While working from home (a.k.a. remote working) can be positive and productive, it has its downsides too.
These last months many of us were “forced” to start working from home.
That can bring many positive sides, but it can also complicate our daily life, routines, relationships. I’m sure you are nodding with a smile while reading this (or maybe crying; I understand that too, hehe!)
But fear not! Let me give you good ideas on protecting your mental health while working from home, expat or not.
How to preserve your mental health while working from home?
1.- Set firm boundaries.
If you are an employee and your work hours are from 9 to 5, after 5 pm you don’t answer your phone, not even a quick look at your email, etc.
Suppose you work by yourself, the same. Have a schedule to follow and set an hour to finish your workday. I understand entrepreneurship, and I know there will always be things to resolve, very “urgent.”
But if you don’t draw a line, sooner or later, your body will demand more attention and rest, most likely not in an enjoyable way.
2.- Make a “working-from-home-space” only.
a.- Style your workspace as inviting as possible, even if temporary. Some plants, photos, candles, colors. Whatever cheers you up and gives you light.
Some of my clients, hoping that their “staying at home” will only be temporary, were rejecting this idea and didn’t invest any effort in making their workspace pleasant.
That resulted in them feeling uncomfortable, less productive and even a fearful state: wanting to be somewhere else the whole time.
So, make that little work corner yours: your domain, your territory.
b.- When your work stops (remember point 1 😉 ), leave the room and close the door. If you don’t have a room, but a workspace, then “put a blanket on it.”
Dismantle, cover. Off for the day. Out of sight, out of mind.
3.- Limit your screen time up to 25 minutes straight.
Also known as the “Pomodoro Technique”. 25 minutes work, 5 minutes pause. Start again.
In those 5 minutes, move. Go to the kitchen, balcony, up and down the stairs, wash the dishes.
That helps keep you focused and maintain concentration, gives your brain a break to rest and helps you recharge your batteries.
It can be difficult sometimes, especially if you feel like you are “in the zone,” but take my word for it; your body and mind will be grateful and more productive.
4.- Structure, organization, schedule.
Schedule your breaks, your meetings, your time off. Keep a calendar for work only and stick to it—no exceptions, just the “emergencies only” policy.
Many of my clients deal with relationship problems caused “simply” by not being organized or respecting their schedules. Even more stressful with homeschooling!
Brief each other with your daily schedules and “set appointments” to meet during the day.
I’m aware this sounds unromantic, but it is the less “struggle-charged” way to deal with misunderstandings.
Spontaneity is excellent, but it can lead to conflicts that can be easily avoided by communicating and some organization.
5.- Communicate with your partner.
Tell them how you feel, what is bothering you, what are our concerns or frustrations.
Use your words assertively, respectfully, yet direct. And offer a solution, an alternative, a plan B (or C or D).
If you need some space for yourself after work, say it.
If you want more time together, say it.
Don’t accumulate resentment or anger, even if very small.
Seeing each other the whole day is lovely, but in most cases takes re-adjudgment and exploration of boundaries.
6.- Practice Self-Compassion.
Be kind to yourself. We are functioning under extraordinary circumstances.
Acknowledge this every day, every hour: you are remarkable for getting through your day, working from home, being a present partner/parent if that’s the case, a sibling, a friend.
Treat yourself with respect and love, and that will extend to the ones you love.
7.- Take time to relax and disconnect.
Hobbies, movement, doing things you enjoy. By yourself or with people you want to surround yourself with.
Meet friends for coffee or a drink. Virtually or face to face.
It is essential that you find time to enjoy yourself, doing whatever you want to do.
Try to sleep more, watch out what you are eating, exercise, etc.
You are not alone in this, never forget it!
Take the reins now and live a fulfilled and happy international life, wherever you are, wherever you are heading!
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By your side,
Gabriela Encina is an online psychologist specialized in expat women and supports them with the guidance and tools they need to feel confident, make the best decisions for their lives, build and maintain meaningful relationships and prioritize their well-being.
Her approach is practical, solution-oriented and focused on the present.
Gabriela offers counseling to expat women in Spanish, English and German.