For anyone who is working from home, staying focused and on task all while keeping your mind fresh and firing on all cylinders can be a struggle — especially if you're used to working in a typical office. It can be hard to separate work life and home life when both of those occupy the same space. It's far too easy to have days where you end up working 15 hours without taking a break or have days where you get so distracted by everything your home has to offer that you end up slipping behind on your work.
There is no one answer for how to work from home properly, but taking care of your mental health and keeping your mind active and fresh is a big part of having success. While there are a ton of different methods to do this and not every method will work for everyone, here are some tips for taking care of your mental health while working from home.
Keeping your mind calm and centered can be a challenge at all times, but when working from home, a scattered mind can kill your productivity and make you feel stressed or anxious. Meditation can help you relax in times of stress, get to sleep when you're restless, and more.
They are a ton of great Meditation apps out there that allow you to take a break and focus on yourself and how you're feeling. Many popular meditation apps like Headspace (opens in new tab) and Calm (opens in new tab) have a ton of different types of guided mediation that can last for three, five, ten or more minutes, allowing you to rest your mind for however long you deemed necessary. Most apps have at least a 7-day free trial before the monthly (or yearly) subscription kicks in, so you can try them out and see how you like them.
If money is an issue, or you don't want to add yet another subscription service, there are a ton of guided mediation videos on YouTube that you can access for free.
You'll have to search around a bit to find the ones you like, but both Calm and Headspace put out some content on their YouTube channels, which is likely an excellent place to start. The critical thing to remember is that meditation is a useful tool to refresh your mind and give yourself a break from your work and lets you step away from your desk.
Exercise at home
Exercise is an essential part of any healthy lifestyle and its not just good at keeping your body in shape, exercise helps your brain and is great for your overall mental health.
I know working out at home can be a tad tricky — I live in and work in a small apartment — but there are a ton of great resources available for all skill levels, and you can workout with absolutely no equipment. Plently of apps exist to help you work out at home with no equipment. I have had some pretty great success with the Nike Training Club (opens in new tab), which offers a ton of free workouts for all skill levels and usually no equipment — except for a yoga mat — is needed.
Once again, YouTube can be another great resource. There are thousands of videos of at-home workouts you can try, and with a little time investment, you can likely make your own playlist of a bunch of different videos you love. The key is to do some sort of exercise throughout the day, even if it's just for a few minutes.
Go for a walk
This may seem like a completely stupid suggestion, but you will not believe what going for a walk outside can do for your mind. I live in a place that has in a cold climate in the winter— Canada — and except for on the coldest days, I bundle up and go for a walk outside every day for at least 5 minutes.
Not only is walking getting your body moving, and providing light exercise, getting out in the sun gives you Vitamin D, and the fresh air will also feel amazing to breathe in. Most importantly, this gives you a great excuse to give your brain a rest from the work you were doing. Even a small break like this can help your mind refresh and not feel like it's running a marathon all day.
Pomodoro Technique (scheduled work time and break time)
Scheduling work time and break time is important for your mental health — you can't expect yourself to be able to work every second of your workday, because your brain will lose focus. One popular way of managing your time is the Pomodoro Technique, and it's pretty simple.
The Pomodoro Technique is meant to give you 25 minutes of focused work time, followed by a short break. After you've taken four short breaks, you get a longer break, and then repeat the process until your workday is done. You don't even need anything fancy to accomplish the Pomodoro Technique, the simple timer app on your iPhone and a piece of paper — or even the Notes app — to mark down your breaks and you're off to the races. The technique works like this:
- Set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Work on a task until the timer is done.
- Stop working when the timer goes off and put a checkmark on a piece of paper or in the Notes app.
- If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break. 3-5 minutes is a good amount. If you have four checkmarks, take a longer break. 15 - 30 minutes is a good amount.
- Repeat the steps as many times as needed.
The great thing about the technique is you can adjust the times to your liking. Maybe you want to work for an hour and take a 10-minute break, and after four hours, you take a 40-minute break — that's fine.
The key is to schedule yourself time to be hyper-focused on the task at hand and schedule yourself breaks. You'll be surprised what even a short break — like five minutes — can do to help keep your brain from being overworked.
Create yourself a workspace
Whether you live in a small apartment as I do, or you have a spacious house, do your best to create a workspace that is separate from your living space. This will help you to create a small divide between your work life and your home life, which prevents you from feeling like you're at work all the time.
Whatever your workspace ends up being (mine is literally just a desk in the corner of my apartment), do your best only to work when you're in your workspace and don't' let work leak into other parts of your home. Any time you take a break (even a short one), leave your workspace and do something else.
These clear lines between work and home will help alleviate some of the stress you may feel by living in the same place you work — it has worked wonders for me.
This can be one of the hardest things to do when working from home, but remaining social is important to everyone. Depending on how you are (more extroverted or introverted), your social needs will vary, but keeping up a social life will help your mental health in many ways and remind you that you're not alone, even if it can feel like it sometimes.
Obviously, messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and the like can help you stay in contact with friends and family. Reach out to them during the day when you have a second to say hi, send a funny GIF, or catch up for a few minutes; you'll likely feel great afterward.
Another great tool is setting up a virtual office with your coworkers (if you have any) so that you can communicate throughout the day about both work and non-work related things. Apps like Slack are super handy tools for having to communicate with your team.
How do you keep mentally fit while working from home?
There are so many different tips and ways to make working from home a more pleasurable experience. Share your tips with everyone in the comments down below, and let's all help each other take care of our mental health while working from home.
Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way.
Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.
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