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Taking Care of Your Mental Health While Staying Home

You shouldn’t be too hard on yourself and set gargantuan expectations that would lead to repeated disappointments and a loss of morale. Rather, it would be better to take each day at a time and set short-term goals.

Aastha Srivastava
Aastha Srivastava

Set a Schedule

This might not seem like anything important, but it’s a key element of keeping yourself well, especially if you’re working or schooling from home. Most of us suffer from workaholic tendencies, in the habit of bringing back work to home, and the danger only heightens as you stay at home all day. If you don’t stick to a schedule, your work bleeds into home life, and your days bleed into each other. Out of nowhere, you’re overwhelmed and feel like you don’t have a semblance of control over your life. So, make a schedule. Stick to it.

Ensure that you have solid times set aside for your morning routine, meals, and breaks, as well as a set time to officially get off work — even if you’re working from the comfort of your home. Take the time to brew your favourite cup of coffee (or tea), and have a satisfying breakfast before setting off for your tasks.

Not only does this make your day a lot more manageable, it sets the tone to your day, reminding you that the small things still matter even as you are trying to adjust to your new routine. Even if work seems daunting (since it’s always so accessible), taking the time for yourself and your family in the morning minds you that the precious things that help you make your day matter are still there.

Setting a routine, especially when it’s so easy for you to have none, is the path to liberty, productivity, and satisfaction. Knowing that we have mealtime, a break, or playtime with our kids ahead of our schedule makes us more efficient and productive during the blocks we do have to work during. Knowing that there’s a legitimate end to our work — even if temporarily — raises productivity and efficiency. You’re distracted less and are usually quicker with the heightened attention to your tasks.

Always set a reasonable time to end your work, if you can. If you’ve started working from 9 in the morning, you should rightfully respect your mental and physical state and end work anytime between 5 to 7 in the evening at the maximum. Take the remaining time to exercise, talk to your family members or friends, engage in hobbies, or even do nothing, if you want to. The most important thing to remember is that your personal life and time matters.

Setting a schedule also reduces the need for determination and willpower, while simultaneously building momentum for our day ahead. When we brush our teeth or shower in the morning, it requires minimal mental effort on our part to do. Similarly, on the days you might feel like you’re running low on mental strength, having a routine would make it easier for you to get from task to task.

Allocate Spaces and Attires

When we’re working or studying away from our homes, our brains have been wired to associate certain routes and places to work productivity. At home, this is more difficult. More than one spaces are meant for relaxation, resting and hobbies. As such, it’s essential that you set a space just to work at. This would do two things simultaneously: ensure that you’re in work mode when you enter the space, and you’re not when you’re out of the space.

Physical boundaries are important for mental boundaries. All too often now, I’ve seen friends and acquaintances work themselves into a frenzy because of the lack of distinction between their work space and personal space. The living room, dining area and personal rooms have all blurred into co-living-and-working spaces in the blink of an eye. When we fail to give ourselves a designated work space, we fail to set a strict distinction between our professional and personal lives. This can eventually take a toll on our mental health as we are unable to find enough time to take a break and focus on ourselves.

As such, I would say that it’s imperative to start finding a working spot and stick to it. Pick a spot with lots of empty space (decluttered spaces help you to think clearly), ample lighting, and proper ventilation, and commit it. Be it the dining table, a lounge chair in your balcony or even your favourite spot in sofa, slowly wire your brain to think of it as your working spot. Thereafter, if you leave that spot, it’s officially break-time! It’s still do-able even if you’re tight on space. I share a house with my family, so it’d be unfair for me to take a spot in the shared family areas for work, especially since these are areas with TVs and gaming consoles meant for rest and relaxation. As such, I do most of my work in my room, but only on my desk. At first, it was tough to resist the temptation to work from my bed, but now I appreciate it a lot. Now, if i lie on my bed or laze on my beanbag, I can do it without thinking about my work, because these are not spots for me to have such concerns.

Similarly, it really helps to change out of your pyjamas before you start off your day. It’s incredibly tempting — so tempting — to roll out of bed and get started in your pyjamas. Especially when you’re just going to be home all day. Charlotte Armitage, a media and business psychologist, mentions that changing out of your PJs daily when you’re at home allows you to “become conditioned to associate the changing of clothes with a change of mindset, psychological pace and focus.” This prepares you for the day ahead. The laziness and lethargy you might feel lying in bed in the morning ebbs away once you subconsciously recognise that the day is progressing.

WFH is Not All About Working

Yes, you’re working-from-home (WFH), but that’s it. I think that with a culture like Singapore’s, it’s vital to note that we have a tendency to overwork. This can cause higher levels of stress, tensions and eventually lead to a much more strained relationship with yourself and the people you may be staying at home with. On top of that, it can feel stifling to be stuck in your house with no escape.

As such, take the time to explore your hobbies and seek internal escapism. Try your best not to stare at different screens the whole day: it tires your eyes and your mind. Even if it’s just for a bit, invest in some quick, short exercise daily to release some endorphins and trigger a positive energy. It also reduces your perception to pain in general, which is bound to make you feel much more content and lively. On top of that, it gets the rid of the lethargic or restless energy you may be feeling from being cooped up at home. Get back into kinaesthetic hobbies — knitting, sewing, drawing, painting, reading. Whatever it is, it may not be ideal, but you have a variety of options to get back in touch with yourself. In fact, you might even introduce your child, friend, or spouse to your hobby and find a companion in your self-exploration.

You Can Be Exceptional, But You Don’t Have To Be

These days, I see a lot of posts on social media that go along the lines of telling readers that it’s time to be optimally productive since we’re spending all our time at home. Be that as it may, I think it’s unreasonable to expect ourselves to be constantly productive all the time. One of my best friends mentioned that she would feel guilty if she didn’t come out of the stay-at-home period without gaining a new skill or upgrading the ones she already has. In my opinion, though, one shouldn’t force themselves to do more than they are able to. As long as you try your best to live each day to the best of your ability, you have the right to be proud of yourself. And if some days you don’t feel like getting out of bed, or giving it your all, you should be easy on yourself and give yourself a break. After all, even though you’re home, you’re still being a parent, spouse, employee or employer. In fact, you may even have added responsibilities as you and everyone around you transitions to a different lifestyle. All of this is to say that you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself and set gargantuan expectations that would lead to repeated disappointments and a loss of morale. Rather, it would be better to take each day at a time and set short-term goals as long-term uncertainty looms over all of us.

Having the patience for yourself, your family and your friends is tough, but with the right mindset or will, there are definitely ways to get through long periods of limited interactions and physical engagement. Despite these changing circumstances, I hope you find an activity, person, or item that grounds you and keeps you stable mentally. It’s certainly not easy but it always takes time to get used to change. It will slowly get much more manageable.

Wellness