With the incredibly sad news of Robin Williams death earlier this week, discussions around depression are hitting the headlines. Although a far cry for many of us, I hope, it did get me to thinking how isolated we can sometimes feel as a Virtual Assistant.

Our working day can often be a solitary one with very limited contact with the outside world, other than emails of course. And whilst there are many positives to working for yourself, the downside can be isolaton and loneliness which can have a negative impact on your health.

Establishing and maintaining good physical and mental health can help you stay focused to ensure long-term success – professionally and personally.

So we’ve put together a few tips to overcome those feelings of isolation that can occur for a day, a week or sometimes longer.

1. Keep your body and mind healthy.

Eating a balanced diet and doing physical activity every day is hugely important when it comes to staying healthy.

A diet composed of protein, carbs and healthy fats will ensure your brain functions well and your body. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and avoid caffeine – as much as you can at least!

Get out and exercise daily. Whether it be a 20 minute brisk walk round the block, or an hour at your local spinning class, the endorphins released through exercise help improve mood and outlook which in turn can help productivity levels.

If you can, exercise with friends or in a class so you have contact with others before heading back to your home office. At the very least, say hi to people on the street – it’s not weird honestly! Interaction with people, however small, can help lift your spirits (and theirs) and put you in a more positive frame of mind for the rest of your working day.

2. Network or create a ‘support’ group.

Networking events are bound to be happening in your town or in your nearest large town. Your local Chamber of Commerce will hold regular small business networking events that are a great chance to promote your services, as well as have some professional contact.

There are also more and more Virtual Assistant networking events happening up and down the country, and abroad. Our own editor Joanne Sparkes has run a few in the past, and the Society of Virtual Assistants publicises any that they have been made aware of.

Or why not start your own group? It can be in person or via Skype or Google Hangouts. These are a great chance to share the highs and lows of working for yourself, discuss VA life in general, get new ideas, as well as providing an opportunity for networking – you never know where your next client referral could come from.

3. Create and stick to a schedule.

Like any job, it’s important to have some regularity. A great tip to stay focused and productive is to create a daily / weekly schedule and stick as closely as possible to it.

Start with an hour of correspondence – checking email, responding where needed, checking your own business social media profiles (not your clients) and getting involved in your own community – the VA world and/or your niche world.

Then move on to your tasks. Perhaps break it down into client chunks. For example:

  • 08:30 – 10:00 – Correspondence and business marketing / interaction
  • 10:00 – 11:00 – Complete X for Client X
  • 11:00 – 11:20 – Outdoor break (weather permitting)
  • 11:15 – 12:30 – Project Y for Client Y
  • 12:30 – 13:30 – Lunch / exercise / meet a friend for coffee

You get the idea.

By formulating an achievable schedule, you’ll feel more in control, be more productive, and most importantly, not cut yourself off from the outside world.

4. Relocate your office.

Why not work for an hour or two from your local café? It’s not as crazy as it seems. If there are tasks you can do where outside noise won’t be too distracting, then grab your laptop and head out.

It’s great to feel part of the real world for a while, and perhaps surprisingly, you may find you’re at your most productive / are more easily able to come up with great new ideas / or make a new business contact.

5. Take time out.

It’s okay to have days where your motivation is lacking and your productivity levels have dropped. Recognising those times is actually a good thing, not a failure. We’ve all been there at one time or another.

So instead of staring at a computer screen for hours, turn it off. Take a walk. Read a book. Meet a friend. Watch a film. Exercise. Whatever takes your mind away from work and allows you to regroup. Then when your head is clear, switch your computer back on and get down to business.

However, and so as not to trivialise this issue, if you struggle to get out of bed each morning, have no motivation for work during the day, feel tired, have erratic mood swings, feel down, or anything else that isn’t how you once were, speak to someone. A friend, family member or seek professional help. Do not go through it alone. Click here for the Samaritans contact details.

And finally, if you have any tips that aren’t listed above, or are keen to start up a group, please share those ideas with your fellow VAs below, or post your group idea on our Facebook page.