Before COVID-19, many of us dreamt of working from the comfort of our homes. And then that scenario actually came true, albeit not under the most pleasant of circumstances. For over a year and a half, there was little or no commuting to the office, no need to ‘dress up’ formally, and no unnecessary workplace chit-chat to distract you from completing one’s projects. Best of all, we had more time to be with our families, to call up a friend in the middle of the day, or play with our pets.

However, like everything else, remote work came with its own adaptation challenges. Let’s look at some factors related to working from home that could be draining your emotional health.

Lack of boundaries

It is important to set boundaries – in our personal and professional lives. When organisations allow employees to set and manage their work boundaries, it helps maintain the latter’s well-being. However, most people have been struggling to set these boundaries, often waking up early, staying up late at night, or working on weekends to meet deadlines. Stress and overexertion peaked, and there was no getting away from the pings of your email inbox or the many, and sometimes frivolous, Zoom calls that filled the day.

Being unable to switch off from work on time also resulted in people creating extra time for themselves by extending their waking hours. No surprise that sleep became a quick casualty in the process.

Distractions

When we think of the external environment’s impact on emotional health, we think of exhaustion or issues with focus. What isn’t discussed as widely is the feeling of being disconnected from one’s work environment. For some individuals, going to the workplace is a chance to put aside, at least temporarily, domestic concerns or issues. But when you work from home, there is constant pressure, especially on women, to handle kids and household responsibilities while juggling their work targets and meetings. Some people also find offices more conducive to distraction-free, focused work.

Lost connections

And then, of course, many workers miss being in physical proximity to their teammates. Those daily interactions at the water cooler, at lunchtime, or in the corridors form a greater part of our social lives than we think. Such informal interactions also result in a lot of collaborative work, creative ideation, and deeper bonding with the people we share our workspaces with.

Now, let’s explore some ways to take care of one’s emotional health while working remotely.

1. Record it in writing

On a piece of paper, write down the problem, how it makes you feel, and some possible ways to respond. Journaling is another way to find out your innermost thoughts and feelings by putting pen to paper. I find it helpful to start by writing what is happening, what I am feeling, the prominent thoughts in my mind, and the ideal next steps. Concluding the journaling exercise with specific steps that one can take will give you a plan which you can implement.

2. Talk to someone

Talking to someone else has a powerful cathartic effect. Humans are wired to share experiences, and sharing our inner world with someone else becomes a soulful experience in itself. Don’t have anybody to talk to? Don’t worry. You can try recording yourself and play back the recording to get new perspectives.

3. Get creative

If you are an artist or performer at heart, try writing a poem, painting on canvas, composing a song, or dancing. All of these are ways to let that energy and feelings out and shape them for the greater good.

4. Establish a routine

A routine helps you have an organised and balanced system in place, where you can factor in tasks, mealtimes, breaks, or other activities that make up your day.

5. Get enough sleep

The final, crucial element is sleep. Try to get 6-8 hours of sleep every night. This means keeping digital devices aside and consciously shifting to a calmer mental state an hour or two before bedtime. Ensuring your room is cool, dark, comfortable, and noise-free maximises your chances of sleeping well at night.

To conclude, recognising our emotional state is the first step towards change. Excelling in one’s professional life is indeed a great thing. But it's also important to focus on your physical and emotional health – especially if you work remotely since your boundaries are constantly likely to be tested. If we learn to be kind to ourselves, it will be a huge step towards better well-being.