The Art of the Mental Health Break: Staying Sane When You’re Stuck Inside

. 4 min read

Let’s face it: when you’re spending almost all of your time at home, it’s easy for your days to grow repetitive and even monotonous. Depending on your routine, you might feel like you’re living a less exciting version of Groundhog Day.

When your life lacks changes in scenery, you can easily get in a rut or feel dissatisfied. In fact, studies of global workplaces have shown that some of the effects of working largely from home can include sleep troubles, distraction, interference with family life, and higher stress levels.

No one knows when lockdowns will lift and life as we once knew it will resume. As we continue to adjust to the new state of things, it’s important that we be mindful of our mental health along with our physical health.

When you’re on the clock

Looking for advice on how to adjust to working from home? Take a look at our guide to switching up your work style to keep your productivity levels high.

Getting work done is one thing. Getting work done while feeling comfortable and mentally fresh is another. You might not be able to use the gym or social hours with friends to let off steam and recharge, but we can offer a few suggestions of our own.

  • Have structure. We discussed this in our earlier guide, but we wanted to emphasize this again. Whether it’s simple or complex, having an everyday routine will give you a greater sense of direction and purpose. Sometimes it can be hard to hold ourselves accountable, but a routine can do the job for us!
  • Make time for fun conversations. There’s no need to give up your chill morning coffee chats with your coworkers. Set up a few virtual lunches with your coworkers, and if you like sending funny articles or tweets to your coworkers in the office, keep the tradition alive now.
  • Create your ideal workspace. Most modern offices frown upon you blasting your music or dimming the lights as you see fit. And who hasn’t suffered from an overzealous office AC unit? Fortunately, when you’re working in an office of one, your opinion is the only one that matters. Put on your favorite calming sounds or music, adjust the lighting, set your thermostat on the perfect temperature, and get as comfortable as you need to. (Disclaimer: this may not apply if you share your home workspace with roommates or your spouse. Xe is not responsible for any housemate arguments!)
  • Take breaks to move around. Similarly, some coworkers might be taken aback if you stood up in the middle of a meeting and did a few laps around the conference table. As long as you aren’t on a video call, go ahead and step away from your desk. Walk around your house, do a few push-ups, dance to your favorite song, or even step outside for a bit to recharge your brain. Unless you have a cat, it’s safe to say that no one will judge you.
  • Talk to yourself. We know: this might make you feel like you’re losing your mind, not keeping it. But if you’re used to having conversations and hearing background noise when you work, it might not be a bad idea to think out loud and talk your way through a tough project.

When you’re off the clock

We all need some low-key alone time every now and then. But when your leisure activities are restricted solely to things you can do by yourself from your living room, it’s hard to work up the same level of excitement for your next Netflix binge.

Sure, we can’t meet up with a group of friends for coffee or dinner right now, but that doesn’t mean that we’re resigned to nothing but streaming and sofas for the foreseeable future. Try doing the following things to break up the monotony and add some variety to your days.

  • Live vicariously through a livestream. Tired of your usual view? Many establishments ranging from museums and performing arts centers to zoos and theme parks are offering virtual tours and livestreams. As an added bonus, you’ll probably learn a few things. Entertainment and enrichment for the price of one.
  • Foster an animal. Pets have been the breakout stars of many video conference calls, and if you want a new friend, now could be a good time. Your increased time at home will be good for bonding with a new pet, you can have some company in isolation, and you can help a shelter reduce their workload. Just make sure you have the space and are ready to make the commitment.
  • Rearrange your furniture. Sounds like a thrilling Saturday night, right? While this might be tougher and more monotonous than reading or watching TV, a new arrangement will help you get some new scenery and break up the everyday monotony. And if you haven’t been able to work those arms out at the gym, your furniture will be more than up to the job (as long as you stay safe).
  • Try anything and everything. Been interested in experimenting with new recipes? Been telling yourself for years that you’re going to dive into Shakespeare’s greatest works? Been wanting to learn to do the splits? If you have free time, use it to try something new. If it doesn’t work out? You’ll still have time for the old favorites.
  • Rest. Life can get hectic. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and exhausted, make sure to let yourself get some rest. We all need to recharge from time to time. You might see people on social media vowing to write novels, paint masterpieces, and become Michelin-level chefs, but remember that your health and safety should always come first. Need a nap? Take it. You’ve earned it.

If you’ve been taking measures to improve your mental health at work and you still feel anxious and overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. This is not an easy situation to be in, but that doesn’t mean that you need to put your head down and accept that you’ll be unhappy. Talk to your friends and family about your feelings, and let your team at work know what’s affecting you. We may not be able to physically be together right now, which makes it even more important to provide emotional support to one another.