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Mental Health Strategies for Remote Working (and life)

Maintaining positive mental health and being in a remote-driven world

Shallow Focus Photo of Man in Gray Shirt

The COVID-19 pandemic forced a lot of people into isolated, remote environments. Even ignoring work demands, staying indoors was necessary to help curb the spread of Coronavirus. But, hey, here we are again.

At the time of this article, summer saw a surge in COVID cases. For a lot of reasons, some understandable, some not so much. We were all eager to get back to normal, do the vacation thing, see our friends/family, and feel like we put a dark chapter of history behind us. We almost did, but we’re looking at new outbreaks. Unfortunately, curbing the rise of yet more spikes of COVID will require falling back on mask mandates and isolated strategies.

I heard you groan. Hey, look, I’m right there with you. And for what it’s worth, I’ll call it out for what it is: insanity. Misinformation and conspiracies about vaccinations along with the oh-so-scary politicization of medicine got us back here. Because of that, we’re potentially looking at more rounds of short-term lockdowns. Or longer, if things get worse.

The point, though, is not for me to whinge about contemporary happenings. I bring up COVID because it will create another need for remote working. Because of that need, mental health can take a nosedive. I talked about it before in my previous mental health article (primarily aimed at burnout), but guess what, I’m back for round two. And, you might think it’s irrelevant as an enterprise lead (a big shame-wagging finger upon you if so), but a workforce riddled with mental health strain isn’t productive at all.

Recognizing the internal “you” and mental health struggles

Mental health covers a wide variety of topics. For practicality’s sake, we’ll keep it focused on remote work and staying at home. It’s also worth pointing out, these are opinions, suggestions, and bits of advice to get you in the right direction. I am not a mental health professional, and if you’re dealing with serious issues, consult a specialist. That said, I’m happy to help you identify problem factors in hopes to get you on the right track.

Like in the burnout article, I’ll provide some keynotes to help recognize when you’re dealing with mental strain, fatigue-induced or otherwise:

  • You’re tired more often than not, even after rest
  • You’ve lost interest in passions, hobbies
  • You don’t feel like socializing in any capacity
  • You find yourself feeling more irritable and angry at small things
  • You adopt unhealthy coping habits such as excessive drinking/smoking

I realize that can also sound general and are potential symptoms of other problems, but that asserts the point of reduced mental health. When you feel like you’re “watching” life, or you’re not you, you’re generally less happy, that’s the internal you saying “something isn’t right.” I think now more than ever it’s so important to talk about these things too, because our need to work remotely will only grow, especially in the face of a new pandemic wave.

The stigma of mental health and addressing it

Improving ourselves and continuing that path of personal happiness is met with resistance, and I don’t mean from within. I want to highlight this because my goodness does society want to ignore how truly imperative it is for a healthy emotional and mental state. I don’t have to argue too hard to say that, in many places, mental health conditions are a point of discrimination. And that discourages people from seeking help, recognizing their internal struggles, and becoming healthier, happier people. How often do you see media often make jokes at the expense of people struggling with a mental health issue? It’s those small thoughts that creep into us which fill us with doubt, and ultimately cause us long-term pain.

So, let’s cut that out right now. Mental health is a real, serious thing. From a sense of unhappiness to deeper issues, you’ve got to take it seriously. Don’t ever let someone tell you your problems aren’t real, or valid, or you’re making it up, or the thousand of other garbage takes they’ll sling at you.

I emphasize this, because, the advice in this article (and the help you hopefully pursue afterward, if you need it) will get trampled if you don’t listen to yourself. It’s hard, too, because sometimes those doubting voices are people we care about. Close friends, your parents, even your partner.

Addressing your mental health struggles

Honestly, this article could turn into a book. There are various ways to improve personal mental health. But I’m going to give you a sparknotes version and give you some quick I-can-do-this-today strategies to start improving your mind space. No magic crystals needed, either.

Jokes on you, I already gave you a freebie. Approaching your personal mental state as valid, real, and something to work on is a step forward in positive growth.

Find time to deplug yourself

We spend an insane amount of time online. Work demands often force our hands, but beyond that, we use the internet and mobile devices for things like social media, entertainment, games, and messaging. Break from that screen, rest your eyes, and do something away from the digital work for a while. Doesn’t matter what it is, just keep those electronics out of your hands. Try an hour!

Modify your diet

You know, I love Reeses. If my job said “well Doug, we can’t pay you in money, but we can in Reeses,” a very strong part of me would be tempted. But as delicious as they are, Reeses are junk food, and trying to trick my brain with a serotonin rush from eating said junk is a bad philosophy. Physically, as you can imagine, it’s awful. Mentally it creates a feedback loop of bad eating patterns.

Modify your diet to cut down on sugars, drink more water, and seek whole foods. Your body will feel good, and in response, so will your brain. That doesn’t mean it sends depression packing, but it helps.

Create a mental health journal

Some call this a “gratitude” journal, which is good. I also think of it as a mental health journal. It’s simple, you look at your day, write a few snippets of what you’re grateful for, and repeat. The small victories count, and this also helps you keep track of your thought process over time.

Example? “Today I organized my messy closet! I’m thankful that it’s cleaner now.”

Speaking of. . .

Organize and declutter

Your home might be your office. Therefore, keeping your space clean is super important for mental well-being. Clutter has been linked to depression, for instance, and it just doesn’t feel good. Waking up and working in a tidy environment feels awesome. It’s also fun when you dive into, actively knowing that you’re improving your home space just the way you like it.

Take advantage of social tools

It’s good to deplug. But you do have an advantage with social media tools: the ability to talk when you need to. Discuss and confide the things bothering you to a good friend that wants to listen and help (and I mean that, not somebody who will treat your problems with contempt).

It is very easy to fall into a sense of isolation with mental health troubles. As I say though, you’re not alone.

And lastly, a few quickfire suggestions (though these could prove more challenging to take advantage of with remote demands):

  • If not already, adopt a pet, which can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Take walks in nature-oriented areas/parks (this also accompanies the deplug advice)
  • Set up a healthy sleep routine and keep yourself on that sleep schedule

Mental Health Resources

Hopefully, this cheat-sheet article has given you some fuel to improve your mental health. To help maintain that, I’ll include some links to mental health resources.

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/ – A great repository of mental health tips, articles, and strategies.

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help/ – Provides resources for finding serious help if you or a loved one are experiencing some critical mental health struggles.

https://www.talkspace.com/online-therapy/ – Great way to find an online counselor for professional assistance.

-Douglas James

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