Taking care of our mental health is always important and during these difficult times everything can seem more overwhelming than usual.
Working for yourself from home can feel isolating but it’s important to remember that there’s always support out there. I am lucky in that I have a fantastic support network but there are also online forums, LinkedIn and Facebook groups and virtual networking communities for sharing advice.
Here’s my top tips for protecting your mental health as a VA (but could work for anyone!):
Daily Exercise: Exercise really helps to stimulate the mind, relieve stress and improve your mood, motivation and energy. If I have a brain block, I find that going for a quick walk gets the ideas flowing again. I often find them popping into my head whilst I’m out and I have to make notes on my phone- anyone else?
Take regular breaks from screens and break up the day by making a drink, reading a book or doing exercise. It feels as though my body tells me when I’ve been staring at a screen for too long and I start to get fidgety! Even just 10 minutes to leave your desk really makes a difference.
Time Management: Reduce the overwhelm by writing to-do lists, establishing priorities and scheduling tasks- don’t try and do it all in one day! Write in when you’ll have a break or time for yourself and stick to it.
Talk to others and ask for support if you need it (doesn’t have to be via Zoom!) Zoom fatigue has been proven to be a thing- there’s nothing wrong with the good old-fashioned phone.
Socially distant visit to a friend: If you have a friend nearby you could chat in the garden at a two-metre distance.
Self-reflect: It’s so easy to get caught up in the things you haven’t ticked off the list rather than appreciate what you have achieved- the small victories count! We are trying to juggle work, family life, chores and a virtual social life, all whilst living through a global pandemic and lockdown so you must go easy on yourself.
Don’t work throughout the weekend: During this unusual time it feels as though the days merge into one and the weekends can feel like any other day but it’s important to establish boundaries and let clients know when you’ll be unavailable. I often work for a few hours at the weekend but I try not to let it take it over.
Add fun and me-time to your day: It’s important to allow time to do the things you enjoy such as reading, gardening, playing an instrument or baking.
Family time is important, whether it be talking on the phone, video calling or going for a walk together.
Wind down before bed: Try and put phones, laptops and tablets away an hour before you sleep so that you’re able to sleep without your mind racing. I need to work on this! There are apps you can get which shut down your social media at certain times to help you switch off and relax.
Zzzzz: How many hours of sleep do you get? We underestimate how important sleep is for our mental health and productivity- if I haven’t slept properly my brain feels like cotton wool and I find it much harder to concentrate.
And don’t forget it is totally okay to have unproductive days!