Since the pandemic, many of us have been working from home. It is worth noting that for some of us this was not an unfamiliar situation, even before the pandemic. I was listening to a radio phone-in programme one morning last week and one of the callers told the host that at one point in their lives they had been diagnosed with agoraphobia and had not left their home for fifteen years. The person went on to say that over that time there were three things that made a real difference in their lives and helped with their difficulties.
This immediately struck a chord with me as I have been trying to find ways to maintain my health, both mental and physical, whilst adjusting to working from home.
When you do not have to leave the house for long periods of time it can be very tempting to laze about in bed all day and never really get around to dressing yourself. That is great sometimes, such as at the weekend, but if you do this day after day, it can be detrimental to your health. As human beings, we benefit from structure and routine. I remember talking to a nurse in a mental hospital a few years ago who told me one of the most important parts of their job was helping people re-establish a routine. So, it is important to get up at the same time every day, wash yourself, brush your teeth, get dressed, etc. I know it sounds very simple, but these can be some of the first things to slip when we feel a lack of purpose. People often feel rudderless in situations like this. Having a routine to work to can give us back a sense of control and distract us from things that might otherwise seem overwhelming.
Although the person on the radio felt unable to leave their home, they told the host that they were lucky enough to have a small garden and part of their routine was to run up and down it for a part of each day. In my case, I have dusted off a set of weights that have been in our spare bedroom for years and have been using them and doing sit-ups as pretty much the first thing I do every morning. Taking a daily walk is another option and let’s not forget all of the online workouts that are still available at the moment. Exercise helps in several ways in that it; burns off stress chemicals linked to the fight/flight/freeze reaction in exactly the way nature intended; it helps build self-esteem; and it also results in the brain producing endorphins, which are feelgood chemicals that boost good mood.
This is about feeling that we have done something useful and that we have a purpose. Beating a personal best in terms of exercise could be a part of that but so can learning new things and applying that knowledge to something practical. I gained a foolish sense of pride in 2020 by using an online recipe to prepare the dough and then bake my first loaf. Watching the dough rise as the yeast did its thing was a revelation and being able to share the bread with my partner and seeing it appreciated lifted my mood appreciably. Setting goals and reaching them is beneficial in all kinds of contexts. As I write this I am again listening to the radio, and I am hearing about a hundred-year-old gentleman who is cycling 20 miles a day to a target of 1000 miles to raise money for NHS charities. He is nearly there. I suppose that example ticks all three boxes.
You may be working from home, and you may think that it might be hard to fit this all in around that but if you take some time to reflect on how you can fit these three aspects into each day then it will certainly help you maintain health across the board.
One last thing about working from home. One day can blend into another and you can sometimes find yourself wondering what day of the week it is. I have noticed people working through the weekends and that cannot be good as we all need a chance to do something different from time to time. So, whilst you build that structure remember that it’s also alright to build a little novelty into Saturday and Sunday and to look after yourself.