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How to Work from Home Without Going Stir Crazy

By Fitoru | 23 April 2020
Man working in front of a computer

Some people are made for it. These self-driven, yoga-pants wearing introverts thrive in the work-from-home environment. For them, stay-at-home quarantine guidelines don’t change a thing if they’ve already been working remote, and are a blessing in disguise if they’ve haven’t. But for many people, the novelty of working from home wears off quickly, and without so much as a coffee shop to break up the monotony, it’s easy to go stir crazy during these challenging times. Which is why we’re putting the focus on mental health this week and offering up some tips for how to work from home without losing your marbles. 

Tip #1: Create Boundaries Around Your Workspace

Ask any work-from-homer what their #1 challenge is and it’s usually some refrain of finding work/life balance.

When you’re working from home, you can’t very well leave your work at the office, which is why it’s important to create boundaries around your workspace.

If you have the square footage, designate a room in your home to work only, so you can put defined hours around your work and leave it behind you with the shut of a door.

If you don’t have an entire room to spare, then section off a space for your work. Use a screen or some type of divider to signal office versus personal space. Even if it’s only one side of a dining table. Keep your work concentrated there, and when you step away for the evening, step away for good.

Tip #2: Create Boundaries Around Your Time

Just as with physical boundaries it’s important to create boundaries around your time. It can be very tempting to work at all hours since the work is literally right there in front of you or calling to you from the other room. 

Don’t listen to it.

Stick to regimented work hours, whether that’s 9 to 5 or 5 to 9. And then don’t give in to the call of work. Otherwise the burnout comes on quick!

Tip #3 Relish Your Morning Ritual

Set yourself up for success with a morning ritual. 

Yes, it’s tempting to roll out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, and hit the keyboard without even brushing your teeth (unless of course you have a video conference that day), but that also gets very old, very soon. There are plenty of hours in the day to work. Give yourself a couple to enjoy the morning.

Linger over a cup of coffee. Listen to the news if that’s your thing. Meditate. Exercise. How do you like to enjoy the mornings?

Please take some time to center yourself with a morning ritual that feels good to you.

Tip #4: Brush Your Hair

It doesn’t matter if you’re not going to see anyone today…or the next. You’re still going to be looking at yourself in the mirror. Who do you want to see? A version of yourself with eye boogers from last night’s sleep, or a fresh face ready to tackle the world…even if it’s only online?

Brush your teeth. Brush your hair. Put on clothes. Heck, put on your favorite jewels and glam it up. Everything feels better when you’re sparkly. 

Tip #5: Set Your Alarm Clock

As working from home drags on, every day starts to feel like the weekend. Instead of setting your alarm clock for 7 am, you wake up when you feel like it. 8 am…9 am…10 am…

It’s okay, you tell yourself. I will just work later into the night.

But there goes your exercise time. And that fabulous new keto recipe you were going to try turns into canned beans and rice. And you have an overall unproductive day.

Set your alarm. Enjoy your morning and you’ll have more power hours throughout the day, freeing you up to enjoy a gourmet meal and an at-home streaming workout at night!

Tip #6 Take a Lunch

Don’t grab the protein bar and make it a working lunch. Step away from the work, walk into your kitchen, make some food, and eat it with mindfulness. 

Working from home requires boundaries, remember? So it’s important to separate work from home, and taking a lunch break helps you do that. 

Tip #7 Walk Outside

You don’t have to stay indoors at all times. As long as you practice social distancing you can take a break in your backyard, or your front porch, or enjoy a walk around the neighborhood with your pup. 

Fresh air and a change of scenery are priorities for keeping your sanity while working from home.

Go outside. Like now. Don’t come back and finish this article until you’ve smelled the roses.

Tip #8 Connect with People

One of the primary benefits of working in an office is human interaction. If you’re an extrovert, you may be dreadfully missing your daily mingle.

Connect with at least one person a day.

Never miss out on a Zoom call. And if your job doesn’t require video or phone collaboration with teammates, then schedule a video conference with a friend for half an hour a day. 

If you feel guilty about stealing minutes from your job, then use it to talk through an issue at work, or to creatively brainstorm, or to share exciting business ideas.

Isolation can cause us to feel anxious and depressed, so it’s incredibly important to connect with others throughout the day.

Tip #9 Stop the Time Sucks

Let’s be honest. There are tons of distractions at the office: your cute coworker, the water cooler, the donuts. And so much to chat about and catch up on! That’s perhaps why studies show that remote workers are more productive than office workers overall.

But there are also tons of distractions at home. Your pets, your kids, your partner. The television. The refrigerator. Video games. Social media….

The list goes on and on.

For the self-driven, these tempting time sucks hold very little sway. These warriors can buckle down, put on those blinders, and barrel through.

For those used to external motivators like office walls, well you’re less practiced at stopping the time sucks. 

One trick is to set a timer for 30-minute blocks. Don’t let anything tear you away from the task at hand for those 30 minutes. When the time dings, look up for 5 minutes…scroll through your social accounts if you must…and then right back to the timer for another 30. Eventually you may even set an internal timer and build a wall that distractions just can’t bust through.

Tip #10 Tend to Your Environment

If you have to work from home you may as well keep it pretty. 

Stay on top of your daily chores. That means doing your dishes, disinfecting those surfaces, mopping the floor, cleaning the bathtub, watering the plants.

And hey…why not take advantage of the weekend and complete that home improvement project you’ve been putting off for a year?

Now is the time to enjoy your home. So keep your environment clean of clutter and looking good.

Still feeling stir crazy? In the hours when you aren’t working, escape to the outside world with your favorite shows and movies, listen to podcasts, learn a new language, dance to music, write a song, paint a picture, give birth to a new creative project, play games with your quarantine partners or during a virtual happy hour with friends.

Most important of all, keep in touch with how you are feeling. If you are feeling anxious or depressed or overwhelmingly lonely, then reach out to a friend or family member. For immediate help call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Working from home cheat sheet

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