One Year In: How We’re Staying Mentally Healthy After 12 Long Months of Working From Home

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As I sit here sipping my morning coffee trying to brainstorm blog topics while overlooking the sandy beach and watching the waves crash ever so slightly into the shore and quickly retreat back into the endless ocean… I can’t ignore another “endless” detail: the past year. So I’m here to reflect. 

The month is March – year 2020. I just arrived back to work on a Monday morning after a fun-filled bachelorette weekend in Austin with 10 of my close friends. Our team huddles for a morning in-person meeting, but this meeting was unlike any other. We were informed that the office would close for two weeks, and we were to gather our belongings, work from home, and not worry, we’d be reunited soon. I looked around at everyone’s faces and saw everything from confusion to sadness to fear. 

Fast forward to today. Boy, were we wrong about that timeline! It’s been one year since the pandemic began in the United States. One year since our team has been fully remote working from 23 different locations. One year of not being able to see each other and collaborate in person but instead relying on Zoom for human connection. So much has happened. So many emotions. So many feelings. But through all the negatives, one very positive thing came out of the pandemic: a renewed focus on mental health.

Instead of letting the pandemic get the best of us (although, to be real, we all had our days), our team members worked really hard to find and create positivity in a negative situation. Here are a few ways our team has focused on our mental health over the past year while working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  1. Taking Time to Work Out 

“Clearing my mind and moving my body just allows me to refocus and carve out some space for myself in the midst of busy days!” – Nora Carson, Account Director

In March of 2020, we launched a FUEL for Fitness program to encourage team members to get up, get moving, and work out with co-workers. Then, BAM, COVID threw a wrench into things. However, we persevered through the stay-at-home and quarantine mandates and took time during the work day to have fitness Zoom challenges and work out as a team. 

We continued to focus on being active even after FUEL for Fitness ended. Our traffic manager, Leslie Pace, even moved her treadmill into her office so she could walk and work at the same time. 

“Being able to hop off my computer and jump on the treadmill for a quick walk during lunch has helped my mental health tremendously.” – Leslie Pace, Traffic Manager

  1. Setting Personal Challenges & Goals

“Coming up with weekly, monthly, or quarterly projects with themes like personal development, professional development, physical health, and mental health has helped me by creating markers in time so that I feel like I am still actively growing and progressing rather than trapped in an endless March 2020. It keeps me focused on the future rather than being anxious about the present.”  – Georgia Skerman, Account Manager

#Goals. Done right, they bring the best out of us. And setting them seems to be one of the best ways to stay focused, manage stress, and practice self-care. Especially when managing jobs, families, and day-to-day life in the midst of COVID-19, social isolation is so overwhelming. Working toward goals allows you to be positive and celebrate small wins along the way. Huge disclaimer – it only works when you keep them realistic and achievable. Then give it some time and be amazed by the positive results on your mental health. 

“Strength training has allowed me to challenge myself in the gym every week. It is so empowering and is a constant reminder to be grateful for how capable, remarkable, and strong my body is. Going during my lunch break has had an even greater impact on my mental health, as it gets me up and out of my apartment for an hour.” – Ely Middleton, Digital Coordinator

  1. Writing Down Thoughts & Journaling

“I’m a feeler so there are always lots of feelings about lots of things, and the past year has been a feelings triathlon with the many life-changing events we’ve experienced. I’m also a verbal processor. I have to talk through all those feelings to process them, untangle them and make sense of them. Writing has been such a healthy way of doing that. It’s been therapeutic for me and probably saved my family’s sanity as well!” – Jesslyn Griffith, Project Manager

Anyone else believe that getting thoughts out of your head and onto paper actually feels like removing “the weight of the world” from your shoulders? Me, too. Many people on our team are introverted creatives who use writing as a release. From a bulleted list of random thoughts to a simple journal entry describing the day’s ups and downs, there’s healing to be found in reaching for a notebook. 

“Thinking about and writing down things I’m thankful for has helped me keep a positive outlook and not get pulled into the ‘doom and gloom’ news that surrounds us. I have faith that there’s a bright light at the end of this crazy tunnel, and if I focus on all that I’ve been blessed with (my health, my boys, a home, a great job, friends, and a supportive family), we’ll all get through this and come out stronger and closer than ever before.” – Beth Thomason, PR Director

  1. Changing the Scenery 

“Changing my scenery has allowed me to keep a clear mind and not get bogged down by having to stay in one location all the time. Enjoying the opportunity to spread out and focus on the good things that come from working at home.” – Roxy Bartz, Senior Visual Designer

Again, as I am writing this blog, I am overlooking the ocean instead of my normal work space at home in Greenville… trust me the view there is not as beautiful. I, along with many other team members, have put a focus on changing up our scenery to keep our minds fresh and focused. Whether that’s working from beach houses in Edisto, Airbnbs in California, poolside at the apartment complex, a sunny back deck, or simply changing the room you work in around the house, the change of scenery has done wonders for our mental health. 

“Stepping outside when I have a break or need a moment to get some fresh air makes me feel rejuvenated. I’ve learned to stop and appreciate the little details all around me and try to think of things in a new or unexpected way. I’ve also spent more time organizing my pinterest boards to find meaningful references when I need to revisit good creative for inspiration.” – Catherine Crandall, Senior Art Director

  1. Treat Yo Self

This final section is all for me, although I know MANY of my team members participate in these events as well. Since March 2020, I feel like the term “self care” has come up more and more in everyday conversations. But who even has time for “self care”? Certainly not me before the pandemic. But one of the blessings the pandemic gave to me was the chance to slow down and focus on me. On my body. On my emotions. On my care. So, I now religiously take time for myself each week. I drop a bath bomb in my bubble bath, pick out a new book from the shelf, put on a face mask, light up one (or five) Anthro candles, and relax. During this time, I let my worries go, even if it is for only thirty minutes, and I focus on me. Just me. I treat myself to some much needed self care. And, boy, has it helped tremendously with my mental health. Self care has always been important; we just don’t always take the time to do it. But while you’re self isolating, make the time. It does wonders to reduce stress and prevent burnout. Your loved ones and co-workers will be glad you did!

As I wrap up this article, let me state that I am no mental health expert (which may be obvious), but I have grown to understand its importance in our everyday lives. I have friends who don’t take time for themselves and they’re miserable, and I have a self-care queen sister with positive mental health. Mental health fascinates me. So, I chose to write this blog in hopes that others see the importance of mental health, too, not only during a pandemic, but always 

We are all going through things. Mental health is real. Mental health is important. So go out and take some time for you. You go, Glen Coco.

FUEL.
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