Overcoming the Unexpected Consequence of Remote Work Nobody Mentions

by Donald Altman | Aug 12, 2020

Are you working at home more because of COVID-19 and the pandemic? Do you mostly interact with others remotely while working? If so, you may be experiencing a profound impact to your physical and emotional life produced by this drastic change in routines. Research shows that a reduction in our social networks—even those caused by working remotely because of COVID-19—can put you at risk for a health factor that not many people talk about. That health factor is loneliness.

According to research, feelings of isolation and loneliness may be at epidemic proportions.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Cigna conducted a survey of more than 20,000 U.S. adults to explore levels of loneliness. The results showed over 50% of adults over 18 year of age were lonely. These persons spent very little quality time engaged in actual face-to-face conversation with another person on a daily basis. On the other hand, persons who engaged in an in-person interaction with another person on a daily basis were significantly more happy—as well as reporting themselves as being healthier.

Keep in mind that social isolation is not the only cause of loneliness. It’s also been shown that overworking and burnout can produce feelings of loneliness. First of all, if you’ve been feeling lonely or depressed because of isolation recognize that you are experiencing a normal reaction to a difficult situation. Don’t blame yourself for your feelings. These feelings only mean that your emotional systems are operating as they are supposed to. They are letting you know that you need to find greater balance in your life.

Fortunately, there are some good strategies you can employ for countering the effects of loneliness and overwork. Let’s look at how you can use a variety of proven strategies for regaining balance and connection with others. Studies on loneliness show that one key way of positively shifting loneliness is through bringing life balance into focus. This means paying attention to behaviors and life such as getting enough sleep, physical activity, and connections with others. Let’s take a closer look at things you can easily do to short circuit loneliness and increase your energy and wellbeing.

Here are some simple and proven methods for bringing greater balance into your life and enhancing meaning in your relationships.

  1. Invite Structure and Routine into Your Day
    Working from home inherently lacks structure. This means you need to impose a sense of orderliness and meaning to your experience. Starting your morning with a morning stretch, yoga, or other physical activity, as well as making breakfast, lends structure to your day as well as provides important self-care. Make a point of getting “dressed up” for remote work, in addition to setting a time for starting work and for taking breaks—just as if you were working in an office. If possible, keep your workplace clean and separate from other parts of the house.
  2. Recharge with the Big 3: Sleep, Nutrition and Activity
    If you don’t feel at your best, you won’t connect with others optimally— whether remotely or in person. That’s why sleep, exercise, and eating well are so crucial to maintaining wellbeing. Sleep is vital because it is a time when waste products—through what is called the glymphatic system—get cleansed from the brain. Set a time to go to bed so you can get whatever amount of sleep helps you feel refreshed. Try not to use technology for at least an hour before bedtime because the light from TVs, computer screens and phones actually delays production of melatonin, the sleep hormone that sets your body’s sleep clock.

    The brain needs protein daily to help the executive thinking, judging, analyzing and decision-making part of the brain work efficiently. If you only drink coffee without having food in the morning, you’ll be increasing the chance of irritability, as well as inability to think clearly.

    Lastly, plan physical activity into your day, whether it’s walking the dog, working in the garden, or just taking a brisk walk. Activity has been shown to reduce depression, fatigue, and anxiety, as well as being good for enhancing learning.
  3. Be Mindful and Grateful with Someone—In-Person
    Get mindful with someone by having a good, old-fashioned, meaningful conversation face-to-face. If you can’t do this in-person, then share a gratitude or an upbeat story with another. By looking for the positive and sharing it, you spread happiness one person at a time. Use these three steps, and you’ll not only overcome loneliness, but reinvigorate each day with newfound connection, purpose and joy.

Donald AltmanDonald Altman, MA, LPC, is an international mindfulness expert, psychotherapist, and awardwinning author of 15 books that have been translated into many languages worldwide. His newest book is Simply Mindful: A 7-Week Course and Personal Handbook for Mindful Living. You can contact Donald at www.mindfulpractices.com.

This article appears in the summer 2020 issue of the Washington CPA Magazine. Read more here.

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