Many of us have discovered a hard truth when it comes to working from home: that it’s not always a positive experience. The mental health community has noticed increased rates of depression in relation to the work from home lifestyle.
Now, there are millions of people pondering the same question: can working from home make you depressed?
Yes, working from home has caused depression, burnout, and feelings of loneliness for many people. However, following a stable daily routine and staying active has been shown to help reduce those negative impacts.
For some folks, working from home has been a blessing…
It facilitates a flexible schedule with more free time. Less money spent on gas. And most importantly, the privilege to work in pajamas.
For many other people, working from home has caused increased loneliness and depression…
It has completely thrown off their feeling of connectedness with the community. And it might feel like an inescapable claustrophobic experience.
But don’t stress– we’ve got a few simple tips to help you pull yourself out of depression while working from home.
1. Stick to a daily routine
When working from home, it’s difficult to separate your personal life from your work life. Everything starts to blur together, making it hard to let yourself relax.
The most powerful thing you can do is stick to a regular routine. It’ll help you mentally switch between “work mode” and personal life.
You can schedule times to:
- Wake up and sleep
- Eat meals
- Start and finish working
- Do chores
- Go shopping
Additionally, a consistent and diversified schedule will help to prevent excessive behaviors that contribute to the feelings of depression.
For example, “clocking out” from work isn’t as clear-cut in a remote work environment compared to an office, so you may end up overworking yourself and burning out. It’s helpful to set your work times and let your team know.
On the other hand, slouching on the couch bing watching Netflix for 6 hours during your free time isn’t a great idea either. That kind of lethargic self-indulging behavior will actually backfire and make you feel more depressed in the long run.
Create a daily schedule with a balance of work and fun. Stick to the schedule each day, even if it’s hard at first.
Having a hard time thinking of how to structure a daily routine? Keep reading for more ideas…
2. Go out for a walk each day
On average, you’ll spend at minimum 8 hours a day sitting in front of a computer screen at home. Then, likely a few hours more watching YouTube or TV.
Spending some time away from digital screens will help you to reconnect with Mother Nature.
Go out and get some fresh air. It’s great for relieving stress.
Sure, you might be required to wear a mask in public due to coronavirus concerns. Nonetheless, a walk outside to let the sunlight and fresh air hit your skin will be refreshing.
Medical experts suggest that you should walk 10,000 steps a day. Give it a shot.
At about 8 kilometers distance, the 1 hour 40 minute walk will help to keep your heart pumping strong and prevent your legs from turning to Jello. It also helps improve digestion. Not a bad activity to add to your daily routine, eh?
3. Cook your own meals
It’s tempting to order all of your meals through food delivery apps. Uber Eats, Postmates, GrubHub and more are only a tap away.
Burgers, Tacos, Burrios and Pizza will magically appear at your doorstep with no physical cash exchange required. The experience of ordering food couldn’t be any more streamlined and convenient.
But the convenience of ordering food comes at a cost…
Eating fast food while living a sedentary work from home lifestyle is a perfect recipe for increased weight gain. Eating greasy foods can make you feel lethargic and fuzzy-minded.
Most of your options on those food apps is limited to fast food. The few healthy food options are inevitably more expensive than their gluttonous counterparts.
Cook your own meals to take back control over your health. You might discover that it’s actually fun to cook.
It’s not just about saving loads of cash by purchasing groceries that run cheaper than fast food. It’s a blend of art and science– delightful to the senses with the right ingredients and technique.
Ingredients need to be bought, prepared, and cooked. Therefore, the activity of cooking would essentially become a part of your daily routine.
4. Call friends and family (not texting)
Working from home results in less time spent physically socializing with colleagues. And with the pandemic still lurking, the same goes for close friends and family.
Indeed, there are likely to be restrictions on physical gatherings at this time. But that’s no reason to stop reaching out to friends and family for an occasional chat.
The problem is that– in the 21st century, we have relegated most communication to text-based messages. Whether it’s the Facebook, Twitter or direct text messaging, it’s a rather shallow form of communication– devoid of the emotion, tonality and nuance of a spoken conversation.
Try to hop on a phone call instead of text messaging. It’s more fun and interactive.
You can take it a step above and hop on a Zoom or Slack video call. That’ll give you a chance to share another important part of the social experience– body language.
5. Join an online community
For the more introverted folks, there’s still another way to stay connected…
Join an online community of like-minded individuals. It can help you to cultivate new friendships.
Facebook groups and Reddit communities often consist of genuine people who enjoy chatting about common interests. Online multiplayer games are also known to cultivate strong communities, as long as you understand the slang and subculture.
A sign of a good online community is one which has moderators who help prevent toxic users from spewing negativity.
You may want to consider avoiding superficial platforms like Instagram, where there’s peer pressure to receive validation from others via “likes”.
Lastly, beware of some online communities that are nothing more than a honeypot of marketers trying to shove a product down your throat. If they’re selling a product, run away quickly.
6. Do the forgotten errands
Working from home during the pandemic gives you more time to focus on yourself. You can spend the extra time taking care of the errands that you’ve been putting off for ages and likely forgot about.
Need help jogging your memory? Here are a list of common activities that people tend to put off:
- Taking all the glass/plastic trash to get recycled
- Cleaning out the garage/attic/basement/backyard
- Going to the doctor/dentist
- Fixing the sink/bathtub/AC
- Taking the car to the mechanic for a checkup
- Upgrading the computer
- Reviewing your spending/budget
Knocking out some errands is a sure way to relieve some stress and feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
7. Learn a new skill
Some people see the pandemic as a burden. Others see it as leverage.
With the extra time saved from not needing to commute, you can dedicate a small amount of time per day towards learning a new skill.
The skill doesn’t necessarily need to be about making money. However…
If you want to improve your financial future, this is a great time to invest in learning a monetizable skill. Your post-pandemic self will thank you.
Here’s a list of skills that you can learn at home, and turn into a career later:
- Graphic Design/Illustration
- Translating (for bilinguals)
- 3D Modeling (game development & film visual effects)
- Sound Design (music, TV, film)
- Cinematography/Video Editing
Give yourself a consistent 6 months to learn the basics of a new skill, and you’ll be surprised what you can accomplish!
8. Work on a hobby project
Keeping busy is the common theme in preventing depression from setting in.
Working on an engaging hobby project is the perfect way to keep your mind on positive and proactive thoughts.
Some folks use woodworking to build furniture. Some use programming to build apps. And others spend their time in the kitchen, working on delicious new recipes.
Some folks have shown off their projects on YouTube, to find that their video became a viral sensation with millions of views.
But don’t bank on being an overnight success. Just remember that some people around the world might appreciate taking a peek at your work.
Either way, you might find that being a producer is more fun than being a consumer. You can push your creativity to unparalleled heights, and create whatever your heart desires.
9. Give to the needy
Modern consumer culture often leads us to think that the key to happiness lies in the indulging of a hedonistic lifestyle. Bigger steaks, faster cars, and thinner smartphones.
But in reality, you might find that giving is more satisfying that receiving.
To see the smile on a small child’s face when she receives a new toy.
Or the gratefulness of a homeless man who finally receives a few dollars from a bystander.
To know that you’ve directly helped improve someone’s life might put a smile on your face, too.
10. Make post-pandemic plans
There’s a single characteristic that describes the essence of humanity– hope.
Looking forward to a better future is what keeps us hanging on.
We will get through the pandemic, together.
Jobs will come back. The economy will be restored. International borders will open up for leisure travel again.
So go ahead and make some plans. Don’t be afraid to be hopeful about the future. It’s the thing that keeps us motivated.
What about Meditation?
Sure, meditation can help reduce stress levels, too.
But meditation is no substitute for the core necessities of mental health: social interaction, a sense of purpose, and some form of physical exercise.
These core components, meld together by a structured routine, form the foundation of a depression-free lifestyle.
Once the foundation is solid, the addition of meditation can help achieve even higher levels of calmness and satisfaction.
Stay active. Stay healthy. We’ll get through this, together.