Conquering Work From Home Anxiety
For some of us, being fast-tracked to a work from home lifestyle due to Covid-19 may feel like a relief – no early morning commute, no supervisor’s watchful eye, and the freedom to hang out in sweat-pants (or no pants) all day long. But that’s not the case for everyone- sudden and forced WFH orders combined with stay-at-home mandates can also be the cause of majorly heightened anxiety. Our physical worlds suddenly became very… small. Wondering what that “stuck” feeling is all about? It could be the extra stress of working from home weighing on you, and you’re not alone.
We all have unique situations and circumstances at home. Maybe your space is crowded with kids, crawling into your lap trying to soak up some attention while you’re drafting an email. Or roommates clamoring around the common spaces, dealing with their own altered realities in the time of coronavirus. If you’re shacked up with a partner, too much “just us,” time may have you getting on each other’s nerves. Or maybe you’re living solo, with the space to whatever you please, but sometimes it gets really lonely, and boring.
Work – of all places – might be a respite for you, a social atmosphere, where your coworkers are not only friends but chosen family. An article in the Huffington Post explains “When you don’t have an office to show up to, you miss out on opportunities for regular social interaction and connection with co-workers.” Our careers tend to be where we share our talents, collaborate with teams, and shine our light onto the world. Humans are social creatures, we thrive on connection.
For those of us who did not choose it, working remotely can leave us feeling isolated, disconnected, and distracted. This combination does not make for an optimal state of mind. And Zoom, while better than nothing, just isn’t the same.
Our day-to-day lives are wildly different right now, to say the very least. Maybe you’re nervous it’s going to be like this forever. Just take a deep and slow breath, and remind yourself why we’re doing this – to keep one another healthy and safe. The world will open up eventually, but in the meantime, let’s make the most of the present day.
So how can we make remote work, WORK? With small, tangible, daily shifts, you can offset the stale, monotonous anxiety caused by work from home.
1. Make a schedule and stick to it.
Differentiating work time from downtime is crucial to WFH success and combating anxiety. If you’re home, especially with other people, it might look like you’re free to chat when you’re really not. Make that clear. It is NOT rude to set your schedule, make it known, and be strict about it. Here’s an example: from 10:30 a.m. to noon, you’re working. The door is closed, the phone is off, and the to-do list is in sight. Check off tasks one by one as you complete them. Take advantage of your ability to schedule your hardest tasks at the time of day you’re feeling most on-point. Whittling down the to-do list with vigor will help keep your worries at bay.
Keep in mind that it goes both ways. Try not to think about work tasks during clocked-out time. WFH + stay at home does NOT = 24-hour workday. Set the rules, like no emails after 5 p.m. Replace the physical act of walking out of the office or workspace with something else. Queue up a virtual dance or yoga class to start as soon as your workday wraps up. Shake it off and shift out of work-mode. Also, moving your body is also pure, potent medicine for an anxious mind.
2. Curate your space.
Your environment has a huge impact on your mindset, no matter what. There is definitely something lost by not “showing up,” to work. The designated workspace, surrounded by co-workers, work computers, or other equipment, signals to the mind that it’s go-time.
So work with what you have. Is it a tiny desk in a shared room? The living room couch? The kitchen table? Or a home office? Ask yourself, what conditions you need to work well. A lot of light? Music? Silence? A candle burning? Do you thrive with a neat and tidy desk? A steaming cup of coffee or tea? A full glass of water at all times? (yes) Bring in your favorite tools – a purple pen just because, a special notepad for the daily to-do list. Do one small thing to make your workspace somewhere you look forward to going, where you feel focused, creative, and sharp.
3. Get dressed in the morning.
…and wash your face, brush your hair, put some earrings on. Honestly, whatever you feel like doing, but dress to announce (to yourself) that it’s a new day, and you are here for it. This is crucial. Step out of the clothes you slept in and into something that makes you feel put together, like a boss. Plus, planning tomorrow’s cute WFH outfit gives you something to look forward to.
Think of your outfit like your daily work of art, an outlet for creativity. No need to button into a three-piece business suit. Something comfortable is A-OK, but indulge in color, mixed prints, fun accessories. It doesn’t have to be athleisure all the time. Dresses and rompers are excellent right now – pretty and elevated, and usually pretty comfortable. It may seem unnecessary but getting dressed like you mean it will do wonders for your mood.
There’s no getting around it – this is what we’re working with right now, so when you feel yourself start to spiral, pause, and consider the positive aspects of work from home life. You can still show up strong for yourself, even if you’re staying home.
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