5 therapist-recommended tips to stay mentally strong when you're working from home

Woman doing a craftEugenio Marongiu/Getty ImagesScheduling fun activities can help you stay mentally strong during isolation.

It’s hard to feel like the epitome of mental toughness when you’re sitting on the couch in your pajamas for the 250th day in a row armed with nothing but a laptop and a coffee-stained pile of papers.

Amy morin psychotherapistCourtesy of Amy MorinAmy Morin.

Working from home can feel a bit liberating while also a bit mundane. And over time, every day might blend together when your only coworker is your cat. 

For individuals who live alone, remote work can be quite isolating. No matter how many Zoom meetings you might have, staring at people through a screen might make you feel more disconnected than ever. 

On the other hand, some remote workers would give anything to get a few minutes of silence. Dealing with kids who are trying their hand at remote learning, a partner who speaks loudly on conference calls, and a neighbor’s dog who won’t stop barking can make your work day feel more like a circus than a serene office.

Fortunately, no matter what situation you find yourself in right in, there are a few things you can do to stay mentally strong while you’re working from home.

1. Create opportunities to get away from work

When you’re working from home, you might find that you sit on the couch with the TV on and your laptop in front of you almost all the time. Day blends into night and the line between “work” and “non-work” time gets fuzzy. This can cause you to feel as though you’re working all the time, which isn’t good for your psychological well-being.

Carve time into your schedule that allows you to get away from work. Close your laptop and watch TV or put your work-related items away at a certain time every evening. Create boundaries that allow you to relax without feeling like you have to respond to emails in an instant.

2. Schedule something fun

One of the best ways to feel good is by scheduling something fun. It sounds simplistic on the surface, but it really works.

Pleasant activity scheduling, as it’s often referred to in the therapy world, is a skill that combats depression. Researchers have found it’s a great way to help people feel better.

Scheduling a fun activity a few days into the future boosts your mood because you have something to look forward to. Then, when you actually do that activity, you get another boost in your mood. Your mood will stay elevated after the activity is over because you’ve created a positive memory. 

Of course, during the pandemic a “fun” activity might look a little different than you’re used to. But you might benefit from something as simple as deciding that you’re going to watch a movie on Friday night. Putting that in your schedule might not only increase the likelihood that you’ll actually do it, but it could also improve your psychological well-being.

3. Take care of your body

Your mind won’t stay strong if you’re neglecting your body. So beware of the tendency to stay up watching the late shows or the temptation to snack too much when you’re bored (and working seven steps away from the refrigerator).

Eating too much junk food, indulging in alcohol, skimping on sleep, and forgoing your workouts won’t just take a toll on your physical health – those unhealthy habits will also take a toll on your mental health.

So make sure you’re not neglecting yourself when you’re working from home. It’s easy to do – especially during the pandemic. But creating time to move your body and care for your basic needs is essential to functioning at your best. 

4. Balance social time and alone time

Whether you feel like you can’t get away from your family for five minutes, or the only human being you’ve seen in months is the delivery driver, social distancing has created some bizarre circumstances. 

Everyone needs both social time and solitude but the amount of time in which you need each one is unique to you. It’s important to know how much alone time you need to feel your best and how much time you need with people to thrive.

During the pandemic, you’ll likely need to get a little more creative with getting your needs met. From Zoom dinners with friends to setting aside time to read in a book in your room without the kids interrupting, get proactive about getting your needs met. 

5. Incorporate some mental strength exercises into your day

Just like it’s important to set aside time to work on building a strong, healthy body, it’s also important to work on building a strong mind.

Incorporating a few mental strength exercises into your day can go a long way toward helping you think, feel, and do your best.

There are many different exercises that can help you grow mentally stronger. Practicing gratitude, meditating, and naming your feelings are just a few simple strategies that can help you build mental muscle. 

Set aside time to do them and commit to daily practice. Your mental muscles need ongoing exercise to stay in shape the same way your physical muscles do.

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