If there is one thing that Coronavirus is bringing front and centre to a lot of us it’s how important keeping our mental health in check is. Due to the fact that so many of us have been flung in quite unnatural situations such as having to work from home all the time, not see friends or family or having to homeschool our children all of a sudden it’s extremely easy for our mental health to take a back seat and for a lot of people right now they may even be experiencing mental health issues for the very first time.
Some people who read this may have already been working from home for many months or years and are used to everything it brings but for some it can be quite a jolt as you end up feeling totally cut off from society no matter how many Zoom and Skype calls you do!
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Depression and Working From Home
With the average household debt being around £60,000 (including mortgages) at the start of the year it makes no wonder even before Covid19 hit that so many of us are turning to other means of earning more. This is more important than ever with people having their hours cut or being furloughed at their existing workplace.
Procrastination and motivation are difficult to get past when working alone. Those hurdles can be difficult for the majority of people but are particularly difficult for someone battling with their mental health in this current pressure pot environment. Even in a conventional workplace, these arise but without the team and morale around you, how can one who already struggles with self-worth begin to overcome them?
There are different coping mechanisms for everyone. No one person deals with a mental health issue in the same way as the next person. But there are a few tips that I think could help the majority of sufferers and non-sufferers.
Interaction with Others
These days the presence online is vast. There are a number of ways to communicate with people via social media and even online forums such as The Money Shed Forum can provide vital connections.
From the safety of a computer screen, you are connected to a number of people in similar circumstances. This interaction can be vital when working from home. Depression can be very isolating and by being removed from the workplace you are further reducing that social interaction.
The Power of Social Media
Social media is an incredibly powerful tool which sadly can be used for both for good and for bad during this Covid19 outbreak. I’ll actually break this down into three different points so that I can explore each one with you in a bit more depth.
The first point of which is that social media is where people post what they are doing, not what they aren’t doing. This can be incredibly isolating if you feel like you don’t talk to others enough or go out often. But, the vital point here is that people rarely post about the endless days that they spend at home, relaxing and doing admin, and so on. Social media doesn’t give an accurate representation of those around you, not even in this climate so don’t take it to heart just because it feels like others are doing everything and you’re ‘doing nothing’.
Another point is that you are more than entitled to remove somebody/block somebody from your social media if you don’t like what they have to say. I know that some people don’t like to block others on social media because they may feel silly but it really isn’t.
For example, If you generally don’t like to block others but are quite sensitive and don’t like it when you see others arguing on your timeline it can end up giving you really negative feelings, and so if it seems to be a repeated occurrence then you can unfollow, and if necessary block them.
Another important thing that some people tend to do is take time away from social media. I’ve seen people do this as part of lent or just have entire weekends off and then coming back fresh to their social media platform of choice. This really does help some people with being able to distance themselves from intense arguments on social media.
Of course, social media does have positive points too. Social media is the one place where you can meet those who may experience similar to you and you can guarantee that there will always be somebody to confide in when you need a chat. Instagram has been a HUGE help to parents who are suddenly having to get into homeschooling and look at how Joe Wicks has managed to harness YouTube so that kids can still have their PE lessons.
The Perils of Cabin Fever
To put it simply, cabin fever is the boredom/irritability/general sense of being trapped from being stuck at home all day. Your home is your place of work as well as your resting place where you relax & unwind. When you’re a homeworker, this work/life balance goes to pot as you are generally stuck in the house 24/7 staring at the same four walls.
Your house becomes more of a mess because you’re always in it, so you spend more time cleaning it which act as a constant reminds that you are spending even more time in the house due to the fact it is your new workplace. It’s a vicious circle.
The key to prevent this is to set up a dedicated place to work. Even if your house is small & you don’t have a spare room to convert into an office, you could always set up a little corner of your living room that you can call your office.
Make it feel like a space you want to work in. You have to teach yourself that once you have finished work for the day & are out of that space (or the door is shut if you’re lucky enough to have a spare room), you leave the work behind until the next day. If you can, set working times are also a big help, and a “work uniform”.
Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you should lounge around in your pyjamas all day – actually getting dressed as if you would for a “normal” job can help to create a more formal atmosphere in your workspace, which in turn will most likely lead to improved productivity.
Another problem of cabin fever is the lack of social interaction. Even the most introverted of people will go a little stir-crazy sometimes if they don’t have any human contact. Homeworkers struggle with this as they are on their own all day, but there are ways to integrate social interaction within your working day.
Make time to go for your walk (or run) each day if you can. Even though you can’t stop and chat with people just seeing other people out and about helps create a sense of ‘normal’ for you. You are also your own boss, so why not start your day at 10am, and use an hour before that to interact with others. A lot of people I know also use social media & Skype to chat online but with the popularity of apps like Houseparty and Zoom there are all sorts of way that people can keep interacting!
Structure should play a key part in avoiding cabin fever. It’s in our nature to become lazy if we don’t have some kind of structure – unfortunately when we work from home structure tends to go out of the window. This is where self-discipline needs to kick in.
Choose the hours you work and stick to them. Make a to-do list daily. I tend to find that if I have a list of jobs to do, I work through them & tick them off as I go. I don’t do anything other than work during my set hours – I leave the dishes/hoovering/ironing until after work. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment knowing I am putting my dedicated work time to good use, which in turn, makes me happy. Don’t use your work-time to do online shopping/play bingo/trawl Twitter – that can be done in your relaxation time.
Finding the Balance
Do you consider yourself successful? How do you measure that success? These kind of questions are imperative at ensuring you don’t find yourself in a downward spiral of self-worth and self-belief. In an office you have targets, and appraisals, and (hopefully) people to turn to during tough projects. You may get bonuses and performance-related pay. So on days where the return is low, find other ways to measure success.
Is it solely down to how much you bring in? Then only spend time on high return tasks. If time is more of a factor then just set a limit for how long you want to work each day or maybe some set tasks you want to accomplish. Set yourself achievable goals without spending every spare minute on time-consuming surveys that will only net you only 50p during this difficult time.
Make a List!
Making a list of what you want to achieve each day sounds like something so blindingly obvious that everyone would do it in the current situation yet many don’t . If you want to be your own manager, then you have to manage yourself. These lists should not be there to make you fail. Start off small. Give yourself one or two tasks. You can always add to the list. But at the end of the day when things are not ticked off you cannot take them away. At the end of the day you need to get the balance right to prevent burn out.
A fantastic app to use for this sort of thing is todoist which gives you the chance to create your to-do list in the way YOU want it to be. It gives you huge flexibility and lets you create tasks to do on certain days or at a certain time or if you just want to focus on accomplish something with no set time attached to it you can set your list(s) up that way. The app has been a total game-changer for me during the Coronavirus outbreak and helps give you a real sense of achievement at a time when that can be very hard to get.
Remember though that It is easy to get excited about a new plan and go headlong into it, many people are the same – both those with and without depression. But what happens when someone doesn’t have a sustainable source of food. They starve. So when you don’t have a sustainable level of income you starve yourself of enthusiasm and then tend to lose focus which can have a further impact on your earnings and then the spiral begins again so it’s important with all of this that you keep your aims realistic.
For a lot of people what WAS important to them before all this happened (gym, cars, holidays, etc.) has just fallen by the wayside and it’s now just a case of trying to survive each day and fitting ‘earning an income’ somewhere into that!
Dealing with mental health issues is extremely isolating. Dealing with depression in the workplace is difficult too. But it is all about how you manage that. For some, working from the safety of their home can work wonders for anxiety-related issues. Simple tasks can be extra demanding but that doesn’t mean someone should be forced to live on low incomes.
If you need any help at all regarding mental health two websites worth visiting are Mind and The Samaritans where you can get any professional help not just during this Coronavirus pandemic but anytime in the future as well.