Working remotely can seem like a dream gig to an outsider. You don’t have a commute. You can work in your pajamas. You can travel the world. You don’t have to deal with annoying coworkers. What is there to complain about?
The reality is that a lot of us who work remotely often feel anxious or depressed. While we might have the freedom to create our own schedule and work from anywhere, it’s easy to feel isolated. The problem is compounded for many of us as the weather grows colder so we’re inclined to be indoors more, and as the days grow shorter, providing less vitamin D and serotonin, a chemical that helps stave off anxiety and depression and is triggered by sunlight.
If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, it is important to seek professional care and support. While it may not be financially viable to engage in weekly counseling, if you have thoughts of harming yourself or you are unable to even get out of bed, it’s critical you see a professional who can get you the care you need.
Almost equally important to outside help are the daily habits you can establish to support your own mental wellness. More commonly known now as “self-care,” incorporating these small habits can have a big impact on the way you feel about your life.
The term “self-care” usually conjures up images of pedicures, massages, and candle-lit baths. That might not be your jam, so luckily that’s not really what we’re talking about here. Self-care is taking the time to address your emotional, mental, and physical needs. Indulging every once in awhile can be helpful in its own way, but it’s the consistent, daily practices that have the biggest impact.
You might also think you don’t have time for self-care. Or maybe thinking about adding more to-dos to your list is overwhelming. Don’t worry. Some of these tools only take 10 minutes, maybe less. And you don’t have to do all of them. Any one of these self care tools put into action can support your mental health.
Challenge yourself and those on your team to pick one thing today to do to support your mental health. And then commit to do that specific habit for an amount of time. Try it for maybe a week or a month. If you don’t see any benefit or would like to try something else, pick a new one for the next week or month.
Some weeks what you’re doing for self care might work. Some weeks you might require something else. Keep an open mind and be willing to experiment. What works for someone in the community might not work for you.
1. Eat better
Stay with me. I know nobody likes to be told to eat more veggies, but just like your body can’t stave off sickness without vitamins and minerals, neither can your brain. A lack of vitamins and minerals can disrupt the chemical processes in your brain and make your body’s job of keeping you going a lot harder.
There’s no need to go straight to Whole30. Just try replacing one bad eating habit with a healthier one. Get easily snackable fruit and veggies like grapes, carrots, or nuts to replace your Cheetos or granola bar. Reach for a salad kit from Trader Joe’s instead of the Orange Chicken. Or even get some great tasting high-protein, low-carb protein bars to replace the candy or Diet Coke you have after lunch to keep you going.
Find one trade you can make in your diet and give yourself props for giving your body and brain just a little bit more of what it needs.
Okay, still Captain Obvious over here. Eat right and exercise. Got it. We’ve all heard it.
But depressed and anxious thoughts aren’t always easy to shake. When you’ve been sitting in the same chair in the same office staring at the same screen for hours at a time, it’s easy for your brain to default to the negative.
Physical movement can shake up the routines in your brain that leave you feeling down.
Get outside, take a walk, dance to your favorite song, or breathe deeply while doing a few simple stretches. Moving in these simple ways can, even in a small way, can encourage the release of endorphins and dopamine in your system and disrupt some of your negative thought patterns.
Still not wanting to feel the burn? Try some outside motivation. Reach out to other WordPress marketers or those on your team to come up with an exercise goal or challenge around steps walked or calories burned. Connecting with others is a great way to make a new habit stick.
When you work remotely, there is the benefit of not having to deal with annoying co-workers. But you also miss out on the connection, collaboration, and support you get with daily face-to-face interaction with those who understand your work situation.
When you’re tending towards depressed or anxious thoughts, it’s important to reach out to others who can support you. Organizations like WP&UP provide resources to encourage positive mental health in the WordPress community.
WP&UP provides counseling and coaching through live chat, phone, or email. They aren’t just there for emotional support, but provide resources, coaching, and counseling for your business and physical health as well. You can become even more involved with the community by joining the WP&UP Slack.
Using resources like meetup.com, you can find other people who work from home in your area. Weekly or monthly WordPress meetups with those who can understand your situation, helps to keep the lonely and isolated feelings at bay.
Sometimes when you feel depressed or anxious, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why. When you take the time to write down what you’re thinking and feeling, it’s a chance to eavesdrop on the background thoughts that run the show.
Ten minutes a day of journaling can help you keep an accurate gauge on how you’re doing. Often we attribute a bad feeling to just having a bad day, but if you’re entries are consistently trending towards anxiety, depression or other negative feelings, it’s time to reach out and seek help and connection.
Choosing to also journal about 1 positive experience and/or 4 things you are grateful for, can also help reprogram your brain to focus on the positive. Sean Achor has documented the science behind this in his very enjoyable book, The Happiness Advantage.
Stick With It
Your mental health requires daily attention. Whether or not you’re noticing yourself feeling more anxious or depressed, it’s important to stay aware and practice self-care. Try to level-up one habit in your life this week to improve the way you feel.
If you’ve felt consistently down, isolated, unmotivated, lonely, or anxious, please talk to someone you trust. Get the help you need so you can continue to enjoy the sweet gig that is working from home. And help yourself by creating habits out of the simple practices outlined above.