How to take care of yourself whilst working from home
As businesses are changing their working arrangements across the country due to the coronavirus and more people now have the flexibility of working from home, there are a few ways that you can set yourself up at home in these uncertain times. By looking after your physical and mental health, whilst still having motivation and fulfilling your tasks, you can still be business as usual.
Have you ever noticed that some days in the office you’re always on, hyper-paced, needing the dopamine hit of news and activity and planning your next meeting or task? That may seem super productive, however, there are also times during the day when you need your respite and rest for your own physical and mental health. Studies show that it is far more beneficial to take proper regular breaks and this has been proven to make us happier and more productive workers.1
When it comes to working from home, setting up a few ground rules will make all the difference to your day to day. It may seem very unfamiliar, whether you’re an introvert who recharges their batteries at home or an extrovert who needs interaction from others, but with careful planning, you can really embrace the swing of this new rhythm of life.
Think about the positives too, no rush hour commute, the ability to work in your comfy home clothes and you don’t even need to show up for face to face meetings unless you do video conferencing.
As someone who has worked from home for the past eight years, I’m sharing some of my tried and tested tips that you can apply to your own home based office to ensure you’re in top-notch shape for the weeks ahead.
Create a welcoming workspace
Make your workspace an oasis and aim for a space with natural light; if it’s gloomy or dark you’ll be less inclined to want to stay there. Bring a few outdoor plants indoors, light a candle, or play some gentle meditation music or if you’re an extrovert play some beats if you want to feel a buzz. You can also place your favourite photograph where you can see it, one that makes you feel happy. Opt for a strong chair, one that is both comfortable and provides you with good back support. You could also try standing more than sitting – consider a standing desk if its available to you. Try and make the space relaxing, have some herbal teas and drink them in your special cup and stay hydrated by always having water on your desk.
Set some healthy boundaries
Maintaining your own boundaries is a crucial element of self-care, and its good to know how and when to switch off and on. It also helps if you live with others, or have friends who want to hang in the ‘new office’. It’s important they understand your boundaries and real working hours, so that you can limit distractions. Re-evaluating your personal boundaries might be worth looking into in this new set up, maybe it’s not to meet with or take calls from clients outside of your “office hours” or not putting clients needs before your own family and yourself on weekends or outside hours. A lack of professional boundaries can sometimes create feelings of overwhelm, anger or resentment. Boundaries that demarcate a clear distinction between your work life and your personal life are helpful when working from home too.
Stick (as closely as you can) to your usual routine
If you’re used to waking up at a certain time when the alarm goes off, just stick with it. Try and do things in the same order as you normally would, shower and get dressed and if you walk to work, go for a walk around the block, if you usually read on the bus, do some reading from a book you would normally take on the journey to work with you, this will help you mentally prepare and get you into the right mindset.
Take regular breaks
Taking a proper lunch break will help to clear your mind and bring a new perspective. It’s a chance to recharge your batteries and give your brain a rest. We underestimate how important it is to take a break. Also eating at your desk is not good for digestion and can lead to overeating and eating too quickly give you reflux and indigestion. It also makes your desk a playground for bacteria.
When you leave your desk and have lunch, try and do it in a different area of the house or outside if you have a garden, place your bare feet on the earth and ground with nature. If you always walk at lunchtime you can still take a short walk or listen to a podcast or meditation on the way.
If you’re keen not to fall asleep at your desk, throughout the day, stand up and stretch at your desk, try and stand up every hour. Also go outside and get some fresh air. If you can’t leave the house, try some peppermint oil – it’s a natural stimulant2, light a candle or do some breathing or meditation. Just take two minutes, close your eyes and listen to your breath, even if it is just breathing for five minutes or being mindful whilst washing up your cup.
During breaks exercise can be beneficial, try stretching or yoga. There are specific yoga poses called asanas to help us energise, lengthen, restore and rest the body. A standing forward bend will help clear the mind. If you’re feeling drained, lie down and place your legs up the wall, settle in child’s pose, or lie down on your back with the soles of your feet together as it can help you release the stored stress in your hips.
If you are struggling at home utilizing self-help groups online or people within your workplace if you need someone to talk to can help.
Place your wellbeing at the top of your priority list
Self-care is a priority and necessity, not a luxury in our current times. Create a wellness toolbox of things that you can do if you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
One of the keys I’ve found to working from home is tune into the way that you think and make sure you’re giving yourself encouragement and positive self talk, especially if you need to get out of a slump. Try to remember that the tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected is not helpful, maintaining a sense of humor can help during those times. If something is not going your way, try not to compare yourself to others, be kind and gentle with yourself and let results happen in their own time. It’s your choice to maintain a sense of control over your own work responsibilities. Writing down your to do list the night before can alleviate night time anxiety. Some people find mantras or positive affirmations useful.
To help you remain calm and effective in high-pressure situations, and help avoid long-term stress problems, mindfulness can help3, aim to zone out twice each day for 10 minutes. You can go directly to your mind, as a large percentage of stress you deal with is in the mind. Resting and relaxing your mind will help you with concentration, energy and alleviate mental fatigue, bringing less stress to your body.
Mindfulness is becoming aware of what’s around us here and now. In fact, it’s the exact opposite to what we normally do: going through our endless tasks, thinking about what we did or didn’t do, worrying about what is still to be done. To be in the here and now, body and mind united, means that we are no longer thinking about what is causing our stress, and then we can start to enjoy what we are doing right now.
How do we reach mindfulness?
To help you manage your stress, I've created a meditation audio for you. It’s a relaxation guide that will help you unwind and combat feelings of stress and anxiety.
You can find the guided meditation below, let me know what you think of it and if it has helped you.
Eat nutritious foods even if you’re working closer to the fridge
Balanced nutrition plays an important role when we are in a different environment or under stress, sometimes stress will make you forget or skip meals and not eat properly, or perhaps you will increase your coffee (caffeine) intake to keep you going if you have an important deadline.
This is where good food and nutrition comes in. Make your meals something you look forward to and don’t forget to eat. And just because you are next to the fridge doesn’t mean you need to keep opening it! Working from home can make constant eating a temptation, constantly picking at foods or eating the wrong foods can affect the blood sugar and your weight.
Try and have a selection of healthy snacks, nuts or fruit on hand for morning and afternoon tea and set regular times for eating. Some snack options for mid morning and afternoon tea include;
• Cut up veggies and hummus • Fresh fruit/avocado/banana • Nuts and trail mix • Healthy muesli bar • Bliss balls or healthy muffins • Rice crackers/seaweed crackers • Tuna/salmon
When you’re working from your new home office, for lunch aim to eat a balanced diet with good fats, protein and vegetables and good sources of carbohydrate; a balanced plate. During this time you might want to increase your intake of ‘immune system enhancing’ nutrients and foods. Never underestimate the power of water, around 8 glasses a day is optimum.
Include some of these immune boosting foods
Try and remember to eat mindfully and slowly – set a 20 minute timer and enjoy your lunch within this time so you chew mindfully and not rushed, ideally you want to get your body into rest and digest mode at lunchtime. Avoid scheduling meetings over the lunch period or have your phone with you to check emails, don’t mix screen time with chewing time! Some other lunch options include the following;
Gut health is important for your mental health and overall wellness, it’s one of the most important components of the body. We interact with it daily and it’s something intricately connected to many aspects of our everyday life.*
OnePath Life Limited (OnePath Life) is committed to deliver market leading mental health and wellness solutions with a focus on service, customer wellness and prevention. The focus on mental health and wellness is at the core to OnePath Life’s proposition. To deliver on our commitment, we have developed a suite of tools, education pieces, and collaborated with partners to provide our customers with the support they may need to facilitate a healthy life. OnePath Life has proudly partnered with Lee Holmes to provide education and nutritional inspiration for our customers to supercharge their health.
NCBI. 2020. [online] Available here [Accessed 15 March 2020].
Akbari, M., 2020. Physiological And Pharmaceutical Properties Of Peppermint As A Multipurpose And Valuable Medicinal Plant. [online] researchgate.net. Available here [Accessed 19 March 2020].
K., Astin, J., Pelletier, K., Levanovich, K., Baase, C., Park, Y. and Bodnar, C., 2014. Mindfulness Goes to Work. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, [online] 56(7), pp.721-731. Available here [Accessed 19 March 2020].
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