Stay Healthy and Sane Working from Home
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Exhaustion, frustration, and anxiety are far too common experiences these days. In all likelihood, working from home isn’t making things easier.
By now, you’re used to working remotely from your kitchen table. But, you may have settled into some bad habits that contribute to stress, aches and pains, weight gain, headaches, and poor sleep. With everything going on, you may be neglecting your work-life balance. But, with a few changes to your routine, your environment, and your way of thinking, you can be more productive on the job while feeling happier at home.
Upgrade your at-home workspace
Don’t work in bed. It encourages poor posture and makes falling asleep in bed more challenging.
Improve the ergonomics of your computer setup. Are there parts of your body that ache after a few hours of work? Correcting your posture and positioning can, over time, reduce pain caused by repetitive movements like using the mouse and keyboard.
- Keep your screen at eye level.
- Support your lower back with a pillow.
- Use a different chair or a balance ball.
- Sit on a molded foam cushion to balance and support the hips.
- Adjust your mouse or the height of your keyboard so your elbows remain bent at 70 to 135 degrees.
- Elevate your feet with a footrest (or use stacked books or a box) so your legs bend at a 90-degree angle.
Don’t sit or stand all day. Have you tried working at a standing desk or even a treadmill desk? This setup encourages you to straighten your back and use your core muscles to support your chest and shoulders. You can stand at the kitchen counter, a table, or a standard desk. Just raise your screen to eye level, and elevate your mouse and keyboard, so your elbows are bent at 70 to 135 degrees.
Keep your workplace free of clutter.
But it’s not a bad idea to keep a piece of art like a framed picture or painting nearby to admire and refocus your eyes when you look away from the computer.
Establish household rules with your family or roommate for dedicated quiet time and uninterrupted work time.
Set mini-deadlines for yourself to stay on track throughout the workday. It feels satisfying to check things off a daily to-do list!
Turn off your phone for a couple of hours each day.
Use app blockers to limit your use of distracting entertainment and social media apps while you’re working.
Listen to music or a podcast while doing mindless, repetitive tasks.
Tackle your most demanding work during the hours of the day when you’re at your best, and when you know you’ll have uninterrupted time to devote to it.
You deserve a break
Taking a break after completing a work-related task is an excellent way to manage your mental energy and keep you motivated.
- Set a timer/phone reminder for scheduled breaks.
- Get up and stretch.
- Close your eyes for five minutes and focus on your breath.
- Take a short walk.
- Listen to music while not looking at a screen.
- Don’t eat in front of the computer or while looking at your phone.
- Play with your kids or your pet.
- Call a friend to catch up for 20 minutes.
- Take care of a simple item on your to-do list like washing dishes, folding laundry, returning something to a store, or make a quick phone call you’ve been putting off.
Make good use of your non-working hours
Sleep more, and sleep better. Getting enough quality sleep each night can improve your energy, focus, mood, and cravings for carbohydrates and caffeine.
Prioritize your relationships. Make time to socialize with family and friends while wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing guidelines. Here’s a list of ideas for activities to do with family and friends.
Be productive. Make some progress on a creative project you’re working on at home. Repaint your child’s bedroom in their new favorite color. Cultivate a small indoor veggie garden. Organize old photos, then create a themed digital album to share with family or friends.
Prep for healthy meals. Not going out to eat? Eat healthy at home. Take 15 minutes to chop and store fresh fruits and veggies to make preparing healthy meals and snacks quick and easy.
Stimulate different parts of your brain. Read for pleasure, listen to a thought-provoking podcast or TED Talk, get into an audiobook, practice an instrument, make art, watch or listen to something that makes you laugh, get outside and enjoy nature, play board or card games, ride your bike without headphones on, prepare a new recipe.
Move your body more. Play sports, walk, run, skateboard, bike, hike, roller-skate, dance around the house, lift weights, practice yoga, do Pilates, or try HIIT routines. Here’s how to harness the health benefits of exercise during the pandemic.
Practice mindfulness. Focus on your breath and try meditation, mindfulness, or guided visualization app. The goal of mindfulness meditation isn’t to be completely “zen” and eliminate all of your thoughts for 15 minutes. It’s about training your mind to manage stress by being mentally and emotionally present in the moment. This helps you avoid acting on impulse and can give you a better sense of perspective on your situation.
Medically reviewed by Robert Schwartz, M.D., a family medicine physician at the University of Miami Health System. Written by Dana Kantrowitz, a contributor to UMiami Health News.