Working from home or living at work?
How are you feeling this Mental Health Awareness Week? Exhausted? Stressed? Struggling to find the energy to keep going? It’s unsurprising given all that we have been through in the past year.
At LawCare, the legal mental health charity, we’ve supported hundreds of legal professionals since the pandemic began who have told us about their feelings of isolation, inability to switch off, struggle with motivation, and pure exhaustion. Many are working longer hours than ever before, and feel they are drowning in their workload. Whilst for many the move to remote working has been hugely beneficial to their wellbeing, others have found it very hard, and are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain boundaries between work and home. After all, for most of us, this was not a choice, and working at home during a pandemic is completely different to what a normal WFH set up would look like.
Often when we are frazzled we go into survival mode. We try to work even harder and even longer hours, we abandon the things we enjoy and instead try to numb our feelings with alcohol or TV binges, we become snappy and short-tempered in our interactions with people, our adrenalin is racing so we struggle to sleep. In short we get tunnel vision and can only focus on work. If this sounds like you then it’s time to pause and take a step back. You cannot do your best work unless you look after your own wellbeing first, and you need to act now to protect yourself from burn out.
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LawCare’s tips for working healthily at home
- Be mindful. Often when we are in survival mode we are thinking negatively and catastrophising. Focus on what is actually happening in this present moment rather than what might happen.
- Breathe – if you can feel yourself getting anxious try taking ten deep breaths, inhaling for 5 seconds and exhaling for 10 seconds. It really calms you down.
- Take breaks. Even if you are working at home it’s still important to take regular breaks and a lunch break just as you would in the office. This may seem impossible but you will be more productive during the day if you do this.
- Prioritise self-care. It’s easy to let healthy habits slip when we are at home but make sure you eat well, get to bed at a reasonable time and find time to do some exercise.
- Stick to a routine. Try and stick to a regular routine and your usual working pattern, where possible. This will help you stay focused and keep work separate from home life. You might even consider doing a ‘fake commute’ – talking a walk before and after work to create a boundary between your workday and your home life.
- To avoid overwhelm and that headless chicken feeling, do one thing at a time and break complex tasks down into manageable chunks. Disable email and other notifications so you can focus.
- Go outside. Time spent in nature can renew our attention spans when they are flagging after an extended period of staring at a screen and sunlight helps to trigger an increase in serotonin in our brain – the happy hormone.
- Do what you enjoy. Read a book, listen to music, watch a film, take a bath, paint a picture – something you can get lost in for a while away from work.
- Book some time off work. Although you might not be going anywhere, you still need time at home without working to rest.
- Seek help. If you’re finding it hard to cope, just talking to someone can make you feel calmer.
LawCare is an independent charity providing free, confidential, emotional support to all legal professionals, support staff and their concerned family members. You can call the helpline on 0800 279 6888, email email@example.com or access online chat and other resources at www.lawcare.org.uk.
Mental Health Awareness Week is 10-16 May 2021. The theme this year is nature and resources are available to download here.
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