The COVID-19 crisis has changed the way many of us function, and now, countless Americans are suddenly working from home for the first time. For some people, that's a positive and welcome change. For others, it's challenging and isolating.

If you're in the latter camp, it's important to maintain good mental health at a time when life on a whole is unquestionably stressful. Here are a few things you can do to make your work-from-home routine much easier on yourself.

Woman typing on laptop with lamp shining on her


1. Schedule mental breaks

When you work in an office, you tend to take natural breaks -- a 10-minute chat with a colleague who walks past your desk, or a quick hello to your old manager who happens to be using the photocopier at the same time you are. When you work from home, there may be no one to pry you away from your laptop or converse with on a whim. But taking breaks is important, so if you find that they're not happening organically, work them into your schedule. Put a few 15-minute slots on your calendar and set reminders so that you're prompted to get up, stretch your legs, and clear your head every few hours.

2. Stop and eat lunch -- and not at your desk

Many people are used to working through lunch, but if you're doing your job from home, there's no excuse not to take 20 minutes or so to decompress and digest your food. Not only should you be breaking for lunch, but you should also be taking the time to whip up something hearty and healthy -- don't just grab a handful of chips and call it a meal.

3. Have a cutoff

When you work in an office, there's often a time that most people pack up and leave for the day, and even if you're a workaholic, the sight of empty desks could prompt you to follow suit. When you're doing your job from home, it's easy to keep plugging away, especially if you have deadlines to meet or goals you want to accomplish. But if you push yourself too hard, especially at a time when the country is in crisis mode, you'll run the risk of burning out. Rather than let that happen, implement a nightly cutoff -- an hour where you force yourself to shut down and unplug.

4. Make your workspace more pleasant

Many people who are working from home today were thrown into that arrangement and therefore didn't have time to prepare for it. Now that it's clear that social distancing measures may be in place for a while, spend a little time and money making your workspace a more appealing place. If you can afford to do so, invest in good lighting, a supportive desk chair, or any other equipment you feel will make your life easier. And if your workspace is cluttered, clean it out and get it organized. The mere presence of paper stacks could be enough to make you feel frazzled.

If you're working from home right now, there's a good chance you'll continue doing so for at least another month, and maybe longer. Take the above steps to make things as easy on yourself as possible during an otherwise trying time.