There’s no doubt that the pandemic has had an enormous impact on mental health the world over. Whether you’re concerned about contracting the virus, feeling isolated from family and friends during lockdown, or suffering overwhelm from juggling childcare, household chores and work, none of us have been feeling our brightest this past year.
Now the kids are back at school and we’re being allowed a little more leeway in terms of socialising. But meeting a friend outside for a socially distanced coffee, cannot be compared with the day-to-day interactions many of us may prefer in a busy office. Can the small talk, the joking and laughing really be replicated on a Zoom video call? It’s becoming apparent that working from home could be taking its toll.
Blurring the lines between work and home
Of course, home workers have always known it isn’t the dream situation it’s made out to be, but when the situation is forced upon you, the impact can be pretty tough.
When you’re working at your kitchen table, with the breakfast things pushed hastily to one side while you have a zoom meeting with your boss, you lose all sense of a boundary between your home and working life.
Some people may find they are easily able to compartmentalise, and ignore the household tasks piling up around them while they focus on work. But for many of us, the sight of a sink full of dirty dishes, or a mound of washing waiting to be sorted can be an unwelcome distraction.
And it’s not just that home life is impinging on our ability to do our job. There’s no definite end of the working day. No commute to allow us to shift our focus. It’s very easy to continue working during what should be our hours of relaxation.
The result is that we feel like we’re not managing to do anything to the best of our abilities. We’re distracted by household problems when we ought to be working, and checking our emails when we would normally be spending time with our family.
Many of us are not getting as much exercise as we used to. Even if your job is pretty sedentary, you tend to rack up a fair few steps just getting to the office, or walking into a meeting room. When everything is conducted from your home office and you don’t even have to walk outside to get in your car, you can find you are barely moving at all from morning to night.
And all of this has an impact on our sleep. When you haven’t had much fresh air or exercise and you’re feeling a bit anxious, you struggle to sleep. Then a lack of sleep can make you more lethargic and more anxious, and so the cycle continues.
How can you break the cycle?
Here at The Mayfair GP, we specialise in lifestyle medicine, which looks at what we can do in our daily lives to help us become fitter and healthier, both mentally and physically.
We believe there are a number of things you can do to reduce the impact of working from home on your daily life:
- Create physical separation between work and home – this won’t be possible for everyone but if you possibly can, find a space that can be your ‘office’. Where you are physically removed from the distractions of home. This might mean just fashioning some form of screen to cordon off a corner of a room.
- Create some mental separation too – before you start your working day, why not take a quick walk or run around the block, then do the same at the end of the day. This will not only allow you a bit of fresh air and exercise, but also create some distance in your head between work and home. Then make a vow not to check your email again until 9am tomorrow.
- Eat and drink well – it’s very tempting to snack on convenience foods, or to graze endlessly, when you’re working in such close proximity to the fridge. But if you can try to limit yourself to just one small snack between meals, and take a bit more care to eat leafy greens, pulses and grains, you will find you feel better for it in the long run.
If you’d like to find out more about lifestyle medicine, or talk to one of our GPs in confidence about how working from home has affected your mental health, please contact us on 07568 369455 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.