Working from home has become very popular, especially for self-employed independent contractors. There are tons of advantages: it avoids the commute, helps to balance your work and home life, and even improves your productivity.
However, working in isolation for long periods of time can affect your mental health, and lead to depression, lethargy, and lower work performance. Maintaining your mental health while working remotely is vital if you hope to sustain the lifestyle.
Fortunately, it’s possible, so long as you remain proactive and self-aware.
Mental Health Strategies
Use the following habits and tactics to stay emotionally stable and mentally fit while working from home:
1. Pick up a hobby. Don’t let your life revolve around work. Find a hobby: preferably one that gives you a reason to go outside, exercise, and improve over time. Being able to measure your success and improvement will keep you motivated, and give you a sense of purpose apart than work. For example, you could take up baseball training and join a local league; it would also give you an excuse to socialize with others (which, as you’ll see, is also important).
2. Exercise regularly. The benefits of exercise are too many to list. The evidence that links exercise to reduced risk of depression and other mental health conditions is well-documented. Even short sessions of exercise can elevate your mood and productivity for several hours after you’re done. Exercising every day will make you feel better, inside and out, and will help you resist the temptation to overeat that can come with being stuck at home all day.
3. See people every day. Isolation is a leading cause of depression; without a way to socialize with others, it’s easy for us to lose touch with reality. Even for introverts, socializing releases feel-good chemicals in the brain, creates a sense of purpose, and gives us a reason to take care of ourselves. Make it a point to see other people on a daily basis, even if it’s just saying hi to a neighbor or making small talk with the barista at your local café.
4. Work designated hours. One of the potential downsides of working from home is that it can blur the line between your personal and professional lives. Maintaining semi-strict working hours maintain a sharp divide, and promote a healthier work-life balance. For example, if you work 9 to 5 every day, stop working at 5 and start focusing on personal responsibilities or activities that make you happy.
5. Maintain contact with your coworkers. One of the benefits of being self-employed is getting to call your own shots, but there are downsides, as well. Working with colleagues on a regular basis promotes bonding and a sense of camaraderie, which can make everyone feel more productive and enjoy a sense of belonging. If you can, stay in contact with your coworkers throughout the day, and talk to them in person on occasion to keep those bonds strong. If you truly work alone, consider contacting and working with other self-employed individuals who may be in a similar position.
6. Work in a specific part of the house (an office). You can also strengthen the divide between your personal and professional lives by designating a particular part of your house as your “office.” That way, you’re less likely to associate your ordinary living space with work, and you won’t mix your workspace with recreation.
7. Change up the routine. One way to improve your productivity and stave off the risk of depression is to shake up your routine. Try going to a new place, such as a new coffee shop, to work, or experiment with a different set of working hours. Mundanity can lead to poor mental health, so try to keep your life as interesting as possible.
Knowing What Works for You
Psychology is still a young field, and there’s much we don’t understand about the human mind. Every individual has different preferences, needs, desires, and factors that affect his or her productivity.
You can’t know for sure which of these strategies will work best for you until you try them, so experiment; mix and match until you find the combination that makes you feel both productive and happy.
Anna Johansson is the founder and CEO of Johansson Consulting where she works with businesses to create marketing and PR campaigns.