Working from Home? 10 Tips to Keep you Productive and Grounded
By Molly Sherb, PhD, psychologist
After 10 months of working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it remains challenging for many to adjust and cope with the new routine, or lack thereof. If this situation is making you feel down, you are not alone. This pandemic has led to a rise in mental health conditions around the world. Even if you are fortunate to have kept your job, the new demands of WFH can be mentally taxing. You can be grateful for what you have, yet recognize that this is a very difficult time.
It is important to bring awareness to your mental wellbeing just as you would to any physical condition. Below, Molly Sherb, PhD, our psychologist at the The Health Center at Hudson Yards, outlines some strategies for coping with any symptoms of stress, fear, anxiety, depression, or other emotions that you may be experiencing:
1. Create a commute
It can be helpful to establish a routine for your work days, including simulating a “commute” at the beginning and end of the work day. This can help to create a physical or psychological transition from home life to work life.
- A “commute” could include walking outside in the morning to get your cup of coffee instead of making it at home.
- Take a 10 minute walk to signal the start and stop of the day.
- When you take this walk, pay attention to your surroundings, and use your attention to stay focused on the present moment. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell?
Focusing on your physical surroundings can help you re-center and ground yourself.
2. Establish a routine
Establishing a routine as you continue to work from home may pose its challenges.
- Take small steps by picking one thing each day you would like to do in a structured way.
- Pick that one item as your point of structure and let the rest of the day unfold as it may.
- Once you have been successful with structuring that one task, you can move on to incorporating something else.
Eventually these individual tasks will build into an entirely structured day. It is also important to be flexible and patient with yourself, as not every day will allow for such structure.
3. Be intentional about news consumption
Staying informed is important; however, it can be helpful to be intentional about your news consumption. Continuous exposure to stressful information can cause anxiety.
- Be thoughtful about when you are watching the news, and the amount of time you spend watching the news
- If you do find yourself watching the news frequently and you find that this causes you stress and anxiety, perhaps avoid checking it before a work meeting or call.
- If you do watch something stressful, make sure to spend time afterwards engaging in some type of self-care or self-soothing activity to bring yourself back to baseline.
4. Set boundaries around your work schedule
When working from home, it can be easy to feel like you are living at work.
- Work with your team to establish norms about working hours and response times outside of those hours.
- Have open and honest conversations regarding expectations and how if at all, these expectations have shifted since working from home.
- Communicate with co-workers and allow for flexibility for co-workers who may be responsible for childcare or schooling during the traditional work day.
5. Incorporate mindful moments into your work meetings
There are many tasks throughout the day that can consume each minute of the day.
- Use your meeting times to check in and ask colleagues how they are taking care of themselves.
- You can also use either the first minute of a meeting or the last minute of a meeting as a “mindful minute” where you spend one minute in silence focusing on your breath and grounding yourself for the day ahead.
6. Identify what is in your control
Within the context of a situation that is largely out of your control, it’s important to identify what is in your control.
- This could include a shift in your perspective, working to manage your emotions, or taking a few moments for yourself (even if it’s just minutes).
- It’s important to conserve energy in a time that can feel incredibly exhausting.
Conducting an analysis of “in my control” items versus “out of my control” will help you to determine where your energy is best spent.
7. Stay connected with others virtually
While you may be physically distant from others, prioritize virtual connections through phone calls, video calls, and other distanced activities.
- Check in with your friends and family. You can use these calls to discuss some of your stressors OR as a simple distraction from your stressors.
- Engage in fun activities with your friends through Zoom. Be creative! You might even consider signing up for an online Zoom class with a friend where you learn a new skill (i.e, cooking classes, art classes, writing classes etc.)
8. Get outside
If feasible, getting outside for a brisk walk (wearing a surgical or multi-layer cloth mask) or exercising can help reduce or alleviate stress, as well as improve your physical health.
9. Take care of your body and emotional health
- Continue to adhere to mitigation strategies including masks, hand hygiene, and social distancing.
- If you are having a hard time, talk to your friends and family or seek advice from a trained therapist.
10. Remember to laugh
Laughing has tremendous healing powers and given the current state of the world, there are not as many natural opportunities for laughter.
- Work to create these moments by listening to your favorite stand up comedian or watching your favorite comedy tv show/movie.
- Call a friend who makes you laugh.
It is important to remember that everyone copes with stress differently. Continue to check in on your co-workers, friends, and family, especially those who may be isolated. The CDC has developed additional guidance, recommendations, and resources for coping with stress during this time.
If experiencing a mental health crisis or common symptoms of depression like appetite change, lack of feeling enjoyment, and sleep disturbance, consult your healthcare professional. If you are a member of The Health Center, please contact our Personal Health Navigators at 646.819.5100 to discuss options for seeking care.
If in need of immediate help, please don’t hesitate to visit your nearest emergency room or call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, which is available 24 hours a day in English and Spanish.
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