Self-Care and Mental Health: Why and How to Practice Self-Care When Working from Home

17 Mar by HPA/LiveWell Clinical Psychology

Self-care and mental health go hand-in-hand. Today’s remote workers, who face unique challenges like Zoom fatigue, burnout, and blurred work-life boundaries, can reduce stress by taking better care of their bodies and minds.

As we at HPA/LiveWell previously discussed in an article about depression in the workplace, the difficulties created by remote and hybrid work environments, on top of the distress caused by the global health crisis, have made many workers vulnerable to conditions like depression, anxiety, and PTSD. In fact, studies have shown that 20% of working adults in the United States suffer from some kind of mental health condition.

If you don’t pay attention to how working from home is impacting your mental health, you may suffer worse consequences in the long run. It is then imperative for remote workers to take proactive measures to take care of their bodies and minds. Exercising regularly, taking breaks, and practicing mindfulness are some of the ways adults can balance mental health and working from home.

1. Stay Active

Starting the day with a morning workout will not only improve your physical health, but it will also help to stimulate your mind. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need about 150 minutes of exercise each week, split between aerobic exercises and muscle strengthening. Aerobic exercises include walking, jogging, cycling, and other activities that get your heart rate up, while muscle strengthening refers to exercises that work your major muscle groups, such as weight lifting and yoga.

2. Schedule Breaks

It can be tempting to force yourself to work continuously — especially when you feel you lack the time to get a task done. However, a study by the University of Illinois found that too much sustained attention on a single task can hinder our ability to focus. This means that when we don’t take the time to pause, we’re actually hurting the quality of our output.

Change the way you think about breaks. Rather than seeing rest as time away from work, think of rest as an investment in the quality of your work. It can help to give yourself a five-minute rest period for every hour of work, or a half-hour off for every three hours.

3. Fix Your Posture

Deskwork forces the human body into many unnatural postures. Sitting for prolonged periods can put pressure on the spine and cause back pain, while typing with the wrong hand alignment can put the wrists at risk of repetitive strain injury. The discomfort these injuries cause can amplify stress, thus making your mental health more vulnerable.

To avoid straining your body, pay attention to your posture as you work. Correct yourself when you slouch, and make sure your hands are aligned with your wrists when you type. Ergonomic chairs can help guide your body toward the right posture and provide back relief. They can even prevent neck pain. Meanwhile, a wrist rest can keep your wrists cushioned as you type, thus redistributing pressure and decreasing strain on your muscles.

4. Practice Relaxation Techniques

One of the best ways to balance self-care and mental health is to practice relaxation techniques. Ending the day with a good yoga, tai chi, or meditation session can help you reduce the effects of stress so that you can better enjoy your downtime. Additionally, using relaxation techniques can improve concentration and boost creativity. For people who are struggling to stay engaged under remote working conditions, having improved attention can really boost productivity.

Why is self-care important for mental health? When people take care of their bodies and minds in small ways, they prevent problems like stress, exhaustion, and body pain from growing worse.

To determine the best self-care techniques for your situation, it can help to consult a mental health professional. The therapists and counselors here at HPA/LiveWell in Albany, NY can help individuals navigate various concerns, including work stress, relationships, trauma, health conditions, and other stressors. Contact us at 518-218-1188.

Article contributed by Janey Riggins