By: Vanessa Sullivan FPQP™️
The coronavirus outbreak has abruptly changed millions of office workers into work from home employees. While the idea of staying in your PJ’s all day is alluring at first, as the days and weeks count on, it can be hard psychologically to deal with the challenges of social isolation. Below, I share some of my top tips on how to stay mentally strong during these difficult times, I hope you find them helpful!
Listen to music: Put on some feel good, upbeat music when you’re feeling sluggish or overthinking. I personally use upbeat music when I’m doing subscription documents, paperwork, and data entry work. When I need to really focus and tune in to more tedious work, like tax documents 😊, I put on Pandora’s station “Studying Music” it’s really relaxing, but not in a sleepy way. I tune in and fly through those documents!
Don’t use the TV as background noise: I suggest staying away from this. Because we are all staying at home for the next few weeks, you have plenty of time to watch TV and catch up on shows. It’s extremely important to separate working at home from hanging out at home. If you have the space in your house/apartment to create a separate your work area, please take advantage of that! It’s best not to work from the couch in front of a TV for 8 hours, and then close your laptop and continue watching TV for the rest of the night.
Take Breaks: It was really hard for me the first few days to stop working! It would be 3-4 PM and I'd realized I didn’t stop to take a lunch break. If you find that’s happening to you, set an alarm on your phone and force yourself to break for lunch or take a “coffee break” once or twice during the day.
Don’t feel bad about taking a break: Don’t be hard on yourself! You would normally be taking these breaks by getting up and going to internal meetings multiple times a day. You need to reset your mind and get your eyes looking around and focused on something other than the same 1 or 2 screen(s) for 4+ hours at a time.
Set your work hours: Unless there is something pressing happening at night that you need to respond to, try to avoid opening your computer from 8-11 PM to chip away at work just because you’re bored. Keep. Your. Work. Hours. Set. Make sure to honor the set schedule so you can recharge your mind, body, and soul! Working from home does not mean working around the clock.
Diet: What you eat impacts your productivity. Figure out what you’re eating for the day before it’s 2 PM and you’re starved for lunch. TIP: Wake up in the morning at least one hour earlier than you plan to start working. Have a cup of coffee or tea and set your intention for the day with your meals and snacks. Also, try to snack healthy throughout the work day. Periodic and healthy snacking will help avoid significant dips of blood sugar levels which means low productivity. Plus, you don’t want to eat 80% of the snacks you’ve stocked up on! (Made that mistake myself on day 1…) Enjoy a treat post work hours – you’ve earned it!
Attire: Some people enjoy working in sweats and PJ's, and that’s completely fine! Enjoy not needing to iron your shirts for work! However, you may find after a week or two that it is not so great for your mental health. Some people benefit more from getting dressed, doing their hair/makeup, etc. Figure out which one works better for you by trying both and seeing if your day was better one way versus the other. I’ve noticed that when I get fully done up it boosts my mood! If you’re feeling down, try that! Gel your hair, put on nice clothes, put on some jewelry – whatever you would normally do if you were heading into the office. Give yourself some normalcy during these times. It may help, even if it sounds silly to get dressed up and go nowhere - try it!
News Time: Limit your news time. The important updates will be released and you’ll be in the loop, I promise. Try to avoid listening/watching the news 24/7 – it can be stressful! Stay informed, stay aware, but don’t feed any fears or anxieties that may be building up over the weeks. What you can manage will vary from person to person, know yourself and adjust accordingly. Some people feel better when they are more informed, others it may find information overload anxiety producing. No judgment either way - but take ownership of your predisposition and think about which approach will benefit you the most.
Connect with others: Facetime, Microsoft Teams, call people you haven’t talked to in a while from college or clubs, see how other people are doing and coping. Stay connected with as many people as you can. They may need you just as much as you need them. Win-Win!
Focus on you: My last piece of advice is to brainstorm projects around the house. It’s important to work hard for the company all day, and still feel motivated to work on your personal goals when the day is over. For example, my boyfriend and I are cleaning out the guest room. It unfortunately has turned into a storage unit… So we’re sorting through one box each night. At lunch if I need a break I’ll spend some time cleaning out my closet – swapping out the winter clothes for spring/summer clothes, etc. I’ve also been watching Tidying up with Marie Kondo on Netflix and it has motivated me to completely reorganize my kitchen cabinets.
Given my background in sports psychology I’m a big proponent of the team staying mentally tough together. It's more important now than ever to keep communication strong with your manager and colleagues while you are working in separate locations. Hopefully these are useful tips. If you would like to discuss further, I am happy to be a resource, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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