There are some great benefits to working from home. You can avoid the daily commute back and forth to work, skip dressing in professional attire most days and take calls from your living room couch if you choose to.
But working from home can also be challenging to your health and wellness. You may find yourself sitting down for hours at a time, snacking more frequently and working longer hours.
With a little bit of planning and some self-discipline, you can stay on track with your health and wellness goals even while working from home.
The good news is that with some planning and self-discipline, you can stay on track with your health and wellness goals even while working from home. Check out these tips to learn how to move more, maintain healthy eating habits and make your mental health a priority.
- Take movement breaks. Once you start working at your desk (or kitchen table), it can be easy to go-go-go, but it’s important to stop, get up and move around. According to MedlinePlus, having an inactive lifestyle is one of the leading causes of many chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and more. Set an alarm or a reminder to get up at least once each hour. Stand up, stretch, go up and down the stairs and move around.
- Build in exercise time. Using your work schedule, figure out the best time to work in an exercise routine. Maybe it’s an early morning walk, a yoga class during lunch, or a workout after you’re done for the day. Based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) physical activity guidelines, try to find at least 30 minutes each day during your work week to dedicate to exercise.
- Get creative. Think about moments throughout your day where you could build in movement. Can you take one of your calls while walking around the neighborhood? Use a standing desk in your home office? Can you memorize a series of yoga poses to do while you listen in on a meeting? Or meet a colleague for a walk instead of coffee? Do Your Best to Find Ways to Be More Active has some great suggestions for creative ways to increase your activity level.
- Give your eyes a break. Your eyes can become strained and fatigued when you sit at a computer for a long period of time. The CDC recommends the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. This exercise can reduce eye strain and protect your eye health.
- Maintain good posture. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has several suggestions for setting up a computer workstation that keeps your joints and muscles naturally aligned to reduce stress and strain on your body.
- Monitor your eating habits. When you’re working five feet away from your refrigerator and snack cupboard, it can be hard to keep track of how much you’re eating. Try to set specific times when you’ll eat (just like you would at an office) so you aren’t constantly snacking even when you aren’t hungry.
- Eat a healthy breakfast. If you just sit down at your computer and start working, you may look up three hours later and realize you haven’t had anything but coffee. This may lead you to binge on sugar or junk as the day goes on. A nutritious breakfast can keep you full and provide you with the energy you need throughout the day. Check out these delicious healthy breakfast ideas from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), including recipes for a loaded veggie omelet and protein pancakes.
- Plan ahead. Knowing you’ll have access to food all day, try to plan healthy snacks and meals to eat throughout the day. Keep healthy options easy to access. Fruit slices, pre-cut veggies and hummus, and Greek yogurt with berries and nuts are all good, easy options. Check out MyPlate’s suggestions for healthy snacks. If you find yourself eating out of boredom or because of stress (like devouring a bag of chips on a conference call), think instead of a nonfood-related solution. Sip on flavored water, chew gum or find something else to occupy your mind.
- Stay hydrated. Keep a water bottle or a glass of water in your work area and try to remember to sip on it throughout the day. According to the National Library of Medicine, dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches, a loss of focus, and more. H2O: Are You Getting Enough? provides some great tips for increasing your water intake.
Make Your Mental Health a Priority
- Set yourself up to succeed. Think about your work environment. Are you right in the middle of the kitchen table with a million distractions around you? Would you be less stressed in a quieter area? If you’re sitting on the couch, are you maintaining healthy posture and movement breaks? Set up your workstation in a place that increases your productivity and decreases your stress levels.
- Build in transition time. When you work outside the home, there’s usually some amount of time to transition between work and home. When you’re already home, this can get lost. Try to find a few minutes to transition your mind and body out of “work mode.” Take a 10-minute walk around the block, do a quick five minutes of meditation, or find another way to give yourself a small break before you begin tackling what’s next.
- Maintain a work-life balance. This can be tricky when work is literally with you at all times, but it’s important to set limits and strike a healthy balance. Maybe it’s the first hour or two after you wake up when you focus on exercise, your family and your own priorities. Or maybe it’s after work when you commit to taking a walk and eating dinner without checking your email. You can even set a designated time at night when you no longer check email or work-related messages.
- Find time to make meaningful connections. Working from home can be socially isolating since you may not interact with your coworkers on a regular basis anymore. Try to build in ways to maintain your social connectedness and face-to-face interactions. Make Your Social Wellness a Priority has some great tips for maintaining meaningful and healthy relationships in your life.
- Find time to breathe. Breathing exercises can be done anytime anywhere, so working them into your work-from-home routine can be a simple way to reduce your stress and anxiety levels. Check out Mindfulness and Meditation: An Easy Guide for Getting Started for some tips.
- Monitor your mental health. If you feel like you’re getting burnt out or having a hard time getting up or motivated in the morning, it could be a signal that your mental health is suffering. You may need someone to guide you in stress-reducing strategies or help you determine if you’re experiencing a mental health condition such as depression. Talk to your health care provider about your feelings and check out VA’s mental health resources.
- The CDC offers tips and sample schedules for ensuring you get the recommended amount of physical activity each day.
- Nutrition.gov has several resources to help you maintain good eating habits, including recipes for some healthy snacks including broccoli cheese bites and carrot fries.
VA’s mental health resources include support for many conditions, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and more. Explore the services you deserve.