Mental health expert Anastasia Brokas gives tips on how to be productive while working from home during the nationwide transition.

While COVID-19 continues to leave us with uncertainty, many have no choice but to work from home for the next couple of weeks, which can be a shock.

From having the little ones at home for an unknown number of weeks to being quarantined and practicing social distancing, the impact of the coronavirus is felt in more ways than one.

The Lakelander spoke with local counselor and mental health expert Anastasia Brokas on ways to stay productive and balanced while adjusting to the new normal of working from home.

For those who aren’t used to working from home, and might not be looking forward to it, how can they transition smoothly?

Anastasia Brokas: Transitioning into working from home can take a little bit of getting used to, but it is possible. Here are some things that may help the transition go a little smoother:

  • Give Yourself Grace in This transition
    • So many times, we have unrealistic and high expectations to train ourselves to do something that is out of the ordinary so quickly. It is really important to be sure to give ourselves some grace in this season because when we do the transition tends to go a lot smoother.
  • Set Up a Space in Your Home
    • If you have an office or even a table, you can set up a personalized space for what you will need. Doing this will allow you to have a fun and recognizable place where you work.
  • Write Out Everything
    • Whether it’s supplies we need, deadlines we need to make, or things that just need to be completed, writing things out can help clear up space in our mind and put it to ease a little bit more which will allow us to organize.
  • Accept the Transition
    • The moment we accept the new reality of where we are in this moment is when transition will become a little easier. When there is new in our world, we tend to resist it because it can be scary or overwhelming. Learning to accept this transition (for this season) is just as important as the actual transition itself.

Working from home can be a huge distraction, especially for those who are used to going into the office daily. What is one of the key ways to stay productive while working from home?

AB: When it comes to working from home, it’s super easy to just wake up, roll out of bed, and hop on our computer. However, we tend to not be as productive (some of us) if we do just that. Here are some things to try to make a really productive workday from the comfort of your home.

  • Get up at your normal time as if you were heading into the office.
  • Get showered, dressed, and ready for the day.
  • Set up your desk (or table) to mimic your office and get organized.
  • Plan out your day and daily tasks that need to be completed.
  • Be sure to take breaks throughout the day to stretch and move around.
  • Open up a window and make sure fresh air is coming in.

Things to Avoid

  • Doing work in your bedroom
    • Your bedroom should be your protected space where you just rest.
  • Getting caught up in Netflix
    • Try putting on some music or silence (whatever works better).

What are some easy ways we can maintain our mental health during this period?

AB: Not only will the wellness of mental/emotional health make us more productive with our work, but it will also help us take on this uncertain season with boldness. Here are some of my thoughts on maintaining a mental/emotional mindset:

  • Be intentional with staying connected to your family and friends.
    • When we feel connected to people, we tend to feel better. Isolation can suffocate, but connection can create a sense of belonging.
  • Making sure we stay informed, but not drowning ourselves in the media/news
    • It is always wise to stay informed with what protocol is and where we are as a nation in this season. However, we need to make sure that we have a balance of being informed and drowning in news. Sometimes, too much news can invoke fear in us, which will create anxiety and even a sense of depression.
  • Limiting our time with binging shows, and TV
    • I know there are a lot of memes of catching up and binging our favorite TV shows during this time, but the truth is we need to make sure that we have a healthy balance. Sometimes when we spend so much time binging shows we tend to let anxiety and depression settle in us, and when it settles it stays. So, it is important to do things other than watch TV or YouTube for hours. Mix it up.
  • Getting time outside, and opening up your windows
    • Fresh air has proven over and over again to improve our mental health and to make us feel better. So, it’s important to open up that window and take those 10-minute walks outside and reset our brains.
  • Journaling our thoughts, fears, emotions, wins of the day
    • Journaling can be whatever we want it to be. It can be bullet points or a novel, but it is important to write out some things so they can leave our brains and anxiety can’t be built.
  • Have Slow, Intentional Mornings
    • We have been given the gift to have slow mornings (most of us), and it is important to take advantage of it. Whether it is making a cup of coffee/tea and reading for a little bit, or bringing out our yoga mat to do some meditating and stretching, slow mornings have proven to enhance our mental health and how we take on the rest of the day.

Can you share a few creative activities that can help with productivity?

AB: There are so many ways that we can learn to be creative in this time, even though it may feel like our options are limited. If we get creative with our time, we can make the most out of a situation that was just thrown on us. Some creative ways to make the most out of this time are the following:

  • Going for a daily walk
    • We should challenge ourselves to go for a walk at least once a day. It doesn’t have to be long, but some movement and fresh air daily will help us get through this season.
  • Spring cleaning
    • This is the perfect time to go through room by room and reorganize and do some spring cleaning.
  • Play Games
    • It is time to bring out those board games and cards and challenge your family/roommates to some games.
  • Read a Book
    • Reading a book (an actual book/not audio) has proven to calm the mind, and it also keeps our brains working outside of actually doing our work.
  • At-Home Workouts
    • Movement is so important during this time because it keeps our blood flowing and our anxiety low. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to do this is by going to YouTube and looking up some free workout videos. I personally love using Yoga with Adrianne or Blogilates. Also, if you’re a Lakelander and a member of The Balance Culture, they are literally rolling out a program where you can do workouts from home.
  • Draw/Create
    • This is the perfect time to explore our creative skills whether that means drawing, painting, creating, writing, or singing. We just may be surprised at the creative talent that would be uncovered if we gave ourselves a chance to explore it.

You’ve given so much great insight! Lastly, social distancing has been a mandate given to help with the spread of the coronavirus. How can we stay connected with others?

AB: I feel like a lot of the fear/anxiety and depression comes from not feeling connected or feeling like we are on an island by ourselves. Although we can’t physically be in the presence of our friends and family, it doesn’t mean that we can’t stay connected and continue to build relationships. Here some ways to help us do just that.

  • Talk on the Phone
    • Schedule a time during the week (or daily) to talk on the phone with your friends and/or family. If it is scheduled, the phone call will be more likely to happen.
  • Facetime
    • Even if you’re not part of the Apple community, there is still the ability to have “facetime” through your Facebook messenger.
  • Write Letters
    • This sounds really old school, but there is something special about writing your family a letter and mailing it. I think we have lost the art of the simplicity of writing a letter.
  • Apps to Try
    • Marco Polo: an app that allows you to send short video messages to groups of people (like your family)
    • Skype: another way to see faces, and it can even create a group chat to talk to your whole family at once
    • Whats App: if you have family outside of the States, this is an easy and free way to stay connected to them.
    • GroupMe: another way to create group messaging for those you are wanting to stay connected too
    • Facebook Messenger: allows us to do facetime chats without the iPhone