How Working from Home Can Make You into a Mindful SuperheroNone By Jillian Richardson
People often have a certain image of working from home: eating food straight out of the container, tackling presentations from underneath the covers, and taking video calls without pants. And sure, some freelancers approach their work life that way. But it doesn’t have to be like that!
In reality, a home office can be the perfect place to have a mindful and productive day. Why? Because you create your own office culture! Does your company of one value exercise breaks throughout the day? Meditation? Mini dance parties? It's up to you, of course.
If you put some time and effort into planning your day, working from home can help make you into a mindful superhero. Of course, that’s easier said than done, so I asked some freelancers to reveal how they stay happy and productive throughout the day. Here’s what I learned.
Take Back Your Commute
Did you know that the average American spends 26 minutes traveling to the office? Working from home means that you can rescue hours of your month and dedicate them to a morning ritual instead.
Storyteller Donna Talorico starts her day with a puzzle to get her brain moving, and to prevent herself from diving into social media right away. “Doing this gives me a way to get my brain going, without the sudden onslaught of negative posts I might see on Facebook or Twitter,” Talorico says. This is smart—after all, studies have demonstrated a link between social media use and depression. That’s why it’s beneficial to start the day with something you enjoy, rather than immediately checking your friends’ Instagram.
Another great way to kick-start your morning is to do morning pages, or a “brain dump.” This involves writing for 10 minutes immediately after you wake up. At this point in the day, your subconscious is still active, and you can observe whatever has been bouncing around in your noggin as you slept. As author and morning-pages advocate Julia Cameron says in her book The Artist's Way, “Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes.” This sort of journaling gives people a chance to think about what’s bothering them, clearing their brain for the workday ahead.
Make Your Own Break (and Be Creative About It)
Some companies have a culture where it's the norm to look like you’re working at all times—even if you aren’t. Yet studies show that stepping away from work makes employees more focused and productive.
By working from home, people can take a break in whatever way they choose. Pauline Campos, freelancer and author of Be Your Own F*cking Sunshine: An Inspirational Journal for People Who Like to Swear, regularly goes to the gym with her daughter. (And she does Happify tracks while on the treadmill...we’re not making that up!)
Other break options are a little more quirky. Jessica Bellamy likes to dance it out. “At 3 p.m., I put on my favorite song and dance alone in my study!” Bellamy says. But if dancing isn’t your favorite, why not try the Jenn Morson method? She prefers to go on walks and hunt for Pokemon. Or relax in Andrea King Collier style, by taking a bath in the middle of the day.
There are endless ways to give your brain a break when you work from home. So don’t feel bad about it! Not only will you avoid the judgy side-eye when you leave for a long lunch with a friend, but you’ll also increase your overall productivity.
Find Your Standard Stress Protocol
No matter where you work, you’ll inevitably run into stressful situations. And when you have a home office, you often don’t have someone to vent to. So how do you deal? Irina Gonzalez, a freelance writer and editor, breaks out the coloring books when her anxiety gets high. She also sets aside her laptop during lunch, and eats her meal quietly and mindfully. In an office, that might not be standard protocol—but it works for her.
If that’s not your style, you can also give yourself a pep talk. “When I start getting overwhelmed by emails and start spiraling about a million looming deadlines, I try to stop and repeat ‘One task at a time’ out loud,” writer Laura Birek says. “It helps remind me that everything I've ever accomplished happened one small task at a time. It really helps calm me down.” Sage advice!
Kelly, a writer, coach, and freelance marketer, takes a different approach to dealing with stress. “I smell some essential oils to ground myself,” Kelly says. “I love lemon and grapefruit oils. Smell brings me into the frontal part of my brain and out of my amygdala.” It’s true—smells can get you out of your head and into the moment. Rose, lavender, and bergamot are other great scents to whiff when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
There’s a Nap for That
Catching some zzz's in the middle of your workday can also do you a world of good. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the optimal nap length is 20 minutes. And even though naps longer than 30 minutes are tempting, they typically leave people feeling sleepier than before.
Writers Caitlin Kelly and Liana Lozada both nap to keep their brain fresh throughout the day. “When I get more sleep, I’m just a more functional, conscious person all around,” Lozada says.
Some of these mindfulness techniques might not be considered “normal” for an office. But when you work from home, you can optimize your day however you want. Do you work in a more traditional setting? You can still try some of these strategies! Who cares if Karen from accounting gives you a weird look when you say to yourself, “One task a time”? You spend a huge portion of your life working—you might as well be happy while you do it!
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