In a lot of ways, working from home is the ideal gig. You don’t have to waste hours each week commuting to and from the office. You don’t have to deal with annoying small talk in the elevator, or coworkers’ stinky lunch smells emanating from the break room microwave. You’re able to skip out on the incessant background noise of the busy office, and can even work in your sweats most days! For all the perks of remote work, though, there are some drawbacks. Especially when it comes to your physical and mental health. The good news is that you don’t have to trade your well-being for the luxury of working from home. If you adopt just a few healthy remote work habits, you can not only cultivate a healthier, happier you. But you can also ensure the success and longevity of your work-from-home (WFH) career. We’ll show you how!
To be sure, working from home eliminates mid-afternoon runs to the snack machine. The temptations of the aromatic but decidedly unhealthy options offered in the office cafeteria or lunch truck.
That doesn’t mean that your WFH is necessarily better than what you’re eating on campus. When you’re working from home, you may be at a far greater risk of excessive snacking. Then skipping meals (often followed by hunger and stress-driven binge eating) on the other.
That’s why it’s especially important to pay attention to your nutrition when you’re working from home. Ensuring that you eat a balanced diet is critical both to your physical and your mental health.
For example, if you’re working remotely, the odds are that you’re spending more than your fair share of time staring at a digital screen. That can wreak havoc on your eye health, making it all the more essential that you consume the key vitamins and minerals you need to protect your eyes.
A healthy diet isn’t just important for eye health, however. You also need proper nutrition to regulate your hormone levels. Testosterone, for example, is particularly strongly influenced by diet.
Though testosterone levels begin to decrease after the age of 30, obesity and a poor diet can significantly accelerate this decline. However, a diet rich in healthy proteins, as well as other essential nutrients, helps to slow testosterone loss and may even reverse hormonal deficiencies.
Another significant health threat associated with remote work is that you are likely to become more sedentary. It’s almost inevitable unless you make a concerted effort to get moving. You’re going to be less physically active when you’re working from home.
For this reason, it’s imperative that you routinely take breaks from your work. Use that time to get up, walk around, and stretch. Ideally, you’ll create a workspace that gets you up off the couch or the recliner, one where you’re not hunched over the laptop or tablet. Which, over time, can cause significant pain and injury to your neck and spine.
A standing desk is a great option for getting you on your feet. Also, getting those bones, muscles, and blood vessels operating healthily while you work.
It’s not just about creating an ergonomic work environment or staying physically active throughout the workday. You also need to ensure that you’re not vegging out during your off-hours.
Instead, use your downtime for physical activities that you enjoy. Being physically active will boost your mood, enhance your physical functioning, and help you reduce stress.
The key is to pursue a physical activity that truly gives you a physical and mental break from work. Even if athletics aren’t your thing. Simply spending an hour or so each day outside can be a powerful boost for your physical, mental, and emotional health. So hit the local hiking trail or go for a swim in the ocean, anything to get you moving, breathing, and enjoying the healing and healthful properties of nature.
At the top of the healthy remote work habits list is keeping track of your mental health when others are not around. The health hazards that remote workers often face aren’t just physical. Working from home may be a dream gig, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t begin to feel lonely, isolated, and even depressed if you’re not making a concerted effort to get out into the world and be with people.
Indeed, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that social interactions conducted through screens or other devices just aren’t the same as face-to-face engagement with other human beings.
Taking proactive steps to manage your mental health, particularly by connecting with the people you love and the activities you enjoy, can help mitigate the risks that often accompany remote work.
For instance, there’s mounting evidence that rates of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, and addiction, have skyrocketed in the wake of the pandemic. To be certain, this may be attributed in part to the fear of the virus itself.
However, experts also argue that such challenges also derive from the inherent isolation and loneliness that have resulted from pandemic lockdowns. If you are working from home and are not getting the social interaction you need, you may well find yourself feeling cut off and alone, dramatically increasing your risk of developing a mood or substance use disorder.
If you find yourself experiencing a new or worsening substance dependency, then it’s imperative to be proactive in getting help.
However, getting timely help often depends on learning to recognize the warning signs of a nascent addiction. Such as turning to drugs, alcohol, or other harmful behaviors to relieve stress, cope with anxiety, or boost your mood. Similarly, if you find that you must consume these substances or engage in a specific behavior, such as gambling, just to feel “normal” may well signal an emerging addiction that requires immediate action.
Working from home can be a dream come true for many. But only if you adopt the right healthy remote work habits to keep you healthy, happy, and productive for years to come. That means, above all, eating healthy. Getting active, being socially engaged, and remaining proactive in protecting your mental health.
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