1. Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Don’t have a conference call until midmorning? Get up on time anyway. Is your Netflix binge in full force by the end of the day? Turn it off and get to bed at a decent time.
“When you’re suddenly at home more, sleep schedules can take a hit as you try and adjust,” says W. Christopher Winter, MD, the president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine in North Carolina and author of The Sleep Solution. “But sticking to the same wake time and bedtime are crucial aspects of self-care, because those contribute to sleep quality. Without that, you may find yourself groggy throughout the day, or with big fluctuations in energy.”
When that happens, the temptation might be to take a long nap when you don’t have work in the afternoon. But it’s much more productive to get outside and go for a brisk walk instead, Winter says. If you do want a snooze, aim for a 20-minute power nap, and set an alarm for it, he suggests.
2. Put Some Pants On (Yoga Pants Count)
Also, take a shower, comb your hair, maybe even put shoes on, suggests Christine Carter, PhD, a sociologist and senior fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California in Berkeley. Although there’s a perception that working from home is a daylong pajama fest, the simple act of getting ready is a vital part of self-care and can help you transition into work easier, she says.
“You don’t need to be in a full work outfit; you can still keep it casual. That’s one of the nice things about working from home,” she says. “But prepping for your day is a signal to your brain that it’s not a weekend, and you’re not sick. That will get your mind ready for the workday.”
3. Create a Home-to-Work ‘Commute’
In the same way that getting showered and dressed is a message to your brain, so is having a home-to-work commute, says the Asheville, North Carolina–based productivity expert Tonya Dalton, author of The Joy of Missing Out: Live More by Doing Less.
The best part is that now your commute gets to be whatever you want it to be.
“Sit outside with your morning coffee, listen to the birds,” she suggests. “Maybe take a walk, or read a chapter of a book, or do some yoga. Whatever it is, think of it as your transition time into working, the same as a commute would be.”
4. Carve Out a Designated Workspace
While it’s true that your “office” is your laptop, it’s very helpful to have a space that you assign as your work area, even if that means a corner of the kitchen table, says Dr. Carter. Much like the “get dressed” and “have a commute” tips, this is another bit of self-care related to assisting your brain to get prepped for work.
Also, sitting in a real chair — we love you, couch, but you’re so slouchy — does wonders for your attention, energy, and even your sense of confidence, adds Sharon McDowell-Larsen, PhD, an exercise physiologist and coach at the Center for Creative Leadership. There are even devices and apps for improving your posture, like Upright Pose and Posture Reminder.
Want to boost those feelings of motivation even more? Keep your space tidy.
“You don’t need to scrub it down, but there is a certain feeling that comes with having an organized, designated space for working,” she says. “That gives you a sense of caring for yourself, and by extension, caring about your work.”
5. Build Breaks Into Your Schedule
Don’t make a daunting to-do list that threatens to send your stress levels soaring, but have a general grasp of what you’d like to accomplish today and when you’ll tackle those projects, as well as when you’ll take breaks, says Dr. McDowell-Larsen.
“Being as intentional as possible is very helpful when you’re working from home,” she says. “That might mean working on a different schedule than you had in the office. That might mean you have to schedule breaks at specific times. Play around with it so you’re building your day in a thoughtful way from the start.”
Do best with an app? You’re in luck, because there are plenty that can help remind you to stand up and stretch. Experiment with options like Stand Up, BreakTime, and Time Out.
6. Eat a Real Lunch (and Don’t Forget to Stay Hydrated)
Oh, the snacking. That’s one surprise for many people when they first begin working from home — that perception of an endless and convenient buffet, and that can lead to grazing all day, says Dalton. Unfortunately, that doesn’t usually mean healthy carrot sticks and hummus.
“The junk food and snacking issue looms large when you start working at home, especially if you’re feeling stressed,” she says. “Think of eating healthy lunches as another form of self-care, because that gives you the nourishment you need to have consistent energy.”
If you’re particularly challenged by this one, make your lunch in advance, just as you would have for the office. Or at least start the day knowing what you’ll be putting together.
Also, stay hydrated in the same way, too, by filling up a water bottle and keeping it at your desk. You can keep track with an app like Hydro Coach or WaterMinder.