How To Stay Sane Working From Home
Find A Routine & Stick To It
To stop yourself from losing your mind while working from home, it’s important you create a strict routine that you can stick to and that works for you. It can be all too easy to lose a sense of routine, and mental health charity Mind say that for some, a routine is what helps people with depression stay grounded. “To minimise stress and anxiety, it’s important to create routines and set goals,” Niels Eek, physiologist and co-founder of mental wellbeing app Remente, tells us. “This will help you to feel more in control of the situation and give you a better direction.”
“Having structure keeps me focused and allows me to complete or move forward with worthwhile tasks,” says health coach Joanna Shurety. “I have a start and an end time, plus a set lunch. I diarise my tasks so that my day is broken up, and as I’m more productive in the morning I will do all my admin, meetings and client session then, with things like blogging and reading in the afternoon. Having the same start and end time helps me know when to switch to home life.”
Naomi White, personal trainer and founder of Naomi White Communications, keeps her alarm set as if she were getting up to go to the office: “I have an alarm Monday to Friday and I wake up every day at 6.15am. I meditate for ten minutes, then grab a cup of tea.” If you’re going a bit stir-crazy, then studies have shown that ten-minute meditation is more effective than drugs or counselling when helping to battle depression, and early risers are far more happier than those who wake up later, so make like Naomi and resist the urge to adjust your alarm clock when working from home.
Family health coach Kate Moryoussef works from home and recommends just ensuring you break up your day with something other than work, “whether it’s just exercise, lunch prepping, or just emptying the dishwasher.” Without proper structure, it’s easy to avoid blocking out proper and distinguishable times in the day for something other than work, instead choosing to work longer hours, picking at food instead of stopping for lunch and sitting with your laptop in from of the TV. Natasha Hassani, director at Neon Rocks which she runs from home, has a similar method: “Treat your personal time as ‘time out’ in the diary. So, I block out three times per week when I know I will be getting out for a walk in the woods. This is sacred to me and for my mental health and wellbeing, so I never work through this time.”
Even though commuting isn’t exercise, going outside to get to work means you’re regularly on the move. Being stuck in the house for long periods of time isn’t going to make your body feel great, so it’s important you squeeze some form of exercise into your week. Laura Perkes, owner of PR with Perkes and who works from home regularly, says you need to get outside daily: “it helps to blow the cobwebs away, but can also help to give you a fresh head when it comes to creating ideas, or work through a tricky work situation.”
Emma Hull, PR Executive at Liberty Marketing, adds that having a fitness watch is the motivation she needs to get a certain amount of exercise in each day: “I think having a FitBit helps. I am constantly checking to ensure that I get my steps done. Mine buzzes every hour to ensure that I do 250 steps, so when I’m at home, I use this as my excuse to boil the kettle and pace around until my watch congratulates me on reaching my 250 steps.”
Personal trainer Naomi White recommends scheduling in fitness as if it were a meeting – “Whether it’s a strength training session in the gym, a Boom Cycle rise or a yoga class, I schedule it in my diary. It’s a non-negotiable. And I correspond my workout with how I’m feelings – stressful weeks call for yoga, for example.”
For those who don’t live near a gym, it might not be that easy to get a proper workout into your day. But some exercise is really necessary for your overall wellbeing – Harry Aitken, Sport Scientist and Master Trainer for Auster Fitness, explains that no exercise is bad for both your mind and body: “You’ll procrastinate and your mind will be distracted. In terms of your body, you’ll likely be hunched over, excessively extending your neck, rounding your shoulders and slumping down – all which is terrible for posture and keeping your body healthy. Not only this but your blood will be pooling in your lower body, struggling to push it back up, meaning an elevated blood pressure, higher stress levels and lower metabolism.”
Harry suggests these three exercises you can do at home to stop this happening…
Squats: In terms of your body, you’ll likely have been hunched over, excessively extending your neck, rounding your shoulders and slumping down – all which is terrible for posture and keeping your body healthy. Not only this but your blood will be pooling in your lower body, struggling to push it back up, meaning an elevated blood pressure, higher stress levels and lower metabolism.
Press-ups: These are one of the best upper body exercises to work your triceps, chest, shoulders and core. You can either begin on your knees and do regular press ups like that or standing up put your hands on a desk. To make them easier place more weight on your feet and have your hands higher, to make them harder have your hands lower than your feet (e.g. feet on the chair and hands on the floor). Don’t worry if you can only do them with your knees on the floor, research from Les Mills showed that there is no such thing as ‘girl press ups’ as to target the chest and arms there is no difference in having your knees on the floor or your feet.
Star Jumps: Remember this fun exercise when you were a kid? Yes, they’re great for you, and way more fun than burpees. They’re also really good to get the blood flowing all around your body, working your legs explosively and shoulder mobility. These will help open up your slouched body and make you feel like a kid again. Jump as high as you can and get your hands as close together at the top. Do these as fast as you can for a minute and your heart will be racing.
Get A Pet
Aby Hawker, who has been running her company Falcon PR from home for the last ten years, and PT Naomi White, say having a pet dog encouraged them to leave the house during the day. And Niels Eek suggests that getting a pet is good for both your mental and physical health: “According to a British research, pets can have many positive effects on your mental health and may help people to manage long-term mental health conditions. Dogs and cats can be helpful, not only in encouraging physical activity such as walking, but can also lead to opportunities to socialise more with other pet owners.” Has there ever been a better excuse to get a pet?
Watch What You Eat
When you’re working from home, it’s extremely easy to snack and graze – the kitchen is likely only a few feet away, after all. London nutritionist Sophie Thurner, who works from home regularly, knows that struggle all too well: “Eating to seek a bit of distraction (no colleagues to chat to), to have a bit of a break or out of boredom is easily done when all you have to do is get up and walk three steps. Tip number one would therefore be to have distinct meal or snack times where you just eat and not work. This will help you eat more mindfully, which makes meals and snack more satisfying, satiating and pleasurable.”
“For your main meals, make sure you include a portion of protein, carbohydrates and a bit of fats, as well as plenty of vegetables. Often, when we don’t have a proper meal, we get overly hungry and don’t satisfy our hunger, which will have us heading to the snack cupboard shortly after the meal,” Sophie continues, but stresses that it can be easy to get into an obsessive thought process when restricting yourself at home. “Don’t deprive yourself of your favourite dessert because that runs the risk of thinking about it obsessively and then over-compensating with eating much more of it once you do cave in.”
Health coach Kate Moryoussef also suggests prepping your meals to stop your straying into snack territory, and to invest in food that’ll keep your energy levels up, like “salads with roasted veg, lentils and feta or avocado and a poached egg. Anything with good fats will ensure your productivity levels soar.”
Mihaela Berciu, Mindfulness Coach and Founder of Spark Your Bloom, choose to drink green tea instead of builders tea or coffee and limits herself to two cups a day: “One cup of green tea has between 24-40 milligrams of caffeine, which is a big improvement on the 95-200 milligrams found in the average cup of coffee. Green tea also regulates your glucose levels, meaning you don’t crave sugar as much during the day. And when our glucose levels are constant, we don’t have energy drops, and so won’t need lots of caffeine to top up our energy.”
And it’s just too tempting to fill boredom gaps with food and drink. Kate keeps a big bottle of water on her desk to stop her from constantly going back to the kitchen and being tempted by coffee.
On a day-to-day basis, your happiness levels largely correlate to how many social interactions you’ve had. And as much as your desk mates can annoy you from time to time, working from home can make you miss basic human interaction (even if Diane from accounting did chew too loud). Plus, interacting with colleagues is one of the main ways to generate ideas, and you can lose your connection to the outside world, which is why remaining social is important. “I tend to do client calls via Zoom as it gives me face-to-face contact,” says Aby Hawker, while Kate Moryoussef advises to “have meetings in nearby coffee shops or choose to work from one once or twice a week to break up the cycle of working in solitude. This can help with creativity and ensures you're networking organically.”Networking was important to the working from home ladies we spoke to both for work and social purposes. “Networking is a great way of connecting with others when you work remotely,” Joanna Shurety tells us. “Some are structured, others more informal. Find out what’s happening in your area and visit some. There are also online networking groups (Facebook has loads), if you’re a little bit shyer.”
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