Friday afternoon is approaching and the excitement of the weekend is ahead of you - the possibilities seem endless, your mood is lifted, and you’re practicing good mental health. Then Sunday rolls around and the weekend feels like was never long enough. The good mental health practice seems to be a distant thought as the Sunday Blues settle into place. Sunday Blues is an experience that is part of anticipatory anxiety. Anticipatory anxiety is the dreading fear you experience before a situation or event. Sometimes the anticipation of pain itself can be even cause more misery than the actual pain. The experience of anticipatory anxiety is your body's normal response to perceived future threats generated by your thoughts.
Key Signs of Anticipatory Anxiety:
Feelings of dread for an upcoming day or situation
Common Areas of Anticipatory Anxiety:
Working from home and waking up for the next work day
Looming dread of a Monday
Applying for a new job
Athletic, musical or other performances
Going on a date or to a party
Joining a club, team or sport
Starting a new job or new class
Preparing for an interview
Going on vacation (yes! it can also happen for something fun)
Tests, projects and oral reports
The first step to managing anticipatory anxiety while working from home is embodying good mental health.
Good mental health is not only the absence of a mental health diagnosis, but is also the ability to build awareness, allow yourself to feel, and effectively express a range of emotions.
With COVID-19 pandemic, many of you have lost the human connections and thus the ability to express emotions in a healthy manner. The excitement of the hustle and bustle has dwindled, and tasks seem to be mundane and boring. Your home has now become your office, school, hangout spot, restaurant, and date spots; blurring the lines between work and play, challenging personal boundaries, and increasing anticipatory anxiety symptoms - all leading to diminished good mental health practices. Here are 4 tips to help you rebuild good mental health practices while you work from home:
1. Separate “Work” and “Life” Life
As boundaries are being tested and a new way of working is settling in, it is important to dedicate a space to do your work that is not your bedroom. Increasing research has shown that working in a place you normally rest in not only affects sleep patterns, but also weakens mental health immunity. It is psychologically important to separate your work space from other activities throughout the day. It may be tempting to save time by washing dishes between meetings, but this makes it more difficult to separate your work and life, leading to impoverished mental health practices and an invitation to burnout.
2. Establish A Routine: Eat, Sleep, Work, Play, Repeat
Routines set you up for success - for the day, the week, and the year! They are also big game changers for good mental health practices. Establish a pattern of activities that will help you log in and log off on time so you are not letting your work take over your life. Routines help manage work pressures from taking over. This can include starting your day with a morning stretch, meditation practice, enjoying breakfast...all the way to expressing gratitude for your work day, connecting with loved ones, and setting time aside to intentionally laugh. Remember, work is part of your life. Success and fulfillment are not only build on professional achievements, but several factors including character development, social connections, and intellectual stimulation.
3. Take Intentional Breaks
Many people don’t incorporate intentional breaks into their day unless they are having a hard day. The thing with breaks are that they are preventive actions to manage your mental health. It’s important to continue to take breaks even when you feel okay; go for a walk, meditate, play with your pet, watch your favorite show, or do a dance (yes, tap into your inner child). Breaks help your brain (the prefrontal cortex) function better, and reduces decision fatigue, restores motivation, increases productivity and creativity, improves learning, and enhances the practice of good mental health
4. Invest in Your Body: Hydrate and Eat Well
The first thing to go when you are busy, is usually your physical self care. How many times have you found yourself saying, “I'll grab a bite in just a bit,” and then realize it’s been 6 hours since you last ate? It goes without saying that working from home has increased the amount of dedication, productivity, and work hours you are putting in. With these newer changes to work, it becomes even more important to practice good mental health by taking intention breaks to sip water and enjoy a healthy snack. It is recommended to carve out this time as part of your routine and even calendar it in your work schedule; let your colleagues see you value your health! What you decide to snack on also matters. Your brain is always “on” and fuels through the foods you eat - choose intentionally.
We hope these techniques are effective reminders to give your day-to-day life a second glance and begin to anchor in good mental health practices so you can thrive! Anticipatory anxiety can be frightening, especially when working from home and fighting off those Sunday Blues to protect yourself. Although it may not be possible to predict your future, it is possible to practice good mental health health as a way to cope with the unknown. Using these techniques can help manage anticipatory anxiety and give you a mood booster for a busy week or a difficult situation ahead. It’s about investing in yourself today so you can not only enjoy the moment, but you can also count on enjoying your future. Good mental health starts with you, stays today. Reclaim your day. Reclaim your life!
Ektha Aggarwal is a licensed South Asian Therapist and CEO of Shakti Therapy and Healing Services in Los Angeles, CA. Ektha specializes in working with South Asians (Indian & Desi) and people of color to break the stigma around mental health and instill the concept of immigrant resilience. To learn more about Shakti Therapy and Healing services, please visit www.shaktitherapyhealing.com or email Ektha at firstname.lastname@example.org.