7 Mental Health Survival Tips for Remote Workers That You Can’t Ignore
Gather round, folks.
Let’s talk about mental health.
Whoever has the talking sti– Ok. I’m kidding about the talking stick.
Jokes aside, though. When’s the last time you did a personal check-in on your current mental-emotional state? Do you feel balanced? Stable? Drained? Aimless?
Sometimes our lifestyle of country-hopping and working on beaches feels like a permanent vacation. But every digital nomad figures out quickly that it comes with its own set of unique mental and emotional struggles, too.
After all, a vacation is when you allow yourself to play hard and fast. Chase every pleasure, guilt-free. And they’re draining: physically, emotionally and financially.
And that’s not what you really want. But you do want to take advantage of as many beautiful opportunities as you can.
I’m here to share with you 7 of my own personal survival tips for keeping a healthy mindset while on the move, so you can get the most out of what this life has to offer.
There’s a reason every doctor, health mag and health conscious friend go on about it. And it’s no accident I made it first on the list. So for God’s sake, do not forego this tip.
Aside from keeping your physical body in check from all the new food and drinks (we’ll get into that later), exercise makes you feel good. Plain and simple. It resets your mental batteries and physiologically keeps your body moving.
If your usual exercise of choice requires some extra time to arrange, like finding equipment, or getting together a team, it’s no excuse. There are still plenty of things you can do to keep up a routine without any added hassles.
Take running, for example. Not only can you do it anywhere and anytime, it’s a great way to explore a new city and take mental notes of the places you’ll check out when you’re done.
Or any kind of mat workout. Yoga, pilates, weight training (use filled water jugs instead of real weights).
Once you get settled in, you’ll easily locate the other requirements for your sport of choice.
And giving yourself time to actually do it is what my next tip is all about.
2. Extend Your Stay
Even when you’re not instantly hitting it off with a certain place, you’ll still benefit a lot by sticking around a little longer, for two major reasons.
First of all, you establish a routine.
Upon initial arrival, when everything is shiny and new, you feel like a loose puppy in a playground. It takes some time to level out and adapt to the changes of pace.
If you’re always moving around, you have to restart the process of learning all the boring things – like how to take the metro and how to get your washing machine to start.
When you stay for a while, you can do the fun stuff, like find the local spots and go on interesting excursions, while not sacrificing on work time.
Aside from that, staying in a place longer gives you a chance to break the cycle of shallow, just-passing-through relationships.
If we’re being honest, it’s easy as pie to meet new people while traveling, generally speaking. But finding those gems of true friendship takes time. Time to reach out, time to communicate, time to evolve.
And that leads me to my next tip.
3. Don’t Wait to Reach Out
Let’s unpack this one with a question: Do you ever isolate yourself on purpose?
Do you ever get stuck in the routine of your own independence, and avoid going out for meetups?
Hey, if you said yes, you’re not alone.
It’s not that you don’t like socializing. It’s just that going out and meeting new people for the first time, every time, starts to feel like a chore that you’re doing to the “get to know you song” stuck on repeat.
The best way to manage this habit of keeping to yourself is to start reaching out right from the get-go, even when you don’t feel like it.
While those repetitive social interactions aren’t fulfilling straightaway, the real point of reaching out isn’t to have them, anyway. It’s to keep your spirits up by interacting with other humans, and get the ball rolling on the types of connections you’re really after (refer to tip #2).
Having said that, however, with all that reaching out you’re doing, keep in mind to…
4. …Ease up on the alcohol.
If you are in fact following Tip #2, then chances are you’re meeting a lot of new people and using a social lubricant to ease into the new interactions.
But as I’m sure you’ve experienced once or twice, it’s way too easy to get carried away, and suffer for it later.
And I’m not just talking about hangovers. I’m referring to the cumulative effect that drinking has on your mental clarity and daily behaviors, which in turn could result in bad decision making and a creeping depression.
I hear a lot of people set personal rules, like no drinking until the weekend. Or one per night. Or only on special occasions. It’s up to you to use your own judgement. But don’t overlook the negative overall effect it has on your mental well being, just because it’s so common and available.
And speaking of common and available, I’d bet you catch yourself in the occasional over indulgence of other pleasures as well.
Which brings us to our next tip.
5. Avoid the ‘Treat-Yo-Self’ Trap
And I do mean it when I say “trap”, and not the idea altogether.
‘Treat-yo-self’ should be just that. A treat. It should be once in a while, after you’ve been “good”, and then you live a little. Spend a lot of money. Eat something excessive. Go out and get wild.
The trap part comes in when you create justifications for every indulgence your heart fancies. FOMO takes over and every new food, drink and adventure must be pursued because, I mean, that’s the whole point of traveling, right?!
Well, of course it is. When it’s a vacation. When it’s a lifestyle, traveling requires pacing and balance. Sometimes you have to accept that certain pleasures must be skipped this time around.
Now, moving on from here, in the spirit of balance, let’s not forget another aspect we traveling workers often fall victim to: over working and poor time management.
If you’re guilty of this, follow #6.
6. Schedule Breaks, and Stick to Them.
As a method, not as a reward.
It’s not only about needing a good stretch and a cookie. There’s actual evidence about the science of concentration that tells you how to maximize your productivity.
But you don’t need fancy studies to tell you (although I’m gonna tell you anyway) that your attention span decreases 10-15% after 30 minutes, and that the decrease begins after only just five.
You experience it on the daily. The good news is there are easy ways you can manage it.
You ever hear of the Pomodoro Technique?
That’s when you set a timer at regular intervals, traditionally every 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. It keeps you in the zone, with a better quality of concentration.
And speaking of breaks, this doesn’t only apply to your direct working hours. You have to schedule yourself a weekend, too. Any two days of the week will do – and don’t budge on it.
This is your precious time to fulfill the calling you had for pursuing this life in the first place.
And if you can’t clearly define what that calling is, read my seventh and final tip to understand why you need to figure it out.
7. Determine WHY You Have This Lifestyle – and Behave Accordingly
Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t naturally go about my day with a strong sense of existential clarity on what the point of my life is.
I mean, yikes. Who wants to think about that?
But what I do know, is that when you take a moment to define your intentions, life suddenly gets a heck of a lot more satisfying.
Think about it. It’s a lot easier to meet your own expectations when you’ve actually defined what they are. And when you make it a point to live according to that purpose, you experience mini victories on a regular basis. That’s called winning at life.
So, ask yourself.
Why exactly is this lifestyle important to you? Are your daily choices reflecting that?
If they are, great. If they’re not, start making it happen.
Now that we’ve averted an existential crisis, and established the importance of your mental health while on the move, don’t forget this one final thought.
Make It Last.
Your environment is always changing. The people. The weather. Your projects. Your home.
The only factor that remains the same throughout all of it is you.
Get some exercise. Reach out. Take breaks. Practice moderation.
Because, let’s face it, if you’re not taking the proper steps to keep your mind and spirits in tip-top shape, then I guarantee the good life won’t last much longer.