Encouraging positive mental health while working from home – Chloe Forte

Working from home, for most of us, is a new concept. For me, I had grown used to my habitat in the Physical Education and Sport Science’s building in UL. I was comfortable with teaching from the computer lab and going for walks by the riverbank for breaks. And now, we are all home. Away from all our work comforts, surrounded by a wealth of distractions and worries, and for many of us, we still have the same workload.

Naturally this is a worrying time for all of us. So, I thought it might be wise to share some tips for working from home for PhD researchers, undergraduate students and staff alike, while fostering positive mental health.

  1. Get some space. A literal workspace of your own, be it down the bottom of the kitchen table or a makeshift desk in the living room. Whatever it is, only use it for working.
  2. Get some space – literally. Recognise that you need time to yourself and take advantage of it. Recognise that your family and or housemates also, probably, need space, so let them have it.
  3. Learn to say no and to recognise when you are over-burdened. Workload, housework, health worries – it all adds up. Take note of all you are doing and attempt to limit the task-juggling.
  4. Get outside (while socially distancing, of course). Fresh air never does anyone any harm!
  5. Stay connected with friends, colleagues and family. Socialising as a support-system is very important.
  6. Do some form of daily physical activity. I don’t think I need to outline the copious benefits both physical and mental associated with exercise!
  7. Don’t forget to stop working. Set yourself some boundaries so you can avoid burnout. Regular breaks will help.
  8. Give yourself a break from the guilt of work productivity. Realising and then accepting that your mind may be distracted with worries and your work may not seem a priority right now is okay. But don’t forget to come back to it!
  9. Switch off, silence, turn on ‘do not disturb’, or turn on airplane mode on your phone. This will limit screen- time, manage your media intake and will inevitably make you productive and free your mind from excessive COVID-19 media stories.
  10. Achieve goals by other means – not only academic milestones. For example, a group of PESS PhD students have begun setting up weekly exercise challenges, sent in via WhatsApp group. Last week was to run 5k and this week is to do a press-up variation. Not only does it get you moving and keep us connected but it also provides a motivating weekly goal which needs to be achieved. (It’s also good craic!).

I hope someone finds some benefit from using these mental health and wellbeing tips. All we can do for now is sit tight, partake in social distancing and try our best to get on with our work. It is important to remember to look after ourselves both physically and mentally. Humans are resilient and can adapt, lets learn to do that in the best way possible while also managing our mental wellbeing.

Chloe Forte is a postgraduate student in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences. She can be contacted at chloe.forte@ul.ie or twitter: @chloe_forte 

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