One of the things that I love most about working for Recharge is their focus on the conversation surrounding mental health.
With a Slack channel called #stayingconnected, they gave us a safe place to connect during these uncertain times of global pandemic. With a webinar presented by Dr. Therese (CEO & Founder of Exploring Therapy) they gave us the chance to hear from a professional on how we can work to process grief & anxiety and how we can embrace wellness in a Covid-19 world.
With a company-wide Mental Health Day off, they ensured that we were able to take time to disconnect and practice self-care for ourselves without the concerns of work hanging over us.
In my time at Recharge, I have learned quite a bit about practicing positive mental health techniques within a remote workplace – and today I would love to share some of those tools with you as well!
Establish a healthy work/life balance
In the past, people thought that working remotely must be nothing but rainbows and butterflies. That you could get so much more done in your day with limited distractions and need for commute! But with the recent pandemic, more people than ever are working for home and finding the struggle of disconnecting. It can be incredibly hard to set work aside after you’ve logged off for the day when it continues to ‘exist’ within your home. That’s why I recommend taking time to prioritize the following:
- Take lunch away from your desk – It’s so easy to be tempted to take lunch sitting right at your desk and keep plowing through the work day. I know I do it more times than I’d like to admit! But one way to establish a healthy work/life balance is to purposefully take lunch away from your desk. Preferably away from your phone where notifications from the company Slack or email can continue to draw you in, keeping you from fully disconnecting.
- Schedule 15 minutes in your day to go outside and take a walk – When your commute becomes walking from your bed to your desk, it’s easy to catch yourself staying indoors more than ever. By prioritizing a 15 minutes walk in your day, you’re making sure you get outside to breathe the fresh air, receive some Vitamin D and overall shake off the ‘fog’ that can settle in once you’ve been stuck inside for multiple days.
- Establish a “work space” in your home – Not everybody is blessed to have a personal office within their home, but establishing your own workspace is nevertheless incredibly important to being able to disconnect at the end of the day. If you work from your kitchen table or your living room, the temptation to continue to work there even after-hours is heightened. Instead, get a small desk and place it in a corner of a room and make that your official “work space”. When you’ve concluded your work day, shut your laptop down and leave it there. Try to only use that space for work-related purposes. This practice will aid you in being able to disconnect at the end of the day.
- When work is done, clock out – After you’ve concluded your work day, log out! Of everything. Turn off notifications on your phone or your computer if you are not in an “on call” position. Receiving Slack pings that can wait for the morning will always risk swallowing you back in after you’ve already signed off for the day.
Focus on your physical health
For people that work remotely, we’ve all done it. You’ll be going along in your day when suddenly you realize it’s been 2-3 days (or worse!) since you’ve done anything more than walk from your bed to your desk to your couch. And when was the last time you actually changed out of your pajamas? Working from home can make it much harder to take care of yourself physically – but your physical health and well-being is linked very deeply to your mental health, so let’s talk about a few ways to focus on your physical health in a remote work environment.
- Eat healthy – For some of us, GrubHub and meal delivery becomes our regular lunch go-to. For others, it may be a quick frozen meal in the microwave. For others, there may simply be no meal at all until the day has concluded. Working from home, we have a unique opportunity to eat fresh and healthy things – but very rarely do we take it! By eating healthier, we make sure our bodies are being taken care of, which will in turn feed into our mental health care as well.
- Exercise regularly – As stated before, for some of us the most exercise we’ll get in a day are the steps we take walking around our own house. It’s important to make regular exercise a priority. This can be something as simple as going for a walk or doing a yoga session on YouTube – or it can be as intense as a HIIT workout with a streamed fitness class. Listen to your body, and it will tell you what kind of exercise it needs to function the way you wish for it to.
- Establish a morning routine – It’s incredibly easy to get into the habit of rolling straight out of bed and diving directly into work – pajamas, bed head and all! But to support good mental health practice, it’s important that you prepare yourself for the day by establishing a morning routine. Get up, fix your hair, brush your teeth, put on clothes. By getting yourself “ready” for the day, you will be able to focus better at work which will mean you’ll be more productive – which, ultimately, means you’ll be more likely to disconnect at the end of the day, knowing all your tasks and projects are complete.
Work can be a stressful environment – no matter if you work from home or in a cubicle. Finding ways to manage that level of stress, is a very important skill to have. Here are a few suggestions on ways you can work to manage your stress levels:
- Spend time with a loved one – In the age of Covid-19, this may not be as easy as it once was, but thankfully we have a whole world of technology available to us that makes this achievable. If you’re having a stressful day, sometimes the best thing you can do is reach out and connect with someone. Talk about your day with them – or don’t! Whatever your stress needs. Join a Netflix Watch Party and throw on a comedy or a true crime documentary. Disconnect from work and focus on the person you’re with and the time you have with them.
- Practice yoga/tai chi/breathing exercises/meditation – All of these techniques have been proven to reduce stress levels. There are tons of free apps and YouTube videos to be found for beginners all the way through advanced levels! Take some time to explore a new practice that will help you better manage your stress.
- Write it out – Writing out your frustrations, anxieties, fears and stressors is a wonderful way to get them out of your headspace. Don’t feel like it has to flow or make sense. This is for you and you alone. Maybe just write down a few keywords to get them out and on paper. Maybe doodle a picture of how you feel. Maybe do some freeform journaling. Just sit back and let your brain tell you exactly what it needs to get out and onto that paper.
Be kind to yourself
This is perhaps the hardest thing on this entire blog for some people. For a lot of us, when we feel ourselves facing mental health challenges, the first thing we do is begin to beat ourselves up for it. We degrade ourselves and berate ourselves. We apologize to other people for our perceived shortcomings and way of processing. But this kind of behavior is an incredible detriment to a good mental health lifestyle. It’s a very difficult thing to unlearn – but it’s absolutely worth putting the time and effort into. Here’s a few things you can start with:
- Forgive yourself – What is that one thing that you’re holding over yourself? That thing you should have done or those words you never should have said? What is in your past that you still use as a weapon against yourself? Whatever it may be – it’s time to put the work into letting that go. This is in no way an easy task and it may even require the guidance of a professional therapist to help you do so. (I personally recommend looking into betterhelp.com for remote therapy options.) But you will never be able to achieve good mental health until you’re willing to lay down the weapons you’ve been using to beat yourself down with for all these years. It’s time to put in the work.
- Honor your dreams – When we’re a child growing up, we can dream anything! We tell people we’re going to be a movie star…or a doctor…or a horseback rider! But the older we get, the smaller those dreams seem to become. I challenge you to let yourself dream again. Did you want to be a famous artist when you grew up? Take some online art classes! Imagined yourself becoming an Olympic athlete? Start training for a 5K! Enjoyed pretending you were a veterinarian? Volunteer at a local animal shelter. Reach deep down into your inner child and find out what it is that they’re currently dreaming – then honor it!
- Treat yourself – The term “self care” is becoming almost cliche to say at this point in our culture, but it really is a very important part of good mental health. Listen to your heart, mind and body – what are they telling you they need? A long soak in a bubble bath with a glass of wine? A car ride with the windows down and music blasting? A stay-at-home spa day? A gentle yoga session? Your favorite Ben & Jerry’s ice cream? A call with a good friend? Sometimes our bodies & heart need to be comforted and soothed in order for our minds to follow course. So if you’re going through a rough time, give yourself permission to treat yourself!
The remote workplace is a multi-faceted experience. It can seem incredibly isolating. It can feel like there’s no escape from work. It can be difficult to communicate and connect. It can be harder to focus and to process. But by using just a few of these tools and techniques, you can discover the beauty and empowerment of being able to work from home and soon find yourself thriving within the positive mental health benefits that come thereafter.
I wish you all the best in your mental health journey!