The work-from-home trend was growing when COVID-19 hit, but the pandemic sent it into overdrive. Now, almost 28 million people work from home in the US.
But as the numbers continue to rise, research shows that mental health challenges are also rising, with workers suffering from loneliness, anxiety, and even depression.
If you’re working from home and struggling with your mental health, we’ve asked five experts for their top relaxation techniques for working from home to help you create better WFH practices.
The Dark Side of Remote Work: Mental Health Challenges
People often think of remote work as all upside. Roll out of bed, and you’re at work; spend the day in your PJs; work flexible hours.
But it’s not all roses. In fact, there is a dark side to remote work that’s important to talk about.
Luckily, there are ways to address the mental health concerns that often come with remote work.
“A drop in mental health is a serious concern for remote workers who find the experience isolating. However, nootropics are an FDA-approved treatment for specific health conditions, and studies have shown they improve mental functioning, including processes like, memory, mood, attention, and motivation.” – Phillippa Quigley from SOMA Analytics
5 Effective Ways to Relax and Unwind While Working From Home
Nootropics can be a beneficial way of improving cognitive functioning, but it’s also important to develop relaxation strategies that address the underlying issue of stress.
- Knowledge is Power
Although we have much more free time when working from home, it can quickly get sucked up by mindless scrolling and TV.
Filling your time with social media gives you a quick hit of serotonin but can quickly lead to burnout and psychological distress. It’s easy to see why; you go through rapid changes of emotion when doom-scrolling that sends your brain into overdrive.
Think about replacing the time you spend on social media with sessions of micro-learning instead. Reading books is an easy way to relax, expand your knowledge, and feel more in control of your day.
“MRI imagery has shown that reading increases brain connectivity, which helps fight age-related cognitive decline, stress, and even depression. But when you have a busy workday, it’s also not feasible to sit down and read a book for hours on end. With Four Minute Books, you can add doses of micro-learning to your day as a way of relaxing and taking the pressure off of your packed work schedule without the guilt.” – Niklas Göke from Four Minute Reads
The research on the benefits of reading for mental health is almost endless. One of our favorite studies was done in 2009, where researchers showed that just 30 minutes of reading could lower blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological distress at the same rate as 30 minutes of yoga.
If you love books, this is a great way to unwind and relax while working from home.
- A Virtual Escape
If you’ve ever found yourself daydreaming about a vacation while working from home, that’s your brain attempting to handle the stress of your job.
When used appropriately, escapism is a coping mechanism that helps us deal with stress and mental health issues. The key is not getting lost in a fantasy world or ignoring reality in the process.
“We often get so bogged down in the stress of working from home that we forget there’s a wide world out there. Stress begins to melt away when you learn about new countries and discover interesting destinations around the world.” – Nick Kembel from Fun World Facts
Next time your work is getting on top of you, take a ten-minute break and learn some facts about a different city or country. You might just fall in love with a destination and find your next vacation destination.
- Cultivating Mindfulness
When it comes to coping strategies for work and stress, mindfulness should be in everyone’s toolkits. It reduces stress, promotes calmness, boosts concentration, and even improves relationships.
Studies have also shown that a regular mindfulness practice significantly reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
You don’t need to be a guru to practice mindfulness, either. There are dozens of free apps that will help you practice mindfulness in as little as two or three minutes a day.
- Working on Your Workspace
Do you find your home office space stressful? Physical clutter creates cognitive overload, which can quickly leave us feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and unproductive.
Take a look around your workspace, whether it’s your dining room table, home office, or a quiet corner in the living area. If it’s not a pleasant place to sit and work, it’s contributing to your feelings of stress and anxiety.
To create a calm, relaxing environment, here are a few tips:
- Ditch the clutter – the less you have out on your desk and worktops, the better.
- Create an organized filing system that makes it easy to find important papers.
- Paint walls in calming tones – blues and greens promote relaxation.
- Have pictures you love on your walls – photos of loved ones help calm us when work gets overwhelming.
- Maximize sunlight and install quality lighting so you’re not straining to see your keyboard.
- Make it a space you love to be in with decor, textures, and furniture that inspires you.
- Explore Business Ideas
If you’re working a job you hate, it’s going to be tough feeling totally relaxed while working. But you need to pay the bills, so what’s the alternative?
Take some time each day to explore your passions and think about business ideas that light you up. Maybe you’ve always wanted to own your own bakery, or you have a great idea for a tech company.
Whatever it is, you’ll get your creative juices flowing by taking time to work on a project that you’re passionate about. Plus, it’ll give you an incentive to get your work done to fund your new enterprise.
“Starting a business isn’t easy, and it’s far from relaxing. But building something you’re passionate about is a rewarding, deeply creative experience. You can start by mapping out ideas, business names, mission statements, and slowly you’ll start fleshing out a business plan.” – Finn Wheatley from the Small Business Blog
Don’t add to the stress of your job by diving in head first when you’re thinking about starting a new business. Instead, think of it as a side project that you love doing in your spare time. Over time, you can figure out if it’s something that could replace your WFH 9-to-5.
How to Implement Relaxation Techniques for Stress Management
If you’re feeling overwhelmed working from home and you want some quick, effective relaxation techniques to manage stress, here are some expert tips:
- Spend 15 minutes doing exercise that you enjoy. That doesn’t mean forcing yourself to go for a run just because you think it’s healthy – it’s about finding a type of movement you look forward to doing and making time for it every day.
- Spend your break or lunch hour reading a good book.
- Listen to music you enjoy – the more uplifting you find the music, the better it will be for your mental health.
- Take the time to practice mindfulness. You’ll feel like it doesn’t do anything at first, but it’s a skill that develops over time.
- Make plans with friends or family every week. This could be a quick coffee or lunch at your favorite spot – having something to look forward to helps build mental resilience.
- Improve your work-from-home environment so it’s somewhere you love spending time.
- Take some deep breaths – when you start feeling overwhelmed, stop, and take three slow deep breaths to calm your central nervous system.
It’s a Learning Curve
Relaxation is important for everyone, but it’s especially important for anyone working from home. But remember, what works for one person might not work for you.
Figuring out a relaxation strategy that works for you requires continuous exploration and commitment to your mental health.
Try some of the techniques we’ve talked about in this post, and create a routine that makes working from home a calming retreat.