Hi everyone!

To start off my first ever blog post, I thought I would just say what we’ve all been thinking lately: working from home can be extremely difficult, and can take a serious toll on our mental health and well-being. 

In addition to the obvious reasons (i.e., the crazy things happening every single day in the world as of late), working solely from my home has been specifically challenging for me due to the lack of choice I have in this situation. I am sure you all know, but there is this incredibly scary thing, called a pandemic, going on. It has decided not to follow the predictable pattern of other viruses, and has changed all of our lives immensely. Because of this, working remotely is necessary for us students to do. But, that doesn’t mean I feel any more in control of my life and/or my work situation. Recognizing and validating those emotions has helped me process them, but hasn’t done much to mitigate my struggles stemming directly from the monotony of working from home each day. 

My difficulties in adjusting to this new style of working have come in phases. At first, I was so frustrated with myself for feeling unproductive. This constant disappointment slowly morphed into feelings of depression. After that, the reality of my current situation (and the year(s) of quarantining looming ahead of me) began to actually set in. The emotions tied to these realizations of the inevitable loneliness in my foreseeable future hit me hard, and made productively working nearly impossible. 

Over time, I have actually adjusted to the isolation; I am honestly not sure if this is a good or a bad thing. Like most things going on lately, it just is, and I try not to question it too deeply. Now that I have “acclimated” to this isolated lifestyle, my biggest problem is overworking. My computer is just always there, at my desk, in my bedroom. Without genuinely enjoyable activities to do, places to go, or friends to see, I have been struggling to fight the pressure I feel to work constantly. I know I cannot keep this pace up, and can feel the fire of burnout catching up to me. 

I am no expert, but I have stumbled across a few strategies to help myself through these tough times, working from home in isolation. I wanted to share them with you readers in hopes that they will help anyone feeling similarly!

#1: Prioritizing Sleep Hygiene

It is super easy to forget how important the quality of our sleep is. When I don’t sleep well, both my physical and mental health are severely affected. For me, low-quality sleep leads to body aches, increased anxiety and depression, exacerbation of ADHD symptoms, difficulty managing oncoming panic attacks, and more. I do not know how, but I failed to notice this pattern for years. Now, I can honestly say that maintaining good sleep hygiene has, and continues to be, one of the most influential factors in protecting my mental health and well-being. It has become increasingly important for me lately, as I manage abrupt life changes and challenging stressors stemming from the pandemic and my new work-from-home situation. 

Endless resources outlining sleep hygiene exist. My personal favourites are: 

#2: Separating Work Spaces vs. Relaxing Spaces

I will say this loudly for the people in the back:


During my first year of university, I told my therapist that I was struggling to fall asleep at night. She knows me very well, and immediately asked if I was doing schoolwork in my bed. I replied honestly, and told her yes. She then explained how the brain makes subconscious connections between locations and physical/emotional states. So, if I was spending hours focused/stressed/caffeinated/studying like crazy in my bed, my brain was probably associating high arousal/focused/stressed states with my bed itself.

To put it simply: doing work in your bed does some serious subconscious damage, making your brain think your bed is for working instead of for sleeping.

When I tell you that my issues falling asleep have decreased immensely since I stopped working in my bed, I am not exaggerating in the slightest. This remains one of the most important things I have implemented in my life to maintain my mental health throughout university and the current pandemic.

#3: Creating (and Following) Daily Schedules

I am aware that “making and following schedules” is a boring and lame strategy. The unfortunate and annoying truth is that this lame strategy actually works. Research on depression shows that behaviours precede positive emotions. If you want to feel better, you actually have to do things first (not the other way around). This process is called behavioural activation. Following a schedule probably won’t feel good at the start; it might even feel awful. But, over time, the sense of accomplishment, happiness, and agency that can be achieved through this is definitely worth it. 

Beyond the direct relationship between schedules and mental health, having a realistic and stable daily schedule makes working from home itself so much better for me. It helps me get more tasks done faster. Procrastination is sneaky, and patient. It will always be there waiting for us. Making and following schedules help me to fight it off, and allows me to feel accomplished at the end of each day instead of anxious and stressed from a day spent procrastinating.

The three apps I use for my organization are:

  1. Google Calendar
  2. Microsoft To Do
  3. MyStudyLife

#4: Setting Boundaries

I would be completely lying if I said I was properly implementing boundaries in my daily life in quarantine. However, I can say for certain that the lack of boundaries in my life is causing some serious issues for my mental health. The consuming fire of burn out is growing around me every day, and I can feel it edging closer. I recognize it closing in, and have been trying incredibly hard to create specific boundaries for myself. 

(I am currently consistently breaking these on a daily basis, but let’s just pretend I am not for a moment while I share them with you):

  • Mute work notifications daily between 8:00 pm – 8:00 am
  • Don’t open my email account after 6:00 pm 
  • Unless it is absolutely necessary, do not work on schoolwork after 8:00 pm in the evenings 
  • Start actively tracking your weekly work hours religiously to ensure you are not consistently working overtime
  • Be honest with people when you simply cannot attend a meeting, cannot meet a deadline, or need a break (instead of working yourself into the ground)

These kinds of boundaries may not be applicable to your work-from-home lifestyles, as everyone’s can and should be completely different and specific to the person. Nonetheless, I thought sharing mine with you might inspire you to create your own. If you are anything like me, doing so will be extremely difficult, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Personally, I try to remind myself that the struggles I have in maintaining boundaries is the exact reason why I need to put extra effort into boundary-setting.

I wanted to be straightforward and honest about the challenges setting and following boundaries pose for me, because this strategy is not easy for most people. I never want to pretend that I am finding something meant to improve my mental health easy if that is not true. Doing so would be doing readers a disservice; we all struggle sometimes, and that is okay.

(I hope to write about boundaries again in the future, and share the progress I have made).

I appreciate those who made it through this semi-stream-of-consciousness-style blog post. It is my first try at blogging, and I am still in the process of finding my groove. Writing this is also really scary, which makes me excited. When things are scary, it usually means I am doing the right thing. In this case, I know I am.

I believe that opening up the conversation about mental health in an honest and realistic way is so incredibly necessary in helping those out there struggling (and in tearing down the societal stigma surrounding mental health). I genuinely cannot wait to continue blogging here, and hope you will come along with me for the ride. 

Screw the stigma <3

– Tristen

The views expressed in this blog are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the University of Victoria. I monitor posts and comments to ensure all content complies with the University of Victoria Guidelines on Blogging.