What a difference a month makes. At the beginning of March, we all had Coronavirus on our radar but the idea of staying at home to stay safe certainly wasn’t.

Okay, a lot of us could see this coming, but there’s a difference between thinking ‘this is going to mean a few people taking a few weeks at home’ to almost the entire population staying in their houses seven days a week, except for exercise and necessary trips out.

I’m lucky. I work from home and my husband is a remote worker, so we were already used to spending our working hours in our house in North Wales. We have older teens, one due to finish high school this year and the other at college, so they weren’t averse to the extra time they get at their computers (when I’m not reminding them to do their chores and keep their brains ticking over with some online learning). My dog is completely happy to have her entire pack home all the time, so she can take them for walks.

There’s a wealth of articles out there on how to cope with surviving the Covid-19 lockdown from doctors to counsellors to entrepreneurs, but having been a homeworker for several years now, I thought I’d share how I keep healthy working from home.

I have a routine

Things have slipped a little since the lockdown began. I’m not up at 7 to drag my teens out of bed and run the youngest to school. I have an extra hour (and maybe 30 minutes) each morning before greeting the day, but I still have a rough routine during the week:

  • Morning – work
  • Lunch break
  • First half of the afternoon – emails, social media reading and posting, planning
  • Second half of the afternoon – work

My brain works best in the morning and as the afternoon heads towards evening, so that’s when I get my work done.

Without a routine, I:

  • lose track of time and ultimately waste it
  • lose track of my workload and don’t get enough done
  • fall foul to distractions (like that social media I mentioned above)
  • find it impossible to plan ahead

Having a routine also helps me to maintain my mental health. When I have a routine, I know what to expect and my day has a shape to it, rather than subsiding into an endless grey mire.

Why is this important? As an anxiety sufferer, boredom is my arch nemesis. When I’m bored, I spend way too much time in my head. I overthink things, see all the worst case scenarios at once, and forget to live in the real world.

I balance caffeine with water

When you work from home and the kitchen is probably close to hand, it’s easy to forget just how much coffee or tea (or cans of coke) you have drunk during the day. Hands up, this was me when I first started working from home.

As an anxiety sufferer, I really should avoid caffeine, but I just can’t get a taste for decaf coffee and tea so what I do instead is balance the amount of caffeine I’m drinking with plain, old water.

I know what a lot of you are going to say: water is boring. More importantly though, water is good for you. It counteracts the negative affect that caffeine has on our bodies, is great for our skin and bolsters our energy levels. What’s not to like about that?

So, when I have a mug of coffee or tea, I follow it with a glass of water. It took a few weeks to get used to, but now it’s just a habit.

Put the lid back on and step away from the sweetie jar

Another habit that’s easy to fall into when you work from home is having sugary snacks on a regular basis.

There’s that packet of custard creams calling to you, or your kids’ supply of chocolate bars. Before you know it, you’ve absent-mindedly polished off an entire packet of biscuits, had two (large) slices of carrot cake, and are panicking that your kids may soon start asking where the multi-pack of Kit Kats has gone to.

I’m no different to anyone in this. I can easily fall into the habit of eating way too many sugary snacks. What I’ve found works for me though, is to give myself a healthy alternative.

So when I find myself thinking of sugary snacks, I have no excuse to indulge because I’ve stocked up on:

  • fruit (yes, I know fruit has sugar in it but along with the sugar there’s all kinds of nutritional goodies too)
  • roasted but unsalted nuts
  • carrot and cucumber sticks

And yes, I do sometimes have the odd biscuit with a cup of tea. I’m human, after all.

I take breaks

I always make sure that I take a lunch break away from my desk, but I also take breaks throughout the day too, even if that is only to get a drink or throw a ball for the dog.

Taking a break from your work is beneficial in several ways:

  • Taking a break allows you to stretch your body and reset your posture. Personally, it’s all too easy for me to become hunched over my keyboard.
  • It forces your eyes to focus on something else. When you spend time at your work station, your eyes will generally remain focussed at a particular distance (for me that’s my computer screen). Taking a break enables you to keep your eyes healthy by focussing on a different distance, such as the view out of the window.
  • It allows you to reset your mindset. I find this works especially well for me when I’m stuck with what I’m working on. If I take a break and do something mundane like getting a coffee or taking a breath of fresh air in the garden, nine times of ten my brain comes up with how to get unstuck by the time I return to my keyboard.

I limit my social media intake

At the moment, most people are spending way more time than usual in the online world. It’s how we get up to date news, carry out our work and stay in touch with friends and family. There are downsides to so much online time though.

What we read online can begin to colour our view of the world and our own place within that world. Of course there’s a lot of upset, heartbreak and scary stuff going on at the moment, but we can become so obsessed with online content that we forget that we still have a loving family or a safe roof over our heads. There is so much that we can’t do anything about at the moment, but there are still a lot of factors we can control.

We can become so drawn into checking for news updates on social media, that it eats away at the time that could be spent more sensibly on work, rest or with loved ones.

While social media can provide us with a wonderful opportunity to connect and promote our businesses, it can become a drain unless we begin to see it as a tool rather than a window.

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Whether you’re a key worker still out there, working from home or simply self-isolating, please stay safe. We’re going to get through this, together.

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