In the 2020 State of Remote Work survey, respondents identified loneliness as their top struggle with working from home. Even among experienced home-workers, loneliness and isolation are challenges. This year, millions of workers are suddenly sent home to work, indefinitely and with no preparation. Only a select few will be able to thrive in perpetual solitude; the rest will probably need a little help. This post offers seven exercises you can do to overcome loneliness and isolation when you are working from home. Think of these as your ‘daily to-do list’. In fact, this list is a good practice for looking after your mental health in normal circumstances; in present circumstances it has become a lot more relevant.
#1 Talk to someone
Loneliness is a cycle. The more alone we feel the more we think that other people don’t want to talk to us, and so we don’t reach out. Break the cycle by having at least one conversation a day, with anyone. Talking about how we feel can help see that other people are feeling exactly the same and that we are not alone.
#2 Talk to yourself
We are all doing this most of the time, but we don’t realise it. Psychologists call this our ‘inner dialogue’ made up of recurring thoughts and emotions whirling inside our heads. If we don’t listen to this dialogue, we won’t be able to control it. Luckily, there are some proven techniques to help us listen more intently to ourselves; daily journal writing, labelling the emotions we are feeling, writing a letter to our third person self. These techniques allow us to view ourselves as an outside observer in order to tackle negative thoughts and emotions before they become actions and behaviours.
#3 Keep fit
‘Healthy body – healthy mind’ is not just an expression. Science has shown that physical exercise has a positive effect on our mental state. Intense physical activity releases mood-lifting chemicals called endorphins into our blood stream. Even just going for a walk can make us feel better, due to the fresh air, change of scenery and being around people (at an appropriate distance!). If you can’t, or don’t want to go outside, there are lots of free videos on the internet offering live fitness routines!
#4 Tune out
News channels and social media are full of one story at the moment and while it is good to be informed and in touch with what’s happening on the outside, the noise this makes can be over-whelming and reinforce negative feelings. Tuning-out from news and media can help us to tune-in to ourselves, find some peace and quiet from the noise and focus on doing something that makes us feel good. This is an example of a term that has become highly popularised in recent years – ‘mindfulness’.
#5 Take charge
Get a piece of paper and draw a circle. On the outside of the circle write the things that worry or bother you. This could be anything from becoming ill to a noisy neighbour. Now work in the inside of the circle and write all the things in your life that you can directly control. For example, you can’t control your neighbour, but you can ignore the noise. You can’t control events, but you can definitely control your reactions to them. The area inside the circle is your zone of control. This is the area you should work on and put your energy into because being in control of things gives us positive feelings, compared to worrying about things we can’t control or influence. When you start using any of the exercises in this post you have actually started to take control already!
#6 Do something for someone
Human brains are reward-driven, which means our senses become heightened when we enjoy things. Recognition and gratitude from other people are among the most common types of reward which our brains seek. A good way of doing this is to offer a kind act to someone else. For example, giving a compliment, holding a door open, giving a nice smile. It makes no difference if these things are reciprocated or not; just the act of doing them makes us feel better about ourselves and more connected to others, lighting up those important reward centres in our brains.
#7 Do something for yourself
Acts of kindness also extend to yourself. Being isolated can be a struggle but it’s also a potential gift. Is there a book you’ve been meaning to read, a recipe you haven’t had time to try, a new hobby you’ve been interested in but not had the time? Doing something new can help take your mind away from feeling lonely and build purpose and self-esteem.
We hope you enjoyed reading this post. If you did, and it helped you, you could choose to ‘pay it forward’ by sharing it with someone else – a little act of kindness that could make a difference. You can also share your tips and advice for dealing with working at home, in the comments section below.If you would like to know more about our experience of helping teams with remote working, feel free to contact us. We also offer training on managing your focus, energy and impact when working from home and leading people when they are working from home.