after our mental wellbeing while we’re working from home?
By taking regular breaks. Breaks are ridiculously important things. If you keep going and going and going then YOU will break so make sure you build regular short breaks into your schedule. Even if it’s only for five minutes, to get up and stretch your legs, walk away from your desk, go outside if you can, breathe some fresh air, move your body and think about something other than work. Your brain needs time to digest and process. Taking breaks will make you more productive, not less.
Stop trying to do all the things all at once! We are told that multi-tasking is a necessity in today’s world if we want to get everything done. I say boo to that. Monotasking is where it’s at. Doing one thing until it’s finished and then moving on to the next thing, sounds like it will take you longer to complete all the tasks, but I promise it will make you more productive AND you will do all the things better. Ever tried rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time? It’s hard to do huh? It takes way more concentration, focus and energy to do and you don’t do either as well as when you just do one of them. That’s what multi-tasking does. Make your to-do list and then work through it one job at a time.
You have at your disposal one of the most powerful relaxation tools ever. Your breath. We totally take our breath for granted, we let it do its’ thing automatically and don’t really pay it much attention. But your breath holds within it the power to relax your entire system, to calm your mind and bring your body back to a place of rest. The direct opposite of the stress response is the relaxation response and your breath can get you to a place of relaxation faster and more effectively than any other tool I know. Plus, it’s completely free into the bargain! Take a moment now, close your eyes and take a long, slow, deep breath in through your nose. Hold that breath for a couple of seconds and then slowly breathe it out through your mouth, feel it releasing. Then open your eyes. Feels good huh? Calmer, easier, more relaxed. Now imagine doing 5 or 10 or 20 of those at various points throughout your day. You can use it when you realise you’re feeling overwhelmed but also don’t wait until you’ve reached that point. Do it on purpose several times throughout your day, pre-empt the need to, get ahead of the curve, click yourself into relaxation as often as you can during your day and reap the benefits.
My last tip to help you look after your mental health is to actively practice appreciation. We take so many things around us in our lives for granted, things that have always been there, things that are just part of the furniture (and that includes the actual furniture) so that we walk past them with blinkers on every day and pay them no attention. But there is so much to appreciate about all those things and appreciation is one of the purest, most positive emotions you will ever experience so why would you not choose to experience it every day?
My favourite appreciation exercise is to sit down at the end of each day, reflect back over that day and find as many things as I can from that day to be glad about. I make a big list, let me give you a short demo:
Today I am glad that the sun was shining
I am glad that I sat in the peace of the early morning with my puppy
I am glad we listened to the birds singing
I am glad that I ate good food all day
I’m glad I got to spend time with my husband and my daughters
I’m glad I got to write this article
I’m glad I worked with some clients
And so on. Set yourself the target of finding at least five things every day to be glad about and watch how much more you start to appreciate everything around you.
There are so many simple ways in which you can look after your own mental health, even whilst working from home, the key is to understand how important it is to do that and to make the commitment to yourself to do it. YOU are important and you deserve to look after yourself.
About the author
Jo Howarth launched The Happiness Club five years ago to critical acclaim. With a focus on online support, she runs her six-figure business, helping to support and impact the lives of both school children and professionals. Having experienced a difficult childhood herself, it was only when she underwent counselling years later, she realised it was possible to unlearn everything she’d previously been told. Now trained as an Advanced Hypnotherapist and Qualified Mindfulness Practitioner, her aim is to spread a global happiness revolution.
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