For a healthy mind, body and business

Protecting your mental health when working from home

stress when working from home, mental health impact of homeworking

I don’t think I’ve yet met or interviewed one person who works from home who hasn’t experienced feelings of loneliness.

/ˈləʊnlɪnɪs/ : Sadness because one has no friends or company.

As a homeworker, the fact is, you often have no company.

For some, the feeling is more frequent than for others and it can depend on the nature of the work.

There are those who have regular face-to-face meetings, those who get to speak to clients, even if virtually. Then there are people with no reason to interact outside of their own bubble for the entire working day.

Loneliness and isolation are on the rise. A saddening study in the US,  revealed that one-third of adults from age 45 suffered from loneliness.

It’s no longer just a condition associated with the elderly. This study by the BBC shows that younger adults are more likely to feel lonely more often.

As we spend less time connecting personally, and more time buried in our phones or plugged into headphones, non-virtual communication seems to be on the decrease.

The Campaign to End Loneliness cites several sources which prove people who are lonely are more prone to depression and other mental health issues.

Having no colleagues around can at once be amazing for the lack of politics and awful for the lack of perspective.

I love celebrating and enjoying all the perks of working for myself from home but with mental health on the agenda, I felt it also important to raise the sometimes still-taboo topic of how it can be a real struggle and have a detrimental effect on our mental health.

There’s no banter, no socialising, nobody to turn to when a second opinion would be useful, when someone to bounce ideas off with would be great, when a little chat to break up the day, or some company over lunch, would be so welcome.

We can take responsibility and action to ensure we don’t retreat and don’t feel isolated – read here – but loneliness is not the only challenge facing homeworkers.

Stress and your mental health when working from home

Stress is a very big issue right now. A UK study found that over half a million workers were suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety.

Among the common causes are heavy workloads, long hours, lack of support and unclear objectives, and when you work remotely or run a business from home, it’s easy to fall victim to all of these factors and work from home burnout.

As a small, home-based business owner, there are very few people, sometimes no one else, to turn to or check-in with. You alone are fully responsible and fully accountable for the success or failure of your business. It’s a huge responsibility and if you add to that the day-to-day chores, distractions and family demands, that can suddenly appear as a very big, daunting, stress-laden mountain to climb.

As business owners, freelancers, or remote workers, we place all these expectations on ourselves to hit goals, reach targets and attain certain metrics. Coupled with the fear of turning down business as that’s turning away revenue, it can be hard to filter out the less important, less vital issues and not feel as if you have to keep a thousand plates spinning.

You see, having no colleagues around can at once be amazing for the lack of politics and awful for the lack of perspective.

Then there’s the guilt! The guilt of working and not taking care of your children (and feeding them fish fingers three nights in a row). The guilt of not working and not being productive for your business, the guilt of letting the house become obliterated by a growing pile of unwashed clothes, the guilt of too much screen time and not getting outdoors, the guilt of having eaten really badly because all you’ve managed to shove down your throat are sugar-laden snacks to keep you powering through, the guilt of not working out enough, the guilt of not seeing your friends enough, the guilt of not being productive enough. The guilt. Enough!

It all feeds into those thoughts of: “I’m not good enough, there are so many other people doing it better, nobody really wants what I have to offer…”

Negative and sabotaging self-talk can be a big challenge when setting up a business or working alone. When you don’t have colleagues or people around for support, it can be all too easy for those words to be the only ones you listen to.

When you work alone, the only voices you hear are your own and sometimes the negative ones speak a little too loudly.

I feel as if I ought to add some perspective here. Working from home is not a sure-fire way to mental health problems but does come with its own health warning. It’s important to be aware of the challenges, particularly if you’re someone more prone to anxiety or depression and particularly because being a ‘solopreneur’ is just that: solo.

Having strategies and mechanisms in place will help.

There are plenty of things we can do to build our mental resilience and take responsibility for our mental wellbeing. You can check out the blog here on habits to make sure you look after yourself and this post suggests ways to combat isolation when working from home.

Small measures we can take include:

Talking to someone
Whether you meet up in person or call a friend for a chat, talking through your thoughts and feelings in a safe space can help bring about clarity and perspective. In the moment, reaching out to talk can be difficult, but even some online interaction can be beneficial. It can be useful to share your feelings as this encourages others to relate and open up about their experiences and lessen the feeling of being alone.

 Changing up
 Get outdoors, take a walk, do some exercise, switch tasks. A shift in action and environment can also shift your mindset and energy.

• Music
Upbeat and uplifting tunes can be a real mood-booster. It can inspire creative thoughts, allow you to visualise on the positives and even get you wanting to move. Read our article on how to use music and what types of music can help you in the Breathe issue of The Homeworker. And this article suggests some good playlist options.

Writing can be a very cathartic and therapeutic process particularly if it helps to get everything from your head on to the page and in effect, out of you. It can help you to rationalise, bring some perspective and clarify the thoughts whirling around up there.

• Exercise
Move, stretch, walk, run, swim, dance… Moving and exercise are brilliant for combatting stress, getting the endorphins circling and making you feel generally fantastic (even if a little puffed and sweaty)!

• Meditation
For bringing yourself back to the present, for bringing about some calm and perspective. To get yourself out of your head for a while, to ground yourself, connect with yourself. There really is nothing quite so powerful. I know it works and it’s a habit which can easily fall by the wayside (guilty), but if you just try it consistently, the results will show. Start just with a few minutes a day and build up, and make use of some of the meditation apps out there to help guide you. (Check out the Breathe issue of the magazine with our free meditation guide).

• Sleep
Not to be ignored, or underestimated. Adequate and good quality sleep is hugely important for our mental wellbeing. In The Homeworker print edition Volume 1, we look at sleep and some ways to improve our sleep hygiene.
Try to give yourself a good hour of screen-free time before going to sleep and don’t take your laptop to bed! Waking up refreshed does wonders for your mindset and how your day will follow.

Create a workspace that helps you to feel inspired, calm and less stressed. This can be down to colour choices and also clutter. A crowded or disorganised space can increase the mental clutter also.

Metal health; it’s becoming less taboo, but in this world of social media and filtered perfection, it can be harder than ever to say, “I’m not OK. I’m struggling and I’d like some help.”

Useful links for help and support:

Time To Change

Self-help for depression

Help with stress

Campaign To End Loneliness

Rethink Mental Illness

The Homeworker Facebook Community is a supportive, friendly community of homeworkers with discussion around working for yourself as well as useful content and interviews to help with all aspects of life when you work alone at home.

The Homeworker magazine is a big advocate for looking after your mental health. In each issue, we include a range of features from practical advice and strategies for working from home to exercises and practices to take care of your mindset and wellbeing.

Don’t miss an issue. Find out more here.

About the author

Louise is an award-winning journalist and speaker who focuses on working from home, remote work and wellbeing. She is the founder of  The Homeworker, which is dedicated to helping you thrive when you work from home. The Homeworker publishes articles that are designed to keep you healthy, happy, fulfilled, and more productive in work and life.


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