How to Take Care of Your Mental Health During the Pandemic

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the country, social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders are being indefinitely extended. But experts fear we may be heading toward a mental health crisis. 

 Managing Work/Life Balance

With states ordering non-essential businesses to close their physical doors, much of the workforce has been sent home and expected to continue their productivity from home. If you've never worked from home before, you're probably quickly learning that it's not as easy (or enjoyable) as it sounds.

 "One of my favorite quotes is 'you are not working from home. You are home during a pandemic trying to work,' says Menije Boduryan-Turner, Psy.D., licensed clinical psychologist at Embracing You Therapy.

Here are some tips to make it work. 

Build in a commute. People typically say the best thing about working from home is cutting out the commute, but what you may not realize is that your commute gives you a mental break. “One of the hardest things about working from home is the lack of a commute and an opportunity for decompression. For this reason, I often encourage people to take a walk around the block at the end of their work day to play the role of a commute in order to give space for decompression but also to create that boundary around work and home,” says Small.

Have a designated workspace. Working from the couch — or, worse, your bed — sounds appealing, but it's important to have a space set aside exclusively for work. "Just like you have a mental switch when you walk into work, find a place at home that will do the same. Every time you sit in that chair, it should only be for work to give you that sense of separation,” says MK Andersen, owner of Your Day by MK.

Keep regular hours. Avoid blurring the lines between work and home by clocking in and out at your regular time. That means don't do household chores during the workday, and don't take work to bed with you at night. “Finish working at the same time you would if you were at an office. Don't neglect the 'off' time you usually give yourself after work,” says Andersen.

Get dressed. “Although it’s tempting to work in pajamas, it’s important to change into work attire as you begin your work day. The change into work clothing actually stimulates the mind into knowing that it’s time to focus and work,” says Manly.

Maintain social connections. If you regularly meet up with coworkers for coffee or happy hour, keep those going virtually. “Reach out to other home office workers to have business chats over coffee, lunch, or via Skype. Staying connected reduces a sense of isolation and increases a sense of being part of a greater community,” says Manly.