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Remote Work: 6 Ways to Manage Stress While You Work From Home
We are not in normal times, and you can feel the stress emanating from most of the world. We are working remotely, mentally frayed, trying to manage stress, feeling fatigued, and probably just plain annoyed. And, honestly, I feel every bit of it.
I am an immunocompromised, high-end extrovert who loves people but lives alone. I have been working from home since March 8. The weekend before I was back in my hometown for a family wedding, and suddenly, I found myself in my home office wearing yoga pants and a Zoom appropriate shirt and trying to figure out how I was going to do this for what I naively thought was just a couple of months.
You are not working from home; you are at your home during a crisis trying to work.”
No more hallway therapy meetings, no more lunch breaks with colleagues, and no more cute outfits that make you feel, well, cute.
The phrase “unprecedented and challenging times” became worn out and annoying after two weeks of pandemic captivity. At least, I told myself I didn’t have to manage virtual school, check on elderly parents (who I know would have been roaming multiple stores despite warnings), and deal with job losses and rent. I felt guilty about stressing out and being lonely.
I keep referring back to this viral tweet I saw back in late March:
“You are not working from home; you are at your home during a crisis trying to work.”
I’ve heard this twice today. I think it’s an important distinction worth emphasising.
— Neil Webb (@neilmwebb) March 31, 2020
We all are carrying our own loads, and it helps to talk about it. Here are a few things that I’ve learned to manage stress the past few months – mostly the hard way.
Remote Work: 6 Ways to Manage Stress
1. Take a break
Take a walk around the block, sit in your backyard, or make a cup of tea. It’s not good to sit at your desk for hours on end. Set a timer to remind yourself to stretch your legs if you tend to work for very long periods of time.
2. Establish boundaries
When you end your workday, turn off email and walk away from work. Resist the urge to check your messages “just one last time” or else you might end working much later than you should. Remember, those boundaries defend us from overwork, increased stress, and burnout.
3. Reach out to your tribe
We all need each other more than we think. Set up a virtual lunch or a socially-distant visit. Think about reaching out to someone you haven’t seen in a while.
Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity … it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie
4. Practice gratitude
The gratitude thing is hard during a time of crisis. It’s too easy to think about everything that’s going wrong, but it’s a nice challenge to figure out what’s going well.
Put your thoughts in a journal or record audio notes every day. And on those hectic days when things seem insurmountable, look back at them.
Adding movement to your day is another opportunity to take a break and will give your endorphins a boost. In fact, exercise is described as “meditation in motion” by the Mayo Clinic.
I reached out to a health coach who set me up with an exercise program to get me moving. I’ve now added virtual yoga to my regimen. I know. It’s crazy.
6. Be kind to yourself
This is the most important thing to do. We’re all trying to figure things out right now, and we are all doing the best we can.
Just remember we are not in normal times. It’s weird. It’s stressful. And it’s definitely “unprecedented and challenging,” but we’ve got this.
This Post Has 22 Comments
I can related to much of this, even though I’m self-employed and have been working at home full-time for 15+ years. Feeling stressed but feeling guilty it when so many others are having it much worse. All of these strategies have worked for me, though I’ve been neglecting my journal for a while now.
Such a good point you bring up, Janet. We can experience a different sort of stress because we have the ability to work from home when others can’t. Meditation and using a gratitude journal can help. I’m doing well with meditating but need to get back to journaling.
I’m learning to manage my guilt about being stressed out. We all have different kinds of stress – especially right now.
Isn’t that tweet just so good? Same goes for children who are not homeschooling, but trying to learn from home during a crisis where each day the situation changes! I am back working in person with people for the most part, but for the days I am working virtually, I love these suggestions. I’ve just decided to exercise every morning because I need to move my body!
Thanks, Seanna! I feel so bad about kids having to stay at home and their poor parents. So glad you’re taking care of yourself.
Wonderful suggestions! I have dogs so I’m out and walking and regular intervals but that is not enough. I used to go to a gym for strength training. Now, I do some modified exercises on my own every morning (or almost every morning!) I also love your thought about practicing gratitude. That’s very important for all of us.
My fish doesn’t like to take walks. Ha! Thanks for the kind words! Gratitude is so important especially during challenging times.
A big virtual hug to you, Deb! I feel your stress. Before the pandemic, I usually worked from home more often than with clients. It does make me feel sad not to be around loved ones. For me, doing Facetime visits with my close relatives helped to see others live. I do find that practicing gratitude really does help. Doing meditation at home has kept me calm in the midst of chaos. I also found that small tasks that I can complete without going outside to get something helped me feel empowered.
Hey Sabrina — I can’t take credit for this post. The fabulous Janice Simon wrote it, but I do absolutely agree with you meditation can be really helpful. I’ve been meditating once/day for the last several weeks and can feel the difference. Also, going outside — even for just a few minutes — can be the best medicine.
Thanks for the kind words, and I’m happy you enjoyed the post. I’m also happy to hear how you’re taking care of yourself during this time!
These are all excellent strategies for managing working from home stress. Like Janice, I haven’t worked in-person with clients since March 5th. I’ve only been doing virtual organizing, and I don’t plan to return to hands-on organizing any time soon. It’s a total shift in how I do business, but a wonderful one. One of the things I especially love is working from home; I can better control all aspects of my working environment, from break times, yoga, and walking times, to how my office environment looks and feels. I am much better at taking breaks and eating more healthfully (other than last week when I took some not-so-healthy-eating dives.) Working from home can be stressful, but it also allows us to rethink our work habits and design a life that encompasses intentional, healthy choices.
Thank you for the kind words, Linda! Glad you are embracing virtual organizing! This does seem like a great opportunity to rethink things, and I know so many people who have made big changes.
Superior advice, but what else could I expect from my favorite “immunocompromised, high-end extrovert who loves people but lives alone” expert? Janice, I love that you wrote this for Deb’s audience, because all of your followers deserve to hear this brilliance.
There’s working from home (which I was doing for 20 years) and worker from home during during a crisis, and I don’t think any of us gave ourselves enough credit for that, even after that tweet made the rounds. Thank you for the reminder!
Also, when this is over, let’s agree to retire the danged word “unprecedented,” OK?!
I’ve realized that, in a reversal of my normal life, I’ve been doing lots of #4 and almost none of #3. You’ve made it all so obvious and clear. Thanks for these guideposts, and I’ll obviously have to schmooze with you and Deb, both, much more often!
Janice pretty much hit the nail on all these points, didn’t she, Julie? #3 is pretty important even when there isn’t a pandemic. And, I look forward to much more “in-person #3” with you when things settle down. 😊
About two weeks into the pandemic, I was ready to retire the word “unprecedented.” I did see a T-shirt that said “I miss precedented times.” Ha! Thank you for your kind words, Julie! I appreciate it.
I have really tired to focus on myself during this time. Doing things you suggested like setting a staying to office hours and getting exercise. I am grateful that we have gone through this during Spring, Summer and Fall so we could go outside. I am not looking forward to Winter even more than usual for that reason.
Have to say that I agree with you, Janet. While I love going outside, I prefer the temps to be on the warmer side. I’ll have to get creative with the winter months.
I hear you, Janet. I’m so glad I live on the Gulf Coast where I don’t have to deal with ice and snow.
Oh! I enjoyed this post. I needed this post today. And, imagine how delighted I was to come here and find JANICE! Ya know, you two are like the dynamic duo; great combo.
Two small but big (ha ha) action items I’ve checked off my to do list while I’m “at home during a crisis trying to work” is that I treated myself to a new office chair and hired a personal trainer who teaches via Zoom at 7 am! Both of these things have made a difference in the way I feel.
I need to follow Janice’s advice regarding number 2. I have the *worst* habit of checking emails in the evening. Not a good idea.
Dynamic Duo! I think that means Janet and I need to get our capes made, steamed, and pressed! 😊
I’ve been meditating over the last several weeks (once per day) and that’s been very helpful. And I’m working on inserting a 2nd meditation during the middle of the day. I also need to back in touch with my personal trainer so thanks for the nudge. Always great to see your face, Geralin!
Ooh, Dynamic Duo! I like the sound of that! My health coach and his wife bought a house two blocks from me, and I told him that he’s taking this mission to get me into shape really, really seriously. I’ve also bought a new office chair and just got my electric standing desk in this week. Things are getting serious here in the Princess Cabana.