Working from home can cause depression or symptoms of depression to worsen because of increased isolation and confinement.
As we come to the end of an incredibly stressful year, where people have been asked to stay at home, make their social circles smaller and not hug the people they love, it’s no surprise that the number of antidepressant prescriptions have risen.
The impact the pandemic has had on mental health is unprecedented, and we’re only seeing the beginning of the effect. In the third UK lockdown in particular, people struggled. Bad weather and short days meant many people weren’t going outside as much.
If you’re someone who was forced to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be finding things more difficult than others. This is further reinforced if you’re also under the pressure of home-schooling or if you live alone. You could even be experiencing symptoms of depression, including:
- Feelings of low mood or sadness
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
- Feeling tearful
- Feeling full of guilt
- Feeling irritated by others
- A lack of motivation
- Struggling to make decisions
- Feeling anxious and worried
- Suicidal thoughts or self-harm thoughts
For many, working from home is actually here to stay. If you feel like this impacts your mental health, causing depression and anxiety, then you should speak to your employer or consider changing jobs.
Tips To Improve Mood When Working From Home
There’s lots you can do to help improve your mood and lessen symptoms of depression when working from home.
1. Get Outside
Going for a walk in the middle of the day is a great way to get away from your work space and do some exercise. Exercise releases endorphins which reduce your perception of pain in a similar way to morphine. This will, in turn, help you to sleep, feel less stressed and more energetic.
A short walk might feel like a waste of time to begin with, but you’ll be amazed how many small tasks you can get done after your walk.
2. Set Boundaries
When working from home, you need to set boundaries with your boss, your family and yourself. Make sure your boss knows what your working hours are, and that you won’t be able to do overtime. It’s important that you set specific times that you’re at work and when you’re at home.
With your family, make sure that you have a plan around childcare and when you can be disturbed. That might mean that you arrange to have lunch with them just once a week because of your schedule. Clear communication can help to reduce feelings of frustration.
Most importantly, you need to set boundaries with yourself. If you’re a people-pleaser, you need to start saying no. Say no to clients, to your boss and start putting yourself first.
3. Practise Self-Care
Outside of work, it’s important that you practise self-care so you can cope with the stressors of the day. That might mean waking up a little earlier to make sure you have a good breakfast or a walk before work. Or it might mean buying a nail kit so you have perfect nails every day!
Taking some time to show yourself that you care about yourself is a good way to show yourself that you deserve care and attention.
4. Create A Dedicated Workspace That You Love
First of all, it’s important that you have a workspace that’s as separated from your living space as much as possible. Not everyone has a spare bedroom or specific office space, but you can make the space feel different. For example, I work on a taller ‘bar’ table, which helps to separate my work space from the rest of the room.
Even more important, create a workstation that you truly love. That might mean investing in furniture, plants or even cute post-its! Whatever makes you a little happier to be at your desk will help you feel more motivated to work from home.
5. Create A Routine And Stick To It
A clear-cut routine is a key mechanism for working from home successfully. That means creating a schedule for when you wake up, when you eat, when you start work and when you finish. If you can, follow your usual work patterns as this will help to bring a sense of ‘normalcy’ to your life.
Most importantly, stop working at the end of your work day and avoid working the weekends or on your holiday days, just because you don’t have anything else to do. There’s always time for self-care!
If you’re feeling depressed, anxious or generally low while working from home, remember that this is a really normal reaction. Reach out to friends, and you’ll find that they’re going through exactly the same thing. The real secret to working from home is to stay in touch with friends, so you still get all that interaction with people, just outside of work.