Working from home: How to manage your anxiety

Two people talking

Given how fast our daily lives are changing at the moment, it's hard not to worry about it all. Recently, the UK government advised office workers who can work from home to do so, as a way of slowing the spread of Covid-19. Our London team decided to see how this would affect fellow office workers' mental health by reaching out to 2,000 people and asking their opinions about these new developments

The stats and sentiments that they collected during a poll confirmed that we all find this continued remote working daunting. In fact, their research showed that 4 in 10 British office workers are worried about their mental health and general wellbeing going forward.

To help workers cope with the cabin fever and stay sane while staying at home, we've partnered with Dr Becky Spelman, an expert psychologist, to create a guide of nifty tips on managing anxiety and keeping worry at bay. Plus, our in-house optometrist, Yannick Roth, includes his advice for looking after your eye health during schedules of increased screen time.

Woman taking a break from working on her laptop to meditate

Follow the 20-20-20 rule

A top eyecare tip from Yannick Roth, Optician and Business Developer at Vision Direct: 'To diminish the discomfort of digital eye strain, a common dilemma during this time of constant screen usage, I suggest incorporating some new rules into your routine.

A good one to stick by is the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes look away from the screen for 20 seconds, at something that's 20 feet away. By doing this, you can give your eyes some much-needed rest while preventing headaches, blurred vision and parched peepers.'

Stay social

Keep in touch with your friends and colleagues. Working from home can become lonely and isolating. You may feel as though the last thing you want to do is have another phone call or Zoom meet-up after a long day at work - but do make the effort to keep in touch with the people you care about.

If you live with others who are also working from home - a spouse or flatmate, for example - establish some ground rules to make it easier for you both to work. This might mean designating a particular room for phone calls, so that nobody is distracted, or agreeing to meet at a set time for lunch or a walk together.

Tidy desk set up with laptop screen, clock and folders

Map your territory

Dr. Becky Spellman points out: "No-one under-estimates how hard it can be to draw a line between work and life when pretty much all of it is conducted under one roof", so it's important to have a specific room or corner where you work. It can be very difficult to maintain a clear distinction between work and home life when you work from home. One thing that makes a big difference is having a dedicated workspace. If your home is big enough, a spare room or box room can be repurposed as an office - but even if you live in a small studio apartment, you can designate a particular desk or table as your workspace.

Keep your workspace reasonably tidy. We all have our own comfort level when it comes to messiness, but we need to make sure that we stay well within it. At the end of each working day, clear away the empty coffee cups, tidy your paperwork and close your laptop.

Person procrastinating in front of computer

Break it up

Schedule regular breaks, and try to make fresh air and exercise part of them. Research shows that interacting with nature has a profoundly positive effect on mental health. If you can go for a walk in a park or the countryside, great - if you can't, even a brisk walk around the block to get some fresh air and feel the sunshine on your face will do you good.

Consider integrating a practice such as fifteen minutes of yoga or mindfulness meditation into your day. There are thousands of guided workshops on YouTube that can help you if you are not comfortable doing this on your own. Unwinding in this way will help you to avoid aching shoulders - and a stressed-out mind.

Nourish yourself

Keep an eye on your alcohol consumption. Stress and boredom can be huge contributors to excessive drinking. When working from home, it can be very tempting to unwind in the evening with a stiff drink. For most of us, there's nothing wrong with having a drink now and again - but be mindful of how much, and how often, you are drinking. Help yourself to avoid reaching for the bottle too often by having some attractive non-alcoholic options available.

It can be all too tempting to graze from the fridge at regular intervals when working from home. Weight gain is a potential hazard of working from home. Help to mitigate against this by avoiding stocking up on unhealthy treats, and keeping healthy snacks such as carrots, grapes, and mandarins on hand instead.

Happy person on windowsill working on laptop

Set the mood

Tempting as it can be to work in your pyjamas or slob around in grubby yoga pants (we've all been there!) it is better for your mental health to have a shower and get dressed before work.

You don't have to put on a business suit - just some clean, comfortable clothes. You will feel more professional, competent, and work-focused if you go to a minimum of effort in the morning. If you don't already have a pot-plant or two in your home, consider getting one. Having a green, living plant is good for the air, your mood, and the home environment. Succulents are great "starter plants" for those who don't have green fingers.

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