The demands of the pandemic led most of us to spend a lot more time at home, including working from home. And as the months went by, burnout rates soared. In fact, a 2020 Gallup poll indicated that fully remote workers experience more burnout than people who work on-site.
As we enter year three of the pandemic, we’ve put together some rituals and recommendations for staying well at home to help keep you in a healthy mindset wherever you are in your health journey. Whether you’re looking to prevent burnout or simply enhance your sense of wellbeing, here are the best ways to take care of your time, personal space, and body in 2022.
Protect your time
Especially when working from home, it’s easy for work time to flow into what would otherwise be your personal (or “life”) time. The loss of time for just yourself can feel draining, but the right boundaries and efforts can go a long way toward replenishing your energy.
- Dedicate time to eating—and only eating. Eating is a prime opportunity for boundary-setting; see if you can avoid eating while working or even in front of a computer screen. Not only is this a reprieve from work, but it gives you the chance to engage in mindful eating—being fully attentive to your food, its flavor, feel, and how it fills you up. Bonus: you’ll likely feel more satisfied later because of it.
- Notice how video calls affect you. When it comes to personal time, you may feel like the video call is one of your biggest adversaries. Video calls are a great way to stay in touch with loved ones and they became especially prominent for many of us over the pandemic. But they can also take an energetic toll on you, especially at work. Luckily, there are some things you can do to safeguard your time and keep them from feeling overwhelming. Block off 5 minutes after video calls whenever possible to process the conversation, check in with yourself and tend to any needs, and give your eyes a break. (You might also consider turning off self-view mode: you won’t be looking at that mirrored view of yourself, and that can make calls less stressful.)
- Set aside time for self-care. This can take a lot of different forms and will help you stay on top of your physical and mental health. Maybe start by doing one thing every day that brings you joy. Reading a book, calling a friend, playing Wordle, looking at old photos, window-shopping—if it’s going to spark some enjoyment in you, you’ll feel less burned out if you’re intentional about doing it regularly.
Dedicating time for things like doctor’s appointments may not be how most of us usually think of self-care, but they’re an equally important use of our personal time. Now’s a particularly good time to check in with a doctor about any of your health concerns: telehealth makes it simple to have quick medical appointments in the middle of the day. As of last year, 80% of doctors in America offer telehealth. Similarly, if it’s accessible to you, consider working remote therapy into your schedule. This can give you a regular window in which to discuss your own experience and, in the process, give you some much needed distance from work. Explore options like BetterHelp, Talkspace, and Cerebral. Being more in touch with your emotions will power healthier choices throughout the day, and it’s one of our most powerful defenses against burnout.
Set up your space
Even if you’re among those who feel relieved to not have to travel into an office all the time, an office makes it easy to compartmentalize and separate work from home. So, without one, being intentional about your work and living spaces is going to be crucial. Here are important ways you can keep your space safe from work overflow.
- Have a dedicated space for work. The couch is best for your own relaxation and personal time. A dedicated work space, even just a desk and a chair, will go a long way toward keeping your work life feeling separate from your home life. If it’s hard for your desk chair to compete with your couch, consider a cushion or a blanket to make things comfier. By keeping your workspace separate but comfortable, you’ll help ease your own tension—and you’ll appreciate couch time so much more.
- Set up proper lighting. This will help ensure your work doesn’t drain you unnecessarily by straining your eyes. Try supplementing overhead lighting by borrowing a lamp from another room. The less your eyes have to exert themselves, the less stressed and achy you’ll feel.
- Add personality to your workspace. Think of your work space as another part of your home to decorate with your favorite photos, art, and anything that gives you inspiration, joy, or peace. You can also make your workspace come to life by playing music, lighting a candle, or turning on a diffuser—take full advantage of those work-from-home perks.
Take care of your body
Sitting at a desk all day in an office can create tremendous tension in your body. That’s often exacerbated in work-from-home settings, where you’re not getting up to visit coworkers at their desks, heading to conference rooms, or standing by the watercooler catching up with a friend. Here are some tips for protecting your body.
- Make time to stretch. Stretching is an effective way to decrease muscle stiffness, improve your posture, and break up a workday lull. It’s also a great way to suss out where your body is holding on to extra tension. To start, try these three stretches—you don’t even have to get out of your chair for them:
- Bring your arms behind your back and interlace your fingers. Lift your arms up until you fill the stretch in your chest. Hold it for 15–30 seconds, then release.
- With your right hand, hold onto the side of your chair, and tilt your head to the left until you feel the stretch in your neck. Hold it for 15–30 seconds, release, then repeat on the other side.
- Place your hands behind your neck, then lean back over the back of your chair until you feel the stretch in your middle back. Hold for 15–30 seconds, then release.
- Try a breathing exercise. Deep breathing is another way to take care of your body. When you’re stressed at work or focused on tasks, it’s common to take shallow breaths. Breathwork can help with this. Try this simple one while sitting at your desk:
- Close your eyes. Inhale deeply through your nose for four seconds. Hold it for four seconds seconds, then exhale through your mouth for four seconds. Hold again for four seconds, then repeat. See how much you can focus exclusively on your breath. Repeat this for 60 seconds. See if you can build this up to a 3-5-minute daily practice.
We’ve all had to make significant adjustments over the past two years, but we can take steps to ensure that those adjustments don’t take over our personal time and space, or negatively impact our health and well-being. At Noom, we believe that finding and working toward what works best for you—in any circumstances—is always most important. With the right intel and commitment, everyone can improve their environment to help them build new habits, set them up for success, and feel their best.