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Work from home and mental health: The same 4 walls

Medically reviewed by

Written by Prachi Pramodh

How staying at home affects mental health?

It took a series of twists in biology, human actions, and mutations to topple life as we knew it. When the virus that completely twisted all our lives hit us, it surely wasn't the time and place where we kept everything on hold. We weren’t anticipating something this viral to change the wireframe in our brains. Imagine a person shifting houses, Imagine all the people traveling, imagine all the people just trying to make it or break it, and then there is a huge pause putting our very survival at stake.

That’s how much impact the COVID has had on our mental health and it still carries on in every tiny aspect. It’s like a plot twist in the real world, which seeped in through every decision we made and is affecting every choice we are making. From economies to ecology, from salaries to supplies, from every nook and corner, the world has been altered. People are grieving, trying, and surviving because sometimes that’s all they can do. Above everything, the virus showed us all the cracks in different systems that need repair.

Factors affecting Mental Health

Below are just two simple situations to emphasize how COVID seeps into our lives and has rewired how we worry.

Let’s structure a routine of a person in India who gets an average salary. This person takes a local public mode of transport. The first activity in the morning and a worry settles in with COVID. Second, of course, wherever the person ends up going for work, this is back when the person is traveling and other instances that withhold interacting with people that come in the way. At every stage, there is a worry which is ever-present just like the virus. Imagine a bookshelf that can hold 5 books, when you put 7 books on the shelf gets weaker although it can handle it. This is the same with humans and the worries of COVID. 

Now, let’s take the structure of a routine of a person who gets the same salary working from home. The person wakes up, and looks at the same thing, on repeat on repeat when humans by our very nature need a different sight of surroundings to keep themselves motivated and going.

Trusted Source of existing data from March 2020 examined 24 published studies, and most reported that quarantining caused negative mental health effects. These included post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion, and anger. 

A working paper that examined data from the 2012–2013 American Time Use Survey predicted that imposed isolation on single people would reduce their happiness. 

According to research, those who work from home tend to report high levels of stress.

  • 41% of employees who more often worked from home vs. on-site considered themselves highly stressed, compared to 25% of those who worked only on-site.
  • 42% of those who work from home report frequent night waking, while only 29% of office workers reported the same.
  • Employees who work from home may experience more of a blur when it comes to work and personal life boundaries, especially with the use of smart devices.
  • Work-from-home employees may struggle more with the concept of unplugging and ending their workday compared to those who work in an office setting.

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Home and mental health: 

Stated below is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid, with the largest, most fundamental needs at the bottom, and the need for self-actualization and transcendence at the top. In other words, the idea is that individuals' most basic needs must be met before they become motivated to achieve higher-level needs. 

When most of the needs of a human being are subjective, sometimes it’s interesting to note, although not clinically proven that these needs might vary. When someone can feel like they can go on and they need an outside experience and something out of their daily life as an inspiration or a catalyst to their daily needs, someone else might feel like that’s a secondary need. However, these are each person’s needs equally and House quarantine makes you question everything in the big scheme of things, with the biggest factor being the uncertainty of things.

This is also tied to how much access one has to the outside world of things. Sometimes people tend to be disconnected and the sudden information can feel like an overwhelming wave. Whereas sometimes people are too much on par with the information that is outside. Both of these situations tend to induce anxiety.

“With the unprecedented events of 2020, however, the need for mental health support is outweighing the stigma and many are now opening up about their experiences. 74% of those surveyed openly share that they see a therapist and 89% agree that society would be better off if more people sought out mental health services.” Mental health during lockdown has taken a massive hit among people.

A 2017 systematic review of 40 studies from 1950 to 2016 found a significant association between social isolation and loneliness and poorer mental health outcomes as well as all-cause mortality. For this reason, it's important to take care of your mental health during times of decreased social interactions.

Prevention and Coping

The quote always says prevention is better than cure, but here’s something no one tells us very often: we don't know how to protect mental health:

The three most efficient solutions how to coping with mental health issues in the pandemic:

  • Taking care of the most basic needs of survival to get through a particular phase. The most basic of eating, sleeping, and getting the tasks done are the practical things of points, which are the core of survival.
  • Grounding Techniques will help one not spiral. To ask for help to even figure out the grounding techniques to help one cope and move ahead and avoid stagnation.
  • Movement mentally and physically. Just a 10-minute walk or a change of place at the desk. It’s important because, in the case of mental health, prevention is better than cure. 

Previous studies had found that quarantines could be associated with Nevertheless, history repeats itself with COVID and this has probably been a test for the other virus that exists for a long time is the stigma of mental health and hopefully, that is getting better with time.

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